Bluetonic

Well, hello there, Fri-Yay!

It’s time to bring up the tempo a little from yesterday’s ambient piece since it’s the weekend for many of you (and a long Thanksgiving weekend for those of you south of the Canada/USA border). So, let’s go!

This morning, I listened to Sean Keaveny’s early Friday afternoon (in the UK) program on BBC 6 Music. He played quite a few tracks I hadn’t heard before, and many that I liked and “Shazamed.”

One song in particular that caught my ear was The Bluetones playing “Bluetonic,” the title track from a 2017 live album. The song is originally from their 1996 debut studio album, Expecting to Fly, released three years after they formed in Hounslow (near Heathrow Airport), Greater London, England. I rather like the live version song as it sounds like the audience is singing along with lead vocalist Mark Morriss at the beginning. (By the way, if you are looking for the song in the iTunes Store, it correctly shows as being on the Bluetonic album, but the four-minute, two-second track is misidentified as “Bluetones.”)

The song is definitely high-energy and upbeat, a great way to start off a Friday evening.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy… and have a great weekend!

Here’s the video for the song from The Bluetones’ YouTube topic channel:

And if you click on the link you can check out an unofficial version of the lyrics on Genius.com.

Cinnabar

This morning during a chat with a friend from Atlantic Canada, we both recalled fun times we’d had at beaches in our respective provinces this past summer. That has caused me to think about vacation travel.

Today, the stairs and sidewalks outside the house were all covered with slick ice. It would be a great time to be away somewhere warm and sunny… like the WhatsApp profile picture of Sweety and me in Hawai’i almost seven years ago; a photo that a friend in Colorado was admiring today when we connected on that platform.

Alas, we have to stay home, so travel isn’t an option anyway. But it’s good that we can get outside for fresh air and, like I did today, for groceries. Too slippery for “wandering aimlessly” like I did the other day though…

Today I’m sharing yet another track, “Cinnabar,” from the expanded version of Roger and Brian Eno’s 2020 album Mixing Colours.

The video is one of the originals Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers made for the album. In addition to their videos, they and the record label held a video competition, which I wrote about in my post on “Wintergreen.”

The video for today’s selection depicts one of my favourite things about the travels my sweety and I have done by train in England, Spain and France: the view from a train window. Pulling out of the station, passing through industrial areas, then suburbs and gathering speed through the outskirts of a city, and finally out into the open countryside.

Someday we will do that all again.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for “Cinnabar” from the Mixing Colours website (hosted on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel):

To Deserve You

American singer, actor, comedian and author Bette Midler released her eighth studio album, Bette of Roses, in 1995.

The album came out a few years before my sweety, and I got together. She has always been a big fan of “The Divine Miss M” and later bought me the CD as a gift. We listened to it a lot over the years, though we haven’t for a while. I was thinking of the album yesterday when flipping through my collection.

The song “To Deserve You” is a particular favourite as its lyrics resonate with some of the early struggles we had in our relationship. Now I look back with a lot of gratitude for our blended family and the home we all created together.

Since the early years, our relationship has grown and matured, and I feel truly blessed to be with such a loving woman. And, my dear, I still want to deserve you.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Rhino Entertainment YouTube channel:

Here’s an unofficial link to the lyrics.

I Wandered by a Brookside

I have been taking a course over Zoom on the topic of intentional life transitions. Tonight was the third of four classes, and it was an illuminating evening, as was the coursework in preparation.

Among the tasks we were to do between classes was to go and “wander aimlessly.” I had a lot of trouble figuring out just what that meant. Pondered it for a few days, to be honest. Today I discussed it with my sweety, with the interpretation that whatever I do — however planned or casual — there is always an “aim” to it. Go for a walk? That’s to get fresh air, stay fit, enjoy nature. See? She helped cut through all that and suggested I should just go for a walk, but alone, so I didn’t feel obliged to go anywhere in particular or be back at a certain time, or whatever. That made a lot of sense. So that’s what I did.

I set off and took some random turns, ending up down a back lane where I admired a mural I hadn’t paid too much attention to before, and meandered through some short streets and parking lots to stop near a riverside condominium where we used to live when the kids were much younger. Out walking, I felt like a blank canvas in some ways and, at other points, I wondered… when I had been down a certain alley before… or looked way up a building to figure out which apartment I had lived in years ago… or thought about that time we cleaned up the riverbank with my boys, and neighbours and their son. Digging up the memory bank to make space for some new seeds, the seeds of the future?

This evening, I wondered if a song in my collection might capture the essence of what was going on.

Serendipitously (and maybe also receiving a touch of a “Zen slap” as one of my Colorado friends calls those moments of sudden wisdom/realization), I found one sung by Eva Cassidy (1963-1996). (Please also check out these links where I’ve featured Cassidy on this blog three times before, with her covers of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “American Tune,” and a posthumous version of “Autumn Leaves.”)

Today’s selection, “I Wandered by a Brookside,” comes from Cassidy’s 2000 album, Time After Time. The lyrics immediately gripped me, as they seem to be telling the story of one seeking solace in nature and finding nothing at first. In the second half of the song, there’s companionship to ease the hurting heart.

In my “aimless wandering” today, maybe I was learning to quiet my mind and look at the world differently. And perhaps that will help me notice the things I don’t always see or sense, like when someone important to me needs help and I don’t immediately recognize it, or any number of areas in my life and world that might be improved with some intentional tending.

“I wandered by a brookside 
I wandered by a mill 
I could not hear the water 
The murmuring it was still 
Not a sound of any grasshopper 
Nor the chirp of any bird 
But the beating of my own heart 
Was the only sound I heard 

The beating of my own heart 
Was the only sound I heard 

Then silent tears fast flowing 
When someone stood beside 
A hand upon my shoulder 
I knew the touch was kind 
He drew me near and nearer 
We neither spoke one word 
But the beating of our own two hearts 
Was the only sound I heard 

The beating of our own two hearts 
Was the only sound I heard”

(“I Wandered by a Brookside,” by Barbara Berry)

May we all feel that hand upon a shoulder when life’s pressures mute the sound of the brook. A lot of people are hurting nowadays. There are very few people who haven’t been affected in some way by the pandemic, and some are alone in what they are experiencing. And may we all be that hand on the shoulder, so that they can hear the sound of the brook. (The song also reminds me of a brook I know, near the home of a friend in Eldora, Colorado which I visited in 2012 and can still hear the sound of, thanks to those who’ve laid their hands on my shoulder.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Eva Cassidy’s official YouTube channel

Bodacious

Today, it’s another nod to some local talent, and another reminder to #buylocal music.

Winnipeg’s Sweet Alibi released their third album, Walking in the Dark, in 2016. The first track on the album, “Keep Showing You,” was released as a single in October 2015.

The band’s music falls into adult contemporary, folk/roots and soul. It is a unique mix of these, fronted by a trio of singers including Jess Rae Ayre, Amber Nielsen and Michelle Anderson, with Ayre most often as lead vocalist. Alasdair Dunlop (bass) and Sandy Fernandez (drums) round out the quintet.

A fourth album has been in the works and was expected for release in the fall of 2019. So far, they’ve released two singles: “Confetti (2019) and “Really Great” (2020). I’ve listened to the latter track and look forward to hearing more of the album and the evolution of their sound. There’s no store on the band’s website, but both songs can be listened to there. Also, no Bandcamp page, but two albums and several singles are available for purchase in the iTunes Store. Please visit and purchase Sweet Alibi’s music to support the musicians who created it.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Sweet Alibi’s official YouTube channel. In addition to numerous audio tracks there are some music videos to to check out.

Classical Gas

So, today it’s a short post as, if you were following along yesterday, you’ll know it’s my sweety’s birthday today!

I decided I’d make a birthday cake — for the first time in my life… yeah… and it turned out! Didn’t burn it, end up with a goopy mess, or drop it on the floor, and it actually resembles a cake, and tastes good! Wow! I made the lemon curd filling yesterday (8.5 out of 10… slightly runny) and then spent almost four hours prepping, baking, filling and frosting before a noon Zoom party with our kids, their partners and the grandkids where we blew out the candles and Sweety made her wish while making the first cut in it.

Sweety’s birthday cake: vanilla cake from scratch, lemon curd filling from scratch, vanilla icing (yes, also from scratch!).

Later in the afternoon we went for a walk, then had another Zoom gathering with neighbours; all the while during the call, I was mystified by how much longer the roasting chicken was taking to reach a safely cooked temperature!

Last night, we binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. It was the perfect pre-birthday date-night, pizza-and-Netflix night. Based on a friend’s recent Facebook post, I was waiting for the piece “Classical Gas” to drop in the program somewhere and accompany the rich, vivid and sprawling depiction of America in the nineteen-fifties to mid-nineteen-sixties, and it did not disappoint.

Check out the show… it’s very well made, and the scenes are so well created, it looks just like walking into that era.

Now you know very little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. Just cleaned up after dinner, and now, it’s time for more of The Queen’s Gambit… with some birthday cake!

Here’s the audio for the song from the Mason Williams YouTube topic channel (I understand he was the first to play this song on guitar):  

The Very Thought of You

I haven’t yet listened to last weekend’s installment of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, “Nick Drake — Featured Artist,” but looked over the tracklist today, and it is inviting and engaging as usual. I look forward to spending some time with it soon, thanks to the BBC Sounds app.

One of the songs on Garvey’s list is a version of Al Bowlly (1898-1941) singing “Two Sleepy People,” which sounded vaguely familiar. Once I looked Bowlly up, I recognized he also sang the song “Midnight, the Stars and You.” It plays in the closing scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 epic psychological horror film, The Shining, while the camera pans to historical photos on a wall in The Overlook Hotel, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Bowlly, born in Portuguese Mozambique, was killed in April 1941, returning to his London home after giving a show in Buckinghamshire. A German Luftwaffe parachute mine exploded, and the force of the explosion caused a door to blow off its hinges and strike a fatal blow to his head, leaving him otherwise not disfigured by the blast.

Looking a little further into Bowlly, I noticed another of his popular songs was “The Very Thought of You.”

On the eve of my sweety’s birthday and, thinking of the blessings in our life and the struggles of the world, I’m mindful of the gift, fragility and beauty of this life.

“The mere idea of you
The longing here for you
You never know how slow the moments go
Till I’m near to you
I see your face in every flower
Your eyes in stars above
It’s just the thought of you
The very thought of you
My love”

(from “The Very Thought of You, by Ray Noble)

The greatest gift is that I get to share this life with her. We have had a tradition in our family of wishing each other a happy “pre-birthday.” So, Happy Pre-Birthday, my love!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Al Bowlly YouTube topic channel:

Here’s an unofficial link to the lyrics.

Hello You Who

This week through a friend in Colorado, I learned of a band, Elephant Revival, and I started looking for some music by them.

Unfortunately, they aren’t together anymore, but the band had a unique style from what I’ve seen so far, including the instruments played (cello, upright bass, violin, electric banjo, and washboard). According to a Wikipedia article, they referred to their music style as transcendental folk since it moves across several musical genres, including some Scottish/Celtic influence. They were based in Nederland, Colorado, a beautiful little town I visited in 2012, and want very much to go back to see numerous friends we have there.

In my search, I landed on today’s selection, “Hello You Who,” which appeared on their final studio album, Petals (2016).

The song’s video features a live performance by the band and the theatrical circus group Fractal Tribe, also from Colorado, performing acrobatic moves on stage at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in 2016. There are a couple more videos from that show; one is their creative cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and the other, “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd.

Elephant Revival is a band I’d like to look into further and hear more of their original music.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Elephant Revival YouTube channel:

Vermillion

I awoke sometime in the middle of the night last night with the worst, most vivid and horrifying nightmare I’ve had. And it’s stuck with me all day.

To ease the memory of that, I’m sliding into an ambient track from, you guessed it, Brian and Roger Eno’s 2020 collaboration, Mixing Colours. Please also check out my latest post on a piece from this album (“Wintergreen“); there you’ll see an explanation about the international initiative and competition held to promote the album and invite the submission of videos to accompany the tracks.

The video for today’s selection, “Vermillion,” was voted the winner among the submissions for the track. The simple, short film accompaniment is a comforting and, I’d say, magical reminder of my sweety’s summer garden. Each year its rich display of foliage, flowers and colours changes each day with new growth. And it seems so long ago that I was wandering aimlessly around the yard and taking it in, knowing it would not stay that way, that we would bid it adieu in the autumn. It’s miracle when I think about it now, looking out on the lifeless stalks and leaves that lay frozen on the ground, though some of the faded leaves still invite a rabbit that, in the spring and summer, decided our yard is a good and tasty home.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video competition winner for “Vermillion” by Fiona Finnegan of Belfast, Northern Ireland, from the Mixing Colour website (hosted on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel):

Bright Horses

After some poking around through various rabbit holes today, I decided to post a song from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ latest album, Ghosteen.

The double album, released in 2019, was the first new writing for the band after Cave’s son Arthur’s accidental death near Brighton, England, in 2015. While the album explores themes of loss, it also explores faith, optimism and empathy.

The horse imagery in the song caught my attention today as an American friend often talks about the value of equine-assisted therapy for people suffering various traumas and going through recovery work. On a Google Meet call today, he spoke about this work and some of the practitioners he knows and works with, one of whom is also a friend of my sweety and me.

Another friend used to own several horses here in Manitoba. When offered the chance to go up close I remember feeling reluctant at first, a bit daunted by the animals’ size. But on two occasions, one walking and the other brushing a horse, I could understand how people related to these remarkable beings’ gentleness. Looking at me with big brown eyes, they seemed to enjoy the peaceful walk and the touch of the brush.

The tremendous physical strength, beauty and healing energy of horses are central to the song. Co-writers Cave and Warren Ellis use both mythical and real images to paint a story that shows the horse as a powerful and fearsome figure, though it moves to a lasting impression of beauty and peacefulness. This imagery is similar to the cover art, a version of the painting The Breath of Life, from Tom DuBois’ Eden series.

It seems the writers are saying that in such beauty and peacefulness is where healing can take root. I imagine this may have something to do with the reason so many people embrace equine therapy. I suspect that in the “round pen” my friend talks about, there’s no agenda or motives. Only healing.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ official YouTube channel:

Here’s an unofficial link to the song lyrics.

Day by Day

Today, I dug into and — rare for me — listened to a whole episode of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour in one sitting. It was the November 8, 2020 episode, “Hello Matt Berninger” (the frontperson of the band The National is interviewed by Garvey).

Garvey said how much he has always loved today’s track, “Day by Day,” from the album Hotel Juicy Parlour by the band Sizer Barker. The group formed in my ancestral home of Liverpool, England in 1998, was signed to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records in 2003, and released the album around the same time. Other than a sparse Wikipedia page, there is not much information available on the Internet about the group, which appears to have stopped being active around 2007. Their website is also inactive.

The lack of much documentation on the band extends to lyrics. I transcribed a few memorable ones from today’s song, below. To me, there is an optimism about the piece. It infers some of the serious challenges of life but answers them with messages about what’s important to meet them: writing one’s story; believing everything will be okay (like the COVID-theme window paint in my local Safeway grocery store has said since March); and that there is beauty in the world like the voice of a beloved and it can be seen in a “fragile butterfly.”

“Day by day
I write my book of hours in the setting sun
Day by day
Someone else will tell me all you said’s okay
Day by day
Can I hear your voice coming back to earth like
The fragile butterfly”

(from “Day by Day,” by Carl Brown)

I think the songwriter has made the song from a reflective place, examining his life and holding gratitude about things in it that he may not have felt or seen at the time. At any rate, I really liked the song; the sound of it, the instruments and effects, and the words and overall tone. It’s too bad the band is not together anymore, but I’m glad I’ve heard them.

Most of the YouTube videos of their songs are posted by Maria Alan who, from the photos on her channel, looks very similar to the bass player in the band, listed on the Wikipedia page as Maria Hughes. My guess is it’s the same person.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Maria Alan’s YouTube channel:

I also found a video of a live performance of it on the same YouTube channel:

Oh My Love

Monday in lockdown 2.0, and it’s time for another #buylocal post.

And today, did I ever buy local. I did a round of curbside pickups and a drop-off of pet food to the animal shelter after taking Perry Como the cat to the veterinarian. Our feline landlord doesn’t mind me sharing his personal health information with you: a crusty formation in the skin on his neck turned out to be a minor thing that the doctor said was healing and didn’t need intervention. What he did mind, though, was riding in the car. “Mr. Relaxation” was whining a bit for the first while but soon quieted down and later, at the animal hospital, quickly settled into flirting with the technician, who seemed quite taken with him too.

But I digress. On to the music.

The video for today’s selection, by chance, also features some animal lovers. “Oh My Love” is the first single from The Small Glories’ second album, Assiniboine & The Red.

My sweety and I saw The Small Glories at the first annual Winnipeg Crankie Festival in 2018. The twosome, formed in 2014 right here in Winnipeg by Cara Luft of Alberta and JD Edwards of Ontario, gave a phenomenal performance. Edwards also plays locally in the JD Edwards Band, which I’ve seen a few times.

In my email account, the Tickets folder holds five passes to see The Small Glories. We bought the tickets for us plus three friends to see the duo on April 25 at Winnipeg, Canada’s West End Cultural Centre. The show was postponed during the first lockdown and hasn’t been rescheduled yet.

I look forward to going to that show when we are at the other end of this pandemic, when it’s safe to gather again. Sometimes, that seems like it’s a far off hope.

Like many other performers, the Small Glories have adapted to pandemic public health restrictions by moving to online concerts. They had scheduled one for tomorrow, November 17, through Home Routes/Chemin Chez and the Calgary Folk Club; however, they have postponed it due to the requirement to reduce social contacts.

Why not show them some love anyway, by going to their website store and purchasing their albums, like you might have if you were seeing them at an in-person show. Or, if you have both CDs as we do, go to their website store anyway; there are options for sending financial support to help them through this time. (Take one look at their Shows page and see all those cancelled events… oh my.) You can also buy their albums on the iTunes store. But you can name your price on The Small Glories web store and know that all the cash you choose to pay will go to them.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from The Small Glories website:

Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op.85, III: Adagio

English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is probably most famous for his five Pomp and Circumstance Marches.

Historically, his music has been followed mostly by British listeners. For example, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches No. 1, is considered by many to be an unofficial British national anthem, and is played every year on the last night of the BBC Proms (Promenades) concerts. Its imperialistic tone appeals to enthusiastic Proms audiences and, thus, it has enduring popularity.

However, the first march is also very popular as an anthem at graduation ceremonies in North America. Being of British ancestry and still affected by those national traditions and customs, I remember being moved to tears when my older lad processed into the hall to the music during his high school graduation ceremony.

But today, I’m sharing an excerpt from one of my favourite symphonic works of Elgar’s, the third movement (Adagio) from the Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85. He was well into his forties before he achieved much success, which came with the Enigma Variations. Elgar was 62 when he conducted the premiere of his cello concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The concerto’s premiere was disastrous; the other conductor of the October 1919 opening night program exceeded his rehearsal time, overlapping into Elgar’s. The concerto wasn’t played again for over a year.

In the video I’ve chosen today, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle. Kanneh-Mason became known in 2018 for playing at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in England. He also played this concerto on his third engagement with the BBC Proms, in 2019, with the City of Birmingham Symphony directed by Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla.

During England’s COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, Kanneh-Mason and his siblings played live-streamed concerts broadcast worldwide from their Nottingham family home.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of a rehearsal by the LSO and Simon Rattle, featuring Sheku Kanneh-Mason, from his official YouTube channel:

Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

In my February 18, 2020 post on Aretha Franklin’s 1971 cover of Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem,” I talked a little about Franklin’s 1985 album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Today I was at an all-day gathering on the conferencing platform Zoom and, at some point, the song title came to mind. I enjoyed the day, and while it would have been much better to gather physically, the virtual meetup was enriching and immeasurably better than not being together. (Plus, it was based in Colorado, so I would have had a two-day drive back home.) Participants were fully engaged and made it memorable.

The song “Who’s Zooming’ Who?” was a big hit for Franklin (1942-2018), and as I mentioned in the February post, it exposed a younger generation to her music. It’s been many years since I played the record… I’ll have to revisit it soon.

I have to say though, after spending quite a few years writing and editing as part of my job, I can’t help thinking the song title should be “Who’s Zoomin’ Whom?”… but let’s not overthink it. Just enjoy the song.

And now you know a little about why it’s my song of the day.

Here’s the audio for the track from Aretha Franklin’s official YouTube channel:

Dreaming of You

Hey, it’s another Friday, folks!

Another challenging week here in Manitoba, learning of new record numbers of COVID-19 cases, a health-care system under strain, a lockdown 2.0, and deaths rising at a frightening rate.

One of the few politicians I genuinely respect, Calgary, Alberta mayor Naheed Nenshi, spoke today at a televised press conference carried on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He urged people not to wait for the government to tell them what to do, but rather to do the right thing, now. He said bluntly what other politicians often dance around for fear of offending voters: stay home, collapse your bubble, don’t have anyone in your home who doesn’t live there (except essential workers), and observe the fundamentals of hygiene, masks and distance. He stated it isn’t an either/or about health and the economy; there is no economy without health. I’ve been impressed with Mayor Nenshi since observing his inspirational and motivational public messaging during the flood that devastated parts of his city in 2013. I even met him once, in 2016, when he was in Winnipeg for the national conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where I was a volunteer.

But enough about that. Let’s get to some music. And since we’re talking municipalities and local government, let’s have another #buylocal look at some great talent.

Manitoba’s Carly Dow has been performing what she calls “witchcrafted folk” since 2013, and I’ve seen her play a few times. One of the most intimate performances we’ve witnessed was at our central library branch, downtown in the Millennium Library. The Winnipeg Folk Festival occasionally features three artists in each of an excellent series of workshops in a cozy, sun-kissed part of the building. My sweety and I have attended many of these, which have included some musical friends as well as our own Kieran West.

Of her latest work, Dow’s website says, “On 2018’s Comet, Carly demonstrates the steady growth of her craftsmanship with a full band behind her. The album features her characteristic clawhammer banjo and supports her melodies with electric guitars, strings, accordions and a driving rhythm section. They’re perfectly arranged to showcase the power of her voice. With songs for adventurers, lovers, and the worlds they inhabit Comet is proof again that Carly Dow is sketching the human condition in song and claiming her own place on the musical landscape in the process. Bring a compass, Carly will take you places.

I listened to the album on Dow’s Bandcamp page while reading up on her and agree! And she is the type of artist best experienced live, plus I would go further to say in a small venue setting, where she and her audience can interact more easily. But we can’t do that right now, and it’s been about nine months since live shows were really a thing. As I said in my post earlier this week on “Looking Out My Window” by Slow Leaves, it’s a tough time for many musicians. And not just financially. They chose to be musicians to share their craft with people and make the world a better place. Being restricted from gathering puts a serious damper on that spirit. But we as music lovers can help by sending notes to artists to show we care about them, and buying their music and merchandise to support them in this in-between time.

You might become weary of me echoing Elbow leader singer Guy Garvey’s exhortation on his weekly BBC 6 Music program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, “… don’t stream it for a pittance… buy the recording so the musicians can make more!” but he’s absolutely right. We can make a difference for local musicians and other artists by buying their stuff.

So, please join me in a 100% safe, contact-free-from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home visit to either the store on the Carly Dow website, or her Bandcamp page (where you can up the price to send more cash to the artist). It’s easier than curbside pickup, and there are no markers on the aisles so you’ll always be heading the right way. Buy Comet today. You’ll be glad you did. And, hey, check out some of her earlier music, too.

After my first listening, a favourite tune on the album is “Dreaming of You.” It’s got the kind of beat and sweet twang complementing Dow’s lovely voice that will put it high up on my Car Tunes playlist.

Here’s the audio for the song from Carly Dow’s Bandcamp album page:

The Silence

After yesterday’s “2 Minute Silence,” today, we’re visiting another type of silence.

Late in the evening on November 10, while I was writing my just-before-midnight post on Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” today’s song came up on YouTube autoplay.

Just a month ago, on October 13, I posted “The Sunshine” from Manchester Orchestra’s 2017 album, Black Mile to the Surface. “The Silence,” another song from that album, is represented in a powerful piece of storytelling in video by American director Ted Roach. That other evening after it popped up, I watched the video again and again, mesmerized by it.

The Manchester Orchestra website contains this comment by the band’s singer-songwriter/guitarist/lead-singer Andy Hall regarding today’s song: “The last track is called ‘The Silence.’ This song is one of the songs I wrote – popped out of bed at one in the morning – it felt like I kinda had to get this thing down, and really, it’s a prayer to God. It’s God talking to me, God talking to my daughter, and then ultimately at the end, the finale is me praying over my daughter.

Some reviewers have commented that Hall’s writing on the album tells of historical family dysfunction and his reconciliation of that with his new fatherhood. I don’t know if that’s correct, but songs on Black Mile to the Surface like “The Silence” and “The Alien” indeed point that way. And as part of this sorting in today’s track, he acknowledges the limits of his biological role as a father, even so early on: “… Magnified in the science / Anatomically proved that you don’t need me…”

The producers, including John Congleton, the wizard behind the development of Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen” (for another powerful song, please see my post on it), capture the intense drama of the story. The video then takes it up and then right over the top. It’s all brilliant songwriting, musicianship and production.

The video for “The Silence” opens with the band doing a sound-check at a music venue, maybe one of those 2,000-seat Vaudeville-era theatres based on the decor you can see in bits. Then after the instrumental intro, the synthesizer and bass solemnly carry the song over into a recording session in a building with stained glass. Hall asks, “Are we good to go?” and when the producer says yes, the keyboard player, looking young, innocent and nervous, lays his hands on his notebook with the piano chords for the song, as if he’s blessing what’s to follow. The first verse begins with the steady drumming and a short, guttural, echoing guitar riff that seems to hint at an impending showdown on the American Old West. It revisits many times as if to remind us of the tension.

Like in the dramatic lead-in, there are several effects through the video, like at 4:03 where the drum kit track is temporarily detached and muffled, seemingly a symbol of disconnection and isolation, mirroring the lyrics.

At 5:21 in the video after the second chorus, the story cuts back to the musicians playing live in the venue. Then at 5:54, the band explodes into a three-minute outro. Maybe it was my anticipation on the eve of Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day for friends in the USA), but I found the beginning of that section evoked a gut-wrenching feeling like witnessing a bloody battle or, at least, intense familial strife. After the final crescendo, the crowd goes wild but quickly reins it in as they see the band is still deeply attending to the song’s last breaths.

I’ve probably watched this video 15 times or more in the past three days, but the final verse still gets me every time. The narrator seems to change from Hall to his father and perhaps his baby daughter (who “sings” to him in “The Sunshine” — please see my post on that one, as well). The internal and external conflict has a happy ending as he looks into his daughter’s eyes, as if she saved his life. Maybe she did.

“Why do I deserve the silence
to feel better about you?
At a loss I lost my cool
I denied that I found you

I tried to be a basket case
I did not surprise you
I’m trying to find a signal fire
Let me know when I should move

But you, amplified in the silence
Justified in the way you make me bruise
Magnified in the science
Anatomically proved that you don’t need me

Why do I desire the space?
I was mourning after you
I was lost and lost my shape
There was nothing I could do

I don’t want to waste away
It was all I gave to you
Take me back and take my place
I will rise right up for you

But you, amplified in the silence
Justified in the way you make me bruise
Magnified in the science
Anatomically proved that you don’t need me

All the while you waste away, you’re asking
“Did I really need another one to take me down?”
Everybody knows it’s something that you had to live with darling
Nobody’s gonna tear you down now
There is nothing you keep, there is only your reflection

There was nothing but quiet retractions
And families pleading, “Don’t look in that cabinet, there’s far more bad than there’s good, I don’t know how it got there”
That was something your father had burned in me
Twenty hours out of Homestake eternity
You can go anywhere but you are where you came from

Little girl you are cursed by my ancestry
There is nothing but darkness and agony
I can not only see, but you stopped me from blinking
Let me watch you as close as a memory
Let me hold you above all the misery
Let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here”

(“The Silence,” by Andy Hull)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Manchester Orchestra’s YouTube channel:  

Here’s a link to the unofficial lyrics.

2 Minute Silence

In 2010, the Royal British Legion released the video, “2 Minute Silence,” to mark Remembrance Day.

At the time, it was a bold, innovative way to use YouTube and other social media to draw the public’s attention to the day devoted to honouring the sacrifices of those who have fought for our countries. The video and a single were (and still are) available for purchase on the iTunes Store.

The Royal British Legion released a similar video in 2015, and the British Army posted one with music last year, again reaching out to younger generations. To me, the original 2010 video is the most impactful in its pure and solemn silence.

The Canada Remembers Program of Veterans Affairs Canada also uses social media to engage and inform citizens on the history of military service in war, armed conflict and peace. Similar honours are made online in the United States and other countries.

I invite you to join me in watching the Royal British Legion video or observing the moment in a way that is meaningful to you, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

We Remember Them.

Hurt

Hurt. There’s a lot of that going around.

Many of us hurt because of what’s going on in the world. And we cannot hug our loved ones in the pandemic time. In Manitoba, we can’t even gather with anyone outside our home as of Thursday. Lockdown 2.0. I felt really stirred up today learning of that… believing as I do that the careless acts of some people have turned my province into the country’s current hotspot, amassing as many new COVID-19 cases almost every day as we did in the whole first wave.

I miss our kids and the grandkids. All our families, friends and other loved ones. Anyway, today, I felt defeated when seeing the news this morning and felt like this is really getting to be a drag.

I miss being able to go, help people when they need it, or just go visit them. Ironically, Sweety and I have more friends now, having met many people online with whom we’ve become close over the past nine months. Folks with whom we’ve connected at gatherings centred on poetry, meditation and spiritual community.

Sometimes the hurt comes from within, and I recognized that a few times today. As I contemplate entering this later part of life, I’m more aware of my mortality, as I inferred in my post on Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.” I’m looking to become a good ancestor, or a living ancestor, as an American friend referred to it when hearing my intention. For me, that means reaching out and offering what I can to my family, really actively… not sitting in the background as has been my practice through a lot of life. It also means reconciling with the faults, failures and shoulds I carry and want to have laid all down to avoid “deathbed regrets.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sick or imminently dying. When I turned 60 this year, it felt like a huge milestone, and I’m more aware of the “sand in the hourglass.” I’m loving life more than ever before — even with all these restrictions and missing theatre, music shows, movies, all that stuff we can’t do now — and wanting to honour the next generations, by doing my part as their ancestor.

And then, after the grumbling and self-pity, I passed by a photo of my dad, taken around 1940, while he was serving with the Grenadier Guards, the Queen’s Own Regiment of the British Army. He was one of very few of his company who returned. My mum was evacuated to another home, far away. They both lived through terror and hardship, wondering if they’d ever see their families again.

Tomorrow on Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day to our U.S. friends and family), we remember their sacrifices along with those whose lives ended in the war, and those who continue to suffer its memory.

By contrast, we are asked to wear masks, wash our hands a lot, keep our distance, and stay home when sick. And it’s been nine months. For some, it has been horrific. For some, it’s threatened livelihoods. For many, it’s been an inconvenience. But it hasn’t been six years of hell.

We’ll get through. All you need is love. Speaking of which, today is one of my brothers’ birthdays. I reached him by phone, and we had a marvellous conversation — fun, informative, emotional, reflective, and honouring.

So, I’m working on not hurting. Not letting past hurts re-harm me. Strengthening myself and my relationships to prepare for a future where we will all one day leave this living world. And, working on not hurting myself. Honouring me for who I am, what I’ve done, what I’ll do instead of beating myself up for my failings. Feeling grateful. Plus, learning some new tools with some new and not entirely new friends!

Nine Inch Nails, an American industrial rock band, wrote and released “Hurt” on their 1994 album, Downward Spiral. Johnny Cash (1932-2003) covered the song on his 2002 collection, American IV: The Man Comes Around, and American filmmaker Mark Romanek produced a lavish video to accompany this rendition. The song was one of Cash’s final hits.

It is a powerful song. I don’t know if I have ever heard the Nine Inch Nails version; it’s not familiar in my memory anyway. (It’s getting late in the day, so I will seek it out another time… and may just find I know it well!) I have a hard time thinking of anyone making this piece more heart-rending and visceral than Cash.

Hurt. There’s a lot of that going around.

But, maybe we’re not on a downward spiral and needn’t embrace regrets like those depicted in the song.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the Johnny Cash YouTube channel:

Looking Out My Window

It occurred to me today that it’s been a while since I featured musicians from my province, Manitoba. You may have seen my posts on songs by Scott Nolan, Kieran West and His Buffalo Band, and Lakes and Pines. After posting write-ups on more than 300 songs, it feels like I’m overdue to spread some more love a little closer to home.

Tonight I visited the website and Bandcamp page of Slow Leaves, the name Winnipeg singer-songwriter Grant Davidson performs under. I haven’t known of him that long but have seen Slow Leaves perform at least twice. I think once at a songwriters’ session at the city’s Millennium Library, and once with a full band at a music venue… it might have been the Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club. My memory is one of a superb musician with a self-deprecating manner whose music draws in his audience. I also have a vague memory that he may have been the singer I once heard do a brilliant impersonation in homage to American singer-songwriter Roy Orbison (1936-1988). You will recognize a similar vibrato at times in Davidson’s voice.

About the music of Slow Leaves and his latest release, Shelf Life (2020), his website says, “The 10-track album leans into themes of romantic memory, domestic duty, artistic ambition, and dreams unfulfilled, underpinning the belief that there is indeed strength in vulnerability.” The site also describes Davidson as being known for “… his ability to breathe poetry into the ordinary… “

For today’s selection, I’m featuring the opening track of Shelf Life, “Looking Out My Window,” a beautifully sung and instrumented piece with pleasing melodies. I find it a reflective yet hopeful sound, and recommend checking out Slow Leaves if you don’t already know him or his music.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it to support the artist who created it.

We all rely on the artistic community for the beauty we see, hear and feel and with venues closed, it must be challenging for many of them to stay ahead of the bill collector. Why not check out a local artist’s website, Bandcamp or iTunes Store page today. Buying their music and merchandise puts money in their pockets, more than streaming does. I’ve quoted Elbow’s Guy Garvey before: “… don’t stream it for a pittance… buy the recording so the musicians can make more!

There is a store on the Slow Leaves website where you can buy vinyl, CDs, and even leave a tip! You can also buy digital copies of his music on the Slow Leaves Bandcamp site. (While I love the traditional long-play record cover, liner notes and all that experience, I generally purchase my music digitally these days. Listening to Shelf Life while writing this, my next step will be to buy the album; it’s a beautiful collection.)

Here’s the audio for the song from the Slow Leaves Bandcamp album page.

Edit, November 14: Here’s a video posted to Facebook yesterday, by Winnipeg’s Village Idiots of a performance by Slow Leaves at the West End Cultural Centre in October…
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreTheVillageIdiots/posts/1612326418969791

Organ Sonata No.4, BWV 528, II: Andante [Adagio] (Transcription for Piano)

On Sundays, I often cruise around the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel. It’s a label I was reasonably familiar with when I was buying a lot of records and even CDs in the 1970s and 80s.

The channel has many superb pieces that I’ve posted about, like Rufus Wainwright’s “A Woman’s Face (Sonnet 20)” and some fantastic combinations of music and video, like “Flight from the City,” by Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018, wrote the music) and Clare Langan (video artist).

Today, I found some pieces by a pianist I’d already featured, so I continued down whatever rabbit hole I had started with on the site, to find something new to me, and maybe, to you, too.

I landed upon a piano transcription of Organ Sonata No.4, movement II: Andante (Adagio) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Bach compiled a series of six organ sonatas nearly 300 years ago in the 1720s. I love the depth, volume and complexity of organ music and will find a great piece to share with you soon.

Bohemian pianist, teacher and arranger August Stradal (1860-1930) transcribed the sonata for solo piano. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson plays it in the video linked in today’s post. His playing is incredible to watch, though the camera is only focused on him for portions of the video. It’s a beautiful, melodic piece that seems to call out to the villagers in the film. If I were living there in that village and heard those sounds, I’d sure head there in a hurry, too! Early in the video it appears they are searching for something or going out to meet something foreign to them. The mysteriousness of the scene and the cloudy, dark maritime location reminds me slightly of the mood of the film Arrival, the science-fiction film directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve with music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (who I mentioned above). This kind of makes sense, I figure, as today’s piano piece is quite other-worldly. And worth the seeking, as the villagers listen and watch transfixed in the pianist’s room.

The sonata’s second movement, Andante (Adagio) is an excellent piece to accompany a contemplative space I’m in following the week’s events, good and not so good, and the lovely, unseasonably mild weather (17°C or 63°F this afternoon). It was so nice out today… I hesitated, but did end up cleaning up the summer porch, rolling up the rugs and putting them and the furniture stacked under tarps for the winter. Sweety and I sat in the back yard, later on, enjoying the last of the day’s light and warmth. I’m feeling gratitude for these days, in spite of some of the challenges they bring.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the music video, directed by Magnús Leifsson, from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:

All You Need Is Love

One of the most hard-fought, nail-biter elections in memory is now over, aside from recounts and other formal processes. The conclusion comes while the COVID-19 pandemic still rages around the world, economies are struggling, and divisiveness seems like it is at an all-time high.

We live in an era of increasing polarization, and it sometimes feels like it will only worsen. I spoke about this a few days ago in my post on “Love & Hate” when referring to Margaret Wheatley’s book, So Far From Home.

These challenges didn’t all happen overnight, and they will take time and much effort to resolve. But regardless of the election result, there always seems to be hope after the votes are counted and before a new government takes power.

Here’s a wish that President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their administration will find ways to bridge the vast divides between left and right for the greater good of America and the world.

It may sound simplistic, but I believe it really isn’t that hard to do.

In June 1967, Britain’s contribution to the Our World TV program was “All You Need Is Love.” Composed by the Beatles’ main writers John Lennon (1940-1980) and Paul McCartney, the non-album single featured simple lyrics intended to be understandable worldwide. The song became a global anthem for the 1960s counterculture “flower power” movement. (“All You Need Is Love” was also added to the United States version of the 1967 album The Magical Mystery Tour.)

It is a song that has aged well in its ability to inspire and sow love.

“Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need”

(from “All You Need Is Love,” By John Lennon, Paul McCartney

May the song keep up the magic now, and may we all show love to one another, regardless of our beliefs and politics. As Lennon and McCartney wrote, “It’s easy.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Beatles’ official YouTube channel:  

The Waiting

Happy Friday!

What a week it has been!

The United States federal election continues to dominate the news, and the stress and tension are evident. I believe the ongoing pandemic adds to and complicates the anxiety of this time… we are facing numerous situations over which we have little or no control, but still we feel affected by them.

And the waiting continues…

“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part”

(from “The Waiting,” by Tom Petty)

“The Waiting” was the lead single from the 1981 record, Hard Promises, by Tom Petty (1950-2017), and was a massive hit for him. It is a very popular song, and some high-profile artists including Linda Ronstadt and Natalie Imbruglia have covered it. And, cleverly, sports venues have used it during games when officials pause the game to review a goal or other play.

Tom Petty has appeared here on the blog before, with his song “Wildflowers” and his participation on a cover of George Harrison’s composition, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Tom Petty VEVO/YouTube channel:

Anticipation

So, it’s another day of waiting for results in the federal election south of the Canada/USA border.

There are a few songs that could be fillers in this time of waiting. Today, it’s Carly Simon’s “Anticipation.”

In the video I chose from Simon’s YouTube channel, she and friends perform the song live on the cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2 in 2005. There are a few ironies in the video: we’re waiting on — in anticipation of — election results; we can’t gather in groups over five (in my area, anyway); bars and music venues are closed (here), and cruise ships were highlighted early in the pandemic as places where the virus quickly took hold and, as I remember, were among the first large spaces to see outbreaks and lockdowns. I doubt we will see people on these ships for a while yet…

Today’s song, from the 1971 album of the same name, is one of Simon’s greatest hits. In this this February post on “Touched by the Sun,” I recall a memory of hearing “Anticipation” in Heinz ketchup commercials portraying the slow flow of that deep red sauce.

“We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting”

(from “Anticipation,” by Carly Simon)

There’s no use smacking the bottom of the ketchup bottle, folks; we all just have to wait. It will come.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Carly Simon’s official YouTube channel:

Love & Hate

Love & Hate.

Right & Wrong.

Us & Them.

Black & White (or any colour contrast…).

Today as I observe the ongoing coverage of the United States election, I try to wade through the biases of two extremes that have expanded to take up so much space in our consciousness. I just want to know what is going and what the result might be, not the skewed results produced from one “side” or the other.

The space and time we are in reminds me of reading the book So Far From Home by Margaret Wheatley, a book that, in short (in my opinion), attributes much of society’s ills to the rise of the Internet and its domination in our lives.

An information sheet for the book says, “We live in a time of increasing polarization and irrationality, like a Tower of Babel with no distinction between fact and opinion, where information no longer changes minds. In cyberspace, we are bombarded with constant distractions and narcissistic self-making activities. Instant judgment and blame have replaced rational thinking. Organizations are bloated by bureaucracy and meaningless measures. Those working for positive change become exhausted, ill, and heartsick as their good work is ignored, underfunded, or attacked.”

The sheet goes on to say, “But Wheatley has not written a book to increase our despair. Quite the contrary. Her intention is to inspire us to do our work with greater resolve and energy, using maps that won’t mislead us. So Far from Home offers maps of two kinds. Using the newest of the new sciences, Wheatley shows how different dynamics interacted to create this harsh new world. A second kind of map invites us to choose a new role for ourselves as warriors for the human spirit. We develop the skills we need most—insight, bravery, decency, compassion—as we look honestly at this complex, difficult world. Clarity gives us enduring strength to discover our right work and create meaningful lives in this dark time.”

“Love & Hate” is one of the songs I was referring to when saying to you yesterday that I had heard several inspiring songs on The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. To me, the song speaks to the absolute polarization that pervades our society, a phenomenon being played out in real-time as the extremes of opinion work to divide people further.

It is no longer safe in our society to hold a different view than what is prevailing or popular. That is the biggest reason I deactivated my Twitter account some years ago (and, I should say, one that at the time was the envy of a friend who was amazed by how many followers I had amassed…). I could not continue in that space as the divisiveness of the platform was rank and vile. I dipped my toes back in, a while ago, but mainly to track some useful information sources. I stay away from controversial discussions as those are not life-giving. It is easy to get drawn in and embroiled in an issue, lose focus, and join in an Internet “pile-on.” There are millions of those going on in micro-discussions on threads… argh… I would be hard-pressed to explain it all to my parents. Except for my late mum, who briefly tried out email, they were 99% obliviously unknowing of the good and evil powers of the Internet. Sometimes I, as their youngest child, have a hard time understanding it.

Humanity has come so far, yet we have so much further to go, to reconcile the differences we hold, or just think we hold. People gathering together should feel welcome and safe in the places where they meet up. That’s even more critical when those places are called and prepared as sacred spaces. That doesn’t always happen, though. I believe that’s part of the blurring of boundaries and appropriateness resulting from so many of us being “connected” online, often almost 24/7, chasing the prize of popularity on the World-Wide-Web.

I hope that our species can learn to reclaim the concepts and practices of respect, love, inclusiveness and peace-making. If it can happen in the smallest of gatherings, it can grow and climb like the vine that tenaciously, slowly and gently insists on climbing up the side of Sweety’s and my home, reaching for the bright, nurturing, non-judgmental, shining-for-all sun.

A verse in Michael Kiwanuka’s 2016 hit “Love & Hate” seems to sum it all up:

“Standing now
Calling all the people here to see the show
Calling all my demons now to let me go
I need something, give me something wonderful”

(from Love & Hate, by Danger Mouse [aka Brian Burton], Inflo [aka Dean Josiah Cover], Michael Kiwanuka)

And as the songwriters say, “No more pain and no more shame and misery.”

This post is dedicated to all those who are denied the safe places where they all deserve to be, and where they are needed.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s a live-session video of the song from Michael Kiwanuka’s official YouTube channel:

Space Oddity

During my morning routine from around 7:00 to 9:00 (Central time in Canada), I like to have a random, unknown music mix playing. But among the radio stations I listen to online, mainly KEXP Seattle and BBC 6 Music, there isn’t usually anything on that appeals to me for that time of day.

The Morning Show with John Richards, which I really enjoy, runs from 7:00 to 9:00, but two hours behind us in the Pacific time zone, so it’s past that quiet, reflective time of the morning for me here.

Just last week, I noticed that KEXP keeps a few archives handy on the show webpage and so this morning, after a particularly active session of Perry Como the cat attacking his Da Bird toy while I was waving it about, I tuned into yesterday’s episode of the show. Richards played many songs to soothe and calm the audience, knowing and feeling the impending national anxiety, looking ahead to today, election day in the United States. He also told a lovely story of a serendipitous chain of events that made for a special time on the bike with his son, on Hallowe’en.

Many of the songs he played were themed on America. I heard a few songs that inspired me to post them sometime. But then he ran a mix of some covers of David Bowie songs, and the one in particular that moved me deeply was a cover of “Space Oddity.” The song, inspired by the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was the first of Bowie’s to make it to the hit charts in the United Kingdom after its release in July 1969, days before America’s launch of the historic Apollo 11 moon-landing mission.

I tried to Shazam this cover of “Space Oddity,” but the app came back with “no result.” No wonder; it isn’t a recording through a record label but rather through the YouTube channel of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California, USA, whose Youth and Master Youth Chorale performed the song. The notes to the video posted in April 2020 say, “Members of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music’s Youth and Master Youth Chorale received the music on a Friday, and recorded it on their phones on the following Monday. This was quite a challenge for these kids who normally rely on listening to each other, breathing together, following their director, and feeling confident with all of the musical choices that choirs usually make together. Thank you Silverlake Conservatory students for continuing to sing through this difficult time, we are proud of you!

The choir’s performance is so beautiful. The young singers nail the line with Bowie’s original inflection, “This is Major Tom to Ground Control / I’m stepping through the door / And I’m floating / in a most-a-peculiar way…” On a day with anxiety and tension, thinking of the country where so many of our friends live, the music provided sweet tears of joy and hope. And the little bits of laughter interspersed in it are delightful.

If these young people can create such beauty together, while separate, in a world that’s so uncertain and foreign to them, surely we all can take inspiration and motivation to make a better future with and for them.

Today, my sweety and I will check in with many of our American friends, and if we don’t connect by phone, messaging, Zoom or social media, we will nonetheless be sending our best juju to our neighbours to the south.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here. Enjoy, and please be gentle with yourselves and each other, my American lovelies, and everyone. As John Richards says every day, “You Are Not Alone.” And as my dear friend in Colorado says, “Blessed Be.”

Here’s the video for the performance from the official YouTube channel of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music (and I encourage you to check out some of their other titles like “Come on Home Baby Now,” also done in isolation):

And, here’s the official 1972 video of Bowie miming to the 1969 recording:

Chewing Cotton Wool

Today, I’m delving into the archives of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour again… there were many great songs on his BBC Slow Sunday episode (October 25, when the British Isles left daylight savings time, a day when the station’s show hosts all played “chill” music.

My selection for today played right after another song I posted last week, This Is the Kit’s “Coming to Get You Nowhere.”

While the playlist for the episode lists The Japanese House’s song, “You Are the Reason,” it was actually “Chewing Cotton Wool” that Garvey featured. I’d never heard of the band before but checked out a few of their songs after hearing them on the show. Of the few pieces I heard, nothing appealed to me and certainly not as much as “Chewing Cotton Wool.” Some of them were slightly boring, often overpowered by electronic percussion.

Oddly titled, today’s song was a recommendation to Garvey by his guest, actor Jodie Whitaker, the first woman to play the lead role in the British TV series, Dr. Who. (No stranger to BBC 6 Music, some years ago, Whitaker hosted an instalment of the BBC feature, Wise Women, which she opened with the song “Go!” by Public Service Broadcasting – a track I posted in January, soon after beginning this blog and hearing the episode archive on the BBC Sounds app.) 

Talking with Garvey on his program, Whitaker introduces “Chewing Cotton Wool” as a song about love ending. It has an ethereal, synthpop sound, nicely instrumented. It reminds me a little of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” another similarly themed piece, but one I find has even more emotional weight to it.

If you’ve lost a love to a breakup or death, the singer’s words will probably resonate and evoke empathy and sadness about that empty space, though gratitude as well, for those things treasured in life. I don’t know the significance of the title; perhaps it’s a British expression or figure of speech, though I’ve never heard it from family.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Japanese House’s SoundCloud account

Symphony No.7 in A major, Op.92, II: Allegretto

The second movement (Allegretto) of Symphony No. 7 by the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), is a favourite of mine.

The movement combines dramatic, sombre and calming melodies in a lyrical landscape of symphonic instruments. When listening to it, I prefer to hear it as a standalone piece as I find the calmness at the ending is abruptly shaken by the spritely start of the third movement (Allegro con brio).

When premiering the symphony, Beethoven is believed to have said it was one of his best works. The Allegretto was the most popular part of the symphony and was often performed separately from the entire work.

As a modern-day example of that, Sarah Brightman performs an adaptation of the movement, with lyrics written for it by Chiara Ferrau and Michael Soltau, on her album, La Luna. Brightman sang this piece, titled “Figlio Perduta,” at the St. Paul, Minnesota concert my sweety, friends and I attended in October 2000. As I explained in my post about that concert, it was an emotional evening, and the combination of the music, singing, and health news about my dad had me weeping.

The second movement is a powerful piece of music, composed late in Beethoven’s middle classical/romantic period, when he had begun to lose his sense of hearing.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for a 1987 recording by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Claudio Abbado (1933-2014). I like the slowness of his version, compared to, say, one by Herbert von Karajan, which is played a half-minute faster.

To me, the album cover art is mildly reminiscent of a painting by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, also called The Woman in Gold.

And, the audio for the adaptation, “Figlio Perduto,” from Sarah Brightman’s official YouTube channel:

The Eve of the War

I am not a fan of Hallowe’en music. There, I said it.

The day itself, I could take or leave, though I’ve had some fun over the years at a handful of costume parties, and enjoy seeing little ones in their cute costumes coming to the door for candy. 

Maybe some of my ambivalence is because of how Hallowe’en motifs recall childhood fear of the dark. But the feeling also could be something I gained from dear friends whose child died violently, and how themes mocking death and ghosts can be seen as making light of the very event that changed their lives forever.

On Hallowe’en in 1938, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel The War of the Worlds was broadcast on radio, narrated by Orson Welles. Unconfirmed legend says that the radio broadcast incited panic among listeners who didn’t realize it was fictional.

In 1978, American-British composer Jeff Wayne released Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, a two-record set with a notebook of paintings on songs and themes from the musical. It included the hits “The Eve of the War” and the more famous “Forever Autumn,” which features former member of the Moody Blues Justin Hayward on the lead vocal. Richard Burton (1925-1984) narrated the album, which features some other huge names in rock, including David Essex (“Rock On”), Phil Lynott (1949-1986; lead singer of Thin Lizzy), Jo Partridge (who played guitar on Kiki Dee’s hit, “I’ve Got the Music in Me“), Chris Thompson (formerly of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and singer of “Blinded by the Light”), and actor/singer Julie Covington (who made a hit version of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”). 

I bought the album and played it a fair bit, though my friends at the time were not very interested in it. I recently thought of it when sitting in the summer porch, talking with one of my brothers on the phone this summer. He spoke about Lynott and Thin Lizzy after seeing my post on “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Brother and I agreed it is a fabulous album, and today he recommended setting aside time to listen to the whole work at once.

Fast forward to today: it’s still a scary world, not just for what we see, but what we don’t see… like the infinitesimal virus that threatens the world, especially those of us aged 60 and over. In The War of the Worlds, the alien invaders are eventually killed off, not by humankind, but by earthly germs. Let’s not fall victim to the same fate.

Whatever you do today, be safe, not scary.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The War of the Worlds VEVO/YouTube channel

Coming to Get You Nowhere

The British band This Is the Kit is one I’ve heard from quite a lot on my favourite radio stations, BBC 6 Music and KEXP Seattle.

Most of the BBC’s presenters have been playing their songs, and Guy Garvey is no exception: today’s selection aired on Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour this past weekend, as part of BBC’s Slow Sunday, a day of “chill music.”

I’d listened to some earlier singles, “Hotter Colder” and the more recent “This Is What You Did,” but the latest track I’ve heard is “Coming to Get You Nowhere,” from their fifth album, Off Off On, released in October 2020.

The band reminds me a little of the Swedish duo First Aid Kit, not because of the similarity in their names but, rather, the calm undertones both bands exude. (First Aid Kit was one of the first bands I featured on this blog, back in January with a post on “Cedar Lane.” They’re about due for a return engagement!)

While “Coming to Get You Nowhere” starts off slightly staccato, it moves into a warm melody with many layers and rich instrumentation, including some fabulous horns. I quite like the band’s unique sound.

It’s an excellent song for a Friday that is bleak from a weather standpoint in Winnipeg, Canada, and a situation that is bleaker with new cases of COVID-19 in the province of Manitoba hitting a new high of 480 for today, skyrocketing from a previous daily record of 193 earlier this week.

Bandleader Kate Stables says about the video, “Here is a video that we made out of footage of our friend’s car getting stuck when they came to visit us during our rehearsal time just before we went into the studio to make off off on. It felt like a car getting stuck and people having to work together and ask for help to get it unstuck was a fitting story to accompany this song, which is itself about getting stuck and the ways we can help or hinder ourselves when it comes to getting out of unhealthy patterns. Making this video has been really nice for me during this time of not being able to get together with the rest of the band. I miss them and the time we spent together making Off Off On so it’s been great to hang out with them in video form. Not as good as the real thing of course, but comforting none the less (sic).”

We in Manitoba and, in particular, Winnipeg, must also get out of some very unhealthy patterns, and get unstuck, fast. We have to flatten the curve so that our hospital intensive care beds aren’t all filled when very sick people need specialized care (68 of 71 ICU beds are in use as of today).

Stay safe, folks… keep up the hand hygiene, physical-distancing, mask-wearing, and of course, staying home as much as possible, and especially when ill. And, no Hallowe’en parties! That is too scary. Really.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from This Is the Kit’s official YouTube channel:



Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It

Back on March 26, around the start of this whole lockdown life we’ve been stumbling through all these months, and all the while with the faint hope that tomorrow everything will be okay, I heard today’s selection, by the Montréal, Canada band, Stars.

DJ John Richards played the track on The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle that day. I’ve thought of posting it for a long time, and today feels like the right day to do that.

My older lad and I saw Stars in concert some years ago in the Walker Theatre (okay, it’s now called the Burton Cummings Theatre, but it’ll always be the Walker to me). They put on a fantastic show. Their two front-people, Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, share lead vocal duties and sing some beautiful songs. Being at the show watching them felt like hanging out on a balcony with them, just taking in life and embracing it with friends. The experience of one song they sang, about being travelling musicians, remains with me to this day. But, thing is, I can’t remember the actual song, just the powerful sense of gratitude and contentment Campbell gave off with as he sat on the edge of the stage, looking out on the audience as he sang to us. Funny thing, memory. (By the way, I briefly mentioned Stars in my post on “Lonely Is as Lonely Does,” a great song by two other Canadian artists — and I recommend you listen to it.)

“There’s been a lot of talk of love
But that don’t amount to nothing
You can evoke the stars above
But that doesn’t make it something

And the only way to last
And the only way to live it
Is to hold on when you get love,
And let go when you give it… give it.”

(from “Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It,” by Evan Cranley, Torquil Campbell, Patrick McGee, Amy Millan, Chris Seligman, Chris McCarron)

Today I’m thinking, yeah, there’s the pandemic, and yeah, it’s getting worse, with so many selfish people not following public health guidelines and endangering so many of us. But, there is also a lot of love in the world; old love, new love, maturing love, love leaving, and love just arriving… like in the innocent, trusting eyes of a newborn child. Love of others, love of self; it’s all needed.

Maybe that’s all I need to tell you for today… other than saying to look out there for love. It’s there. We all just need to learn what to hold, and what to let go, and when.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Stars official YouTube channel:

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Today I did another “thing” on the bike. Not a long distance outdoors, like the 100 kilometres (60 miles) I cycled on September 18, but inside, on the trainer. I rode one of the most challenging climbs on the smart trainer platform, Zwift, the Alpe du Zwift, a virtual course designed through GPS data to mimic the Alpe d’Huez, a regular stage of the Tour de France professional cycling race.

The whole ride took me two hours and five minutes to complete, and the Alpe portion of the ride was just over 100 minutes of climbing, at an average grade of 8%, with 1,036 metres (3,400 feet) elevation gain. It was so much climbing. I’m not a climber, but the friend who has given me advice on cycling suggested I try it.

Almost three-quarters of the way up the Alpe du Zwift course.

After the grinding, gruelling ride to the top, coasting down was a blast, travelling at a virtual speed of 69-78 kilometres per hour (43-49 mph). The course was so long, it took me ten minutes to descend at that high speed!

Coasting down the mountain after reaching the virtual summit.

Before doing the ride today, I watched a video produced by the Global Cycling Network in which one of their presenters rode the Alpe d’ Huez. He compared the real-life experience in France with the virtual course in terms of the effort required and found them virtually identical.

Watching the video inspired me to try for the summit. Funny thing; when I told my friend I’d done the course after watching the GCN video, he told me he had decided to do it after watching the same episode! (Later today, revisiting the video segments of the GCN presenter cycling in his studio near the end of the ride, I can relate to feeling as winded and depleted, though I may have been a bit happier!)

Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in 1966. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell made a hit with it in 1967. Former Supremes lead singer Diana Ross put it back on the charts when she recorded it in 1970; it was her first solo, number-one hit on the Billboard 100. While the Gaye/Terrell version’s mix of female and male voices makes it rich and multi-layered, I prefer Diana Ross’s confident, ethereal tone. As a youngster in the 1970s, I would have heard it a fair bit, but can’t say I have childhood memories attached to it. It’s a beautiful song.

Sometimes the mountain is high enough. Like today. But I’m happy I took it on, virtually, and am grateful, really, that my 60-year-old body could take me through the challenge. Isn’t it great when we know we can rely on something, someone, anything, to be there, when we need it, and we can just call?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Diana Ross’s official YouTube channel:  

Wintergreen

Today there’s been light, off-and-on snowfall and some blustery winds. A good day to hang about indoors and maybe do a virtual bike ride on the trainer.

Instead, after the usual morning routines dictated by Perry Como the cat, then a Zoom meditation and a meeting, then lunch, I had a snooze while my sweety went for a walk.

As I lay there with the cat lying on top of me purring, I was starting to think about what song I’d post today. I was thinking of something ambient, fitting with the space I’m in today. My mind returned to the album Mixing Colours, released in March 2020 by Brian and Roger Eno, a collection that keeps popping up in YouTube suggestions. (In my post on “Celeste,” you’ll find it and two other tracks I’ve already featured from the album.)

As part of their promotion of Mixing Colours, the record label Deutsche Grammophon and the Eno brothers invited video contributions to accompany the musical pieces. They received over 1,700 short films, which were posted to a dedicated website. From October 23 to November 9, the record label Deutsche Grammophon will feature a video on that site (under the “winners” tab), chosen by contributors’ votes, to represent each track on the album.

Meanwhile, in July, the label issued an expanded version of the album. I find this annoying as, if I want the additional tracks, I either have to buy the expanded album, which means re-purchasing the original 18, or just the seven new ones, but then they won’t be part of a cohesive album as intended. It smacks a little of greed, though I want to resist jumping to that conclusion. Oh well, #firstworldproblems, as some say.

Today’s selection is “Wintergreen.” While it appears to show the aftermath of a significant snowfall accumulation, its light and mood are a good fit. There is a discussion in the comments on whether the video was taken on a road, or a river. The light and exposure make it look slightly hazy and nebulous, though it must be a road as there looks to be a car buried in the snow at the side (at 1:30), along with assorted bollards and signposts that appear during the ride.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video made by Narita Itsuka, and the music by Roger and Brian Eno, from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:

Don’t Dream It’s Over

Don’t you dare dream it’s over. Because it’s not.

In Manitoba, we were once the envy of our country, and maybe even the world as we flattened — no, stomped — our curve to keep COVID-19 infections around 300 in total through the whole first wave of the pandemic. Maybe that told a lot of my fellow citizens that it was party time. It’s not.

Today, I find myself in the rare position of endorsing something said by our province’s premier, Brian Pallister. Today, he had a message for those who are careless in their pandemic practices: “Grow up. Stop going out there and giving people COVID.

An online article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quotes chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, and chief nursing officer, Lanette Siragusa, who today outlined many of the problems healthcare providers are seeing. Contact tracers have trouble doing their work as people either can’t remember all their contacts or aren’t being honest, with the result that, in one case, an entire surgical team had to be sent home to self-isolate for two weeks. Infected people have had gatherings in their homes, exposing more people to the virus. Another infected person visited a personal care home, causing an outbreak.

Now I get it; it’s tough being unable to freely go out to shows, movies, theatre, concerts and other close-contact social activities. My sweety and I miss doing all that stuff. More importantly, we miss seeing our families and friends. But we are keeping a tight bubble because that is the sensible thing to do. Like I said about Canadian Thanksgiving, just because we’re allowed a certain number of contacts does not mean we should have them.

In addition to each other, Sweety and I have three close contacts. That’s all. THREE! But many more people we miss and can only speak with outdoors at a distance, over the phone, on FaceTime, or through other non-in-person contact methods.

It’s not over, people. Not even close. Even if a vaccine is approved in 2021, it will probably take most of the year to distribute it. And it’s been said we will probably be wearing masks for quite some time to come.

So, no it’s not over. Don’t dream it’s over. Stay home. Limit your close contacts NOW. Everything you do today will have effects in two weeks… so will it be good effects, or harmful ones that will change yours and others’ lives forever?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today.

To celebrate the band’s 33rd anniversary of reaching the #2 spot on the US music charts, Crowded House did an at-home version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in April 2020 to support a benefit concert. In the notes on the YouTube post, bandleader and lead singer Neil Finn (check out this post on “Faster Thank Light” that’ll link you to three songs of Finn’s from his solo career and Split Enz days) says, “We recorded it over a few hours between continents day before yesterday. It was for the “Music From The Front Line” benefit concert in Australia / NZ. I really like the way it sounds and the process of flying tapes back and forth was fun… pure and simple… hope you enjoy too.” (Cool factoid: the current line-up of Crowded House includes Finn’s sons Elroy and Liam.)

Here’s the video from the Crowded House YouTube channel:

Flight from the City

In case you’re following here and wondering… no, today’s post isn’t a continuation of the holiday theme I mentioned yesterday.

Browsing the Deutsche Grammophon record label’s YouTube channel this morning, I came across a lovely piano and string ensemble piece. “Flight from the City” is the opening track from Orphée, the tenth and final solo album by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018).

I’ve posted one other piece by Jóhannsson, “A Model of the Universe,” from his soundtrack to the film The Theory of Everything.

The “Flight from the City” music is presented with a short film by Irish film and video artist and director Clare Langan. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful video presentation, so evocative in representing the relationship between mother and child. 

Mother and daughter float and dance in the water as if returned to safety within the mother’s womb. Or maybe they are in the deep oceans from which all life emerged millions of years ago, as a dear friend often says.

The film shows love, devotion, adoration, trust, nurturing, dependence, singularity, and circles back to reliance again. It seems the relationship develops and matures, perhaps with the child’s growth, landing in a comfortable place of togetherness after testing the waters of independence.

Interestingly, the record label doesn’t mention Langan as maker of the companion piece in the YouTube video notes, though it was not hard to find information through searching and finding her Vimeo account and website.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:  

Edit, October 26, 2020:

Pondering today, the anniversary of the arrival of my firstborn son… I’ve been in the room twice to witness the miracle of birth, and that was incredible. And wow, watching this video makes me wonder with awe what it must be like to actually bring a life into this world.

With all my love to those who have given of themselves in that and whatever heart-and-soul way, to nurture, as is symbolized by this music and film combination of devotion and love in the water of life.

Edit: October 30, 2020

Thinking again today about the miracle of birth, I’m brought back to the above post/song, as well as another song, “Flume,” which Peter Gabriel has covered (see this post); it’s another one that has found its way into my mind whenever hearing about the creative love miracles of pregnancy and birth.

Holiday

Holiday, anyone?

“If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Come on, let’s celebrate
Just one day out of life
Holiday
It would be, it would be so nice

You can turn this world around
And bring back all of those happy days
Put your troubles down
It’s time to celebrate”

(from “Holiday,” by Lisa Stevens, Curtis Hudson)

If there was ever a time to take a holiday, it’s now, am I right?

The glorious summer we enjoyed seems long gone (though I haven’t put away the furniture from the summer porch yet). The weather is cold, and the forecast calls for more of that. I’ve moved to indoor cycling on the Zwift app with the turbo trainer, though I still hope to get some more outdoor riding in before the snow is really here to stay.

Then there’s the archaic practice of setting our clocks back one hour next weekend, ending daylight savings time. (Further complicating this, the clocks of our families in England and Wales fall back one hour this weekend, so until most of North America’s time changes next weekend, our usual six-hour difference from the UK will be… I don’t know… Five hours? Seven? Ugh. I’ll figure it out. Or not. It’s only a week.) The only perceptible benefit of the spring and fall time changes is that strange satisfaction I have for a while after re-setting all the clocks, knowing all they all click over to the next minute at the same second. I know; it’s strange, like I said.

And, of course, we’re looking at a long, cold winter with uncertainty about the restrictions we’ll be living with as the pandemic continues, while the world holds its collective breath in hope of the successful release and global distribution of a vaccine.

The recording artist Madonna, born in Michigan, USA, as Madonna Louise Ciccone, moved to New York in 1978 to become a modern dancer. She danced, played in bands and rocketed to stardom with her first, self-titled album in 1983. She later acted in several films, further solidifying her popularity.

I recall Madonna as having a special kind of power and appeal in the sassy confidence she had, and how she proudly celebrated her uniqueness and style. As her career and life went on, she became more controversial, but to me, she started off as a beacon of joy and hope for my generation.

In recent posts about other 1980s songs (check out the one on “Worlds Away” for a mention of some), I’ve reminisced about the music I heard in nightclubs, hanging out with friends, sometimes even getting up the courage to ask women to dance. When the higher-register synthesizer riff joined the first chords of electric piano and electronic drum in the dark club amid multicoloured lights, I remember people leaping from their seats and crowding the dance floor to “Holiday,” the synthetic, post-disco third single from Madonna. (“Lucky Star” and “Borderline” were other hits from the album.)

The song feels like a guilty pleasure, a blast from the past. It’s like a fond recollection of fun times for me as a 23-year-old who had made it through a rough break-up and was finally gaining confidence. I had a good-paying railway office job and was getting to be okay with and even enjoying being solo, though I also enjoyed times with new friends (aka friends 2.0) and was finding general contentment in life. That feeling is something that has grown as I age, have shed many responsibilities (e.g., working), am more accepting of myself, and have time to devote to the things that matter… even though some of that, like visiting with family and close friends, is limited because of COVID-19 (though enabled somewhat by online platforms). I would never want to return to life in my 20s, but I do have some good memories of that time in life.

I loved listening to the song and still do. I used to crank it up in my car back in those days: a 1980 Ford Mustang with a cassette player and a graphic equalizer/power booster. The latter added 25 watts to each of the left and right channels… it was loud, and along with the many live shows I attended before being mindful about hearing protection, probably contributed to a mild case of tinnitus.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. Crank it up, and maybe ask someone to dance…

Here’s the audio for the song from Madonna’s official YouTube channel:  

And here’s Madonna and her band performing an extended version of the song to an audience of over 89,000 in the John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA on July 13, 1985, the day a concert was occurring simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England to a crowd of 72,000. The event was organized by Bob Geldolf (formerly of The Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (then of Ultravox), under the umbrella of Live Aid, an initiative to benefit the victims of Ethiopian famine. Similar concerts were held around the world, including in Canada.

I think it was that year that my parents, siblings/partners and I decided not to exchange Christmas gifts among the adults, with the idea of donating that money to the cause.

Friday

Happy Friday!

Do you remember Show and Tell at school? I was always looking for cool things to bring to school to share. Not sure I ever came up with that many, or at least really good ones.

Today’s selection takes that ritual to a new level.

“Friday” is a song by the New York band Goldspot, and I heard it for the first time today on KEXP Seattle. The band, founded by film/TV writer and singer-songwriter/producer Siddhartha Khosla, released the song in 2007.

I can always count on The Morning Show with John Richards to come up with great ways to celebrate the fifth traditional workday of the week. (Would have been a good station to listen to while I was still working!) This morning while Richards was broadcasting from his Seattle home, his young son came into his work area and announced “The Friday Song,” an upbeat, celebratory piece that Richards plays every week. It was sweet. (He also has a theme he plays occasionally, with children singing “John in the morning,” which is also pretty amazing.)

Richards, as I’ve mentioned before, is a kind and generous host and one who openly talks about his challenges with depression. I hope he enjoyed spinning this song today as much as I liked listening to it.

Here’s the official video for the song, from the Goldspot Official YouTube channel:

Worlds Away

Many have said that after the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the 1980s were a wasteland for music. I beg to differ.

The emergence of post-punk, new wave, new romantic, synthpop and other genres, combined with other major genres like folk, progressive rock, heavy metal, arena rock and others, led to many different sounds for modern music lovers. I’ve posted numerous songs from the decade and recently added a tag “1980s” to help capture them, though I still have to go back and add that tag to some past posts.

The Vancouver, British Columbia threesome Strange Advance fused progressive rock and new wave, with synthesizers and keyboards being their anchor instruments.

The band’s 1982 debut record, Worlds Away, produced two singles, “Kiss in the Dark” and “She Controls Me,” but I think the strongest song on the collection is the title track, today’s selection. It plays for seven minutes, seven seconds and, like the rest of the album, is played almost entirely on synthesizers and a drum machine supported by live cymbals and tom-toms, bass and electric guitar. To me, the song feels a bit like it could have been inspired by the movie Blade Runner though it doesn’t carry the darkness of the film; even the cover art is slightly evocative of the film. Drew Arnott and Darryl Kromm play most instruments on the album, joined by bass player Paul Iverson and session musician Robert Minden.

The band’s second record, 2WO (1985), still featured a lot of synthesizers but added full, live drums and featured many session musicians, including Andy Newmark (who played on David Bowie’s Young Americans album and has also played with Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry projects), Earl Slick (who played in David Bowie’s band in the studio and on tours from 1974 up to 2017), and Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve (the bassist and one of two original members of Streetheart still with the band). The album was recorded in several locations, including Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, and London, England. It produced two singles, “The Second That I Saw You,” and “We Run” which was quite popular in nightclubs and received considerable airplay.

Strange Advance represents the kind of music I enjoyed in the early to mid-1980s. Like Japan’s “Quiet Life,” Colourbox’s “Arena,” Cocteau Twins’ cover of “Song to the Siren,” and Simple Minds’ “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” and so many others, it could be playing at a club or Manitoba social (please check out my post on that phenomenon), or on the record player at home. Music of the period often reminds me of friendships I developed and eventually moved on from in my early 20s, as I’ve discussed in some of the posts on the songs mentioned above.

In 2018, Arnott crowdfunded a reunion tour but in 2019 it experienced delays and, in the COVID-19 environment, has been pushed off to 2021. I might have my eye on that tour if it ever happens, and if it comes to Winnipeg.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Strange Advance YouTube topic channel:

Into the Mystic

Today I received an opt-in text notification that the flu vaccine had finally arrived at a nearby drug store.

Being the responsible folks we are, both over 60, wanting to protect any vulnerable folks we might come into contact with (as limited as it seems that will be for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, but hey), Sweety and I registered online and then headed to the pharmacy to get our shots. Then we shared the vaccine availability with close people. 

After we had our jabs and hung around the obligatory 15 minutes to make sure we didn’t have adverse reactions, we hopped back into the car. On SiriusXM’s The Bridge, the Northern Irish musical icon Van Morrison began belting out “Into the Mystic.” I don’t know what the song is supposed to mean and have never taken the time to really analyze it, but it always gets me feeling really good and grateful whenever I hear the song. I read a little about it, and it’s said to be about a spiritual quest.

Morrison said this about the song: “‘Into the Mystic’ is another one like ‘Madame Joy’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’ Originally I wrote it as ‘Into the Misty.’ But later I thought that it had something of an ethereal feeling to it so I called it ‘Into the Mystic.’ That song is kind of funny because when it came time to send the lyrics in WB Music, I couldn’t figure out what to send them. Because really the song has two sets of lyrics. For example, there’s ‘I was born before the wind’ and ‘I was borne before the wind,’ and also ‘Also younger than the sun, Ere the bonny boat was one’ and ‘All so younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was won’ … I guess the song is just about being part of the universe.” (from Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, by Brian Hinton, Sanctuary, 1997

The explanation makes sense and fits for the way I receive the song, especially today, while I’m still fresh from my weekend retreat and a follow-up Google Meet call with two fellow participants with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time.

“Into the Mystic” is not a complicated piece; there are no multi-layered effects… just some good, heartfelt, down-to-earth soul music.

I think I’ll leave it at that and let the music speak for itself.

Here’s the “official vinyl version” from the album Moondance (1970), in a 1999 remastered version (it sure brings out the “foghorn”!) on the Rhino Entertainment YouTube channel:

No other cover I’ve heard comes close to the magic of Morrison’s passionate vocal, though a Canadian singer-songwriter and producer from Regina, Saskatchewan, Colin James, who got his big break opening for Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984, plays a darned respectable cover in this version, recorded live by Toronto, Canada radio station Q107:

Keep on Running

Today I learned that Spencer Davis (born Spencer David Nelson Davies) died yesterday at age 81.

Davis formed the Spencer Davis Group in 1963 and at that time discovered the 14-year-old Steve Winwood, who left the band in 1967 to start the band Traffic. Davis was also instrumental in the career of Christine Perfect (who later became Cristine McVie when she married Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie).

The Spencer Davis Group has numerous hits, including “Somebody Help Me,” “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “I’m a Man,” “Midnight Special,” and others, along with today’s selection.

“Keep on Running” is an up-tempo track with some wicked distortion on the guitar. It is a song I know, but didn’t immediately remember it like I did with “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Today’s track also reminds me of another song that I cannot place.

I don’t remember the group being part of my childhood home’s repertoire. But, I do remember catching up with former member Winwood later on, during his very successful solo career, especially in the 1970s and 80s. (Winwood has appeared in several posts on songs by him, or others that he’s covered or appeared on including “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Higher Love,” and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.”

Today, the world is without yet another musical giant with Davis’s passing.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from’s the Spencer Davis Group YouTube topic channel:

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Serendipity is such a cool part of life.

And I find, the more I am open to recognizing it, the more it happens. 

This morning I was feeling drained, and ready to have a slow day. The online retreat I attended this past weekend was intense, and more than 12 hours spent on Zoom made it a little depleting. But I am grateful for having made the connections I did there. Having been to several events before, in-person, I know that the day after returning should usually be kept easy, while getting back into the regular routines of life and integrating the experience.

So, this morning after Perry Como the cat successfully cajoled me into the living room to play with his “Da Bird” toy with him and, after feeding him, I was glad to sit and have a cup of coffee slipped in front of me by Sweety. Then I exchanged a few emails with a brother, and a dear friend I’d spent the weekend with at the retreat. He was updating me on forest fires threatening some of our friends.

Then, after a pleasant, online meditation Sweety and I took in, I checked out Facebook. I saw a friend and former colleague had tagged me in a post about a song she encountered in a yoga class, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” 

And, not long after, with a groan I acknowledged to my sweety that, yeah, we would need to rake and bag the leaves today, as tomorrow is supposed to bring snow. The wet weather would make the job more unpleasant, especially since I usually grind the leaves up for compost with the Leaf Hog (which, after 18 years, was falling apart in my hands today and has multiple, compounding deficiencies so may need to be retired).

Dylan wrote “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and the song became a massive hit. Since then, it has been covered by numerous artists. In particular, I remember one by Guns N’ Roses that our oldest lad used to play a lot; it is a lit-up version of the original, with Axl Rose wailing out the vocals. Eric Clapton also recorded a reggae-infused version, which bears almost no resemblance to today’s rendition; I don’t care for his at all.

The cover my friend shared is by RAIGN (aka, the British singer-songwriter and producer Rachel Rabin). Her version is more down-tempo and mystical, and matches the slow and quiet place where my spirit has been abiding today. The ethereal sounding, synthesized melody and beat are captivating. The drum sounds have a primitive effect to them and recalled some of the music that a facilitator played during one retreat segment.

Hearing this track brought me back to the weekend gathering and beautiful time spent with some men I know well (though we’ve never met in person), and some I’d just met for the first time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from RAIGN’s official YouTube channel:  

Symphony No.8 in B Minor, D.759 – “Unfinished,” I: Allegro Moderato

Symphony No. 8 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) is known as the Unfinished Symphony. He completed the first two movements, but a third was left to sit as a work-in-progress for six years until he died at age 31.

Despite his short life, the Austrian composer wrote seven full symphonies, over 600 vocal works, plus operas, chamber music and sacred music in the late classical and early romantic eras. Musicologists seem to be at odds in their theories as to why he left his 8th symphony incomplete, with some believing it was due to illness.

The piece came to mind today as I think about how I am we all are “unfinished” as there is always more learning and growing to do in our lives, more challenges to meet, more fun to have.

So while I set off this morning to do some of that learning and growing (and hopefully with some fun), I’ll leave you with this piece of music to enjoy.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio for the first movement (Allegro moderato) recorded in 1984 by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner (1924-2016). He formed the chamber ensemble in London, England in 1958.

Father and Son

Back before the pandemic lockdown, before all the changes thrust upon us from the outside, and before all those changes we perhaps sought in ourselves, maybe often in solitude (or to be more blunt, in straight-on loneliness), I shared a post about the song, “Where Do the Children Play,” by Yusuf / Cat Stevens.

Today I’m deeply mindful of another song of his, “Father and Son,” from the same album, Tea for the Tillerman (1970).

As I said in that earlier post, the album and others of Stevens’ were important music in my childhood home, bridging gaps between traditional hymns honoured by my parents and rock music adored by us children, through the artistry of a beautiful young bearded man who could have a foot in each world. I always thought of him as magical in the way he sang, in that time when we could only appreciate music in the dimension of vinyl and not the richness of music videos and portable music we have now in the post-modern world.

I was ten years old when Stevens released the album and can still remember hearing it, sitting in the living room listening to it as if in a garden with a green carpet. That’s the one, as I mentioned in my post on “A Taste of Honey,” that we weren’t allowed to walk on once the pile had been vacuumed in one direction, especially when my parents were having one of their seemingly frequent weekend parties; those gatherings where, even as an all-in introvert, I would savour being trotted out for my obligatory Red Skelton impression so that I could feel the validation, warmth and celebration of me as someone special, despite all the feelings I had inside of being flawed and broken after medical problems that I suffered in the first six years of my life… we all did the best that anyone could with the absence of “emotional tools” in those days, and I’m grateful for the blessings each sibling gave me. (In particular, I remember how my sister would walk me to school so that I would actually go there, though as soon as she dropped me off, I’d surreptitiously find a way to escape out the other end of the school. To me, school was another institution, like the hospital, and I just was not having it.) Anyway, at the time, doing that party impersonation always earned me some of the sausage rolls that Mum served for the grown-up parties and which were rarely left over for the siblings the next day so, there was that. I know my family carried me and the weight of infant medical challenges, and I love them for that.

Now, as a man entering my elder years, and Sweety and me both having adult sons with partners, and her sons having their own children, I feel like it’s time to prepare the next generation and offer wisdom, blessings, and help to them into the next stage of their lives which will include them saying farewell to my sweety and me when our time here is finished.

I don’t know that I’ve done much of that up to now, though geographical distance plays a role in one sense, and newness and COVID-19 in another, but that’s all also a cop-out. I want to do better and want to learn how to be a good ancestor, like the title of the book by Roman Krznaric suggests. The book was the subject of a recent talk Krznaric gave with his wife, economist Kate Raworth, along with a personal hero of mine — as you well know by now — Brian Eno (despite massive technological difficulties that ironically kept this tech genius from participating much).

Last night and all day today (and continuing tomorrow), I’m sharing a virtual circle with men from all around North America who are seeking to find our way into the future. Many of the men are roughly around my age and some older, some younger. Though I’ve been in online gatherings with some of these men in the last seven months and become close friends, we’ve never met in person. It’s part of the strangeness of these times in which we’re living.

Some of us are fathers, step-fathers, grandfathers… and men who might wonder if they will ever be fathers. But we are all sons. And grandsons, and even great-grandsons, and on, even though we may not have ever met those parts of our lineage. They are with us, in the heritage we carry and are behind us.

In today’s selection, a father and son have a heartwrenching exchange as the son yearns to grow and make his own life even though he does not fully understand where he is going, and the father does not understand this young man’s desire to move on.

“[Father:]
It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Why, think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

[Son:]
How can I try to explain, cause when I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

[Father:]
It’s not time to make a change
(Away, away, away)
Just sit down, take it slowly
You’re still young, that’s your fault
(I know)
There’s so much you have to go through
(I have to make this decision)
Find a girl, settle down
(Alone)
If you want you can marry
Look at me, (No) I am old, but I’m happy

[Son:]
All the times that I cried
(Decision, decision, decision)
Keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard (Why must)
But it’s harder to ignore it
(You go and make this decision)
If they were right, I’d agree
(Alone?)
But it’s them they know not me
Now there’s a way and I know
That I have to go away
I know I have to go”

(“Father & Son,” by Yusuf / Cat Stevens)

As a child, I thought the line, “You’re still young, that’s your fault,” sounded condemning, but now as an older man I think of it differently. The father, in his imperfect way of parenting (because as, with the rest of us parents, the child arrived without an instruction manual), I think is telling him that youth is a fault, as in an imperfection, an incompleteness; so maybe not judging, but rather truth-telling… because the son “doesn’t yet know what he doesn’t know,” and the father wants desperately to shield him from harm, all the while knowing that he simply cannot.

However, we can honour our children and our grandchildren and teach them, gently, some of the hard lessons we learned and which our ancestors learned, often in terrible conditions like the horrific, muddy trenches of war, sometimes never to come home to share their wisdom, love and softness in the doting, focused face of a loving, innocent baby.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Yusuf / Cat Steven’s YouTube channel. I watch numerous music videos and this is one of the more amazing ones I’ve been able to receive in the music and the visual storytelling of the interplay between the old and the young (and animals):

Just Breathe

Happy Friday, friends!

This morning I’ve been catching up on past episodes of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on the BBC Sounds app, as they’ve been collecting on the e-pile. In one sense, I suppose it’s a good thing he returned to two hours from his pandemically-induced three-hour slot (partially filling in Amy Lamé’s time); however, I do miss that extra hour of Garvey’s eclectic selections and his family’s lockdown diary entries to him.

On last weekend’s program (“Steve Hackett From Genesis — Oh Yes”), Garvey spun the duet of Willie Nelson and son Lukas Nelson singing Eddie Vedder’s “Just Breathe,” a Song-for-Guy recommendation. It’s an outstanding track, and of course, a good reminder of what to do when we’re stressing out.

“Oh I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they’ve got none.

Stay with me
Let’s just breathe”

(from “Just Breathe,” by Eddie Vedder)

The province of Manitoba, where I live, has gone from being in an enviable spot among the lowest COVID-19 case numbers globally (we hovered around 300 cases TOTAL for the longest time in the spring and summer) to having the highest per capita rate in our country for active infections as of yesterday, October 15. And it seems like we were setting records almost every day this week. The threat posed by this, and the uncertainty of knowing when we might be able to gather again in the future is enough to send one into sadness, anxiety and fear. That’s when it’s important to remember, “just breathe.” It’s a practice that doesn’t come naturally, not to me anyway, but one I’ve been working on with intention, meditation and, yes, cycling, all of which have helped immensely in the last seven months.

For more Willie Nelson, check out my post on Daniel Lanois’ “Under a Stormy Sky” for a mention of and a link to a video of Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris joining Lanois in a performance of his song, “The Maker.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy the music. And breathe.

Here’s the official music video from Willie Nelson’s VEVO/YouTube channel. Please remember to click on “thumbs-up” in the video if you appreciated the artists’ work.

Hot Thoughts

Spoon (not to be confused with the Canadian 80s avant-garde band Spoons) is another band I know very little about, though I believe the Austin, Texas group, formed in 1993, has a big following in the indie-rock world.

I heard the song “Hot Thoughts” a while after the band released it on the album of the same name in 2017, their most recent of nine albums.

For the nerds among us who track such things, a couple of artists collaborated with Spoon on Hot Thoughts: LP (aka Laura Pergolizzi, whose song “Other People” is a favourite post of one of my kin) co-wrote one of the songs on the album, and Sharon Van Etten (who I featured in a post on her song “Seventeen“) lends her vocals to another track.

I immediately put “Hot Thoughts” onto the Car Tunes playlist in my Apple Music library as its rocking beat makes it an excellent choice for a road trip of any length.

The song features one of those rock ‘n’ roll “Woo!” exclamations I mentioned in my post on Arcade Fire’s “Everything_Now (continued) / Everything Now” medley. On today’s selection, it comes in at 0:52 into the studio track. It’s missing from that spot on the live version but happens later, a couple of times, just to keep listeners on their toes, guessing, I suppose.

Writing this post, I’ve heard a few more Spoon songs courtesy of YouTube’s autoplay, so will be looking into this group some more.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Spoon’s official YouTube channel:

And, the live performance on one of my two go-to radio stations, KEXP Seattle, where I probably first heard the song (and if you’re a regular visitor here, you’ll be able to guess what the other station is):

How Shall I See You Through My Tears

Many years ago, Sweety and I watched the IFC Films release Camp (2003), written and directed by American Todd Graff. It is a comedy-drama-musical about teenagers attending a summer performing arts camp in New York state, USA.

The film features actor Anna Kendrick in her first movie role (among other parts, she’s starred with George Clooney in Up in the Air) and American musical theatre composer Steven Sondheim’s (apparently) only film appearance. It’s a very well made movie, though one wouldn’t guess that, based upon the receiving such mediocre reception from critics.

I imagine Camp would be an excellent work for musicians to see, especially those who have attended camps. After thinking about it today, I want to watch it again, and I’m not even a musician!

The story tells of a wide variety of young people attending the camp. Some are well-off financially, and some can barely afford to be there. Present as always is the peer pressure youth live with and the characters’ attempts to find and claim their identities; this often leads to fierce competition, ostracization, shaming, bullying and, sometimes, physical attacks.

I enjoyed the film so much I sought out the DVD and the CD of the official soundtrack, which includes fabulous covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and The Replacements’ “Skyway,” along with many jazz and musical standards like “Here’s Where I Stand” (sung by Tiffany Taylor), “The Ladies Who Lunch” (featuring Kendrick) and “Turkey Lurkey Time” plus many others. It is an impressive collection of music entirely worth listening to well after seeing the movie.

The first track on the CD is “How Shall I See You Through My Tears,” a jazz-pop, anthem type of song. It’s quite a captivating performance in the film, but unfortunately, there aren’t any decent video versions available on YouTube, just one badly home-edited clip I can’t bring myself to plunk in here. The song features Sasha Allen (not Sacha as noted in the audio clip below), Steven Cutts and the Company.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song:

The Sunshine

I definitely would have first heard the band Manchester Orchestra on KEXP Seattle. The sound of the the indie-rock foursome from Atlanta, Georgia, USA is a natural fit for the broadcaster.

The public radio station, affiliated with the University of Washington, held its annual fall fundraiser last week, raising over 1.1 million USD in just one week. They have a huge following, a faithful audience that appreciates the DJs for their humanity, community spirit and, yes, the fantastic mix of songs they play. I’ve found a lot of music I love through listening to the station after a friend and colleague recommended their Music That Matters podcast some years ago. As I’ve said before, I especially enjoy KEXP’s The Morning Show with John Richards.

The first song I heard by the band was “The Alien,” a ballad of family dysfunction and trauma, bullying, and the community destruction that can result from those and other societal ills. I find it a difficult song to listen to though it is brilliantly written, played and sung. It is from the band’s fifth and latest album, A Black Mile to the Surface (2017). The collection has some dark undertones, but one track that is quite different from the rest is “The Sunshine.” 

Another song that has had a significant play from the album is the opening track, “The Maze,” which appears in the trailer for the Netflix science fiction series, Away. I mentioned in a post about a month ago that Sweety and I had started watching that show. We finished the series quickly. It was entertaining and kept our interest right up to the suspenseful ending.

Of today’s selection, “The Sunshine,” the lyrics website Genius.com says, “This song is Andy Hull speaking to his baby daughter. He dreams that how he feels about her is how she also feels about him. She is his sunshine, his moonlight, his everything.” It’s easy to see that in the lyrics he wrote:

“I already know that I don’t already know
You are the sunlight
I don’t really care if you don’t understand
You are the moonlight

And that’s alright, alright with me
Oh, that’s alright

I don’t really mind if you don’t really mind
You are the sunshine
You don’t have to know if you don’t want to know
You are the moonlight

Oh and that’s alright, alright with me
Oh that’s alright, alright with me
Oh that’s alright, alright with me
Oh that’s alright, alright with me
Oh that’s alright, alright with me
Oh that’s alright

Alright (I’m) alright (I’m) alright (I’m) alright (I’m) alright”

(“The Sunshine,” by Andy Hull)

The band has a distinctive sound that I enjoy, though the darkness in some of their music means I’m not drawn to listen to a lot of it in one sitting. But just as the sun was warming on a cold and windy day like today, and how a new life brightens the world, “The Sunshine” is a radiant spot on the album.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Manchester Orchestra’s YouTube channel:

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves. As autumn begins.

My sweety loves to create a family dinner. Over the years, we’ve had the good fortune to share our Thanksgiving dinner table with our own and other families, sometimes folks who had no relatives here to be with, or were experiencing severe challenges, or came to be with us for any number of random reasons. Each time, we were blessed by them joining us and sharing a meal and cherished togetherness.

Thanksgiving has always had a lot of significance for Sweety, and she has forever gone all-out in marking the occasion with a scrumptious meal, prepared with days’ worth of deep love. I put in the table leaves to extend it, and she has gathered autumn leaves to adorn it and create a beautiful tableux; indoors as out… a beautiful sight. She’s the most remarkable person I’ve ever met, and I’m thankful I get to share this life with her.

At our dinners, when all the busy-ness of preparing and cooking and placing everything onto the set table, and everyone is in their seats, she takes her traditional place in front of the turkey platter and always asks me to say something. I have sometimes thought I should prepare it in advance, but as someone who’s never felt natural speaking to a script, I opt for what comes in at the moment. The words are built upon remembrance for those with whom we used to share the table and have there with us only in memory or whatever spiritual presence we feel of them.

But this year, the table isn’t set. The leaves aren’t in it, or on it, and the house is quiet except for the sounds of music, cooking for two, and Perry Como the handsome cat, singing for food as he always does even when his bowl is full.

Tonight, like the last seven months, and many more months to come, is the way it needs to be so we can protect ourselves and each other while the unseen virus eagerly awaits to be an unwelcome guest accompanying everyone home.

“Autumn Leaves” is a jazz standard and popular song written in 1945 by Joseph Kosma (1905-1969) and covered by many, many artists, including Nat “King” Cole, Doris Day, Bob Dylan, The Everly Brothers, Edith Piaf, Manfred Mann, and so many others, plus Eva Cassidy (1963-1996) on her album Live at Blues Alley (1996). Cassidy has been highlighted on this blog before, with her cover of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.”

Today while I started to write this — after Sweety and I enjoyed probably the last gin and tonic of the season out in the summer porch (in the sunshine at 13°C, or 55°F) — she was making homemade tortillas (and I mean she made the tortilla part itself, too!). They were amazing. Quietly, we missed our family, our friends, our traditions.

We look forward to when we can all share time together again.

I think there will be a massive table when that time comes. I might just have to prepare some words in advance. Or not; those present, those far away, and those with us only in memory will inspire.

We were out for a walk earlier this afternoon and saw some people decorating the corner of a nearby park, and we heard they were preparing to celebrate a marriage proposal. There are things to celebrate, gratefully, loudly and audaciously, and silently. Yes, still.

And, a moment to acknowledge the colonial history of this holiday, remembering the people from whom much was taken when masses of people settled here for a better life. If only it had been better for all. It could be. Yes, still.

Blessings to everyone for Canadian Thanksgiving. Stay safe and well. We miss you. And may not even have met you yet.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Eva Cassidy is special to Sweety and me as we were introduced to her music, albeit after the singer’s death, by friends (and their table) that occupied our 115-year-old home before we did. We lost track a few years after we moved. We miss them too.

Here’s the official video for the song from the Eva Cassidy YouTube channel, featuring Cassidy’s vocal and the London Symphony Orchestra. This version was released in 2018, with Cassidy’s vocal track isolated from her 1996 recording and used in an arrangement by William Ross and Jochem van der Saag, and played by the orchestra. A magical way of bringing someone from the past back “to the table,” or to the leaves, as it were:

Here’s a short article about the recording.

And here’s the 1996 version, with footage of Eva playing live at Blues Alley (one of the so many venues closed due to restrictions in place to protect people from the pandemic) in the Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington, DC in the USA:

Piano Concerto No.2 In C Minor, Op.18, II: Adagio Sostenuto

The Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergey Rachmaninov (also written as Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1873-1943) is one of my favourite composers of the classical Romantic era.

After mentioning in my post from yesterday that it was World Mental Health Day, it seems fitting to feature Rachmaninov today. As some know, he descended into depression illness for three years following the death of one of his major influences, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18, was the first work Rachmaninov finished after his illness and the writer’s block that accompanied it. His orchestral works are grand, melodic and colourful, and this concerto is no exception… a beautiful sign of recovery.

I especially love the second movement (adagio sostenuto). In its slowest, softest parts it offers delicate sounds of flute and other wind instruments weaving with the lilting piano and subtle orchestra. It is divine music, truly a balm for the soul.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the second movement from the Krystian Zimerman YouTube topic channel:

Love Right (prelude)

The American musician, composer, producer, educator, blogger, author, activist and all-around awesome human, Noah Baerman, made a brief appearance on this blog once before when I bought one of his recommendations on one of those days when Bandcamp was waiving fees, forwarding 100% of payments to the artists. That recommendation and purchase inspired the post on Jess Best’s “if i grew up.”

Today has been National Album Day in the United Kingdom, a day dedicated to listening to full albums, having listening parties, or going out and buying albums. And, while we weren’t listening to a UK artist, my sweety and I honoured the spirit of the day by attending an album release party with nearly 100 others hosted on Zoom by Baerman, who lives in Connecticut, USA.

Yesterday he released the 17-track album, Love Right, a tribute to his friend and fellow musician, Claire Randall, who at age 27 was stolen from those she loved and who loved her.

The chances that my sweety and I ever would have met Baerman were very slim as we live so far away from each other and had little in common, except for the love of music and mutual friends whose love brought us all together when that family was hit with tragedy, some years ago. Noah and his partner, and Sweety and I, don’t know each other well, yet we are inextricably linked for life by a community of love that arose and solidified around deepest loss.

As a side note, today is also World Mental Health Day. I believe that if we as a society took better care of each other, and if we all demanded our governments spend more time courageously investing in genuine care for and feeding of citizens instead of pandering to the populist notion of lowering taxes, there would be a lot less tragedy and grief for this world to suffer. 

Baerman’s Zoom album launch today was another first for us in this time of life adapting to the global pandemic. He introduced each piece, along with naming the nearly 100 artists who collaborated on the album, and then played an excerpt of each track, screen-sharing a visual collage of the track artists Photoshopped onto rocky terrain. He put a lot of heart and soul into the project and the launching of it. He’s one of those “friends I wish I’d never met” on the one hand, but on the other, I sure would love to hang out with him sometime; he’s a super cool person, as I have grown to know by being connected online. (And I hear he makes some fantastic food… though there wasn’t any at the party today… just sayin’.)

Jazz isn’t one of the genres I know well or even understand, but I learned a lot about Baerman’s process for what he was creating in the compilation of this collection.

I’ve chosen to highlight the album’s opening song, “Love Right (prelude).” Baerman wrote the music and lyrics for the entire album, and I find this track utterly captivating in how he composed it and how the vocalists — Mariana Quinn-Makwaia (lead), Mel Hsu, Jess Best, and Baerman — create the ethereal sound that opens this major work in loving tribute to his dear friend.

All proceeds from sales of the album go to Claire’s Continuum, an initiative to honour Claire’s lifelong commitment to social justice. I encourage you to support that work by purchasing the digital download of the album and accompanying booklet.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song “Love Right (prelude)” from Noah Baerman’s Bandcamp album page

And, at the album launch today, Baerman talked about a band Randall sang with, Trot Fox, and their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Here’s the video from the Trot Fox YouTube channel:

Quiet Life

Happy Friday!

Well, I’m not going to point you to the barn-dance kind of venue where the video for last night’s post on Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” takes place, but I hope this song inspires you to get up, move around and celebrate life. Even a “quiet life.”

Japan is a band I told you about before, when I talked about its former lead singer and songwriter, David Sylvian, in my post on his solo song, “Orpheus.” If you were following this blog when I posted about that song, you might have expected that I’d post today’s selection sooner or later.

I still remember when, from age 16 to 18, I would go on weekly record-shopping trips downtown, and remember the day I discovered Japan. Their second record, Obscure Alternatives (1978), was my introduction to the band. They were an amalgam of post-punk and glam rock, with a cloak of dark brooding draped over. Just a year later when they released the album Quiet Life, they had added post-disco synthpop and new romantic to their style, and their sound would be perfect for a nightclub dance floor, especially in the early 1980s.

I can imagine the song playing to a packed dance floor in the club that was attached to the Travelodge on Alpine Avenue in St. Vital, Winnipeg in those years. I can’t remember the name of that bar, but can clearly picture it. Something to do with soda? Club Soda? Or maybe something about Fridays? Maybe not. I don’t know. Anyone here remember? Anyway, the song “Quiet Life” is so representative of that club sound and vibe. But I don’t think I ever heard it played in a bar. The band remained relatively obscure in Winnipeg, Canada, and, other than a friend I introduced to their music, I don’t think I have ever known anyone else who listened to them.

I also recall that in the early 1980s era, fashionable clothing was such a critical component of nightlife. Maybe it still is? I don’t know. I dare say my friends and I (“friends 2.0” at that point, the way I refer to a group that expanded to include some cool kids from St. Vital) looked a lot like the fellows in the band, minus the makeup. That androgynous look makes me think of a memory of walking with my parents among the outlandishly styled fans outside the Liverpool Empire Theatre in 1973, waiting for doors to open to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour. (As I mentioned in my post on “Moonage Daydream,” when talking about rockers’ style in the UK in 1973, the type of clothing in the “Quiet Life” video didn’t appear in my city until a few years later… or at least that’s how I remember it.)

The irony is not lost on me now that in those early 80s, we carried a carefree attitude into our social settings, unrestrained by interest rates of 16% or so on our car loans due to massive inflation at the time. But we were invincible, right? Now, those clubs (well, the current incarnations of the spaces they occupied) are mostly avoided, at least by a lot of folks of my vintage and older, because of an invisible virus whose effects we still don’t fully understand.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of an obviously lip-synched but still pretty cool video set to the studio track of the song from the Japan YouTube topic channel:

Harvest Moon

How is your week going?

Has it been a “long week”?

Have they all been lately?

It’s not Friday yet, but that’s tomorrow, so if that is part of your workweek schedule, then great. If not, well, hopefully, today’s selection will help anyway.

There’s so much going on in our world. It affects us directly, indirectly, but it still affects us. It’s a lot. Allow yourself to feel that, and if you need to, say that you need a time out from it. It’s a lot, for sure.

I hear it in the conversations I have with family and friends out in the world, and can surmise about what it is like to cope in the COVID-19 world, but I really don’t know, other than what I experience when shopping mid-day when the crowds are sparse and shelves are full.

I acknowledge that as a retired person, I have no comprehension about what it is like to study, work, raise children, look for work, try to socialize and do so many activities people have to navigate under conditions necessitated by the pandemic. Every. Damn. Day. I feel like, well, I see people and observe them and have a sense of what they’re doing, but there’s no way for me to understand that totally. But I can honour and admire it.

So if you have a moment, why not sit down, click on the video below, turn up the sound, and enjoy a lovely Neil Young song. And the funny thing is, I don’t really have an excuse, but this song is one week late. The Harvest Moon arrived on October 1. I even made a note to remember it! I blame the pandemic.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful song, and the video is a treasure in its simplicity. I love the guy at the beginning, dancing with his corn broom at the entrance to the hall where everyone’s congregating, celebrating, all close together. (Ouch! Not fair… we can’t do that!) He appears later in the video, too. Beautiful.

The song comes from the album Harvest Moon, which Young released in 1992. The lilting background vocals on the song are providing by Linda Ronstadt. I have talked about and featured her before, in my post on another Neil Young composition — “After the Gold Rush” — one that Ronstadt covered with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris in the women’s 1987 collaboration, Trio. That album was later re-released as a three-disc set, including alternate takes and previously unreleased tracks. (By the way, the day I posted that song, I said I had my eye on the other forty tracks in that collection. Predictably, I’ve bought them since.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Stay safe and well. ❤️

Here’s the official music video for the song from Neil Young’s YouTube channel:

I Can See Cleary Now

American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash, who died yesterday at age 80, was one of the first artists to bring reggae music to the United States as I learned today, reading a CBC.ca article about his death.

He was famous for today’s selection, the 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now.” I don’t know much about Nash, but every time I hear that song, particularly the vocal bridge, I recall it being performed flawlessly by fellow students at a coffee house in my high school in the 70s.

Listening to the YouTube autoplay while I’ve been writing this, there were some songs I knew, but many I’d never heard before. Among those that played were “There Are More Questions Than Answers,” “Hold Me Tight,” “Guava Jelly,” and “Tears on My Pillow.” All had a distinct reggae beat to them, and it was good to listen to them.

Apparently, Nash wrote the optimistic song “I Can See Clearly Now” while recovering from cataract surgery.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today, with thanks to Sweety for the song suggestion. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Johnny Nash YouTube topic channel

Hello It’s Me

Todd Rundgren is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer who has been active since the mid-1960s. He has played as a solo artist and a member of Utopia.

I’ve never known much about him or followed him, but I remember that my first girlfriend was into his music and spoke as if there was a real mystique about him. Like today’s selection, the songs I know don’t especially reflect that, but I have read that his performances could be quite lavish. I also read that he was an early adopter of technologies such as using the Internet to distribute music. Interestingly, his website doesn’t offer such functionality; maybe other services like the iTunes Store, Apple Music and others took the place of that. He does not have an official YouTube channel; there’s only a topic channel auto-populated by YouTube.

“Hello It’s Me” is probably one of the songs the girlfriend liked; I don’t know for sure as I don’t ever recall us listening to Rundgren. But it’s a song I remember hearing many times over the decades, and recently, too. I enjoy the softness in Rundgren’s younger voice. (More recent videos of him reveal a more resonant voice, possibly with less range.)

As I mentioned in my post on a new song by The Psychedelic Furs, “No One” (from 2020’s Made of Rain), Rundgren produced the band’s third album, Forever Now (1982), which contains the song “Love My Way.” (I also said in the same post that I’d wanted to blog about him sometime. So, here we are.)

When writing my post on The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” I’d read somewhere that Rundgren is one of the many musicians to cover that song.

“Hello It’s Me” is a lovely song with beautiful harmonies sung by one who is perhaps seeking reconciliation, and I like the sound of it. It was the first original song Rundgren wrote, in 1968. He recorded it that year with the band, Nazz, and again — the version shared today — on his first solo record, Something/Anything? (1972). It was released as a single the next year.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Todd Rundgren YouTube topic channel:

Love Theme

Today, I’m sharing an old favourite from the electronic music genre, “Love Theme,” from Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, Blade Runner.

Spoiler alert: in this post I reveal some of the ending of the film so if you haven’t seen it yet, you may not want to read on!

The movie depicts Los Angeles in 2019, a (then) future where the climate and mood are dark, polluted and rainy. It’s a brilliant film, and as a fan of science fiction, I enjoyed it. I wasn’t as interested in Blade Runner 2049; I found it slow-moving, not as engaging as the original. Maybe I should give it another chance as it did earn considerable critical acclaim. Did you see it? If so, what did you think of it?

A memorable part of the soundtrack from Blade Runner is “Love Theme,” composed and performed by the Greek electronic musician, composer and producer, Vangelis. (He also wrote the soundtrack for Chariots of Fire, a 1981 film based on two men who run in the 1924 Olympics for Great Britain and Northern Ireland.)

The piece plays during scenes between Harrison Ford’s character, Richard Deckard and Sean Young’s Rachael. Deckard concludes soon after meeting her that Rachael is a replicant, a bio-engineered humanoid.

“Love Theme” is a calming piece of electronic music, with saxophone prominent in the work. It reminds me of the final scene in the original cut of the film, which seems to represent the escape of Deckard and Rachael, flying through mountainous terrain in a clean, clear sky. (Interestingly, the footage in that final scene is apparently an outtake from the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version of the Stephen King novel, The Shining, as told in this Smithsonian Magazine article which shows excerpts from both films.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the piece from the Vangelis YouTube topic channel:

Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral”

Cruising around YouTube today, I had a pleasant discovery in finding a recent reinterpretation of the Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral,” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

“A ‘Pastoral’ for the pandemic” is shortened at 21:44 (versus anywhere from 42 to 50 minutes, depending on the conductor and orchestra). A much smaller orchestra plays the piece and is spread throughout the La Redoute building in Bonn, Germany to ensure safe, physical distancing for the conductor, Dirk Kaftan, musicians of the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, and the production crew. The shorter arrangement is by Lars Lange.

The videography and sound are superb; a joy to watch and hear. And I agree with a video commenter who found the individual lines more evident in this version. The power of the fourth movement’s famous storm (it builds from about 14:45 then whips up suddenly at about 15:10 in the video) seems unaffected by the lower count of musicians creating the booming aural representation.

This excerpt from the notes to the YouTube video sums the project up nicely:

Speaking about this performance, Dirk Kaftan said, ‘Music is not only connected to the time in which it’s composed, but also to the time in which it’s performed.’ And indeed, this special concert is very much a direct response to, and a reflection of, the time in which it was performed.”

I enjoy the original full-length, full-orchestra version of this piece though there is also something appealing in this version’s brevity. Maybe that’s a symptom of living in a society that feeds attention deficits. At the same time, the abridging of the piece does indeed seem to reflect the needs of the time in which it was produced, to minimize potential exposures.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from the DW Classical Music YouTube channel:

True Colors

On March 22, 2020, London, England a capella, jazz, and pop vocal group Camden Voices posted a YouTube video that now has 1.8 million views. It’s the ensemble singing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” remotely, in self-isolation at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown.

“True Colors” is a beautiful song of encouragement and hope — a fitting choice in the midst of the uncertainty of a global pandemic.

“You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there

And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

[Whisper:] Can’t remember, when I last saw you laughing

If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there

And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
True colors are shining through

I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow”

(“True Colours,” by Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg)

I’ve told you before how Cyndi Lauper has been a favourite of ours for many years, and how we enjoyed her music with dear friends. For more about this, please see my posts on “I’m Gonna Be Strong” and “I Drove All Night.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Camden Voices YouTube channel:

And, the official music video for the 1986 hit, sung by Cyndi Lauper (a video with over 118 million views).

It’s a song that my sweety and I have listened to many times, often during times when we felt a need for a hopeful message.

I Am Woman

The Australian-American singer/songwriter, actor and activist Helen Reddy strode, with a modest but confident air about her, solidly into musical stardom in 1972 with her massive hit, “I Am Woman.”

I was only 12 at the time, and I suppose a slightly immature or insulated 12 or, at least, lacking a deep understanding of the dynamics of the sexism and misogyny that pervaded the world I was born into, and which have benefited me through all my life. Yet, I still could feel back then that this was a very important song; an anthem for that time, and maybe for all time.

“I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can face anything
I am strong
(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman”

(“I Am Woman,” by Helen Reddy, Ray Burton)

This week, we said farewell to the earthly presence of that roar, of that invincible, strong woman. But her strength and invincibility remains; it’s in the hearts of those who heard her music and made it theirs, and those it gently and firmly inspired to claim their space, to stand and say, “I am Woman.” Hear them roar, all across the land. It’s time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and I hope you enjoy.

When you play the video, turn it up. Loud. Let it ROAR.

Here’s the audio for the song, from the Helen Reddy YouTube topic channel:

MLK/Pride (In the Name of Love)

My philosophy on anything the British musician, visual artist, sound designer, music producer, theorist and activist Brian Eno puts his name to is simply, “buy it.”

That practice has never failed me since first picking up one of Eno’s albums at the behest of one of my brothers in 1976 (as I’ve mentioned before here, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, 1973). And the same goes for anything he’s been associated with, especially if it also has him collaborating with Canadian musician and producer Daniel Lanois, which they’ve done numerous times.

The Irish band U2’s album The Unforgettable Fire (1984), is one such album. It is an incredible work of music. I remember holding the new long-play record’s cover in my hands, mesmerized by the music and the brilliance of the production by these two geniuses.

Thanks to Canadian freelance music publicist Eric Alper (one of the people I enjoyed following when I had a more active presence on Twitter, while trying to avoid the many dumpster fires there), I learned that The Unforgettable Fire was released 36 years ago today. (I also reference Alper in my post on Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing.”)

“Pride (In the Name of Love)” is an absolutely incredible song. It’s so powerful as a tribute to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39; a short life but one that saw many steps toward racial equality in the United States. His murder was a stark reminder that there still was much to be done. There still is, both in the US and in my country, when it comes to reconciliation and reparation with Indigenous, Blacks and People of Colour.

In the live performance video I found, U2 plays “MLK” as an awe-inspiring prelude to “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Interestingly, the tracks are separated on the album: “Pride” is the second song on the A-side, and “MLK,” the last on the B-side. Done as a live performance, they are remarkable together. “MLK” is a fine example of the ambient influence Eno and Lanois brought to the project. The chord changes in the album version of “MLK” are mind-blowing and goosebump-producing.

As a friend said to me many, many years ago when raving about another record, “There are so many sounds…”

Now you know a little about why these two pieces are featured as my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and I hope you enjoy.

Here’s the video, from U2’s official YouTube channel, of the band performing the medley:

Here’s the album version of “MLK,” also from the U2 YouTube channel:

And, the album version of “Pride (In the Name of Love”):

Note: there is a lengthy article about The Unforgettable Fire, on Wikipedia. I skimmed it a little today, but plan to take a closer look at it soon.

Cool Change

Little River Band is a group that I have enjoyed listening to since I first heard their music on the radio in the late 1970s.

In addition to today’s selection, some other hits by the band include “Help Is on Its Way” (released in 1977), Reminiscing” (1978), “Lady” (also 1978, another song I like a lot), and “Lonesome Loser” (1979). I don’t know their earliest releases, which started in 1975 with “Curiosity (Killed the Cat).”

I never tried to learn much about the band back then, but I always remember thinking of them as being wholesome, for some reason. Little River Band may have been the first group from Australia I heard of. They were considered a supergroup as members were veterans of prominent bands, none of which I know.

In 2001, the Australasian Performing Right Association named “Cool Change” (1979, from their fifth album, First Under the Wire) as one of the top 30 Australian songs of all time. The track played yesterday on SiriusXM radio channel 17, The Bridge (mellow classic rock) in the car as we drove to Beaudry Provincial Park, about 16 kilometres (ten miles) west of Winnipeg, Canada.

Sweety came up with the brilliant idea to take a day trip there when she saw the forecast called for temperatures in the high teens. She and I walked about five kilometres along the hiking trails and savoured the autumn colours, mostly sheltered from the wind, and warmed by the late September sun. The temperature rose to 20°C (68°F), and it was a beautiful afternoon… taking in sights, sounds and smells to make memories we’ll draw upon in the cold winter to come.

The Wild Grape hiking trail in Beaudry Park, September 29, 2020. Photo © Steve West.

The song made me think of the change in season (I think I’ve finally reconciled with the fact summer is over… though I still hope for a few more days like yesterday, while wind gusts whip and rain falls today).

So it does indeed seem like it’s “time for a cool change.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Little River Band YouTube topic channel:

I Want To Come Over

Melissa Etheridge’s song “I Want To Come Over” is one of those goosebumps songs for me. Its rocking beat, wailing guitars, and the simmering desperation in Etheridge’s voice in the chorus make it a fantastic piece of music. 

It is a ballad, with Etheridge singing about deepest yearning and longing — feelings that can torment a soul, and which come out in her open and vulnerable tale. The song is one of two singles from her 1995 album, Your Little Secret. Her first album, Melissa Etheridge, produced the single “Bring Me Some Water,” another powerful song.

Etheridge has had a turbulent life, coming out as a lesbian in 1993, a time when anyone, particularly a public figure, could still have been ostracized for the action. She has partnered three times and had four children, one of whom died in 2019 at age 21, from causes related to drug addiction. Etheridge is a breast cancer survivor and was known for using medicinal cannabis well before it was generally-accepted in society for that purpose. She also has been active in causes supporting the rights of the LGBTQ and AIDS communities.

I see Etheridge as a courageous human being and admire the spirit she shows in her activism and in compositions like “I Want to Come Over.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Melissa Etheridge’s YouTube channel

Lovers in Japan

Coldplay’s second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, came out in 2002. I bought it quite a few years after its release, when I became quite interested in the band after hearing the track, “The Scientist,” among others, but don’t recall exactly when that was. 

Then I bought their first album, Parachutes (2000) and, later, X&Y (2005). Parachutes didn’t really set me on fire, but I enjoyed their other releases including their fourth album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008). Brian Eno (whom you’ve seen many times on this blog) was a producer on that album, and the presence of his “aural landscapes” was immediately apparent. Of course, I bought the album right away.

I bought Mylo Xyloto (2011) but didn’t care much for it at all, and haven’t followed Coldplay since. Their earlier music was better-written in my view, and their instrumentation was terrific, but later work didn’t inspire me. For an example of how much effort they put into their earlier albums, check out a deconstruction music producer and teacher Rick Beato did on “The Scientist.”

My sweety and I listened to Coldplay a lot, and I listened to them on my own as well. As I’ve mentioned before, we saw them play here in Winnipeg, Canada, supported by Howling Bells and Snow Patrol, in the summer of 2009, about a month before our marriage. 

For some time before our wedding, I’d been thinking of compiling a CD of songs that were meaningful to us, to share with guests after our ceremony. We both loved the song “Lovers in Japan,” but it was combined on the CD with “Reign of Love,” so isolating it and putting just the first song on a CD was something beyond the technological capabilities I had access to back then. In the fall of 2008, Coldplay released the two-CD Prospekt’s March Edition, an extended version of Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends. I bought that version of the album, too, and on it was a version of “Lovers in Japan” by itself. I was all set.

“Lovers in Japan” made it onto our wedding CD, joined by other songs, including a few I’ve posted about already: “Stay By Me,” “When You’re Gone,” “Late Night Grande Hotel,” and “Goodnight.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Coldplay’s YouTube channel

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Rick Beato https://youtu.be/SCyvVDNGhDc

Concerto For Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in F Minor, Op.21, II: Larghetto

Many have probably heard piano works by Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849, born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin), without even knowing the music is by him. For example, the opening chords of the third movement of his Piano Sonata No. 2, known as the “Funeral March,” are often used as music to create a sense of impending doom in cartoons and other television programs. British composer Edward Elgar later transcribed the sonata for full orchestra.

Chopin created many beautiful, complex and evocative pieces during his short life in the Romantic Music era. Today, I’m featuring one that I was not very familiar with before today, his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in F Minor, Opus 21 (the second movement, “Larghetto”).

Listening to this work, it’s almost incomprehensible that Chopin wrote the concerto in 1829, when he was about 19 years old.

Looking for official versions of performances didn’t round up much, but many audio recordings are available. I think my favourite of what I found is one by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Abbado, with the Yugoslav-born pianist Ivo Pogorelić (also expressed as Pogorelich), from from the orchestra’s YouTube topic channel:

The best official video of a live performance I found was by Russian pianist and composer Daniil Trifonov, from the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel. His hand movements are just a delight to watch.

Looking at non-official versions, this one from 1975 featuring Polish-American pianist Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982) and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the German-American André Previn (1929-2019) is lovely to watch and hear.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today.

Thanks for joining me here, and I hope you enjoyed these versions of this piece. I know it’s not a level playing field with one being audio-only, but was there one you preferred? Please tell me about it, in the comments.

Can’t Find My Way Home

Blind Faith was a British supergroup featuring Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton, and it was active in 1969 after the breakups of their two respective bands, Traffic and Cream. Blind Faith was together for only one record and tour.

On September 13, when I was working on my post about Vivaldi’s “Summer” concerto from The Four Seasons, I stumbled upon a video of Winwood playing today’s selection, solo, and set the link aside for later. I don’t remember Blind Faith, but the song, a Winwood composition, sounds quite familiar.

It is a good piece for a lazy Saturday afternoon, after a walk to The Forks National Historic site where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet in Winnipeg, Canada. Yesterday was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day, perfect for the family gathering we had in our summer porch. We celebrated a birthday a month early, before the cold weather sends us all inside to our household “bubbles” to avoid the coronavirus. 

Today is not quite as warm, but it’s still lovely and mild, with the fall colours really starting to show. 

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Steve Winwood’s YouTube channel

European

Happy Friday… let’s listen to some music!

I probably first heard Lydia Loveless played on KEXP Seattle. I bought her third album, Real, in November 2017, just over a year after it was released.

My two favourite songs from the album are “Heaven” (not to be confused with a song of the same title by The Psychedelic Furs, my very first post on this site) and today’s selection, “European.”

In interviews, Loveless (her professional name; her birth surname is Ankrom) speaks openly about her depression and the challenges it brought during a relationship breakdown. Regarding Real, Loveless has said that she was writing then about the divorce she’d go through about a year later.

Her music has such a likeable sound to it. Record companies classify it as Americana, but in interviews, she says she has tried to move away from that moniker (though her website tagline still uses that word, but it’s not actually visible on the site, so that’s probably just an oversight).

She writes and plays a fusion of Country and Punk. For a while, in a time of transition (following her divorce and a move from Ohio to North Carolina), her voicemail greeting said, “Hello, you have reached firebrand cowpunk badass Lydia Loveless. I can’t come to the phone right now because I’m too busy saving country music.” There’s also a wicked vibrato that she drops in here and there, wrapped around by the twanging electric and acoustic guitars that dance around the steady beat.

Real is a solid album, and Loveless’ contralto voice is a real treat to listen to. In some ways, she reminds me a little of LP (aka Laura Pergolizzi, whose song Other People I posted about), as there is such rich, complexity in their voices.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Bloodshot Records YouTube channel:

Lay, Lady, Lay

Okay, just one more summertime song memory…

In my post on Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You,” a song I feel has a definite Bob Dylan vibe to it, I promised to share a summer memory associated with one of Dylan’s tunes.

A song can be memorable because of its meaning, or how the lyrics relate to an experience or memory. But sometimes, music just reminds me of a time when I heard it, and the recollection has nothing to do with the lyrics or the meaning of the song. Does that ever happen to you?

Every time I hear Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay,” I am transported back to a late, golden summer evening, maybe 50 years ago. I’m sitting, sandy and sun-cooked, in the back seat of the pale blue (or was it turquoise?) Envoy Epic that belonged to two of my brothers. Travelling south on Manitoba Provincial Trunk Highway 59, I’m sleepily watching the scenery go by as the sun drops down on the horizon out the right-hand window, after a full day on the beach at Birds Hill Provincial Park.

It was one of many such trips, and there was always music. And treats from the concession stand on the beach.

Even just driving the stretch of the highway between Winnipeg and the park can be enough to conjure up the memory.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official audio for the song from Bob Dylan’s VEVO/YouTube channel:

Grace

It feels like it’s time for another piece of ambient music.

Yesterday, on the first official day of autumn, Sweety and I drove to the beach and spent all afternoon and early evening there. Strangely, more insects were chomping on us than any time this summer, but I suppose they were just stocking up.

We were at Patricia Beach Provincial Park, where there were a few cars in the south parking lot, many more at the north lot, and so we found a place in between that was very sparsely occupied. The forecasted gusting winds didn’t materialize (why couldn’t that happen when I’m cycling?!), and the sun was so warm. It was a gorgeous day, and quite possibly our last beach day of this season.

The water was calm though cold from the lower temperatures we’ve had over the past week or more, and the water level had dropped since our previous visit. The lake was very pleasing to look out on.

Patricia Beach, September 22, 2020. Photo © Steve West.

Moby’s 1997 album, I Like to Score, is a compilation of music intended for film soundtracks. Today’s track, “Grace,” was used in the art/experimental film Space Water Onion, by Paul Yates, in which Moby appears. (Interestingly, much of the short film takes place on a beach. And as another aside, I think the actor in the role of Man 2 looks a lot like Kier Dullea in when he played Commander David Bowman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey… especially in the scenes that take place in a spaceship, which is mildly reminiscent of Discovery One, the Jupiter-bound spacecraft in 2001.)

The track “Grace” has a calmness to it that evokes the feeling one has hearing the sound of waves lapping the shore. (In the short film, grace seems intended to symbolize the characters’ acceptance of their fate.) And there is a haunting, rumbling sound in the background of the track; the kind of sound often used in film to represent the internal roar of the living earth as it slowly rotates, faithfully and with grace.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Moby’s official YouTube channel:

Lara’s Theme

James Last (1929-2015) was another fixture in my childhood home.

Last, who led the James Last Band and James Last Orchestra and worked up until the year of his death, was a favourite of my late father.

Dad died in January 2001 and there were many times over the years when wished I could call him up or visit when I was younger, bumbling my way through my own fatherhood. Not that he could have fixed a lot of things that I was going through but he had, particularly in his later years, quite a calm demeanour, and I like to think this would have made for a comforting place to just talk with him, father to father.

I would love for him to see what our kids have done in their lives and for them to have known him longer; and him, them. I also know he would have been fascinated by some of the jobs I did, and by the advancements in technology that occurred in his lifetime, which totally changed the way people work as compared to 30 or 40 years ago when the only keyboards in offices would have been on typewriters or comptometers.

Dad would have been 101 years old today. Before he died, he looked a lot younger than his age (a trait I inherited as, all through my 20s I was asked to produce identification in bars, which wasn’t as common a practice as it is now). Of all the siblings, I now seem to resemble him the most at the age he retired, which was a little older than I am now.

I chose “Lara’s Theme” for today, not because it was his favourite James Last tune; I honestly don’t remember which one was as I was quite young when he was really into Last. The song comes from the record, Games That Lovers Play (1967), one I remember we had in our living room from the picture of a doting couple on its cover.

The song recalls a mood I felt when hearing my dad’s music. It was written by Maurice Jarre (1924-2009), and was the love theme in the 1965 film, Doctor Zhivago. Jarre fathered Jean-Michel, also a composer, who pioneered in electronic music that was quite popular in the mid-1970s starting with the album, Oxygène… something I was listening to when Dad might have been playing Last.

I was thinking of Dad this morning, imagining the two of us standing together on the bank of the La Salle River in La Barriere Park, south of Winnipeg, Canada; a favourite spot of mine. We weren’t talking; just standing there, taking in the peaceful sight of the little river’s current flowing slowly by.

The La Salle River, La Barriere Park, 2015.
Photo by Steve West

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from James Last’s official Youtube channel:

Summer 2

Gratitude.

For life. For love. For everything. Yes, everything.

I learned about three years ago, through Jeffrey Duvall, a beautiful, soulful, kind and generous spiritual guide and very dear friend I’ve known since 2008, of the immutable connection between grief and gratitude. And, how receiving all the sorrowful experiences of our lives helps us to move forward and grow.

Duvall’s book (written with another dear man, James Churches), Stories of Men, Meaning, and Prayer: The Reconciliation of Heart and Soul in Modern Manhood is for me an abiding and heart-provoking extension of our friendship and, since we live so far away from each other, it holds a place among a small pile of books on my bedside table.

Now, the “grief and gratitude” thing may sound weird to some, but if you have read the book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller (which Jeffrey introduced to me, and I introduced to you in my post on Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U“), you’ll understand what I mean. If you haven’t read it and have encountered deep grief, I can’t recommend it enough. (If you’re curious, I’m including a clip of the author speaking at a gathering some years ago. It’s remarkable.)

Today was one of those days when I dreamed or experienced or felt or heard or talked about many of the emotions I’ve experienced in pivotal times of my life. It has been quite a day! And by far, the most potent feeling was (is) gratitude. 

I’m reminded, sometimes several times a day — and sometimes sharply — of the absolute fragility and preciousness of life. When I see my children, or my sweety’s children and the grandchildren, and the possibility of as-yet unborn future generations, I have such an urge to keep taking care of myself, to stay alive and hopefully share bits of wisdom I inherited from my ancestors and in my life that will feed their souls, to help ease the burden of the messed-up world we’re laying on innocent, young shoulders.

When I recently posted, on a Classical Sunday, the concerto “Summer” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, one of my brothers texted to say how much he loves that work. And as he often does in thoughtfully responding to my posts, he suggested a related piece for me to check out. He’s older than me (the bros all are), but he retired quite a bit later, and it’s a joy to see how he is savouring a well-deserved time of leisure, especially when much of what I remember of him is a man devoted to a career in an intensity, complexity and time scale that would kill many people. I’m grateful he’s where he is.

On this last official day of Summer 2020 — a time that has been an oasis in many ways during an ongoing time of challenge in the global pandemic — I’m sharing a track from clarinetist Eddie Daniel’s interpretation of The Four Seasons from his album The Five Seasons, with thanks and love to this brother for sharing it in his truly loving way.

I’ve said a few times how I’m having trouble letting go of summer. Our weather in the past few days has been changeable, though tomorrow promises to be sunny and warm, though the forecast keeps changing. How can meteorologists really keep up with a changing climate, after all? Anyway, Sweety and I hope to make it a beach day. If the forecast is wrong, I’ll still be grateful for those many slow, bright and hot summer days we’ve enjoyed.

“Summertime
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’…”

(from “Summertime,’ by George Gershwin)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the track, “Summer 2,” Daniels’ jazzed-up version of the second movement of Vivaldi’s “Summer” concerto, from his album The Five Seasons and the Eddie Daniels topic channel on YouTube

Symphony No. 9, II: Largo

I’ve always thought when listening to the 9th symphony by Czech composer Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904), that the second movement, the largo, is so understated and unique that it almost doesn’t belong with the rest of the work. 

The movement starts so simply, peacefully, and as one online reviewer comments, it says so much with so little. While I like passages from the rest of the symphony, sometimes it goes off frenetically into other directions which, in my opinion, doesn’t suit the piece and takes away from the theme of a voyage. I am sure there are explanations for why it was written that way; perhaps sudden storms at sea?

Anyway, the second movement is beautiful and evocative of a long journey into uncertainty and challenge of settling in a new place. (Though it doesn’t even begin to consider how immigration to the “New World” affected those whose ancestors had already lived here for a hundred thousand years.) 

I found a version of the piece conducted by Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989), whom I featured last week with his interpretation of Vivaldi’s “Summer” from The Four Seasons. I chose this one as I enjoyed it more than others I came across. (And unlike his quicker version of “Summer,” von Karajan’s version of the Dvořák largo is relatively slow, which is crucial to the mood of the music.)

When I was listening to the video, my sweety walked into the room, saying, “Mmmm, ‘Goin’ Home,'” referring to a spiritual version of the piece, with lyrics written in 1922 by William Arms Fisher, a student of Dvořák. 

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985 at the Großer Saal des Wiener Musikvereins, Vienna, Austria.  

In a Manner of Speaking

Sweety and I have a friend we met through another, longtime friend, but have only seen a handful of times over the years.

We have connected on social media and come to know her better in the past year or so, much of this through the pandemic where online conversation was one of the few ways to connect in the absence of in-person contact at parties and such. She shares many interesting posts in such areas as music, philosophy, education, pop culture, social justice and many others, and her wit added much-needed cheer in the time of lockdown. This friend frequently responds to Facebook posts I make on my daily song selections, and has told me about a few musical acts I didn’t know.

She recently commented on my post about a 1980s song, telling me about an album by Nouvelle Vague, which features bossa nova covers of 80s tunes. I responded that I had not heard of the band. But today, when looking up the group, I found one of the songs from their 2004 debut album of the same name, was one I’ve had in my Apple Music library since January 2019. (I don’t even have a vague idea where I first heard it.)

Another funny thing about this is, the song “In a Manner of Speaking” is one that has sat for months on a list of songs I’ve been thinking about posting. I had no idea back then that it is a cover, of a song by the English synth-rock band Depeche Mode’s main writer and front person, Martin L. Gore from his 1989 solo EP, Counterfeit. (Please see my post on “Enjoy the Silence” for a sample of the full band’s music.)

I’m posting both artists’ versions today. By now, if you follow this blog, you will know I like a good cover, often more than the original but always with a sense of gratitude to the composer, because it’s only right, isn’t it? I think Nouvelle Vague’s rendition captures this song brilliantly, and I find it more compelling to listen to than the original. I suppose I assumed it was an original, and think their version always appealed to me in almost a film noir kind of way, with the haunting vocal punctuated by the drum rim-shots. It almost makes me feel like I’m back walking through rain-soaked streets of Montmartre in Paris with my sweety!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the Nouvelle Vague cover of the song from the Kwaidan Records YouTube channel

And here’s the original by Martin L. Gore:

Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

Rain, Rain, Rain

Rain, rain, rain.

That’s the one thing I didn’t plan for on my bike ride today. After all, the weather forecast said 0% probability of it. But then, the outlook also called for a mild wind out of the south at ten kilometres per hour (six miles per hour). So I headed south as the wind was to increase to 20 around noon, which would make for a nice little tailwind on the way home. The wind was strong and gusting, quite early on.

Today was the first ride in many months where I was starting in a cold temperature (it was 3° Celsius or 37° Fahrenheit, plus a windchill when I left), and I had planned on a long distance, so clothing choices were crucial. My windbreaker and layers were just right, though the harsh wind and unexpected (though mercifully, fairly light) rain made it feel quite cold for the southernmost 30-40 kilometres (19-25 miles).

I had planned to try for my “Metric Century,” or 100-kilometre (60-mile) ride today; it has been my goal for 2020. (I told you about this plan back in May, in my post on “Ahead by a Century” by The Tragically Hip.)

I did it! Here’s a screenshot I took on my bike computer when I was slowing down to watch the number roll from 99.99 to 100.0 when arriving home, under a clearing sky.

Screenshot with the display of distance, speed and other measures on a bike computer

“Rain, Rain, Rain” is on the B-side of Roxy Music’s 1980 album Flesh + Blood. It only seemed natural to acknowledge the unanticipated element that had me slightly nervous, for a little over an hour, whether I would stay dry and warm enough to complete my goal without a lot of discomfort.

I’ve previously posted another song from this album, “Oh Yeah.” The instrumentation, vocals and production on Flesh + Blood are magnificent.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Please enjoy. 

Here’s the audio for the song from Roxy Music’s official YouTube channel:

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Okay, so we’re stuck in the 80s for another day… call it a distraction from the challenge I’ve told you about, with me not wanting to let go of summer. It’s real, folks, I tell ya…

Anyway, today’s selection reminds me of summer. The most powerful memory I have of hearing Tears for Fears was in summer, at a friend’s place. We had met up there to have lunch, and I was helping him with some backyard chore. We ate while starting to listen to the album Songs from the Big Chair, but then went outside and all the windows and doors were closed so that we couldn’t hear any of it! It was 1985, and the record had just come out. It opens with the magnificent, almost arena-rock-styled anthem, “Shout.” The whole album is superb, just fantastic.

Everyone I knew was excited about the record, having waited two years since the release of their stunning debut release, The Hurting; that album contains the song “Mad World,” of which a compellingly dark cover was included in the film Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. That song was also covered and posted on Twitter a few days ago by Brandi Carlile (please see my post on her song “The Joke“). Carlile’s version of “Mad World” is spellbinding. (I always get stuck on the line, “…went to school and I was very nervous / no one knew me…”) Her post ends with the statement, “It’s a mad world, but we’re in this together. Vote.” Wow. If America can stay immune to all the disinformation and relentless lying until after the voting, the future can be bright, for the whole world. So Carlile’s admonition is an important one. But I digress…

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” has a slightly similar feel to yesterday’s song by Modern English, “I Melt with You” in that it’s got an upbeat vibe. Tears for Fears’ two first albums were blockbusters that I remember dominating the limited platforms music had at the time (basically radio). I’m not sure how popular the later ones, The Seeds of Love and Elemental were, but by the time of the latter one, I wasn’t paying super-active attention. I have all four of those albums, though didn’t keep up with the band after that. 

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video for the song from the Tears for Fears YouTube channel. Remember to click “thumbs up” if you liked the performance.

And, here’s a live performance video of the song, a Spotify presentation. (I bite my lip a bit as I share it, as I do not care for music streaming services; their corporate greed means artists earn only hundredths or thousandths of a cent per play, which is just wrong. That’s why, like Guy Garvey, I too will ‘bang the drum’ for buying music, so that when you buy their music, musicians can afford to make more music.

Tears for Fears co-frontperson Roland Orzabal describes at the beginning of the video how the song was originally titled, “Everybody Wants to Go to War,” though after a while they could see that the perspective, lyrics and title needed to change. See? Change is possible.

I Melt with You

Do you ever notice how, when you start your day off with an upbeat song, it has an influence on your mood for the rest of the day?

 I think music can have that power, though I wouldn’t claim it will cure all ills. But I believe it does make a difference. Maybe that’s why I love to listen to music so much. Having a great song repeating in one’s mind must have some effect, if nothing more than pushing aside negative thoughts and feelings for a while. What do you think? Do you find “happy songs” improve your mood? I’d love to know. And tell me some of your favourites!

Today, after my early morning routine of playing with Perry Como the cat, feeding him, and scooping litter, I settled down for a coffee and put on KEXP Seattle. I hadn’t listened to The Morning Show with John Richards in quite some time, and “I Melt with You” by Modern English was the first song I heard after “tuning in” online. 

“(Let’s stop the world) I’ll stop the world and melt with you 
(Let’s stop the world) You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time 
(Let’s stop the world) There’s nothing you and I won’t do 
(Let’s stop the world) I’ll stop the world and melt with you 

The future’s open wide” 

(from “I Melt with You,” by Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Richard Brown, Michael Conroy, Stephen Walker)

Richards later played a terrific song by Nina Simone. I was so moved by it, I posted a couple of tweets to Richards to let him know how much I was enjoying his music selections. Richards is a beautiful soul and personable host, who draws in and embraces the KEXP listener community and uses the mantra, “You Are Not Alone,” in his sincere and vulnerable efforts to combat the stigma around mental health.

 Modern English is one of the bands that participated in the project This Mortal Coil, which produced the 1984 record It’ll End in Tears (please see my post on “Song to the Siren” for more on that collaboration). “I Melt with You” was the second single from Modern English’s 1982 album, After the Snow. The official video shows a cabaret scene that looked a lot like some of the bars I frequented in the early 1980s.

I’ve heard this song countless times over the years, but don’t remember noticing before today how the band sings an opposing lyric to lead singer Robbie Grey’s in the chorus. How could I have missed that?

The band formed in 1979, broke up in 1987 and has reformed a few more times.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video for the 1982 single from the 4AD Records YouTube channel. Don’t forget to hit “thumbs up” if you liked the song… it’s a way to support the artists, though buying their music is always the best way.

And check out the band, including the look of lead singer Grey, 35 years later in this 2017 live performance for Paste magazine. 

Taking Tiger Mountain

Today I was thinking of posting an ambient piece — something to chill out on.

You see, last night, I was not feeling tired at all, and so I stayed up to watch two episodes of a new series I found on Netflix, Away, about a NASA mission to Mars. I enjoy a quality science fiction work, and the first two episodes were engaging and suspenseful.

I’d had a lot on my mind through the day and into the night: all good things, like an upcoming volunteer opportunity I’m delighted about; being excited about my cycling progress over the season; feeling grateful and fortunate to be healthy, loved and in love; and, finally, yesterday’s song just kept playing on in my mind, it was so inspiriting. (Check it out if you haven’t already!)

So, even at 1:00 am, I still didn’t feel ready to fall asleep, and after tossing and turning with the above thoughts, I got up and read sometime after 3:00 am, finally conking out from about 4:00 to 8:30. I have a feeling tonight might be an earlier night…

When ambient came to mind today, I thought I would post something by Brian Eno. It’s no secret that I’m an admirer of his music and collaborations, and if you search “Brian Eno” on this site, you’ll see clear evidence of that.

“Taking Tiger Mountain” is the closing track on the 1974 album, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, the second album he released after starting his post-Roxy Music solo career in 1973. I wouldn’t consider the song ambient, but it has a slow, climbing sort of mood to it, which, along with acoustic piano and synthesizer sounds and multi-layered effects on the guitars, makes it a thoughtful and calming piece, much like the qualities of ambient music. (And the wind sound effect makes me think of the gusty headwind I took on, on the way home cycling today.)

Eno, who claims he only became a musician by chance, has been a pioneer in the progressive/art rock, experimental and ambient music spheres. He started making ambient records while still in the rock realm, and has meandered between the two genres for years.

At 72, he is still creating visual/aural art, and making and producing music (check out these posts on Blonde, Ultramarine and Celeste from his most recent release, this year’s Mixing Colours, which he made with his brother, Roger). He’s also an activist whose thoughts and opinions are sought on topics such as science and technology, climate change, and various political and social issues critical to the future of our living world.

In the second post that I made on this blog (Deep Blue Day, on January 6), I told of a brother urging me to buy Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy as soon as I purchased my first stereo, and my gratefulness for the musical path his advice took me on. Serendipitously, I had a chance to visit with him today. Like so many family and close friends, we’ve been mostly apart since the pandemic lockdowns began. It was heartwarming to be together in a way you just can’t do as effectively by text, online gathering or phone (though those sure have been welcome because the limitations on in-person gatherings).

“We climbed and we climbed
Oh, how we climbed
My, how we climbed
Over the stars to top
Tiger Mountain
Forcing the lines through the snow”

(Taking Tiger Mountain,” by Brian Eno)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the 2004 digital remastering of the audio for the song from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Nobody Knows

Today, I’m sharing an exhilarating piece I heard for the first time this morning.

As followers of this blog know, I gain a lot of my new-to-me music through Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, where the host and lead singer of the British band Elbow shares his musical taste, history bits by one of his sisters (the Beckapedia), songs that listeners have recommended to him, other regular featurettes and, since the pandemic, diary entries from his siblings. (Some of those entries have been amusing, and one or two brought me to tears with their obvious familial affection and missing each other in lockdown.)

While most of the program is what I’d describe as “thoughtful rock” oriented, Garvey hosts an eclectic program that sometimes includes classical pieces and, this past Sunday, a spiritual. (I’ve finally caught up on the archives of the program, finishing this past week’s program today. Now I have to wait all the way to Sunday for more…)

“Nobody Knows” sets to full band and choir — and with expanded lyrics — the famous Black American spiritual song, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” which was written in the time of slavery but published much later (1867).

I’ve only witnessed spirituals being sung a few times in my life; once, at a memorial service. Each time, I have been mesmerized by the soulful singing, and the hope and joy the sounds bring to any situation. The communal aspect of this singing style surely must have been part of the reason for their historical adoption. The genre seems to help draw people out of desolation, just by singing as a massed group about the “troubles” they are enduring. It is a type of music that makes the hairs stand up on my arms and legs!

Many years ago, a former superior of mine told me about his spiritual songs experience when he was an official guest at a Black History Month event here in Winnipeg, Canada. He was generally conservative in his manner, but I could see he had been affected when he talked so enthusiastically about it… so much so that I wished I too had been there!

I’m grateful to have heard the song and to have this opportunity to share it with you here.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. (And if you enjoyed this post, please click the “like” button or, better yet, leave a comment to tell me about your favourite spirituals — I’d love to hear from you and learn of some more examples from this most stirring style of music!)

Here is the audio for the song from the Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir YouTube topic channel. Please remember to click on “thumbs-up” on the video if you appreciated the artists’ work.