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ABOUT RAR: For those of
you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher
of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites.
Use this link to visit the
RAR music page, which features original music
compositions and other.
ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance"-AVAILABLE
NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM
CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects
the building of America in a trilogy of novels
collectively called ATWOOD. Book One explores
the development of the American West through the
lens of public policy, land planning, municipal
development, and governance as it played out in one
of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of
the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious
and cultural traditions that imbued the American
Midwest with a special character that continues to
have a profound effect on American politics to this
day. Book One creates an understanding about
America's cultural foundations that is further
explored in books two and three that further trace
the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one
isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as
an icon in the development of a certain brand of
American character. That's the serious stuff viewed
from high altitude. The story itself gets down and
dirty with the supernatural, which inATWOOD
- A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance is the
outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the
monumental to the sublime.The
book features the epic poem"The
well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard
Meets Larry McMurtry
I am offering another
novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service.
Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its
sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado,
1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm
equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of
individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and
distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.
It is a ripping good yarn, filled
with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to
pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950,
when the story is set. Richard Padilla
has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of
a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The
whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on
Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little
of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns.
Use this link.
EXPLORE THE KINDLE
If you have not explored the books
available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing
division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You
will find classic literature there, as well as tons
of privately published books of every kind. A lot of
it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published
books are awful, but some are truly classics. You
can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works
for two bucks.
Amazon is the largest,
but far from the only digital publisher. You can
find similar treasure troves at
Barnes & Noble site),Lulu,
Why Not Squeeze?
Melody, Rhythm and Rhyme
Back in the
late 1970s, when the British pop-rock band Squeeze
surfaced, their songwriters Chris Difford and
Glenn Tilbrook were hailed as the heirs apparent to John Lennon
and Paul McCartney. It was easy to see why. In a period when the pop
music coming from White people had become remarkably sterile, Squeeze
leaped from the speakers like a squirt of lime. Dormant Pop would start
to show new life with the birth of British Punk and then with the
gay-themed music of the Modern Rock wave, but emerging with those two
minor epochs, while not belonging to either, was the Difford/Tilbrook
strain of old-timey melody-making that would carry on into the 1990s.
Glenn Tilbrook's voice was a perfect tool
for Chris Difford's lyrics, which were always stories in musical form,
like diary entries given a sound, and the sound was great. Tilbrook
showed a tremendous sense for song construction and arrangement, giving
Squeeze that edge on all other bands that, coupled with a level of
insouciance in his vocal delivery, recalled The Beatles. Like the Fab
Four, Squeeze made pop eloquence sound easy, and moreover they did it
with a level of musical sophistication that, in their time, put them in
a class of their own. Tilbrook is a ridiculously talented player. There
wasn't any other band quite like Squeeze because there were no other
bands who could do what they could do, technically or spiritually.
Difford and Tilbrook somehow found that unique vein in pop music where
sweetness can mingle with vulnerability without producing corn, but
rather something sublime and memorable. Their tunes always hit me as
wonderfully human, right at the edge of where yearning meets the hard
reality of what is. Their music, for me, put it all in perspective, and
it seemed happy to do so. - RAR
Rock Gods Die, but Whole Genres?
Have you noticed all these
stories that have popped up of late, like in the Wall Street Journal,
about the coming extinction of our "Rock Gods"? It seems that in the
last year it has occurred to journalists that all those musicians we
grew up listening to are within a decade of pushing up daisies, and they
are only just now noting that no one is in line to take their
Their places can't be taken, of course, because it
isn't their music we are attached to so much as it is our memories of
youth, and what their music meant to us at a certain time. Rock,
generally defined, is a Baby Boomer thing, and Baby Boomers
are never going to recognize a new David Bowie or Mick Jagger because we
are never going to be impressionable naives again, which is what rock
gods require. There will never be another Jimi Hendrix because there
will never again be another young you to hear something for the first
time and feel that sense of awe.
Rock music imprinted on the psyches and souls of Baby
Half of the sales in the music industry are still
generated by people aged 50 and older, that according to the Wall
Street Journal. The proceeds from summer tours continue to be dominated by old
people who haven't generated hits in years, largely because the idea of
"hits" is of another time. Our revenue counters have not yet come up
with a solid way of ascertaining transaction equivalencies to quantify
sales in an age where most product is streamed.
We don't have album covers anymore, which had the
power to seed the mind with indelible images and to convey potent
messaging. They were once like monoliths that announced that the vinyl
inside was sacred, the sounds on the recording something special. There
has been no replacement for that in the digital age, and subsequently no
army of hypnotized devotees to commit to buying album after album just
because they like a band or artist, and what they represent. Well, there
is Beyoncé and her legion of followers, but
that's not Rock.
Inevitably the expression of youth culture changes
with time. Today, young music fans seem un-inclined to elevate
entertainers to special status. Being "woke", they distrust the
machinery behind the hype. That is a credit to their built-in bullshit
detectors, the legacy of decades of disillusionment at discovering a
disconnect between what is portrayed, and what is really happening.
Those frustrations get expressed in various ways, but
not often through Rock. Not anymore. - RAR
Approaching the end
Lennon's Grownup Insights
"College kids writing essays to saxophone players."
That was John Lennon's take as a
40-year old just minutes away from the undertaker. He had, at least in
his own mind, become real about the illusion of pop culture. Love, peace
and understanding were all real to him, while everything else was absurd
analysis, point of view, and marketing. He had lost any concern about
placating "the little turds", which is how he characterized young music
Lennon was that grumpy middle-aged guy who had lived
through "the layers of the onion" and had no energy left for useless,
uninformed idealism. - RAR
Cultural Manipulation File
Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Serendipity
What to make of Montero Lamar
Hill, now known to the world as Lil Nas X?
He exploded onto the Billboard charts in 2019 with a
mash-up Country-Rap confection called "Old Town Road". This video below
from The New York Times nicely covers the manner in which this
creation came together, first becoming a viral sensation via a video
sharing app called Tik Tok. In a manner typical of today's music
industry, a young beat producer, working out of his bedroom on the other
side of the planet, created a groove from a Nine Inch Nails track, and
Lil Nas X wrote a simple and formulaic pop-country song over the top of
it, flavored with a Fresh Prince of Bel Air type of edgeless Rap. In
fact, it had the kind of brain-dead beat that shot
Billy Ray Cyrus to fame with "Achy Breaky Heart" all those years
ago, which apparently occurred to someone else, as well, because somehow
Billy Ray - now bearded like a wannabe member of ZZ Top - showed up in
the final release of this song.
This story stinks of dead fish, which apparently
inspired Billboard executives to kill the song on the Country charts as
it rose steadily to the top. There was an uproar and somehow this
extraordinarily lame entry rode the attendant publicity, peppered with
accusations of institutional racism, to #1.
People who suspect that the entertainment industry has
always been suspiciously susceptible to supernatural levels of
serendipity and fortunate coincidence will find the Lil Nas X story
suspect. As a rule, one should always beware of any popular music that
comes with a dance attached to it, or a Cyrus.
Seconds of Commercial Appeal
Do you ever hear snippets of songs used on
television commercials that inspire you to seek out the "artists"
responsible for those tracks?
I suspect that it must be a special
television ad producer skill, going through the available soundtracks to
find that special chorus, or just a single line from a song, that will
somehow pop on screen and from the speakers of media systems to make the
product they are hocking seem somehow magical. Beer sellers seem
particularly adept at pairing imagery with these snippets of sonic
messaging, even effectively working the very unlikely probability that
drinking beer in the summer will somehow involve you with top-tier
swimsuit models. In my experience, girls don't really drink beer and
beautiful models seem like the least likely people to hang out with guys
who do. All that said, I am a complete sucker for those summertime
commercials that sell that phony image. I'm not a beer drinker but those
ads do make summertime seem special and I always hate to see their
The Australian duo
Geowulf released this tune "Saltwater" in 2016 and it has become
the soundtrack for Corona beer spots, wherein young coed adventurers
realize the promise of endless summer days in outdoor cafes and on previously undiscovered
Beer ads sell really hard the notion of freedom and
living-for-the-moment, and they sell that dreamy possibility of organic
Geowulf 's dream pop is custom-made for
this beer fantasy, though a listen to their complete track is revealing.
They aren't selling much at all!
Like those YouTube schemers who once got wealthy selling advertising on
their niche channels, pop song sellers don't have to be particularly
talented or well produced to strike it rich - they just need that one
line, or those few memorable bars of melody, like with
"Saltwater", which has one that in the context of the
commercial implies that an afternoon with Corona must be a really special
time for a young person. Unfortunately, the Geowulf kids use up their one
great line in the first verse ("Saltwater in the afternoon", whatever
that means) and the song has nowhere to go from there. It makes no
difference, they sold a beer jingle!- RAR
On the subject of beer
commercials, my vote goes to the Modelo beer company spots, which
feature the over-the-top orchestrations of Italian composer
Ennio Morricone. He became known to
American audiences in the 1960s with his soundtracks for Italian film
director Sergio Leone's "Spaghetti
Westerns" (including "A Fistful of Dollars", "The Good, the Bad and the
Ugly"). Those made an international star of Clint
Eastwood, and it represented a style of filmmaking in which a
hyperbolized dramatic style was energized by an equally absurd score.
These films inspired Quentin Tarrantino to
make his entire career an homage to similar ungoverned impulses.
Part of that score has been used in the current series
of Modelo beer spots, which employ Morricone's melodramatic stylings to
support the profiles of bold underdogs who, with all the odds stacked
against them, prevailed as athletes and firefighters in he-man fashion.
Modelo clearly has no interest in the 20-something coeds, preferring the
grit of swarthy veterans of life who kick back with other similar
I listen to those commercials and wonder, did a woman
really sing that crazy part? Check out this video of the Morricone
classic, "The Ecstacy of Gold", being performed in an opera house
setting. Hard to imagine Morricone coming up with such an over-wrought
passage, let alone finding someone to sing it. - RAR
What Makes Billie Sick?
Does Billie Eilish seem a little strange to you?
Eilish, the 17-year old singer, born and raised in
L.A. by entertainment industry parents, is a certified phenomenon in an
age was such are rare. She is the first artist born in the 2000s to
score a #1 single in the United States.
debuted with the song and video, "Ocean Eyes", which was
written by her older brother, Finneas O'Connell
(pictured right). Five years older than his sister, he has been on the
L.A. music scene for a few years with his band The
Slightlys. Of equal interest is his role on the final season of
the television musical series Glee, which was something of a
sensation when in it premiered in 2009, continuing on into 2015.
Finneas seems to have been a principle architect of
his sister's good fortunes. He co-wrote and produced her debut EP
Don't Smile at Me, which went to #14 on the US Billboard 200. He
then produced and co-wrote her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep,
Where Do We Go?, which debuted at #1 in the US and UK charts. Five
tracks from that LP made the US Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles list,
with "Bad Guy" being the track that went to #1.
Billie Eilish's path to glory apparently
passes through hell, or possibly whatever sanitarium was located near to
her childhood home. One suspects that she has been subject to unsettling
influencers and seems to have gotten the message that weird is enough,
because that is mostly what this reviewer gets from her creative output.
She is good at portraying possession while
being a lot less good at music, which is to say that she is a visual
thing, a young Marilyn Manson, as if the
world needs another.
More than a monster act, Eilish seems to
be a next-generation Lana Del Rey, all dark
minimalism, with the energy of a depressed punk. Both seem to me to be
artifacts of a time already passed, when it first dawned upon people who
had loved pop music that their time was over and all we had left was
jaded cynicism and bitterness. Music, it turns out, wouldn't save us,
but rather mocked and ridiculed with the bile of a deeply disappointed
and slightly superior lover.
Eilish and particularly Del Rey seem to
want to sell some notion that such insights are profound, a cultural
ignorance that mirrors their musical depth. Together they feel like
bookend tombstones marking the end of an era, when pop music was a
celebration of riotous liberation, now turned to a shallow pose, a
cloying turn with the woke.- RAR
How is the Billboard Hot 100 calculated?
The Billboard Hot 100 is ranked
by radio airplay audience impressions as measured by Nielsen BDS, sales
data compiled by Nielsen Soundscan (both at retail and digitally) and
streaming activity provided by online music sources. There are several
component charts that contribute to the overall calculation of the Hot
Artists must reach 500,000 sales to score a gold
record, and 1,000,000 sales for platinum. In the new digital age, when
sales of dry goods are more rare, the trackers have determined that 1,500 on-demand
streams is the same as 10 download track sales. Auditing streaming
services has proven to be extremely difficult, so the integrity of the
Billboard Hot 100 is not what it once was. Streaming now accounts for
about 62 percent of all music sales, and accounting for those digital
plays is a completely different game than inventorying vinyl product.
Streaming services like Jay-Z's Tidal are facing constant court challenges
regarding the revenues they claim from their difficult to verify digital servicing.
is an insightful video recognizing the extraordinary contributions of
Jazz master Dave Brubeck
(1920-2012). Brubeck was a pioneering composer and pianist, and a real
gentleman. I interviewed him around 1980 and he was old school gracious
- even put me in touch with his musician son, who was living in the
Boulder, Colorado area, as was I.
Brubeck was a native of
Concord, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he went to
college at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton. He rose to fame
in the 1950s playing San Francisco's once-thriving Jazz clubs, and
through college tours, but not before he had served in the Third Army in
World War II. There he met alto sax player Paul
Desmond, with whom he would go on to create the Dave Brubeck
Quartet, eventually to include drummer Joe
Morello and African bassist Eugene
That was a magical lineup,
fated to change the world. In 1958, the four of them went on a State
Department tour, and playing in far-off lands they were exposed to
something new to most westerners - Jazz played in something other than
Brubeck and company came
home and recorded an album, Time Out, that featured original
compositions written in alternative time signatures (like 9/8 and 6/4).
The very idea horrified Brubeck's record label (Columbia), but the
tracks included classics: "Take Five", "Blue Rondo à la Turk", and
"Three To Get Ready". It reached Platinum sales, the first Jazz album to
sell more than a million copies. It challenged the western norm and it
broke new ground.
Brubeck was a champion all
the way. With Morello and Wright in his quartet, he had the rare dudes
who knew these alternative time signatures, and played them so deftly
that the tricky beats settled smoothly into the consciousness of
unprepared western listeners. It was an alchemy completed by Paul
Desmond, whose smooth sax lines blended seamlessly into an immensely
satisfying groove that was world-beat and yet distinctly American.
And then there was
Brubeck's role in the civil rights movement. His bringing Eugene Wright
into the quartet challenged TV producers and venue operators reluctant
to book integrated acts. Brubeck would cancel important television gigs
rather than put up with discrimination.
He is one of those people
who, through his contributions to creative expression and humanity, used
his time on Earth to make the world a better place. This video below
captures part of what he accomplished.-RAR
Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra
Under the "I didn't know that"
file I might find the discovery that quirky, veering toward legendary,
character actor Jeff Goldblum is a
musician. In fact, he is and here is the proof.
Goldblum is playing with
top-flight Jazzamos with his band The Mildred
Goldblum, as it turns out, has long-hosted a
weekly Jazz show at Rockwell's Table and Stage in L.A., where he
presents his band of all-stars and an A-list group of Jazz performers.
For Goldblum's most recent LP, the Capital Sessions, he worked
with bassist Alex Frank, sax player
James King, pianist/organist
Joe Bagg, guitarist
John Storie, and drummer Kenny Elliott.
They are spectacular, and Goldblum does as well as one could expect,
given the company he keeps. He is an odd actor and his musician schtick
seems to include a lot of that. As a pianist, he is passably pedestrian,
but it is a great overall show.
Jeff Magidson Political Blues
Jeff Magidson has been a fixture on the Bay
Area Blues scene for a decade or more, and for good reason. He is an
excellent player and apparently an excellent band leader because the
Jeff Magidson Blues Band is dynamite.
Lee Bloom (piano), Patty Hammond (bass),
Kelvin Dixon (drums),
Mike Waters (sax), and Isabelle Magidson
(washboard/ vocals) come across like relaxed hipsters and they are a
pleasure to listen to.
Magidson has played with an eclectic
range of big name acts, from Bob Brozman to B.B King, Joe Louis Walker,
to Arlo Guthrie, and Stephan Grapelli. He can do that because he has
extraordinary range, always on extraordinary display with
Duo Gadjo, the
duo he plays with his wife Isabelle - a kind of a tribute to Gypsy Jazz
ala Django Reinhardt. You can learn more about the Magidsons
from their website.
Jeff's "Mueller Time" hopes haven't quite
worked out as he had apparently hoped, but the musical levity worked. - RAR
It is pretty
obvious what is going on here, in this uplifting video featuring
musicians all over the world getting an opportunity to record parts for
an apparently universally-loved song. Personally, this song never made
any sense to me, but that almost makes the observed power of music all
the more compelling. There is something going on with this odd tune that
resonates with people. - RAR
The CCJ at RARWRITER provides a steady stream of news
feeds from a variety of sources. Use this link to visit the
Music News page.
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rather closely associated with "Atwood", I was excited to wander
about a music website heretofore unknown to me. It is called
Atwood Magazine, and it features articles written by a slew of
young contributors. If you are looking for information on what
young music writers are finding interesting, check out the
Atwood Magazine website.
The Best Cover Ever Music
on the subject of excellent music websites, check out the
Best Cover Ever website.
Webmaster Bobbie Hanson does gear and music reviews. It looks
like an excellent site for learning a bit about a wide range of
instruments that might be useful in producing vintage sounds.
Rahn is a Bay Area pianist, composer, and piano educator, and a
guy who has had an extraordinary career selling music to the
video game industry. His compositions appear on over 200 video
game titles, including Marvel: Contest of
Champions, Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle Earth, and Star
He has worked with rock guitar legend Ronnie
Montrose, Gamma with Davey Pattison, blues legend Chris Cain,
Latin Jazz artists Pete Escovedo, and Ray Obiedo.
Rahn's forté is Dr.
John-type of New Orleans, Boogie-Woogie piano, and he plays the
Bay Area with a trio doing "New Orleans Funk".
Rahn has an
album out featuring original compositions written to a theme
that he explains in this video.
He is one of those kind of people
one would hope people would support, an artist and a
good vibe. I love that he did this from Vallejo's Empress
Theater, because I have a soft spot in my heart for that funky
town, a great music generator that has given the world Sly & the
Family Stone and many other notables. - RAR