Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Round Up

My Christmastime was marvelous. I hope yours was too. I'm extending mine. As I type, I'm listening to Dylan Thomas reading his poem "A Child's Christmas In Wales." It is simply one of my favorite works by anyone. I'm still going to memorize it someday. I'll let you know when I'm ready to recite it.

The week was alternately wet and frigid in Los Angeles. Perfect weather for doing a lot of eating. We went to the Huntington and the Norton-Simon museum. Christmas Eve church service was very moving and the candlelight ending was poignant. It was nice having Mom in town for the Yuletide.

The Monday Night Living Nativity was fun, even if we were frozen in place. A special note of gratitude to the couple who brought corporate cocoa to us. I'm sure we had the church's most irreverent cast of characters. I'd post pictures, but I'm afraid the rest of the congregation might "tsk, tsk" us for the next 12 months.

With Mom around and the weather inclement, we watched DVDs of the first season of Newhart. For my money, still the funniest sitcom ever. Followed closely by Fawlty Towers. What is it about hapless hoteliers that's so comical? I guess it's the absurdity of having to tolerate strangers and employees that no one else would in the name of service.

I got to one movie this week: Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. Easily one of the best films of 2008. We also watched A Christmas Story, 25 years on. I can vividly remember seeing the Santa's mountain set in Higbee's at the Terminal Tower. My first brush with Hollywood as a kid.

I'm going to endeavor to keep Christmas longer this year. Even if the tree has to come down early. The spirit will remain. Smiling more. Certainly laughing more. Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Peace & Minced Meat

Friday, December 19, 2008

Top 10's For 2008

Hey Soul Mates, I know, I've been a little lax in getting my year end Top 10's posted.

It's been a busy month: working the Christmas Tree lot, work in general. Festivities. My GRAMMY ballot arrived today, so that's on tap. Went to see Zappa Plays Zappa last Friday at the Roxy. That was an amazing 3 hour tribute to the genius of Frank Zappa led by his son Dweezil and Zappa alum, Ray White.

I was going to list the 10 best things I'd heard all year so I could include some non-2008 releases, like Springsteen's Magic (which would have taken the #2 LP slot and the #2 single slot for Girls In Their Summer Clothes) and David Ruffin's Unreleased Album from 1970 (#4 LP of the year). I'd also thought about marking the 30th anniversaries of the Stones Some Girls (crucial to my musical development) and Chic's Le Freak (still one of my top 5 singles of all time). But I'm omitting them and sticking to my usual format.

So here we go, just in time for a Joyeux Noel and the last days of Christmas shopping. I hope that if you purchase these as CDs or downloads that you enjoy them. Or at least are you might be curious about my selections.

Top 10 LPs of 2008 in ascending order.
#10 Blind Boys Of Alabama, Down In New Orleans
#9 Raphael Saddiq, The Way I See It
#8 Keane, Perfect Symmetry
#7 ABC, Traffic
#6 Duffy, Rockferry
#5 Supergrass, Diamond Hoo Ha. This record will forever remind me of trying to drive out of Oxford at peak hour.
#4 Black Keys, Attack & Release. Swamp-blues straight outta Akron, special sauce by Danger Mouse. Apocrypha tells us this production was borne out of material for an Ike Turner LP. I kid you, not!
#3 Fleet Foxes, Sun Giant (EP). Haunting.
#2 Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes. Shimmering.
#1 Norman Kelsey, A Talent For Loving. I'm biased. But if I'm lying, I'm flying.

Honorable Mention: MIA, Kala; Mariah Carey, E=MC2; Jimmy Needham, Not Without Love.

Top 10 Singles or tracks of 2008
#10 Robin Thicke, Magic
#9 Fleet Foxes, English House
#8 Keane, The Lovers Are Losing
#7 Black Keys, Strange Times
#6 Duffy, Warwick Avenue
#5 Fleet Foxes, White Winter Hymnal
#4 Peter Gabriel, Down To Earth
#3 Sara Bareilles, Love Song
#2 Norman Kelsey, U Had The $
#1 Norman Kelsey, Everything My Heart Desires. See notes for #1 LP.

Honorable Mention: Supergrass, Rebel In You; Oasis, I'm Outta Time; Black Keys, Oceans & Streams; Alicia Keys & Jack White, Another Way To Die; Coldplay, Violet Hill; Gnarls Barkley, Run and Blind Mary; Keane, Spiralling; REM, I'm Gonna DJ.

For 2009, I'm looking forward to fresh albums from Bruce Springsteen, Franz Ferdinand, Adam Marsland, D'Angelo and I hope and pray the NEW Michael Jackson!

Peace & Disco Beats

Monday, December 08, 2008

Give Peace A Chance

This morning I delivered the homily for chapel at church for the Wesley School. Our theme this month is "peace." So I decided to split time for two poets. John Lennon and Maya Angelou. I was very pleased that several of the 4th graders knew Lennon's lyrics when I quizzed them. I.e. who said "Give peace a chance" or "All you need is love?" A couple of the girls were very quick tell us it was John Lennon. Turns out they had done book reports on him and the Beatles.

Today is the 28th Anniversary of John's assassination. What a pity he is gone. I can remember the following day, Tuesday morning, waking up to Strawberry Fields Forever on the radio. My 6th grade teachers (in their early 30s) were devastated. We spent the day talking about him and listening to his records.

John's music and the lessons of his life are as important as ever. As I clean the house, I have the Imagine album playing. Mr. Lennon means a lot to me. I've made two pilgrimages to Mendips and Strawberry Field in Liverpool. Played the Cavern Club several times. Visited the Dakota and Strawberry Fields in NYC. My wedding anniversary is even the same as his and Yoko's. Betcha didn't know that.


(Me at Mendips, 2008, flashing the peace sign. Previously unpublished photo.)

So for the homily, I decided that I needed to invoke John and remember him to a new generation of peace-loving people. As I mentioned, I also shared thoughts about Ms. Angelou. Then I read her poem "Amazing Peace." Appropriate for the season, "Amazing Peace" was composed a few years ago for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree ceremony. When I finished I stressed to the students that people like Lennon and Angelou are important because they promote Peace at all costs and under all circumstances. We should endeavor to do the same.

Peace. What an amazing concept. Waiting for the Prince of Peace to return, we gotta do our part. 'Tis the season every season.

Happy Xmas, War is over if you want it.

Peace & Mersey Beats

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

GRAMMY Nominations Concert Review

Let me start with this: it was simply fun to be in the house and know that something was on the line. 

Even though my GRAMMY dreams are deferred for another day, we had a swell time at the Nominations Concert at L.A. Live. It's a prime place for concerts and the Grammy shows are fun because I get to see many different performances. Foo Fighters ferocious take on You're So Vain, Mariah's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), and the duet between B.B. King and John Mayer on Let The Good Times Roll were the highlights for me. Plus, Mariah looked great as Mrs. Claus. Frankly, all the artists did their thing, except for the vocally anemic co-host Taylor Swift. I was surprised they didn't let LL Cool J break out a classic hip hop number. But then, I'm not sure what rap songs are in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

John Mayer's post-show concert was entertaining. He performed solo and ran through his hits (Waiting On The World To Change, Wonderland) and tasteful covers (Crossroads, Free Falling). Most of his banter focused on his recently becoming tabloid fodder and mocking the "industry" in the audience for not making signs for him.

Overall, the nominations are lacking for my taste. Few artists I supported in the prelim round got nods. Raphael Saadiq did well. Bruce got several for the best song of 2008, not written by me, Girls In Their Summer Clothes. Peter Gabriel was nominated for his spiritual Down To Earth from Wall-E. But that's about it.

The awards show will be hip-hop heavy. Lil' Wayne, a crowd-pleaser apparently, who was atrocious on SNL, leads the nomination pack. But there will be plenty of rock if the Academy can convince Bruce to show up and persuade Radiohead to perform. Now that the Jonas Brothers made Best New Artist they are a ratings no-brainer for CBS. Seems a lock that Coldplay will perform as well as Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, who will rock this year's old-timey vote. Mark my words, Plant & Krauss are going to clean up. This is the kind of act and LP that my fellow voters love. As of now, I won't tip my hand, but for me, voting in many categories will involve much thoughtful listening - because I haven't heard much from the nominees.

Looking at the nominee list, I might be able to sit this show out. Unless they put together a really strong line-up of performers. As Duffy & Lil' Wayne's live TV performances showed me, most of the newer acts are lacking in stage presence. Their music videos may be representative, but the proof is in the live stage work. 

It was very cool and I feel like I accomplished a lot by getting my album entered into the competition. I was also touched by the wonderful words of encouragement I received from you all. Thanks for the prayers. I'm looking forward to putting together my next record. Writing is slow going, but I've got three lyrics done. I need another dozen before approaching the studio. So, we're looking at another year before new music from yours truly. In the meantime, if you don't have A Talent For Loving yet, what are you waiting for? It also makes a great Christmas or Hanukkah gift.

Peace & Disco Beats

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tomorrow Night Never Knows

Happy December. Christmastime is here again. Ain't been 'round since you know when.

I'm getting very excited about tomorrow night: GRAMMY Nominations will be announced. I will be in attendance at the Nokia Live for the event. It's not clear how many categories (other than the 4 marquees) will be announced. May be that the majority of the nominations will be released on Thursday morning. Regardless, it should be a fun night. Gotta look sharp. Anything can happen in Los Angeles. I might meet Paris and become her latest, newest BFF. 

There will be plenty of performances for the show. John Mayer is doing a whole concert. Morris Day and the Time are playing the after-party. I'm looking forward to BB King and Mariah. The show airs live on CBS at 9 PM, EST. Check your local listings. 

I'm believing that there will fantastic news to share with you on Thursday. No matter what, I've felt blessed through the whole process. My dog agrees with me. Or maybe it's the snacks. I'm rooting for some other artists to get nominations, too. I'll be pleased if the Black Keys, Raphael Saadiq, Keane, Fleet Foxes, Mariah & Bruce are recognized with nods.

So I continue immersing myself in vintage Temptations, who could be nominated tomorrow for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, too. I went to Amoeba last night and got a copy of Temptations Live! from a concert date in 1966. Spectacular. I also have been studying David Ruffin's The Unreleased Album. What a gas to discover some new music. Along with Christmas music, the Tempts are in heavy rotation on my iPod

Facebook finally got me. It's been a mind warp catching up with people I knew in 1st grade and college. A positive experience so far. I had been reluctant to sign up for "FB" and even after I logged on, I was leery. But finding all of these familiar faces has been cool. Especially since I moved around a lot as a kid. There are friends that I thought I'd never reconnect with and they are alive and well. So, if you are on Facebook, look me up. I have a musician page along with my profile. Of course, I will maintain my presence on MySpace. It's more advantageous for getting out my music.

Peace & Golden Gramophones