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3000 Miles

A D E7
You’ve roared 3000 miles to tear slate off my shore
You may just as well roar 3000 more
You can’t carry stone back over the sea
But my children will always come back home to me

They’re scattered and gone to lands far away
To England, I fear, and Americay
Love among family, love for a friend
My children will always come back home again

Your waters are wide to my east and my west
But all of my children know where they’re loved best
Although they have wandered so far from my shore
My children will always come back home once more

I’ve outlived them all for so many a year
Their prologue is past, their future is clear
Though famines and wars will tear us apart
My children will always come back home at heart

repeat 1st verse

Rachel Flowers: Emerson, No Lake, Little Palmer

Guitarist Jim Earp sent a link to this video of Rachel Flowers performing Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression on a Hammond C3 organ.

Ten minutes in my head exploded. (It’s 14 minutes long.) Continue reading “Rachel Flowers: Emerson, No Lake, Little Palmer”

A Flute for All Seasons

Classical music has a long history of instrument-swapping. Lute tunes transcribed for guitar. Harpsichord pieces performed on piano. Since guitars and pianos are easier to come by these days than lutes or harpsichords, this is a good thing for modern performers.

[az]B00000E67M[/az][az]B000E79A0K[/az]Sometimes it’s clear the transcription is simply to allow a performer to indulge in a work written for an instrument other than the one the play. Wynton Marsalis playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” on trumpet comes to mind.

One of the first compact discs I bought when they became commonly available was Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” which had long been a favorite of mine. Rather than the traditional violin, this was arranged for flute and performed by James Galway.

It’s a very different sound, of course, and Galway makes it work. The flute isn’t quite as delicate as a violin can be, but a skilled flutist can make us forget that during the peaceful movements. When winter arrives, though, it seems to have been written for the instrument. The biting winds of winter are colder in a flute than a violin.

I no longer own that copy. These days, my favorite recording of the Seasons is Lorin Maazel’s arrangement and performance on the traditional instrument.

But when winter comes, I always miss the flute.

Mario Takes a Walk

Mm” border=”0″ align=”left” />[az]B000BF0D9M[/az]y kids introduced me to a whole string of video games about a guy named Mario, but I don’t think that’s who Jesse Cook is talking about. Somehow, Mario Takes a Walk completely possesses me every time I hear it; it’s one of those rare songs where both the live and studio versions I’ve heard punch me right in the solar plexus.

Thumping danceable drums annoy me. Except sometimes. Adding a ‘thump thump thump’ to most music turns me off completely, so I have no explanation for why Cook’s music, which is nearly always flamenco guitar and thump, grabs me like it does.

Every time I hear Mario (or Matisse the Cat, or many others) I want to do a Titanic on the bow of a sailing ship and laugh out loud while I’m dancing. Sure, it’s impossible, but that’s what music is for, to free us for the impossible.

Jesse has a new album, The Rumba Foundation which you can listen to at his website. Like I am right now.

Four Seasons

[az]B000E79A0K[/az]One of the first pieces of classical music I was exposed to was Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. We didn’t have a lot of classical music at home when I was a child, so my exposure started later than, say, Irish folk music or Roger Miller.

There are eleventy-leven versions of Vivaldi’s most famous work, but the one that works for me is led by the insuperable Lorin Maazel. After experiencing this rendition, any other seems slightly mistimed; rushed, dragging, improperly syncopated, cadenzas which are frantic rather than energetic.

Maazel’s conducting envelopes each movement in the appropriate season’s textures, sensations, aromas, and sounds. I hear bugs flitting past during ‘Summer’; the flutter of leaves in ‘Autumn’; the rush of the wind in ‘Winter’, and the trickle of a nearby stream in ‘Spring.’

Vivaldi’s work, and especially this piece, and more especially this recording of it, invariably reduces my stress levels and reminds me that some things, unlike stress, are timeless.

The Grassies

Northern California now has a music award.

The Grassies are the Northern California Artistic Achievement Award. Named in part for The GrassiesGrass Valley, where the first awards will be presented, and in part for the grassroots artists they honor, The Grassies are an idea long overdue. Originally intended to be a purely musical award, we The Grassie(Co-Founder and Primary Evangelist Andy Gonzales and Know Your Music writer, Grassies Co-Founder and Anamchara Eolais Joel D ‘spinhead’ Canfield) realized it needed to encompass the arts in general to match our vision.

The First Annual Grassies will be the highlight of the Nevada County Music Expo on April 28th, 2007; all the pertinent info is at The Grassies website. While most of the awards are given to artists and others in music-related fields who are still on the rise, the Masters and Mentors Award is a special award for a grassroots artist who has, in some sense, made it. This year’s recipient is The King of Surf Guitar, Mr. Dick Dale.

The Expo will include workshops, live performances, vendor booths of all kinds from local bands, stores, and other artists, food, and more. Admission is free.

Clouds Over Mojave

Somehow I’ve missed this: for some time, I’ve been working on a site called ‘Clouds Over Mojave’ dedicated to the amazing synchronicity between Jim Earp‘s music and my life. The name comes from one of my favorites of Jim’s tunes.

You’ll find clips of all Jim’s music, links to buy some of the albums, composer’s notes unavailable anywhere else, and my own ramblings related to his music. Give it a look and tell me what you think.

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (4)

Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):

  • “walking in memphis”—Ah, Marc Cohn‘s voice and piano . . .
  • “what s it s like to be the bad one” and “to be the bad one”—Actually, it’s “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man; to be the sad man behind blue eyes . . . ” Often touted as the best rock album of all time (it’s at least in the top 10) “Who's NextWho’s Next” needs more time than I have at the moment. Half beautiful ballad, half angry snarling, “Behind Blue Eyes” is often overshadowed by its position on the album, which places it just before one of the all-time-great crankers, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We’ll come back to it; honest.
  • “gypsy jazz”—Django, or Robin Nolan?
  • “beethoven”—mentioned in Boating with a Finn and Renaissance Woman’s Journey Within
  • “jude cole”—”A View from Third Street
  • “tank”—Jumping Japanese Jazz!
  • “boyz 2 man”—nope
  • “circle of two”—Though I’ve never heard Steve and Annie Chapman, you’ll find all you need to know at their website, including links to buy their music.

Link Death

Link rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.

I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

So, if you read back through older articles (anything prior to the first of December) the links are about to unceremoniously cease to function. I’ll do what I can to get them replaced quickly. In the meantime, you can find everything you need at, which is where we’ll be buying our music from now on, right?

Turtles and Tricycles and Tortion

William Ackerman’s dreams must be difficult to follow, if they have anything to do with his song titles.

I recently found a copy of Ackerman’s first album, “William Ackerman's 'In Search of the Turtle's Navel'In Search of the Turtle’s Navel” and have enjoyed it almost every night since I bought it. A long-time casual fan of the founder of Windham Hill Records, I’ve lately become a bit more active in my appreciation.

Originally released in 1975, the album is composed of ten songs written over the period 1970 to 1974. Peopled with such characters as Windham Mary, Jose Pepsi, and the Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen, and concepts like the second great tortion bar overland of West Townshend, Vermont and a slow motion roast beef restaurant seduction, these guitar solos have more personality than many single-instrument tunes.

While I find the music of Leo Kottke a bit more accessible, Ackerman frequently sounds like Kottke, but with another dimension, another undiscovered room in the mansion of sound. Such is the case with the opening track, and still my favorite, “The Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen.” Written in 1973, the liner notes claim that this ‘proves once and for all the speed and dexterity are not enough.’ Whatever that means, there are speed and dexterity aplenty in this Kottke-esque romp. There are also those other things implied in the liner notes – quiet passion, delicate nuance, and a complex time signature which comes and goes like a turtle popping in and out of its shell.

It’s not stated explicitly whether Will ever finds the turtle’s navel. He did find a most remarkable guitarist, ‘the guitarist from outer space’, Michael Hedges, coming soon to an Know Your Music entry near you.

Fish Out of Water

DramaYes” has been around for over 30 years, releasing their eponymous first album in 1969. Of the five founding members, only two have remained with the band for their entire tenure: vocalist and lyricist Jon Anderson, (even Jon was missing once, supplanted by Trevor Horn of “The Buggles” on 1980’s release “Drama“), and bass player Chris Squire. But perhaps that’s because, without Squire, “Yes” literally wouldn’t be “Yes”, since he owns the name.

Squire is ocasionally listed as ‘lead’ bass player, as if there were more than one. Where most bassists are content to be part of the percussion section, thumping along with the drums, Squire, like Jack Bruce of “Cream” and Tony Levin of everywhere, plays leads, not just rhythym. “Yes” classics like “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper” just wouldn’t have had the same presence without Squire’s unconventional style.

Squire’s musical training was classical, in a sense. As a boy, he joined the church choir in order to be with a friend who had joined. Almost as if foreordained by the gods of music, the new choirmaster from Cambridge was a perfect mentor for the young Squire; so talented that he ended up at Charles and Diana’s wedding. According to Squire, their church choir became the best in England, travelling from church to church giving concerts.

Classical training, an ear for complex harmonies and construction, and proximity to the divine, are all evident in Squire’s only real solo album, “Fish Out of WaterFish Out of Water.” Released in 1975, consisting of only five tracks, it is a master work that few rock albums can match. Squire is joined by fellow “Yes” alumni Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz, along with Andrew Pryce Jackman, arranger for Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford, and more, and Mel Collins, frequently seen with Dire Straits, Alan Parsons, King Crimson, Clannad, and a host of others.

While Squire’s voice works well in his harmonies with Anderson and Howe on “Yes” tunes, on “Fish Out of Water” we see the fruits of his choir training. There is a precision and control in his singing which isn’t obvious until you listen for it. Each of the songs on “Fish” has long complex lyrical sections which require exact timing and phrasing to work with the syncopations and rhythmic complexities of the music. Chris is dead on, every time. His singing has a subtlety which does’t force itself to the fore; it must be sought out and discovered.

Each song flows into the next, as in a classical composition. Well, except for the break between side one and side two, since it was originally released on vinyl. Second Winter(You see, kids, a long time ago, we didn’t have CDs, with all the music on one side. They made ‘records’ out of vinyl, and you had to stop halfway through the experience to turn it over and hear the other side. This resulted in anomalies like Johnny and Edgar Winter’s “Second Winter” having three sides. Honest it did.)

The songs:

  • “Hold Out Your Hand” – The opening notes of the album are the pipe organ of (I believe) St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The bass jumps in right away to establish dominance, driving both the melody and rhythym. Not quite a pop tune, this was still the obvious single, in my opinion. The pipe organ solo is a rare effect which lends an ethereal air seconded by the strings. It flows without pause into
  • “You By My Side” – A beautiful love song, both lyrically and musically. The simplest of the album’s tunes. If “Hold Out Your Hand” was the obvious single, this should have been the follow up.
     "Here am I dreaming  I stand by myself Look and it's easy to see, that, I'm not the only one reaching for a new kind of wealth Reaching with nothing to hide And you by my side"
  • “Silently Falling” – Flutes, oboes, strings; then a single flute, trickling down to a pool below, then lilting back up to Chris’s voice. An eleven minute long work, it gradually turns from classical to a very “Yes” sounding prog rock tune. After establishing the new ‘rock’ theme, everything begins to wind up to a frenzy of organ, piano, bass, and drums; faster and faster, until suddenly – silence. Now, piano and horns, softly supporting Squire’s quiet voice, leading us through a reprise of the opening theme and into a fusion of the two themes. “Falling” depends much on the piano for its feel. It doesn’t sound like a complex piece in spite of its length and the varying thematic segments. One of only two tracks to actually fade out at the end.
  • “Lucky Seven” – Side Two opens with a simple keyboard intro, then a syncopated dance between Squire’s bass and Bruford’s drums. Next, Mel’s sax introduces one of the two themes, and almost immediately Chris’s voice introduces the other. The complex rhythym continues throughout the song. The lead instrument is the bass; not the sax, and not the vocals. Snapping, popping, fluttering in a tremolo the likes of which few bassists could muster, it is powerful even in the segments where it falls silent. Subtle punctuation by a real string section adds a surreal feeling. Finally, near the end, we’re treated to a writhing sax solo by Collins. Oddly, this complex piece was the single chosen for glory and renown by the record label. This ain’t top 40 pop.
  • “Safe (Canon Song)” – On a stage set by the piano, flute and orchestra join Squire’s voice in a fifteen-minute long piece which is more classical than rock. The most difficult vocal lines of the album, the music and vocals don’t always seem to be going the same direction, but always end up at the same destination. Building, then easing, building again, then moving off in a new direction; it is a marvelous blending of chamber music and progressive rock. After all, didn’t prog rock always want to be chamber music when it grew up? In the end, it builds to a large climax of horns, piano, then the full orchestra to a grand finale. But not quite the finale; the final minute and a half of the album is extremely quiet and very unusual bass playing; it sounds as if it’s been filtered though a Leslie organ amp, the way Jimmy Vaughan does his steel guitar sometimes. Sliding, whispering, a tiny, one-instrument fanfare, and then, finally, silence.

And if I ever grow up, I want to be Chris Squire. At the very least, I dream of one day creating a musical effort as intellectually stimulating and musically fulfilling as “Fish Out of Water.”