Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hands And Feet

Last night was our final drawing class at the Norton-Simon museum in Pasadena. It was part of a series of 4 lessons. I did fairly well with the head and face. But two sessions of the body/torso did me in. However, I made a nice comeback with the hands and feet. Didn't know I had it in me. It doesn't hurt to have 17th and 18th C. masters to study. I've mentioned my appreciation for the N-S before. Highly recommended.

My previous blog met with lots of glitches. I still can't tell if it published. So, just in case, a reminder: tomorrow I will be singing the Just As We Are segment in church at 10:30. The selected song is Bob Dylan's Pressing On from his 1980 LP Saved.

Time to work!

Peace & Love

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Random Notes From Hollywood On Ash Wednesday

Hey Y'all.
Been a good week for you, I hope. Got in a little while ago from communion for Ash Wednesday. God only knows how much I needed it. It was a silent service in Boyer Chapel. One of my favorite spaces.

Last night, we went to the Groundlings' theatre to see Jeremy Rowley reprise his show Inland Empire. Some bits were reruns and there were several new sketches, but it was all inspired illness. Jeremy plays these unhinged characters from the Riverside area; his mathematically challenged Dad in "Family Dinner" was a favorite of mine. You may know Jeremy's voice from the Lost Untangled shorts on ABC. Or check out his shorts on YouTube: Kids are Safe is Germanic madness and I don't even know how he filmed Trippin' At D-Land.

Something that struck me going to the Groundlings on Melrose was the loss of the Gig. I must have played the Gig several dozen times between 1997-2006. It had been two-plus years since my last appearance there with R.H.S. Another venue bites the dust. Now it's just reopened as another bar. The doorman was adamant about never having live music there again. Yikes. Wha'ppen?

I'm listening to Tom Waits right now, Used Songs. Just read a story in the latest GQ about 50 years of the L.A. Music Scene. Well seal the coffin, it's gone now. But there are nice (brief) interviews with the likes of Tom Waits, Dick Dale and the ever-cool Joan Jett. All three look fantastic in the accompanying photo spread.

If you like, I invite you to the church I attend (check the links to the right) between now and Easter and beyond. I will be doing several pieces during the main 10.30 services. This Sunday, I'm singing Dylan's Pressing On. Later in March, I'll reprise Take Me To The River. Just 'cause I'm singing isn't the reason to get to church, but I figured some of you might be interested.

I should know shortly the dates of my Summer performances. There will be at least one performance up on the Universal Citywalk and International Pop Overthrow in L.A.

Slumdog Millionaire certainly deserved all of the Oscars it won. Like I said "random notes."

Got to get ready for LOST.

Peace & Disco Beats

Sunday, February 15, 2009

No Sophomore Slump

I just finished doing something I haven't done in a decade or two. I played several dozen Beatles songs, including I'll Be Back, Tell Me Why, Julia and Michelle, on my (new) acoustic guitar. Picked up an inexpensive Yamaha with birthday funds. It occurred to me that I've never actually owned a real acoustic guitar. The first guitar I ever bought, and it's displayed in the corner of this very room, is not a hollow body, but is considered an acoustic electric. It's not really good for either, but it's a piece of my musical history. Anyway, after the old Ibanez couldn't hold a tune in church today, I determined that it was time for a new member to join the family. It took me about 90 minutes to pick out a guitar and then the salesman brought out a minty fresh one from the stock room. Trying to help the musical economy!

So this evening, I unwrapped the new guitar, tuned it up and went to town. First I worked on what will be the special music at church next month: a little spiritual from Sign "O" The Times. Then I spent an hour with the Fab Four and a fake book I bought at Olsson's in Georgetown during the Reagan administration. I learned this past month that Olsson's finally shuttered. I've always loved playing the Beatles, ever since I first taught myself how to strum chords on a borrowed guitar. 

This morning, I lead the 8:15 worship service in the beautiful Boyer Chapel at church. My second sermon was entitled "Drop Me In The Water." It was based on an Old Testament text, 2 Kings 5, which was a challenge. From all accounts it served its purpose in proclaiming God's greatness. The special music today was Rev. Al Green's Take Me To The River. Rivers (the Jordan, Hudson and Cuyahoga) were a central motif. 

I've got my work cut out for me as I have claimed the 3rd Sunday of every month to preach at church. Since my next sermon will be between Lent and Easter it might be a little heavier that the first two. I've selected John 2 from the choices of readings. I'm having fun, though it is a bit like walking a tight rope. Between the sermons and homilies once a month for the youngsters (and faculty) at Wesley School's chapel, I'm getting my church on. If you are in the L.A. area on a Sunday, join me. I'll spring for coffee afterward. 

A note of thanks to my amigo, Christo, who sent me Prince's 21 Nights. It's a lavish coffee table book that came with a fantastic live CD, that went straight into the iPod. The album, not the book.

In non-musical news, non-church news, congrats to my driver Matt Kenseth who won his first Daytona 500 today in the driving rain. So what if the race was shortened. A win is a win!

I hope that you had a love-filled Valentines' Day or at least a pleasant Saturday night. As for tomorrow: Happy Presidents' Day. My top 5 favorite Presidents, in no order:
Abraham Lincoln
James K Polk
Barack Obama
Woodrow Wilson
Theodore Roosevelt

Peace & Disco Beats

Sunday, February 08, 2009

GRAMMY Live Blog

11:29 PM

Last year's Grammy Show was superior. Even though this one had Radiohead, U2 and Macca. I thought that Springsteen was invited. Glad we didn't go after all. Save the dough for next year. We have Springsteen and U2 to look forward to next time anyway. OK, in the morning, I'll format this blog into chronological order. 

Checking the non-televised winners, I find some solace. Duffy won pop album of the year for Rockferry which improves with each play. Zappa Plays Zappa won best rock instrumental! Springsteen's Girls In Their Summer Clothes won best rock composition aka song. Hands down, the best lyric of the past several years in any genre. Peter Gabriel's spiritual Down To Earth from Wall-E nabbed best song written for a film. My choice for video, Weezer's Pork & Beans was a winner. I got the long-form Grammy winner Peter Bogdonovich's Running Down A Dream for my birthday this weekend (thanks, cousin Chris). So the pre-awards would have been fun to attend. Problem is you have to buy the ticket for the big show (which is always a bit of a let down). 

Time to power down the blog. Phew. Goodnight, Tonight.

Peace & Disco Beats

11:22 PM

As big a let-down as last year for Album of the Year. I saw this coming from miles away. Plant and Krauss made a quality disc, but the punctuation at the end of this slate is a little flat. Robert Plant is deserving for maintaining. The academy though is doing itself no favors by having these younger acts performing, but not winning. This could be the final nail in the retail music coffin.

Time to wrap up. The wrap up music is playing. Wrap it up. 

Back to a ringer: Stevie Wonder. However I don't recognize the song he's playing. Am I out of touch? Nope. It will be back to Franz Ferdinand in the morning.

11:17 PM

Plant and Krauss are on. The sound is horrid. What's going on!? At least they've got a light fan going to get those golden locks moving on both of them. I have to imagine that the sound on the stage is alright, because they are in tune. Just sounds like there is no accompaniment. Heaven knows that Led Zeppelin probably deserved any number of Grammys in their time, but I'm not sure this collaboration is representative of the best work of the nominated artists this year.

Hooray, Rick Rubin is producer of the year.

11:08 PM

I'm going to predict (again) that Plant/Krauss win album of the year. Just a feeling the way this is going. Although Shi'staynze and Coldplay are nice bets. Ne-Yo has no chance and Radiohead is still too avant garde for the Grammys.

Nice to see trumpeter Terence Blanchard and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band during Allen Toussaint's tribute to Nawlins. I met Mr. Blanchard at last year's Grammys, a dear and talented fellow. What's happened in the last 30 minutes that I didn't blog. Well, Neil Diamond performed. I walked the dog in the rain. Made sweet green tea.

10:38 PM

Jamie Foxx could have been a star at Motown in the '60s. He's one of the few acting talents that can really sing. This tribute to the 4 Tops is amazing. The producers chose really good people (Smokey, T.I. & Foxx) to join original Top Duke Fakir. Doesn't hurt that those are two of the best records ever. 

10:30 PM

Now, I like JT, but he's the male version of Carrie Underwood. He's ubiquitous and now he's sung twice tonight. Someone show T.I. how to wear a hat. The hip-hop summit was ok (it was saved by M.I.A.'s presence). Neil Portnow is talking about Obama. I remember when the President won his second award for reading his autobiography. That makes him the first Grammy Winner to hold the highest office in the land. Represent!


Forget the Avengers movie, Samuel L. Jackson will apparently be playing Waldo in the new film Where the F is Waldo. Only Sam could make those glasses look hip. 

10:17 PM

Gwyneth Paltrow IS the walking disco ball. She just introduced the "utterly brilliant" Radiohead. Uh, Gwyneth, Coldplay is in the room..

Thom Yorke is doing his thing with the USC marching band. That's a cool gig for the students. Radiohead are outclassing the rest of the field with this perf. Easily the most interesting act.

10:11 PM

Respect to Neil Diamond, but I can't hear his songs without thinking of Will Ferrell's riotous spoof of him on SNL. Or Diamond in black face in the Jazz Singer remake with Olivier.

10:06 PM

Yawn. Sugarland and Adele are earnest. But at the 2/3 mark, this show needs pep.

McCartney was in fine form, although good old Dave Grohl was overplaying. I Saw Her Standing There is a ringer. A Beatle is a ringer. You have to enjoy it. It's good for you. 

Kudos for the due-today M.I.A. for her performance. She held her polka-dotted and very pregnant own with Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye and Lil' Babee Shi'staynze. In fact, for my money, the producers could have let M.I.A. do all of Paper Planes.

9:41 PM

Herbie Hancock out-dressed P.Diddy. Wild. Record of the Year. I voted for M.I.A. Denied. It's the Plant/Krauss show. Keep in mind this is the award for the the best single of the year. There's no way this recording was tops in that category. I like Robert Plant, but this is mystifying. Their song was not a hit single! But that's why I vote, so I can comment

9:32 PM

How committed am I to the live blog? Not very. I love the Grammy Awards, but I'm underwhelmed. Patty said (since the show is not live here in L.A.) that we'd be home by now. Or at least out at dinner after the awards. This is my first real attempt at a real time blog not including Election night, which was amazing. I might limit it to a check in every half hour. Katy Perry took a lot out of us.

9:27 PM

Kanye is needing his S-curl spray. The Mullet-fro is taking me back to 1984. He's channeling Andre Cymone more than Michael. Oh, the music dropped out again. Too bad that didn't happen during Katy Perry's act. I hope Duffy wins best new artist!

9:20 PM

Does anyone really care about Katy Perry? She descended in a jumbo chiquita banana! Nothing says Grammy like giant pieces of fruit on stage. Carmen Miranda would approve... of the mutated produce. Katy looks good, but she can't really dance or even move. She kissed a girl, but couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. Patty is pained and says "Katy, get back in your banana."

9:16 PM

I know I supported Kid Rock for best Rock Album. Coldplay certainly sold the most albums that featured a band playing its own instruments. Wondering why Chris Brown is on the run from the law. CBS keeps touting him during the show, but the news bumpers say he's on the lam.

I won't bag on the kids too badly. This will probably be the most viewed Grammy Awards since Michael's heyday by virtue of the Jonas/Miley appearances.

9:13 PM

Superstition. Don't let the Jonas Brothers sing a long with this song. "Very sacrilegious."

9:10 PM

Stevie Wonder must have gotten a call from the Obama's to play with the Jonas Brothers. It was pointed out to me that though they play their own instruments, no one takes a solo within the context of the JB's music. Stevie's not mixed in this well, but he's singing the heck out of this song, like the boys can't. And soloing no less.

9:05 PM

Jennifer Hudson's outfit made much more sense this time around. And her vocals were great as usual, even if the mix left something to be desired. I have to remind myself that she's already an Oscar winner, a Golden Globe winner and a Grammy winner in the past 24 months since NOT winning Idol. 

I predicted back in December at the nomination show that the Plant/Krauss team-up will win a grip of hardware. Let the count begin.

8:52 PM

"It's Miley!!"

8:45 PM

Kid Rock is playing a medley of his songs, including All Summer Long which was a surprise hit this Summer. The sound mix is getting curious. I can't imagine all of these vocal break-downs are intentional.

8:42 PM

At least Coldplay acknowledged that they were trying to be Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band. I wanted Sara Bareilles to win the songwriter's award for Love Song. Duffy and Al Green did a nice job of presenting. Al's brief take on Moon River has been the best performance so far.

8:28 PM

I understand she's popular, an Idol veteran, and is racking up Grammy's, but Carrie Underwood doesn't need to be on the show every year. Wow and flutter, the sound is going in and out. That ain't my TV. 

8:20 PM

Michael Caine called, he wants his glasses back. Coldplay are performing Lost. 60 Minutes did a piece on them right before the telecast.  Chris Martin apparently repaints his piano on a regular basis. And he wishes his band had more personality. I found that interesting. Been there.  So, as a result they spared us a moment with Andy Rooney. But we get Jay-Z! And now Viva La Vida. Hard for them to follow U2. They're like a technicolor, kid brother version of the monochromatic (much more impressive) U2. 

8:13 PM
Timberlake cannot keep up with the Reverend Al Green. This is a 50th GRAMMY moment. Complete with wonky sound mix. Or maybe that was intentional. Al looks good though!

8:09 PM. 

The Grammy Awards are on (previously recorded)! Bono and U2 opened and ran through their song, Get On Your Boots. So new that the lyrics had to be flashed on screen behind them. Not their strongest lead single, but it's U2. Always entertaining.

Whitney Houston just presented the Best R&B Album award. She seemed a little tipsy or woozy or whitney. Jennifer Hudson, your winner, brought her purse on stage with her. She can just tuck that gramophone in their and get back to her seat. Miss Hudson's outfit was not as flattering as it should have been.

Let's leave the comedy to the comedians. Poor JT and the Rock not working the room very well.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Stewart

Ah, post-Birthday musings. What a wonderful night last night. The Aroma cafe was perfect. Even if were outdoors and had waterfalls on three sides of our casbah.

Some of you know that I sponsor a child through World Vision. His name is Stewart and he resides in Uganda with his family. I became connected to him through World Vision's Experience Africa exhibit last year. There were so many children in need of monetary and spiritual support to choose to sponsor. It was overwhelming.

I selected Stewart because of his angelic face and because his birthday falls the day after mine. So, I'm taking the time to wish Stewart a very happy 8th Birthday! I know he won't see this blog, but this little man, his family and village are in my daily prayers. Prayers for a long, healthy and happy life, free from violence, disease and poverty; full of fun, peace and God's love and care. I hope he got his present on time. Stewart's WV liaison wrote me a note that was decorated with drawings by Stewart several weeks ago. He loves football, so there were several soccer balls in the margins. How cool to get mail from him all the way from Uganda.

World Vision is a wonderful organization. They receive the left-over Superbowl souvenirs that feature the losers printed as winners. WV distributes these clothing items to needy folks around the globe. My joke is that somewhere in Africa people think the Patriots had a perfect season last year. Seriously, it's nice that the manufacturers donate the shirts so WV can clothe folks.

Several people gifted me with donations of ducks and chicks to the globe's neediest from World Vision for my birthday. Two friends also donated in my name to assist abused girls in underdeveloped countries. I'm pleased that they were moved to honor me so and that this is such a wonderful cause. God bless them and the staff at WV.

Peace and Disco Beats

Friday, February 06, 2009

Rainy Night In NoHo

Thanks to everyone who sent their Birthday wishes. Extra thanks to those who braved the rain to join me for cake at Aroma. The donations to World Vision were wonderful. To my extended family and friends near and far, I want you to know that you are loved and appreciated. You make me feel so young!

Peace & Love

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The 100 Yard Dash Away From The 30's

Dog my cats, it's raining.

I've spent the evening putting together a few collages for my birthday gathering tomorrow night. Yes, I will be working at the studio tomorrow. I've got performers counting on me. My new extended family. Anyway, I have boxes of pictures I haven't looked through in (gosh) a decade in some cases. Back to the Idle Kings, the beginning of my life in Los Angeles, my misspent youth.

Just a few random thoughts.

1. Etta James is justified, little crazy, but so. She should have been invited to sing for the Obamas as long as At Last was part of the programming. This is Beyonce's second miscue, after last year's Grammy's when she called Tina the "Queen of Soul." Huh? Now, I know Beyonce is not responsible for either incident, but she's the common ground in each.

2. Franz Ferdinand continues to challenge me. This group puts out an album and makes me want to get right back at it. Tonight: Franz Ferdinand has some wonderful disco-rock moments, especially the lead single Ulysses and No You Girls. And worst, I've missed two chance to see them here in town the past month. They played an in-store at Amoeba last week. Dang.

3. Thanks to all of you who've helped me get to 40, especially the Missus, Mom & Dad, Nate & Gmom. Thanks to everyone who's made my musical career so fulfilling, especially Doug & Bryan, Larry, Dave, Adam & Lady T, Dennis & Scoots, Henry, Montana, Mikey & Mark. Scrap what F.S.F. said about no second acts in American lives. I'm on to Act III, so far as I can tell. Wait until you dig what's coming next for yours truly. Music, preachin' and a whole lot of love. It was three years ago on my birthday that I decided to take the band to the UK for the first time. Who knows what new madness I'll conjure?

4. John Lennon. Can't believe I'll be older than him very shortly. God bless his immortal soul and memory. The first song I will listen to in the morning will be the Beatles' Birthday. It's been my sole B-day tradition for the past 22 years.

The next time I see you, I will have begun my 5th decade. Thank you, Lord!

Peace & Coconut Creme Cake