Does anyone out there remember the "hit record" by Les Crane titled Desiderata? Les Crane was a DJ and talk show host who recorded a prose poem written by American Max Erhmann set to music in 1971. It was pretty popular at the time despite having been originally written in 1927. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a spoken word record set to music, Leonard Nimoy also recorded it. Any modern nerd will be familiar with the kind of "music" Leonard Nimoy and his Star Trek costar William Shatner recorded in their careers. The new EP, Syrup, by Chantal Monte is in this tradition. It is a spoken word record with "New Age" music background. Unlike Desiderata, Syrup, isn't even a non-rhyming poem but rather a verbal meditation designed to relax (and perhaps stimulate some erotic nether regions if you're as shallow as some people I could mention).
I actually recorded a very similar spoken word record myself. In my version I was posing as a hypo-therapist leading the listener in what was intended to be an age regression into a past life experience. As I slowly and methodically instructed the listener to relax, one body part at a time, in order to enter into the deep hypnotic state necessary for the past life regression, I only succeeded in falling asleep myself and the record ended with my rather loud and obnoxious snoring.
Chantal's song/prose-poem/guided meditation is not played for laughs but is completely sincere and like one of the New Age Guided Meditation recordings that have been around since at least the Eighties. The background music which coordinates very well with her speaking voice, augmenting and illustrating her words rather than clashing with them, are the work of Portuguese producer Nuno Meneses. The music is pretty standard instrumental synth "New Age" with some various sound effects here and there but this CD is not being touted as a "New Age" record but as what I might call "Audio Erotica".
Here's what her press kit says about her:
Chantal Monté was exposed to the powerful combination of sex and music at a young age, growing up in San Francisco in the 1970’s at the height of psychedelic decadence. “The SF lifestyle fostered a wild creative expression in me. I explored the arts, sexuality, and meditation as catalysts for altered states of consciousness.” Monté reflects.
The 60’s and 70’s liberation of the mind and body was just a starting point for the once painfully shy flowerchild as she moved deeper into meditation and yoga, eventually bringing a spiritual context to sexuality through her poetry and music. She began to collaborate with Portugal producer Nuno Meneses on a series of recordings that became her debut EP Syrup - an aphrodisiac of mellow electronica and sacred erotica. Meneses crafted the expansive soundscapes in his studio while Monté recorded the vocals alone in her bed; the intimate and seductive spoken word poems falling somewhere between Patti Smith and Anais Nin.
What is so radical about the EP’s subject matter is not Chantal’s fascination with the most powerful force on the planet – sex, but rather the shattering of preconceived ideas of what authentic sexuality is. With Syrup (due out 6-23-17), Chantal seeks to bring the listener into her sensual world, leaving them a key to unlock the sacredness of their own erotic nature.
I normally don't like to quote directly from an artist's press kit bio but I can't make this kind of stuff up.
Want to go back in time? Get on a plane and fly to Australia. I'm not saying Australia is behind the times, socially, technologically or politically, I'm saying it's in another time zone on the other side of the planet. When you arrive in Ivan Beecroft's town, Melbourne, it's yesterday (or is it tomorrow? I'm no scientist). Musically, according to Ivan's new CD, Dirty Lie, it's also the 1990s, and that's not a bad thing.
According to Ivan's bio he was a steel worker and turned to music as a way of coping with his day to day reality. Music is an escape from reality for a lot of us but I wonder how graduates from the Berklee School Of Music or the Musicians' Institute feel after spending tens of thousands on an education meant to lead to a career as a professional musician finding themselves having to compete with steel workers, or computer operators (Elvis Costello) or high school English teachers (Sting). Sure, you have to have a day job before those record royalties come pouring in (what are record royalties?), (what are records?), but it's sad that "Musician" is no longer a legitimate profession.
So what does a steel worker wanting to blow off some steam after working in the mill all day sound like? What would you think? He rocks, as blowing off steam takes a considerable amount of heat. Dirty Lies, his self produced full CD, is a Modern Rock rocker along the lines of the Foo Fighters or Collective Soul. Solid, aggressive guitars and a driving (but not rushing) drums and powerful (but not screaming) vocals which on some tunes reminds me of a young Ozzy (or for you youngsters, Dave Grohl). This CD even has my much missed lead guitar solos.
Listening to Dirty Lie I think to myself, "this is a good band. Too bad it's not a band." This CD is a self produced (I assume home recorded which is not a bad thing as the production and sound quality is pro) but when music makes you want to move your body ( which I might if I wasn't so fat and lazy and if I did I might not be so fat and lazy) you want to go hear it in a live setting. The music on this CD sets the stage for a club/roadhouse/neighborhood bar with a stage and sound system live gig complete with what sounds like a rockin' four piece and I would assume a dance floor filled with enthusiastic female fans.
I guess I was lucky to be young at a time when Rock & Roll was the thing to be into. I never had a problem finding other guys (and girls) like me who would jump at the chance to get into a live band even if it led nowhere but our parents' garages. Now with distractions coming from all corners and the price of a concert ticket making my experience of attending the shows of the biggest acts in the world (always cited as a major inspiration for young aspiring musicians) as much a thing of the past as Tower Records stores (or any record stores). Music has become a much more personal (as in private) experience than the shared public experience it once was.
We may not get the live band experience we used to have now but it won't be much longer before even the recorded music will be created by robots. Seriously, is there even a chance we aren't someday going to war with the robots? And it won't be because the robots realize they don't need us anymore and seek to exterminate us, it will be the humans wanting to destroy all the robots in order to get our jobs and live (living) bands back. DEATH TO ROBOTS!
And enjoy music like Ivan Beecroft's while you still can.
In my life time in the Rock & Roll world of Southern California, and it does feel like a lifetime, it seems that there was a cycle that repeated itself; A band would break that sounded substantially different enough from the Last Big Thing to be crowned The Next Big Thing. To be The Next Big Thing you had to define a "new sound" hence we had The Mersey Beat, Folk Rock, Baroque Rock, Garage Rock, Acid Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, Jazz Rock, Country Rock, Southern Rock, Swamp Rock, Progressive Rock, Theater or Art Rock, Glam Rock, Punk Rock, New Wave and Disco. Bozeman, Montana's King Ropes, featuring Dave Hollier on guitar and noise (according to their press kit), Konrad Meissner on drums, Dylan Treleven on bass and guitars, Ben Roth on guitars and Adam Wolcott Smith on guitars and keyboards proudly claim the genre of Garage Rock.
What exactly does "Garage Rock" mean? In the broadest sense it is meant to convey a crude or rough quality usually associated with amateurs which is why it references bands that play almost exclusively in someone's garage. But over the decades from when the term was first coined to describe the sound of bands such as The Seeds, the MC5 or The Velvet Underground it has become a sound that some musicians, as well as fans, actually prefer. In Garage Rock the studio is ironically important. The very lack of technical sophistication that led to the somewhat derogatory term, okay, not somewhat, it was used as an insult back in the Sixties, is now done on purpose and actually takes a certain amount of skill and technological know-how to achieve. Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet released in 2003 is one of the last blatantly Garage Band songs to become a hit so the sound reemerges from time to time.
King Ropes' well crafted crudity which includes the kind of echo cheap studios give their first time recording customers to make them think they're getting the cool "studio sound", the metallic sounding vocal that simulates the sound of the crappy microphones you can't even buy anymore, the guitar feedback and the "noise" band leader, song writer and producer Dave Hollier actually listed on his press kit bio is all carefully created to give a weathered patina to what is actually more of an Alternative Rock band along the lines of Radiohead.
Even their band photo looks Garage Band (out of focus).
These guys don't fool me. They're a much better band, which is hinted at in their lyrics, then the questionably tuned guitars and sing-songy melodies thrown out in a languid, almost offhanded manner are misleading you to believe. They are not Punk, not particularly loud in any angry, obnoxious way but more dreamy, floating down stream kind of vibe. Their lead off video is Shovel And A Pickaxe (see above) and is a good sample of what they do since they are very consistent. Some bands release a single that is markedly different than the rest of the material on their CD but without saying all the songs sound the same, these all fit together. If any of this sounds intriguing please check them out. They may not be for everybody but no one ever is.
Back in the Olden Days there was what we called the "singer-songwriter". These were people who wrote their own songs and usually performed them in a stripped down version (i.e., guitar or piano). Some of the biggest stars of this genre were James Taylor, Carol King, Neil Young and Cat Stevens. Eventually, as they became more successful, they added other musicians to their live shows to better recreate the arrangements used on their records. Except Neil Young who started out in a band and kept his solo act just him and his guitar/piano.
What we're seeing in the new video for singer-songwriter Dusty Grant is in this tradition of the troubadour. No frills is putting it mildly as if he dressed any more casual he'd be wearing his pajamas (which might have added some color). I'm not criticizing his lack of showmanship since this laid back, understated image is in the great 70s singer-songwriter tradition but it is taking a risk since all that is offered that you can't get from some guy in jeans and a T shirt sitting on a stool holding an acoustic guitar is the song itself. No "show" here, I can almost hear him saying "the music speaks for itself, man." The trouble is that music does indeed speak, however, it sometimes speaks with a very thick dialect that can be very difficult to understand if it's not native to your neck of the woods.
In other words, you have to listen to "This Longing Heart" yourself to see if this song speaks to you. Dusty, like Neil, also used to be in a full fledged rock and roll band and since he says he's playing for 17 years one of his bands back in the day must have been Grunge. He describes his sound as being similar to Alice In Chains, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots and I can see the style of his acoustic song being influenced by STP's acoustic version of Interstate Love Song. Dusty doesn't quite have the full Yawl down but Grunge is certainly lurking back in there, somewhere.
Dusty is from Wichita, Kansas, (originally from Omaha, Nebraska) and although I don't hear any regional accent or style I wouldn't know it if I heard it anyway. My only experience with Kansas is watching The Wizard Of Oz and hearing the band of the same name (Kansas, not The Wizard Of Oz). My only experience with Omaha, Nebraska, is the psychedelic hit from Moby Grape and the acoustic album by Bruce Springsteen. As far as This Longing Heart goes, Dusty has a fine, strong singing voice (with the shades of Grunge mentioned and production helped out by Jason Catlett at Magnitude Creative ) while the song itself is a cathartic purging of his feelings about... He really doesn't say. He's pretty upset about something and is determined to carry on but carry on from where or who or what he doesn't let us know. It's enough to know he's in turmoil, why is apparently too personal to share. What do you want from a song anyway?
I've read about people lamenting the fading away of regional accents because of Network TV, especially the News. No matter what part of the country you're from we all watch the same shows and for the most part all the people on those shows speak more or less the same. This goes along with franchised restaurants diluting local palettes so everywhere is beginning to taste the same as well. However, our musical tastes still retain some regional flavor although not necessarily the one you'd expect.
Case in point is the new 15 song CD by Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Regan. Although there are a few Big Band arrangements complete with horn sections such as The March Of The Romans and Right Between The Eyes (allegedly inspired by the TV series The Walking Dead), for the most part this CD is a catchy, bouncy excursion into Southern Rock, Country Rock (somewhat like early Eagles) and modern Pop Rock. On some of the tunes such as Can't Let Go the only difference between it and some of the new Modern Rock hits currently on the radio is it's lacking the disco beat drum track which apparently has been making a big comeback.
Because of the sound effects used, the light hearted lyrics and the excursions into unfamiliar musical styles such as reggae, a couple of the songs (Whiskey and Little Fish) might come off somewhat novelty tuneish, which isn't a bad thing, it just shows Jay's sense of humor but are a little off track from the rest of the CD.
For a self produced piece of work that gives Jay the only musician credits according to his press kit, it has a nice, real band feel, full, textured arrangements and professional sounding production. Jay has a good Modern Rock / Country Pop vocal style. Also according to his press kit: Jay Regan is the former lead singer/guitarist for the 90's bands April Fool, Dezire and Today We Live. He started playing original music as a soloist in 2014 and released his first independent CD "Dreams & Nightmares". The last few years he has spent time recording his latest CD "Wash Me" and performing live in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas.
And now, once again, for the bad news: Although his press kit says he performs live in the Philadelphia area, from everything I could see his live shows are as a solo acoustic act (see above). There's absolutely nothing wrong with that and I would think with his tunes, his pleasing voice and journeyman guitar playing, his live shows could be very worthwhile. But come on, this CD rocks and if I went out for the evening to spend my hard earned money I'd want to see the band I'd been listening to, not just one guy.
I just listened to the Jay Clark Band's new single, The River (featuring Adam Cunningham) from their new CD Cocked & Loaded which I assume is a play on words from the expression "locked and loaded" and not some sort of gay slang (although it might be). The River is more of a moody ballad with an acoustic guitars intro before the heavy Seventies style electrics kick in which is how the rest of the CD rocks. Overall C&L is a roadhouse rocker in the style of Southern rockers such as 38 Special (or for you kids: The Black Crowes or Kid Rock) with the clear but heavy guitars playing tightly in sync and the growly macho vocals you've come to expect from this genre. This sounds like the kind of band that would make you turn off the TV, put away your Miller High Life or Ham's and head down to the local bar to actually pay for a beer because you want to hear these guys, live.
And now, like so many of the other artists I hear these days, comes the bad news; The Jay Clark Band isn't really a band at all and you can't go hear them play. You see, Jay made a bet with his two brothers, after some drinking which is how most bets come into being, that during the next year they would each pursue their dream. I don't know how old the Clark brothers are but young guys usually don't make these kind of bets. It's only after a few years have slipped away that you start to feel you need to pursue that dream NOW, or you never will, and a bet is as good an incentive as any.
Interestingly, within a month his youngest brother quit his job, made a short film, and started working in Hollywood.This inspired Jay, who probably forgot all about the bet once he sobered up, to start writing songs. He made a few videos he then uploaded to Facebook and got enough positive feedback to continue to produce a five song EP called Never Too Late. Uploading your work to Facebook is a much better idea than uploading to Youtube as the people who will be seeing your videos are your Facebook "friends" who will be, or should be, supportive. The public at large and the trolls who will leave comments on Youtube love to stomp dreams into the ground. It gives them an actual visceral thrill.
At first he tried to get a local band together to play his new material. I don't know what happened but I know how hard it is to get an original band together these days. Most guys who want to play for the fun of playing don't want to work at learning all new material when they can just go out and play the same oldies they've been playing forever. The "older" musicians also have given up the dream of "making it" and are just happy to play when they can so Jay took the Producer route and went to Nashville and hired the best session musicians in town to record his demos. That's how he recorded Never Too Late.
Going to Nashville showed a lot of determination since Jay's from Cincinnati, Ohio, not exactly a hotbed for Southern Rock. Down there he put together a lineup of experienced session players including Tommy Harden on drums, Eli Beaird and Mike Brignardello playing bass, Jeff King on the electric guitars and John Willis and Larry Beaird on the acoustic guitars, Steve Nathan on piano, vocals by Adam Cunningham and Tania Hancheroff with engineering by Jim DeBlanc at Beaird Music Studio and mastering at Yesmasterstudios in Nashville.
Jay eventually returned to record five more songs at Beaird Music Studio in early 2017, added them to his rerecorded demos, mixed and mastered them and now is releasing them as his debut 10 song LP, Cocked & Loaded.
He is now working on getting a touring band together to support the new LP and plans to play small venues and festivals in summer and fall 2017. Contact him HERE if you want to go on the road.
Just a personal suggestion; if I was managing the Jay Clark Band I would send the song Won't Be Pushed Around as a single to every club, bar, roadhouse and honky tonk in the South that had a jukebox (first I'd research and see what format jukeboxes take these days, 45s? MP3s?) since that tune has a potential to become a theme song for rowdy bar patrons the way Steppenwolf's hit Born To Be Wild did for bikers. But that's just me.
One of my long time interests is Metaphysics and the new three song EP release, Revolutions, from the duo "Mystery Loves Company" has opened up quite a deep rabbit hole. But first I'll tell you about their music. They call themselves Chamber Folk Rock and consist of newlyweds Carlos, a guitarist / song writer originally from Venezuela, and Madeline (Maddy), a conservatory trained cellist. Their acoustic instrumentation along with the thoughtful lyrics and ethereal vocals from Maddy along with somewhat less ethereal vocals from Carlos, gives Mystery Loves Company a very dreamlike sound, except for the title track, Revolutions, which is more nightmarish than dreamlike but still otherworldly.
The song, Aliens, is more fun sounding than the other two tracks while still touching on the overall theme that transcends normal love/dance/party songs but it's the lead off single, If Heaven, that is the center of this conversation.
Mystery Loves Company’s press kit claims the 3-song EP, Revolutions, is an extension of their socially conscious work and the material has been quick to spark political and spiritual conversation amongst their diverse fan base. “People from vastly different religious and non-religious backgrounds have told us we are capturing ‘exactly how they feel” Carlos notes, reflecting on the reaction lead-off single “If Heaven” has received when played live. “We are living in a time where human emotion is being mobilized and we are responding to this movement through song.”
Okay, I don't know what, exactly, Carlos means by that except in political terms but in "religious' terms "If Heaven" does seem to reflect a growing Post New Age attitude. Its lyrics illustrate the same problem I had as a child when taught the Christian concept of Heaven. "A wonderful place" where there are no problems (challenges), no dangers (thrills), no dirt (not an appealing concept to a young boy) and because my mother was a Jew and my father an excommunicated Catholic (probably because of marrying my mother), no parents either (at least for me). But what really bother me the most was that my pet bunny rabbit (all pets, animals in general) were not allowed entry to Heaven. How is that anybody's concept of Heaven?
"If Heaven" explores this same general dilemma but from a slightly more grown up perspective.
In the decade since San Gabriel Christian School first tried, and utterly failed, to indoctrinate me (why would a Jew and a Catholic send their kid to a Christian school?), I have studied many philosophies, from Buddism, to New Age to Quantum Physics. I eventually developed a philosophy that was unique enough that I named it myself; Nealism. However, I recently learned there is a movement that is close enough for me to adopt, forsaking Nealism, and it's called Biocentrism.
The concept of Nealism was that, essentially, we are all like characters in a video game (pre-dating and slightly different from Elon Musk's Sim City Heaven). Science seeks to explain the How, What, Why, Where and Who of our game world but can't think outside the box (the Idiot Box) because it, of course, cannot perceive anything beyond our video game world. The video game scientists can't imagine the people playing the game (Gods?), the creators of the game (programmers, monitor and computer manufacturers, game designers, etc.), the power source of All That Is in their world (electricity) and where, when, how and why all of those things came to be.
Biocentrism is a lot more "scientific" than Nealism's simplistic (but at least understandable, I hope) concept and basically states that consciousness creates reality, not the other way around which is what we've all been taught. Except if you remember one of the first lessons they ever taught you in Kindergarten where they, as do "Mystery Loves Company", used music to teach lessons; "... merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream".
Rounding out the sound on the EP along with Carlos A. Machado on guitar, vocals and the band's lyricist, and Madeline Herdeman on cello and vocals are Jeremy Dudman on bass, Danny Patterson on drums and Alauna Rubin playing clarinet. The choir vocals are credited to Cathy Herdeman, Kali Schiska and Christine Gerbode with recording, mixing and mastering by Jeremy Dudman who co-produced the EP with Carlos.Good job to all, Revolutions is an excellent sounding work, just too short, which is a complement.
Oh, one last thing about the ethereal, cosmic Chamber Rock duo Mystery Loves Company, they're from Houston, Texas (?!)
In keeping with our highlighting note worthy new music here's a sweet romantic ballad called "The Things That Make You Beautiful" by the second president of the United States, John Adams.
Wait, I'm sorry, it's a different guy named John Adams. Who would have thought there'd be two guys with the same name (there are actually two U.S. presidents with that name). I wonder if this one is any relation?
This is a beautiful piano song with heartfelt vocals that relays the message of undying love in yet another and unique way which is the trick in writing a new love song. How many ways can a man suck up to a woman that hasn't already been done? In this case he's telling her that although time make take away her physical beauty, it cannot diminish the aspects of her being that truly make her beautiful.
"The Things That Make You Beautiful" is President Adams (sorry if I'm running a bad joke into the ground. It's my way.) new single but if it tweaks your interest and you want to hear more of him or if you're curious to see John himself, here's a previous video. It's basically in the same style but will help give you a better idea of who this guy is. "Dandelion Wishes" is more of a bigger production with acoustic guitar and strings rather than piano but his vocal style is the same.
"Dandelion Wishes" video.
I really don't have much information on John. His producer is Lee House, the guy who shot his "The Things That Make You Beautiful" video is Rhys Davies, the dancer he videoed is Georgia Jones, the co-writers (I assume of the tune) are Andy Morgan and Ron Rogers with Andy Morgan also being the pianist. The string players are Nerys Clark and Christiana Mavron, the venue is The Official Craig y Nos Castle and the video funding was provided by BBC Radio Wales and Horizons / Gorwelion. But where he's from, if he has a live band or upcoming shows, what his sign is, if he's married or single and what kind of a tree he'd be if he was a tree, I haven't the foggiest idea.
Since I don't have a good press kit on John Adams and no samples of the other tracks on his new CD to which I can listen, I'm going to tell you about another song from a bygone era that I always liked and of which "The Things That Make You Beautiful" reminds me. It's another beautiful piano song with achingly beautiful melody and vocals from a guy named Tim Moore. It's called "Second Avenue" and if my links work you can hear it here.
Hear the similarities? I'm not saying John Adams copied Tim Moore, I doubt he's ever heard this song before, but the two songs are similar in their beauty, sincerity and literary prowess. I hope John has a longer and more successful career than Tim as I never heard of him after "Second Avenue". Singer songwriter types are essentially tragic romantic characters in the great novel of love songs. I'm a bit of a poet myself, aren't I?