Archive for the ‘music’ Category

…fkin’ really, dude?

August 20, 2020

Kane Brown meme from Farce the Music…

kanedirt

Maybe those “Red Dirt country people” just think Kane Brown sucks. As I have pointed out before, Jason Boland cut his musical teeth on Judas Priest and Iron Maiden in addition to Hag and Cash, and Cody Canada is a pretty big fan of Pantera and its associated bands. Now, I know all of those aren’t exactly newer bands, but we all know what Kane Brown is getting at, which is that all those people who have less than positive things to say about him don’t appreciate any other kind of music, which is a bit ignorant, really.

And even if they didn’t like other kinds of music, if they only listened to one kind of music, so what? As I have also I it before, the more kind of music you claim to like, the less time you have to really dig into a particular genre or whatever, and you’re liable to miss out on good stuff from that genre if you’re listening to so much other stuff. There are only so many hours in the day.

In the latest installment of “they’ll call anything ‘country’ these days…”

August 9, 2020

Earlier today, after spinning some old Ray Price, just for shits and grins, I figured I’d browse the “country” section on Spotify. In the New Releases section I saw an album titled Chris Tomlin and Friends. Again, just for shits and grins, I clicked on it…

…and suffice it to say, the list of guest vocalists is just as jam-packed with suck and fail as I thought it would be, to say nothing of the songwriters. On one hand, you’d have thought a Texas boy like Tomlin would have known better — but then, I guess, on the other hand, if he did know better he wouldn’t have been doing contemporary Christian in the first place.

On the gripping hand…ponder, if you will, the rich, oh-so-flavorful irony of an allegedly Christian artist partnering up with people who sing songs with lyrics such as:

And all I wanna do is lace my J’s and lace some Jack in my Coke…I sit you up on a kitchen sink, and stick the pink umbrella in your drink…

and

You’re shakin’ that money maker, like a heart breaker, like your college major was twistin’ and tearin’ up Friday nights, love the way you’re wearin’ those jeans so tight…

Now, granted, I’m no prude, but it just makes Tomlin look a bit, shall we say, hollow and fake as an artist given the genre in which he made his name. (And given the reputation of that genre with so many people, you could say he’s already behind the eight-ball to begin with.) No doubt the sound is scarcely better. A musician friend of mine had this to say about Tomlin:

Tomlin’s music is pretty terrible, repetitive & unimaginative. Played a few of his songs in the church band many years ago, and even my guitar playin’ couldn’t get all the “suck” out of it.

To which my reply was:

It’s pretty impressive that someone could suck for that long and still have a career these many years later. Although I guess “going country” would be the perfect move for him with as low as Nashville’s standards have sunk in the last decade or so.

“I hear down there it’s changed, you see. Well, they’re not as backward as they used to be.”

“PREPARE FOR NUCLEAR ATTACK! Warned but did not heed…”

August 6, 2020

75 years ago this week….

World War II had been raging on for not quite 6 years. The Germans had surrendered and the war in Europe had ended three months before — but the war in the Pacific was still grinding on, even after the low-level bombing raids starting back in March 1945 that left most of Japan’s major cities in ruins and the cockpits of the American B-29s redolent of burning flesh. Plans had already been drawn up for an invasion of Japan, codenamed Operation: Downfall, to commence in November. It was expected to make Overlord look like a fun day at the beach; so many Purple Hearts were minted preparing for Downfall that we’re still handing them out.

But what no one but a select few knew at the time was that the United States had been working feverishly to develop a new type of weapon based on nuclear fission, and tested it on July 16 in the New Mexico desert…and the test was, of course, a rousing success. Within hours of that test, the USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco with the components of the first bomb to be dropped, code-named “Little Boy,” and arrived at Tinian Island on July 26. (The components for the second bomb, “Fat Man,” were flown to Tinian from Albuquerque’s Kirtland Army Air Field the next week.)

The day that the Indianapolis arrived at Tinian, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, outlining the terms of surrender for Japan. Two days later Japanese media reported said terms were rejected by the Japanese government.

And so, at 2:45 AM Tinian time on Aug. 6, the Enola Gay took off. 6 1/2 hours later, at 8:15 AM Hiroshima time, the first weapon exploded. It was 800 feet off its initial aiming point, with less than 2 percent of its material fissioning…

…and even with that, the destruction was horrendous. From Wikipedia:

“People on the ground reported a pika (ピカ)—a brilliant flash of light—followed by a don (ドン)—a loud booming sound. Some 70,000–80,000 people, around 30 percent of the population of Hiroshima at the time, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm, and another 70,000 were injured. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Japanese military personnel were killed. U.S. surveys estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 square kilometers) of the city were destroyed. Japanese officials determined that 69 percent of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and another 6 to 7 percent damaged.“

The next day, several high-ranking Army Air Forces personnel met on Guam, deciding to drop another bomb since there was no indication that Japanese surrender was forthcoming.

Two days after that, at 3:47 AM on Aug. 9, Bock’s Car lifted off from Tinian headed for Kokura. Between a failed fuel pump and cloud cover over Kokura, they had to divert to the secondary target of Nagasaki; that bomb was dropped at 11:02, with similar results. From Wikipedia:

“The Fat Man weapon, containing a core of about 5 kg (11 lb) of plutonium, was dropped over the city’s industrial valley. It exploded 47 seconds later at 1,650 ± 33 ft (503 ± 10 m), above a tennis court, halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Nagasaki Arsenal in the north. This was nearly 3 km (1.9 mi) northwest of the planned hypocenter; the blast was confined to the Urakami Valley and a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills…

“Although the bomb was more powerful than the one used on Hiroshima, its effects were confined by hillsides to the narrow Urakami Valley. Of 7,500 Japanese employees who worked inside the Mitsubishi Munitions plant, including ‘mobilized’ students and regular workers, 6,200 were killed. Some 17,000–22,000 others who worked in other war plants and factories in the city died as well. Casualty estimates for immediate deaths vary widely, ranging from 22,000 to 75,000. At least 35,000–40,000 people were killed and 60,000 others injured.”

General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project (so named because it was under the supervision of the Manhattan district of the Army Corps of Engineers) expected to have several more bombs readied for use over the next several months; as it happened, they turned out to be not needed, as the Japanese surrendered on August 14….

Another all-time favorite.

July 27, 2020

…or two…

Some time ago, I was listening to Daryle Singletary’s discography on Spotify. He recorded an album of cover songs back in 2002 titled That’s Why I Sing This Way. This was one of the songs from that album.

Now, that is a great version, but the original, to me, is just transcendent.

I first heard that song some 20 years ago on KORA 98.3 in Bryan-College Station and fell in love with it. Pretty sure that was the only terrestrial radio station I’d ever heard that song on. What makes it all the more amazing was that Ryles was only 17 years old when he recorded that song, and that album. I was reminded of the song when I was listening to the Singletary album a few weeks ago, and I thought, Oh hey, let’s see if the original is on here.

It sure was…along with the rest of the album.  And the album was also available on Amazon, albeit only on mp3. I had never been able to find it anywhere before, so you better believe I snapped it up. Really glad I did, too, as it has some great stuff on it, including a version of “Little Green Apples” that’s second only to Roger Miller’s, and a cover of “Wichita Lineman” that compares surprisingly well to the iconic Glen Campbell version. Not surprising, though, as they do have quite similar voices.

I was really quite pleased to find this one.

The latest jam.

July 21, 2020

I was first made aware of Within Temptation not long after I heard Sharon den Adel on “Isle of Evermore” from Avantasia’s 2016 album Ghostlights

…and I thought, “wow, she has a great voice.” Not long ago, I asked a buddy what album I should get if I was going to check them out.

“Start with The Heart of Everything. That one’s pretty accessible.”

Man, this is great stuff.

And as good as the studio version is, the live version with the symphony is on another level entirely…

Friday music musings, 01.05.2020

May 1, 2020

Wow. This is just…incredibly depressing, all things considered.

I remember the first time I heard “I Can Love You Better,” the first single from Wide Open Spaces, the Chicks’ first album with Natalie. I thought they had a cool sound, and the entire album was really good. And they only got better with Fly and Home. As I have said before, when you think about it, in the context of early 2000s mainstream country, the latter record was downright revolutionary. There they were, doing a borderline bluegrass record with a shit-ton of fiddle, mandolin, and banjo…and it sold like crack. In the era of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. There were also appearances on tribute albums to Bob Wills and Bill Monroe. I very clearly remember back when they were touring with George Strait in 1999, a week before that tour hit Houston, they did an interview with the Houston Chronicle, and they talked about when they were asked to do a pop remix of the title track to Wide Open Spaces. Natalie herself had this to say:

“We like those other artists, and we’re fans of that other music, but we don’t want anyone thinking we’re trying to not be country….We’re trying to bring country back to country.”

So much for that, I guess. I know how we got here, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And make no mistake, I DO NOT like it one little bit, any more than so many old Metallica fans liked what they did after …And Justice For All.

===

This, on the other hand, is absolutely spectacular.

God knows I talked enough trash on Geoff Tate in the year or so after he was fired from Queensryche, and I still think they’re probably better off for having replaced him. But I have to be honest — a lot of that was because after hearing the mediocrity of American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos, I never, ever thought I’d hear him sound like this again. I really thought his best days as a singer were far behind him. Had he sounded in 2012 like he does here, I might not have been so gleeful to see him fired from Queensryche. (Of course there’s the matter of the general quality of the songs in addition to the quality of Tate’s voice, but I suppose that’s a whole different discussion.) As a friend of mine on Facebook put it, “Welcome back to the top of the mountain, Mr. Tate!”

I bought Avantasia’s Moonglow for “Alchemy,” and the other song Tate guests on solo, “Invincible,” was really good as well, but the whole album is well worth the coin.

I also really like the title track (with Candice Night)…

“Starlight” (with Ronnie Atkins)…

and “Book of Shallows” (with Atkins, Hansi Kursch, Jorn Lande, and Mille Petrozza).

But “The Raven Child,” with Jørn Lande and Hansi Kursch, has gotten to be my absolute favorite upon repeated listens of this album. (I bought it not long after it came out.) Lande cutting loose on this song as he does in the last three minutes or so is a thing of sheer beauty.

But if you told me back in 2012 that down the road I would actually buy an album with Tate on it and that the songs on which he was featured would end up being among my favorites on the album, I’d have looked at you like you’d grown a third eye.  I have to say, Tate has redeemed himself pretty spectacularly as a singer.

It would be kind of a jerk move not to comment on Tobias Sammet himself, though, wouldn’t it? He’s a damn good singer in his own right and meshes very well with his guest vocalists; hearing him sing, you can tell he got a lot of his technique from Tate. It all fits together very well — the voices of Sammet and his guest vocalists, the grandiosity of Avantasia in general, and of the musical theme in particular. With my fandom of bands like Queensryche, Savatage, and Symphony X, I am not surprised in the least that Avantasia so far is right up my alley.

Sturgill shits the bed.

February 22, 2020

Or channels his inner Ryan Adams. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, amirite?

[with High Top Mountain], I definitely felt like there wasn’t really much interest in who I was really wanting to be. So, we made a Waylon Jennings record, and I’ve been trying to shake that shit off ever since. I can’t fucking listen to it. It’s so slick and clean….

I can’t listen to that record. It was a commercial record disguised as a traditional album, and to my ears, it’s just too fucking safe. So, with Metamodern, we got real unsafe….I mean, to my eyes, the Traveller record Cobb did with Stapleton was a commercial country record disguised as a traditional record.

I would say the term “tortured genius” comes to mind, but that may well be giving Sturgill way too much credit. I like the dude’s music; High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music were a couple of the best albums of the 2010s. And it’s fine if he doesn’t like them, can’t listen to them, whatever. But the whole tone he projects here left me wondering, “if this is how you feel, dude, why the hell did you even bother after A Sailor’s Guide to Earth at the latest?” In fact, with his comments on High Top Mountain and how he felt like there wasn’t much interest in what he wanted to do, why did he even go through with it? It sounds like he’d have been a lot happier if he had, I don’t know, found a record label who was actually interested in what he wanted to do. More to the point, it sounds like he was just going along to get along. Which is fine, I guess, but don’t bitch about the result. Put another way, it sounds like he made High Top Mountain for commercial appeal at the behest of the label. Which is also fine, but he doesn’t have any business casting aspersions on Chris Stapleton or anyone else for doing the same.

Also, if Sturgill’s done, if this is the way he’s gonna be, then, well, whatever. So be it. There are a shit-ton of other artists & bands out there (not just country) deserving of our finite funds who are making great music, like what they do, and don’t feel the need to throw foul, faux-edgy, pretentious temper tantrums and shit all over the folks who helped them get where they are whenever someone sits down to interview them. Marketing stunt or not, it’s still just really off-putting.

(h/t Saving Country Music)

Get on outta here with that, dude.

February 19, 2020

If you’re a musical artist, and you want to use your platform to spread a political message, that’s your business. But belittling other artists who choose not to do that is a bit of an asshole move, if I may be so frank.

This observation was brought to you by a lyric from Jason Isbell’s new single, “Be Afraid”:

“And if your words add up to nothing then you’re making a choice to sing a cover when you need a battle cry”

Like, piss off, dude. Not everyone who picks up the mike wants to be the next Pete Seeger or whoever, and that’s their goddamned right. As I said a little more than three years ago:

“Seriously, this “all politics all the time” in every single thing is going to destroy us. You kinda should expect political commentary from Steve Earle or maybe (to a lesser extent) Jason Boland, but why should a George Strait or Randy Rogers be condemned for not going on anti-Donald Trump tirades in studio or on stage, or, fuck, anywhere else for that matter? It is grossly unfair to them as artists and to their fans, and as Americans they don’t deserve to be called out for bigotry they’ve never expressed by Progressive assholes who are all pissy about everyone not falling in line with their agenda.”

Sabra made the observation that you see a lot of folks smoke at AA meetings because former addicts tend to swap out addictions, and that Isbell just swapped alcohol for activism. That sounds about right to me, honestly.

Well, I mean…he’s right.

December 26, 2019

From Blabbermouth.net, a few days ago…

QUEENSRŸCHE’s TODD LA TORRE On Replacing GEOFF TATE: ‘We Couldn’t Have Asked For A Better Outcome’

…”I think, by and large, we’ve really kind of won over the majority of the QUEENSRŸCHE fanbase. I wasn’t just a one-album guy, so I think it really helps to solidify the lineup and the fact we’re still doing very good business. People are really interested to hear the new material live also, which is a great thing. I think it’s been a great success.”

Well, then.

Frankly, I’m of two minds regarding QR at this point. The music’s good and worth repeated listens, but it just seems different now that Scott Rockenfield’s not around and is likely not coming back. (Todd was the one playing the drums on the new album, The Verdict. Scott apparently has been taking time off since his wife had a baby back in 2017 and has been incommunicado with the band since.) And I was fine with both Chris and Geoff being gone, but now with Scott gone…I just don’t know. I like the previous two albums a lot better, and I am curious to see how The Verdict would have sounded had Scott participated in its creation.

That being said…

It might sound egotistical of Todd to say what he said, but given the ways things could have gone, I think he’s right. Had he not come along, we would have gotten a 25th-anniversary re-recording of Operation: Mindcrime that would have fallen far short of the original (see: Geoff Tate’s ca. 2011 voice and possibly Kelly Gray on guitar), and God only knows what would have followed. I’m just one guy, but given the choice, I would take what we got instead of what we could have gotten, even with as much as it’s changed in the last 4 years.

“Fly, fighting fair, it’s the code of the air….”

December 20, 2019

(Knight’s Cross mention added, per Borepatch in comments, who had a great post on this a few years ago.) 

76 years ago today, on December 20, 1943, an act of uncommon valor — a textbook demonstration of the warrior code — occurred in the skies over World War II Germany.

On that day, the 379th Bomb Group flying B-17s out of RAF Kimbolton went on a bomb run targeting a Focke-Wulf fighter aircraft plant just outside of Bremen. One of the pilots was Second Lieutenant Charles Brown, flying a B-17 christened “Ye Olde Pub.”  Brown’s B-17 was initially positioned toward the edges of the aircraft formation, but he was moved up to the front after several bombers had to turn back for mechanical issues. Shortly before the run, Brown’s plane sustained severe damage from flak and German fighters and fell toward the rear of and away from the formation. (Brown actually lost consciousness for a short period of time and almost crashed the plane before he recovered.) The stricken aircraft was spotted by several people on the ground, including Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Franz Stigler, who took off and caught up with Brown and his crew in short order. At that point, Stigler had shot down 22 B-17s in the war; just one more would have earned him a Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military award at the time.

But once Stigler caught up with Brown and his crew in his Bf-109, he was struck by the fact that they weren’t firing back at him or trying to evade him. He flew closer to the plane and saw the gravely injured crew through the gaping holes in the airframe, and Brown giving everything he had trying to keep the plane in the air. Stigler said later that with the condition of the plane and the crew, shooting at Brown’s plane would have been like shooting at a man in a parachute, and that he thought of what one of his former commanding officers told him: “If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you myself….You follow the rules of war for you, not for your enemy. You fight by the rules to keep your humanity.”

Stigler tried but failed to get Brown’s attention and get him to land in Sweden; nevertheless, he escorted Brown out of German airspace past the fearsome, formidable defenses of the Atlantic Wall to the North Sea, saluted, and turned back for home. Brown and his crew made it back to base, where they were debriefed; their commanding officer said something to the effect of, “Yeah, you don’t say a word about this to anyone.” Stigler, for his part, told no one, least of all his commanding officers; he would likely have been executed for such an act. It was probably nothing less than divine providence that none of the Atlantic Wall gunners figured out what Stigler was doing, for if they had, they would almost certainly have shot him down.

Fast forward a little more than four decades. From Wikipedia:

“In 1986, the retired Lt. Col. Brown was asked to speak at a combat pilot reunion event called a ‘Gathering of the Eagles’ at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Someone asked him if he had any memorable missions during World War II; he thought for a minute and recalled the story of Stigler’s escort and salute. Afterwards, Brown decided he should try to find the unknown German pilot.  

“After four years of searching vainly for US Army Air Forces, U.S. Air Force and West German Air Force records that might shed some light on who the other pilot was, Brown had come up with little. He then wrote a letter to a combat pilot association newsletter. A few months later he received a letter from Stigler, who was now living in Canada. ‘I was the one,’ it said. When they spoke on the phone, Stigler described his plane, the escort and salute, confirming everything that Brown needed to hear to know he was the German fighter pilot involved in the incident.”

Stigler and Brown finally met in person in 1990 and became best friends for the rest of their lives; they died within a few months of each other in 2008. 

A book about the encounter, Adam Makos’ A Higher Call, was published in 2012, and it is an excellent book, one I absolutely cannot recommend highly enough. Sabaton bassist Pär Sundström, as the band was researching & writing songs for their 2014 album Heroes, was made aware of the story, and he and singer Joakim Broden wrote this song about that incident.

It all came full circle sometime after the album came out, when the band was contacted by Franz Stigler’s daughter.

“Hey guys. My son is a big fan of your band.”

Stigler’s grandson actually got to meet the band not long after.

“No Bullets Fly” was my most-played song on Spotify this year. Rather fitting, I suppose, as the Adam Makos book (at least so far) has been my favorite book that I have read this year.