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Monthly Archives: March 2007

Whiter Shade of Gray….

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The wizard. The man behind the curtain.

On the last day of January of ’06 a little blog took its first big breath with the audition clip of an American Idol hopeful that had piqued interest around the country with his gray hair and booming soulful voice.

The blog (not the man) got bigger and bigger, attracting new “readers” and posters each day. Through the fretful journey of the American Idol Season 5, there were vast discussions on “Artists with Soul” like Ray LaMontagne, Amos Lee, Cat Power, Jamie Lidell, Eva Cassidy and James Morrison. Fantastic (yet respectful) debates on Monkey vs. Robot, Selling Out, Tipping Points, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory analogies. Naturally, there were also discussions on song choices, wardrobes, hairstyles and AI manipulations. More than 50 people in chat on “performance night”, who’d a thunk that?

Then, the confetti falls on the right dude. Righteous exuberance abound. Like proud parents we watched “our boy” make it…to Leno, GMA, Today Show, and Ellen. But what made him tick? Who was this guy, really? Well, our omnipresent man behind the curtain found out for us. An EIGHT PART interview with the new American Idol. And what an interview it was.

Then, in the middle of the celebration….FINITO!…..gone like the wind. Gut kicked. After a long summer of deafening silence, the blog (and the man) were back. This time, “official”. While certainly a “win” for the man, maybe not so much for the blog. Different time, different people, different tone. Like that over-used “brief shining moment that was Camelot”, it’s hard to re-create something that was organic and unplanned, yet ends up fabulous for a short time and in a small space.

So, after much consternation, we arrive at FINITO, Part Deux. While certainly saddened at the prospect of losing the “water cooler” where so many great conversations were held, this time it’s less sorrowful and feelings of gratification and appreciation are paramount. This time, it feels right.

A week ago, after realizing that it was only a matter of time until all of the artful dodging and internet gymnastics that Gray was having to do was going to force a choice, I expressed, at Monkbot, that I had passed Denial, and was in the latter phase of Anger of the Kubler-Ross Grief Scale. Over the last week, I think I managed through Bargaining and a wee bit of Depression and am finally to the Acceptance stage…particularly since someone I consider a good friend will experience a huge relief and satisfaction that he did something good that really did profoundly affect others.

Not many people can go through this life and claim that. I sincerely appreciate the hard work and effort put into creating an entertaining, insightful and educational site. He inspired me to take some baby steps to pursue my own “efforts”. I hope that Taylor Hicks understands and appreciates the friend he has in Gray Charles (the man). Dude, you are ALWAYS welcomed here.

So how DO you sum it all up? Words seem so hollow but maybe this touches it a bit:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” – Gilda Radner

True dat. Here’s to not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next…..and, to saying “yes”.


The Poet Game….


 
14 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2007 in gray charles, the internets

 

Taylor Time

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“Confetti Man”

 

Those of you who know me, know that I am somewhat of a Taylor Hicks fan (subtle understatement here). Since this is a music blog and I feel that he is conspicuously missing, I’m adding a Taylor feature. Each week, I’ll try to highlight one of my favorite Taylor songs and give a little explanation as to why. We’ll call it “Taylor Time”.

For those of you who might not understand my proclivity for Taylor Hicks, I’m going to point folks to some postings of mine back at GrayCharles.com back in the spring of ’06 that discussed Taylor’s “Tipping Point” and my thoughts on when that occurred **cough**Playthatfunkymusicwhiteboy**cough**.

 

That thread had some great discussion and some good thoughts about Taylor and his music. For me, this posting that I made nearly a year ago still capture the essence of what I really like about Taylor Hicks.

 

double d # 16 May 20th, 2006 at 8:04 am

Inertia is resistent to change but once in a while a wrench falls into the spinning drum and totally screws the machine.

Taylor = wrench….I absolutely love it.

May 20th, 2006 at 9:56 am

Holeigh, I know what you mean. I think that Taylor had some kind of realization before that night that said, “hey, what’s the worse thing that can happen, I get kicked out of here and go back to playing music? it’ll certainly be on a much higher level now…my voice has been heard…hell, just as soon lay it all on out there…”

I only know that, for me, the guy is a symbol for “being real”. Most of us have to swallow such crap every day in our every day lives and to see someone, like us, stay true to themselves…..man, I just really identified with it. Taylor was just the right movement at just the right time for me. And, from the looks of it, some others too. Way cool.

May 20th, 2006 at 6:28 pm

It’s really all a matter of preference. But, Taylor appears to appeal to a broad x-section of fans who do get him and his music. He kind of grows on you because he does many different kinds of music. I think that he’ll be a great cross-over artist. If he does a hard rock album I might listen but probably wouldn’t buy it. I like his humor, his manners and I like his attitude, also.

Call me a sucker but I like the struggling artist who spends 10 years bustin’ his arse and then catches a break, beats the odds and finds redemption, finally…story. I’m a sap, ok, I want to see the confetti fall on this guy.

Well, the good guy won and I hope that he continues to be true to himself. For today’s “Taylor Time” – one of my personal favorites….Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers. I’m not exactly sure where this was recorded but I believe it was in Atlanta. I do know that it’s done with Jon Cook on guitar. Taylor and Jon played together for many a year and some of Taylor’s best work was done with Jon’s accompaniment. I got to meet Jon at Soul Kitchen in Mobile and he is one carazy dood, but a really nice guy.

 

I love this song. The song itself and Taylor’s version. I love the “live”-ness of it with all the bar noises in the background. The singular guitar is haunting at the beginning. Taylor’s voice is strong, powerful and meaningful. However, the pièce de résistance is the harmonica solo. I mean,….gobsmacked. You can hear the pain in the wailing of that harp. Then, the “tagging” in of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World” to finish it off. To me, this is a virtual masterpiece for Taylor and one that he should definitely include in a “live” collection CD. It’s also a stark reminder for me that the confetti fell on the right guy. Huzzah!


Ain’t No SunshineTaylor Hicks (a/k/a “Da Man”)

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 28, 2007 in gray charles, Taylor, taylor hicks

 

1982

One of the things that you get to do (or eventually have to do) when you move every five to six years, is go through “boxes in the attic”. Recently, after being six months in our new house, it was time to, once again, try to whittle down the accumulated “junk” of over 20 years to be put back in storage for the next move.

After going through the fourth box of my son’s baby spoons, Disney videos and Kindergarten “projects”, I came across an old familiar picture album. Coming apart at the binding from the heat of the attic, the pictures protected, however, by the plastic sheeting of the pages, the album evoked a reflective mood.

Then there she was. Staring back at me, like “Where ya been?” That graduation picture from 1982….25 years ago….I had trouble wrapping my head around THAT!

Young Music Maven

 

Twenty-five years ago, this young girl’s life was all in front of her. When this picture was taken, I was six weeks removed from a very nasty car crash. Thankfully, the 30 or so stitches I took from hitting the windshield (stupidly, no seat belt) of that ’81 Chevy Chevette (a/k/a Piece of Shit) were skillfully applied by a plastic surgeon right above my hairline and didn’t show. After 25 years, that scar is now slightly below my hair line.

 

Sort of a metaphor for the passing of 25 years. The scar on that girl “moved” with the years….through marriage, divorce, re-marriage, professional acclaim, motherhood, loss of grandparents and parents, etc., to finally settle in a place where the scars show a little, but can be appropriately concealed by strategically placed bangs.

 

Pictures certainly evoke memories, but for me this picture pops the music into my head. While 1982 isn’t a year of musical epiphanies, for those that were between the carefree of childhood and the harsh reality of adulthood there was bell weather music. Here’s to the silver anniversary of adulthood…let’s hope that in 25 more years, that scar’s not in the middle of my forehead.

J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame – Our Senior Anthem and a Class Trip favorite….over and over and over.

On that Senior trip to Destin, FL, when Destin was still just a quaint fishing village, I watched MTV for the first time (hey, we didn’t even have cable…) I was a HUGE Men at Work fan and was totally hooked on this video and I thought Colin Hay was totally hawt. Who Can it Be Now?

Dazz Band Let it Whip – Many, many a Friday night dance….

Pat Benatar Love is a Battlefield — ok, I REALLY wanted to be Pat Benatar.

Here’s a bonus Pat Benatar – Hell is For ChildrenPat RAWKS!

 

The original girl band (and prolly the best) — The Go Go’s – We Got the Beat

 

Hugely into Jackson Browne — Somebody’s Baby

 

Dr. Rick on General Hospital, Rick Springfield (who I thought was MEGA-HAWT in ’82) Don’t Talk to Strangers

The most popular phone number in 1982, 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone

The great Hall & Oates with Maneater

I should warn you all that I’m a HUGE Steve Miller Band fan….you’ll likely see alot more of SMB…..This is Abracadabra (or is it a strange morph of Turn Your Love Around?)

Wouldn’t be complete without Journey — Open Arms.…sidenote, our class song was Don’t Stop Believin’ (buncha pot heads…)

No explanation needed….John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s Jack & Diane

The great Stevie Nicks and Leather & Lace (still one of my all time favorites….lurve the raspy voice).

The Solid Gold Dancers, finally, y’all showed up….George Benson and Turn Your Love Around on Solid Gold.

The incomparable Willie Nelson and Always on My Mind…ok, Willie in a “wifebeater” is just not right.

Sir Paul and the King of All, Sir Duke in Ebony & Ivory…POPALICIOUS!

and finally, the number ONE song of 1982…..Rosanna by Toto

 

GEAUX SPARTANS!

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14 Comments

Posted by on March 26, 2007 in that's life, through the years

 

Sweet Baby James

James Taylor Time Magazine Cover 1971

James Taylor Time Magazine Article 1971

 

For most of my life, the original JT – James Taylor – has been a very deep and strong musical influence for me. Although a soft-spoken soul, James has been very vocal in the music industry for nearly 40 years, influencing many modern day artists. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and was recently honored by a PBS Tribute featuring Sting, Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) and Bonnie Raitt. The Time article is an interesting read, having been written at the beginning of his career and at the advent of a “Rock seachange” to a more acoustic sound, without the benefit of hindsight to know just how much of an impact his music would have on music.

His story is an interesting one. In his teens, he suffered from depression and was actually committed for a short time. He actually got his high school diploma while in a psychiatric hospital. Shortly after being released and moving from his North Carolina home to NYC, he became a heroin addict. Here’s an early ‘70’s YouTube of James and Lee Sklar, the great bass player, doing Steamroller.

 

 


Dedicated to Texan

At the tender age of 19, he was signed by the Apple label of the Beatles. He moved to London and recorded the self-titled James Taylor. Included on this album is the now famous Carolina in My Mind.


Today’s Trivia: Paul McCartney and George Harrison played back-up on this tune… Sir Paul introduced James at his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, completing the circle.

Here’s a wonderful early performance of “Carolina”.

 

Of course, Fire and Rain, off of the Sweet Baby James album is one of his most well-known recordings. While many speculate that the song was written about a girlfriend in a plane crash, the truth is that the song is about a friend who was a drug addict, like himself, who committed suicide. The “flying machine” reference is his defunct band The Flying Machine and not an airplane. The title track is also a personal favorite.

Recent AOL Sessions version of Fire and Rain

 

There are other hits like Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, How Sweet it is to be Loved by You, and Handy Man among the most well known. My brother (who is 9 years my elder) gave me JT’s In the Pocket album (yes, LP – you know, vinyl) for Christmas in ’76. I fell in love. At 12, I began a life long love affair with James’ music. I love the sweet, acoustic melodies and rich harmonies that he intertwines in songs. For my next birthday (13), my brother sprung for Gorilla, which includes the wonderful Mexico.

 

Married to Carly Simon for 9 years, he had two children, Ben and Sally but their marriage couldn’t survive his drug use. They collaborated on many songs but the BEST is Mockingbird.

 

I would vote Terra Nova way up there, as well. However, I HAVE to give props to my friend, Shelley’s favorite…Close Your Eyes.

At 58, James is still relevant in music but does it on his own terms now, when and how he wants to. Married to his 3rd wife and the father of 5-year old twins (God Bless You, brother), he resides in the glorious Berkshires of Massachusetts that he lovingly sings about in Sweet Baby James.

This recent San Francisco Chronicle article touches on James’ career, philosophy and the experience of working on what was likely Ray Charles’ last recording, Sweet Potato Pie. Of particular interest, he mentions first meeting Ray Charles (a major influence to him) in that same psych ward back in 1966 when Ray was there as part of his probation resulting from his 1965 heroin possession arrest.

Small world, no?

 

JamesTaylor.com – Very nice, very “James”.

Discography

 

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8 Comments

Posted by on March 24, 2007 in Influences, james taylor, music, Music History

 

A Star is Born

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Ok, so here’s the deal. This site is intended to talk music. Various aspects of music, old and new, as well as the music business. It’ll be updated as I have time and inclination. Hope you join me for some music appreciation and introspection and maybe even a few laughs.

To kick things off, let’s take a look at that fantastic Soundtrack “A Star is Born”.

One of the first “musical” movies I ever experienced, A Star is Born, was a diversion during a summer visit to my grandfather and his wife…yes, my step-grandmother. She had grandkids (my step-cousins) who were a little older and a LOT cooler than me. Thankfully, they took me in and treated me kindly. Two of them took me with them to see Streisand and Kristofferson on a HOT summer day in 1976, between our swimming at the local public pool and obscessing over Leif Garrett — hey, I was 12, OK? When we sat in the dark and dank theatre that was roughly 50 years old, complete with broken chair arms and sticky floors, the cool air was a welcomed respite from the humid air of that small South Louisiana town.

Shortly, I was mesmerized by Streisand’s compelling voice and the wonderfully raspy Kris Kristofferson. Rumor has it that he actually worked the oilfield in South Louisiana in the early ’60′s, therefore a sort of “home boy”. The music in this movie is so fitting and so natural that I rarely realized that the story was being played out in song. From Watch Closely Now to the finale of Evergreen, the songs of this movie draw you in and have you rockin’ along.

First, if you haven’t seen this movie, get thy self to Net Flix and order — pronto! You’ll thank the Music Maven, I promise. Second, the soundtrack is still available on iTunes, so check it out. I should mention that most of the songs on this soundtrack were penned by the prolific songwriter, Paul Williams. Shame that most people remember him as “Little Enus”.

Here’s the playlist….

Watch Closely Now

Queen Bee

Everything *

Lost Inside of You

Hellacious Acres*

Evergreen

The Woman in the Moon*

I Believe in Love*

Crippled Crow*

With One More Look at You/Watch Closely Now*

Evergreen Reprise

*denotes Music Maven favorite

Here is the classic, Evergreen….beautifully done sans over production:

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6 Comments

Posted by on March 22, 2007 in Movie Soundtracks

 
 
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