at www.RARWRITER.com      

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Volume 1-2019




What happened to the list?

As the CCJ transitions to a model better geared to leverage social networks, we are moving away from our past use of email notification services. If you would like to be added to our internal email distribution, please send your request to Rick@RARWRITER.com.

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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.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.



Use the RARADIO link to go to our radio page, where you will hear songs you are not likely to hear elsewhere.



"Music Hot Spots"




























Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page


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 in ATWOOD - 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 Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel











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.



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.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves at NOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.





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

Going, going...

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 places.

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 Boomers. 

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 critics.

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


From the 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. - RAR


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 season end.

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 beaches. Beer ads sell really hard the notion of freedom and living-for-the-moment, and they sell that dreamy possibility of organic chemical attraction.

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

Ennio Morriconi

Timeless Spaghetti

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 hombres.

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

Woke Girl

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.

Eilish 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 100.

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.

Champion of Keys

Dave Brubeck

Here 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 Wright.

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 4/4 time.

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 Snitzer Orchestra.

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.


"Mueller Time"

Jeff Magidson Political Blues

Guitarist 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

"The Weight"

Unifying Sound

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



Going Back, and back, and back...

Use this link to go to the previous edition, where you will find additional links to other archived editions.


Arts & Entertainment News Feed

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.


Looking for something in the RARWRITER.com archives? Type the item you wish to find in the custom search field below, then click on the magnifying glass to see a list of previously published articles relevant to your query.


Atwood Magazine

Being 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 Blog

While 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.


Pioneering Guitarists

New on the Music Page

The Cabin Fever

Janiva Magness

Young Mister

Maurice Tani & Crying Time


Rent Party

Greg Rahn

Greg 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 Wars: Uprising.

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




60 Years of Musical Bests




The Science of Choosing Your Keys


Rob Beck, a writer for Beginner Guitar HQ, put together this insightful guide on selecting a digital piano or keyboard. Use this link or click on the photo above to go to

How to Choose a Digital Piano – 10 Factors to Consider According to Science



Interested in Filmmaking?

Use this link to gain insights into the ins-and-outs of preparing your script, producing your film, and getting it into distribution.





Copyright © September, 2019 Rick Alan Rice (RARWRITER)