Saturday, December 30, 2006

A New Recording

My kids and I sang in church three times over the Christmas Holiday and I recorded one of the songs with them yesterday. You can find the song, called "Here With Us" here as an itunes file. (If you don't have itunes you won't be able to listen - sorry.) Just right-click on the song to download it.

We were unable to get Bethany's viola playing on the track since she left before we recorded it so I replaced her solo with a guitar solo. Too bad. But Lynnae (vocals), Bryan (guitar and vocals), Meredith (lead vocals) and I (guitar, bass and vocals) are on the track so give it a listen.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Giles Martin talks about the Beatles 'Love'

Giles Martin, producer of the Beatles' Love album, talks in this YouTube video. It's about 7 minutes long and cuts off in the middle of an answer but it is still a fascinating interview.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All your Christmas problems solved

Christmas time is here again which means that we’re treated to a whole bunch of music that we reserve for only this month. Or at least I reserve it for only this month. Much of the music is decidedly about, you know, Christmas – the birth of Christ, the miracle of the incarnation. That sort of stuff. Other music is about other things like snow and glitz and warm fuzzy feelings and other things that have little to do with a manger and a king.

But what about those of us who want to have it both ways? Isn’t there even one song that manages to live in both worlds? Can’t we have a song that does both? Yes! Yes we can! My good friend Pete let me in on a secret. It turns out that the little sung 3rd and 4th verses to the ever-popular “Here Comes Santa Claus” does exactly that! Here they are:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,

Right down Santa Claus lane

He doesn't care if you're rich or poor

He loves you just the same

Santa Claus knows we're all God’s children

That makes everything right

So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer

'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,

Right down Santa Claus lane

He'll come around when the chimes ring out

That it's Christmas morn again

Peace on earth will come to all

It we just follow the light

So let’s give thanks to the lord above

That Santa Claus comes tonight!

So there you have it. No more worries about Christmas. No matter whether you’re serious or frivolous about Christmas this song has got you covered. This song is probably the only song you need for the entire month. What’s that? It doesn’t actually mention Jesus or his birth? That’s OK. It’s got God in it – that’s probably close enough.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

U2 by U2

U2 by U2 is a big book in almost every way. It’s a “coffee table book” in size, measuring more than 12 inches in height and it is thick with lots of words and lots of pictures. Not only that, but the story that it tells is big too. It is the story of four lads from Dublin who are short on technique and musicianship but who work and work and work at being good because they love the buzz they get when they’re on stage and everything is going well.

This book reminds me a lot of the Beatles Anthology in that the sizes are quite similar (if not identical) and the concept is exactly the same, the four voices of the band telling their story in chronological order. In U2’s case, the fifth voice of manager Paul McGinnis is appropriately added since he has been a vital member of the band almost from the start. Another difference is that the U2 book is, to me, a more compelling read. Perhaps I was just SO well-versed in the Beatles story that when their Anthology came out there was little that I didn’t know but I have found the U2 book hard to put down. (The Beatles Anthology was actually more than just a book – it was also a video series and a set of albums. The book was the last of the three to be released which may have also blunted its impact. It should be noted that I’ve watched the video series on television, on VHS and on DVD multiple times and listened to the CDs countless times so this is not meant to be critical the Beatles stuff even a little bit. It’s just an obvious point of comparison.)

I actually started reading U2 by U2 by dipping into it at random places and reading a page or two. I had some other things I needed to read and didn’t let myself really commit to reading it yet. But then I got hooked somewhere around the writing and recording of War and just kept going. When I finished I went back to the beginning to read what I missed. Then, when I got to the point that I had already read I just kept going again. Now I’m nearly finished for a second time. I haven’t done that with any book in recent memory.

Part of it is that I’m still reading it in five or ten minute snatches and that sort of reading fits this book well but I also am compelled by the way they tell their story, by the insights I’ve gotten into albums that are among my all-time favorites and also by the pictures which are sometimes really cool.

If you’re a U2 fan this book is an absolute must. It is one of my three must-read U2 books, the others being Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas and U2 at the end of the World by Bill Flanagan. (There are, of course, many books analyzing their music, especially from a Christian perspective which I think are valuable as well. My favorites are Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 by Steve Stockman and Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog by Raewynne J. Whiteley and Beth Maynard.)

If you still have time to add something to your Christmas list U2 by U2 would be a great addition.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Farewell Tunas

On Thursday I will have my final performance as a regular member of the Lazy Blue Tunas. This will be our sixth annual Christmas show at the One Trick Pony in Grand Rapids.

After thinking and worrying about what to do about the Tunas for well over six months (more like 12 months) I finally came to the realization that my schedule was just too busy to allow me to keep up the pace that being in a band required. I have truly enjoyed playing in the Tunas and these guys are more than just bandmates, they are also among my best friends so leaving the band is something that I don’t do lightly. Plus, there is a real thrill in playing music that I love with guys I like for people who enjoy it. We had our last rehearsal together this weekend and it was filled with good music and laughter, like they almost always have been.

So our show on Thursday night will be bittersweet for me. I intend to relish it and enjoy it as much as possible. The Tunas hope to carry on without me but I’m not sure exactly how their plans are shaping up yet. I know that going to hear them play without me will be tough but I’m looking forward to hearing what they will come up with.

But this week, I am still a Tuna and I’m gearing up for a show that pulls out all the stops. Expect to hear some Tuna classics like “Change the World,” “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” and “You Better Think Twice” as well as some Motown favorites, the theme from Zorro and a healthy does of Christmas cheer including our second attempt at the Hallelujah Chorus. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Especially me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ahmet Ertegun RIP

Ahmet Ertegun was the founder of Atlantic Records. If you've seen the movie Ray then you might remember the character of Ahmet (who Ray Charles called Omlet) in the movie as a man who owned a record company but, more importantly, cared about music. From everything I have read, this was exactly who he was. When I was in high school most of my favorite music was on Atlantic (or it's subsidiary, Atco); Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills and Nash, Led Zeppelin, Cream (I think), Iron Butterfly, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson... the list just keeps going. Ertegun died as the result of a fall in late October in which he hit his head. He slipped into a coma and never recovered. He was, appropriately enough, attending a Rolling Stones concert at the time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle, RIP

Peter Boyle, who was fabulous as Frank Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond died today. He was one of the things that made that show so much fun. I will also never forget him for his role as the monster in Young Frankenstein. If you haven't seen that movie you should go get it this weekend - if only to see Boyle perform "Puttin' On the Ritz."

What I didn't know what that Boyle nearly became a priest and spent three years in a monastery. I didn't expect that.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reset your rss feed

I recently switched to the beta version of blogger and discovered that none of my rss feeds pick up my blog anymore. That means that if you read my blog via bloglines or some other rss feeder you'll have to resubscribe. Of course, if you do that you might never see this note! (I also had to tell facebook how to import this new feed as a note, something I hadn't thought of previously.)

This isn't just true for my blog - as anyone switches over their feed will change as well. So check on all the blogs you read that way.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ollabelle - Riverside Battle Songs

This fall I went a little crazy with music samplers. Facebook’s Apple Students group offered free downloads of 25 songs per week for every week from mid-August through the end of September and Paste Magazine then sent me two sample issues of the magazine to try to lure me into subscribing. (Note to editors – it worked.) Each of their issues comes with a sampler CD. So, what I do it put the sampler on itunes which I nearly always play on party shuffle (or on my ipod which is in shuffle mode most of the time) and every once in a while one of these new songs would come up. If I hated it (or if I just wasn't a big fan) I deleted it from my computer. Sometimes I'd let it pop up a couple of times before I pulled the trigger but sometimes I didn't even get through the whole song. Note: I deleted all 50 songs from the two rap/hip-hop samplers from Facebook. Hey but at least I tried them!

So here I am at home listening to my music on my computer and suddenly this song comes on which made me stop what I was doing and listen. Then, I called Laura and made her listen. She liked it too. I think I even listened a third time. The song was a rollicking blues/roots piano song called "Fall Back" with great singing and harmonies. It was a lot of fun. It was hard to say who it reminded me of – maybe The Band with it’s laid back style but the harmonies were better. Turns out it was a band named Ollabelle. I did a little research, listened to a few seconds of their other tracks online and ordered their CD, Riverside Battle Songs, from Amazon.

The CD arrived a couple of weeks ago and it’s been living in my car and on my ipod ever since. It’s exquisite. The reason that the CD reminded me of The Band is that one of the two women is Amy Helm, daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm. But this music isn’t just derivative, although it harks back to an earlier time with covers of old gospel songs. It’s a wonderful mix of roots music and tight harmonies with great instrumental backing that continues to surprise me from track to track with piano or pedal steel or guitar. This is a great album – I love listening to it when I’m driving in the dark (which is most of the time lately with the days so short.) This one is worth sampling at itunes.

(In case anyone wonders, my sampler frenzy resulted in two purchases so far, the other being Say I Am You by the Weepies.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

'Snow Angles' by Over the Rhine

I haven't had much time to write lately but my youngest daughter, Lynnae, (who has this year finally realized that I listen to a lot of cool music) and I went to Monday's Over the Rhine concert at the Knickerbocker Theater in Holland and it was fabulous. This is the third time I've seen them and it may have been my favorite. Bethany got me hooked on Over the Rhine a few years ago (and it took a little while - what was I thinking?) and I've been a fan ever since. Their new album, Snow Angels is simply wonderful. I point you to Jeffrey Overstreet's review because he says much of what I'd want to say anyway. The album is great and deserves repeated listens - which is what I've been doing this week - oh yeah - I've been teaching and grading papers and other things like that too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A writing mistake in 'U2 by U2'

OK, I know that with all the words and pages in U2 by U2 (which I am really enjoying) a mistake was bound to crop up. Here's one I found today.

On page 181 Bono is talking about how important his friend Gavin was to the album The Joshua Tree. Here's what he said: "Gavin's involvement in The Joshua Tree can't be underestimated."

So, Bono, no matter how little I think Gavin's involvement was, it was actually even less than that. I think it's pretty same to assume that he meant overestimated.

I hope that when my book comes out late next year people aren't going to post all my mistakes on the internet!

Actually, I started reading this book in the middle, finished it, started from the beginning and now I'm well past the point where I started. it's a fun read.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

YouTube - Colbert Report - Easter / U2 sings in the skies

YouTube - Colbert Report Easter

Beth brought this to my attention. The secular left is at it again.

And, while you're over at YouTube, watch U2 sing "Window in the Skies" on Japanese TV from a rooftop.