Written By:

article by: Michael Canter

29 November 2009

The Christmas Wish List

Here it is, the 4th Annual Christmas Wish List, 100 items for those of you who aren't quite sure what to put under my tree or stuff into my stocking come Christmas Eve. I know how tough it is to shop, so just print this and take it with you as you hit the malls and department stores all over the world.

My gift to you? What the heck - isn't my saving your precious shopping time by creating this handy guide better than anything I could actually purchase for you?

Do know, I always buy gifts for those who gift me. It is this retail distribution system that keeps our economic system alive and well. Perhaps by buying me a gift you will help end the recession and create more jobs for this country.

Being the patriot that you are, you owe it to yourself to get out to the mall immediately and start purchasing as many of these gifts as possible.

Right now, one (or more) of you may be saying out loud to yourself (and by self, I mean me), "I don't live in the United States, nor do I celebrate Christmas, so why should I by you (and by you, I mean of course "me") anything for Christmas?"

Let me remind you that this is a Global Recession and you still owe it to yourself and to your world, if I may say so, to get out and go shopping. Do it now!

Happy Holidays, and here's to successful shopping! My warmest regards to you and yours this holiday season.

Mike "Santa" Canter

001. LG 50" LED flat screen TV.
002. A week in Miami at the Trump Sonesta Sunny Isles with my buds.

003. The Guns Of August by Barbara Tuchman (author)
004. An Andrew Marc black leather jacket
005. A Chicago style smorgasbord, replete with Gino's East Pizza, Al's Italian Beef, Breaded Steak from Ricobenes with cheese & hot peppers, Peppos Subs (large #4 please), steak burritos from El Farol, a steak dinner at Wildfire Grill and Eli's Cheesecake and Rainbow Cones for dessert. Oh, and... of course 312 Beer from Goose Island Brewery.
006. Gift card for Maggiano's or Capital Grille
007. The DVD "Thirteen Days"
008. Banana Republic gift card
009. Bose Companion 2 Series II multimedia speaker system
010. Kate Beckinsale

011. Abba's Greatest Hits CD
012. Chicago Bears Zipper Hoodie
013. Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon
014. Steely Dan Box Set
015. "Sons Of Anarchy" Season 1 DVD Collection
016. Dean & DeLuca gift cards
017. Bruce Springsteen CD "Born To Run"

018. "Land Of The Lost" DVD
019. 5 lb. bag of Sour Punch Twists
020. A Case of Corona and a half-dozen limes
021. DVD of the movie "Singles"
022. The Original Curse: Did The Chicago Cubs Throw The 1918 World Series (author Sean Deveany)
023. "The Sopranos" Entire Series Box Set
024. A lap dance from Sofia Vergara (extra time too!)

025. Pink Floyd "The Wall" DVD
026. The Infiniti G37 Sport 6MT
027. The Movado Master Wristwatch
028. Armani Code Cologne
029. The Heineken Beertender
030. Zegna Colonia cologne by Zegna
031. "The Last Waltz" DVD
032. Romantic weekend for two at The Bryant Park Hotel in NYC
033. A gift card from www.fredperry.com
034. A Gucci watch, black, sans ANY numerals
035. The new "Star Trek" DVD
036. Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue" CD

037. Calphalon Cookware
038. Palermo 28-Bottle Floor Standing Wine Rack
Click Here To Order

039. Grateful Dead Dick's Picks CDs, any volume
040. Ikea Gift Card
041. A Pannini grill
042. Gucci cologne by Gucci
043. A sterling money clip
044. The Verizon Droid
045. Eddie Bauer gift card
046. Guess Pedestrian brown denim jacket
047. Dsquared-2 Wide-leg, “Gene Kelly” pant. Size 33 L
048. Gap boxers size M (no crazy prints or patterns)

049. Brooks Brothers terry cloth bath robe
050. A magazine without subscription postcards that fall out while turning the pages
051. A.P.C. Sneakers size 11
052. A Backgammon set
053. Target gift card
054. Wool pea coat by Marc Jacobs size 44L
055. Sonicare Essence e5500 Power Toothbrush
056. A coffee can filled with dimes
057. Ron Rivera for the Chicago Bears head coach - STAT!

058. A warm, fresh bag of caramel corn from Garrett's in Chicago
059. A 12-pack of Dale's Pale Ale Beer from Colorado

060. Eddie Bauer Down & Fleece Throw
061. Stubb's BBQ Legendary Combo
Click Here To Order

062. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (author)
063. Wall & Piece by Bansky (author/photographer/artist)
064. Burt's Bees Men's Natural Grooming Kit
065. Trader Joe's gift card
066. Hungry Hungry Hippos

067. An outdoor grill. The Coleman Road Trip LXE
068. An indoor grill. The Ariete SteakHouse
069. A cashmere V-neck sweater
070. A subscription to Sports Illustrated Magazine
071. ON XRT - Live From the Archives, Volume 11
072. Ski Jacket
073. The Complete Hank Williams Sr. [BOX SET]
074. An Audi Quattro A5 Coupe

075. DVD of the movie "Beautiful Girls"
076. DVD of the movie "Tombstone"
077. New York Yankees Authentic 1951 Mickey Mantle Home Jersey by Mitchell & Ness
078. Cinnamon Frosted Pop-Tarts
079. A cool winter wool cap
080. Gummi Bears (of course)
081. American Eagle Relaxed Fit Bootcut Jeans size 32x34
082. Fossil Rowan Argyle Sweater size XL (to go with item 46)

083. Eddie Bauer Long-Sleeve Yarn-Dyed Thermal Crew size XL
084. Levis Denim Jacket & White Levis Zipper Hoodie
085. Nikon Coolpix L20 10MP Digital Camera
086. Chicago Cubs 1969 Chronicle Franchise Cap
087. Bruce Springsteen Live 1975-1985 CD Collection

088. A case of Ruffles potato chips and lotsa French Onion dip
089. A $100 bill or as many as you'd like to give
090. A shoebox full of quarters
091. Boxing gloves
092. A Pottery Barn Chenille Throw
093. An area rug for my living room, earth tones
094. Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream
095. Seasons 1 & 2 of The Chapelle Show on DVD
096. Crate & Barrel gift card
097. The Old Man & The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (author)

098. DVD: The John Belushi Collection: Animal House/1941/The Blues Brothers
099. Argyle Sweater 2010 Desk Calendar
100. Walter Payton - #34 Eqt Jersey

25 November 2009

Happy Holidays From Jivewired.com

Jivewired.com and SonicJive.com would like to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Here's hoping for a safe, healthy and happy holiday and wishing you wonderful success in 2010. Thanks for listening all year long.

Much love,
Michael Canter

The 1st Day Of Holiday Jive

001. Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong
002. There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays by Perry Como
003. A New York Christmas by Rob Thomas
004. Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty
005. Louisiana Christmas Day by Aaron Neville
006. Christmas Blues by The Ramsey Lewis Trio
007. Nutcracker Suite by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
008. Washington Square by Chris Isaak
009. Winter Wonderland by Jewel
010. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by U2
011. Merry Christmas Baby by Bruce Springsteen

The 2nd Day Of Holiday Jive

012. That Spirit Of Christmas by Ray Charles
013. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Dean Martin
014. Santa Baby by Kylie Minogue
015. White Christmas by The Drifters
016. Hey Santa Claus by The Moonglows
017. Please Come Home For Christmas by Jon Bon Jovi
018. 2000 Miles by Chris Martin
019. Santa Claus Is Back In Town by Elvis Presley
020. Little St. Nick by The Beach Boys
021. Christmastime (Is Here Again) by The Beatles
022. This Christmas by Chris Brown
023. O Come All Ye Faithful by Trans Siberian Orchestra
024. Grown Up Christmas by Amy Grant
025. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee

The 3rd Day Of Holiday Jive

026. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Dean Martin
027. Last Christmas by Wham
028. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Bruce Springsteen
029. Blue Christmas by Chris Isaak
030. Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid
031. What Child Is This? by Kenny G
032. Christmas In Canon D by Trans Siberian Orchestra
033. A Marshmallow World by Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin
034. Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me by Elvis Presley
035. Merry Christmas Darling by The Carpenters
036. Christmas Song by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
037. You Are My Christmas by Bobby Blue Bland

The 4th Day Of Holiday Jive

038. Put A Little Love In Your Heart by Al Green & Annie Lennox
039. All Alone On Christmas by Darlene Love
040. Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin' by Albert King
041. Winter Wonderland by Louis Armstrong
042. Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby
043. All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey
044. O Holy Night by Tevin Campbell
045. Christmas Tears by Freddie King
046. Boogie Woogie Santa Claus by Mabel Scott
047. Christmas Blues by Eric Clapton & John Popper
048. Merry Christmas Baby by Bonnie Raitt & Charles Brown
049. Red Hot Christmas Blues by Denise LaSalle
050. Blues For Christmas by John Lee Hooker

The 5th Day Of Holiday Jive

051. Caroling Medley by The Boston Pops
052. Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
053. Carol Of The Bells by Trans Siberian Orchestra
054. O Little Town Of Bethlehem by Manheim Steamroller
055. What Are You Doing New Years Eve? by Diana Krall
056. Baby It's Cold Outside by Lou Rawls & Dianne Reeves
057. Moonlight In Vermont by Maceo Parker
058. Joy To The World by The Chet Baker Trio
059. Zat You Santa Claus? by Brian Setzer Orchestra
060. Winter Wonderland by Tony Bennett
061. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Dave Koz

The 6th Day Of Holiday Jive

062. We Three Kings of Orient Are by Miles Davis
063. Tennessee Christmas by Alabama
064. Meet Me Under The Mistletoe by Randy Travis
065. White Christmas by Bing Crosby
066. Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
067. Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
068. Jolly Old St. Nicholas by The Ray Coniff Singers
069. Do You Hear What I Hear? by Vince Gill
070. I'll Be Home for Christmas by Kenny Chesney
071. Twelve Days Of Christmas by The Ray Coniff Singers
072. 2000 Miles by The Pretenders
073. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
074. Santa Claus Lane by Hillary Duff

The 7th Day Of Holiday Jive

075. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John & Yoko
076. The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams
077. I Saw Mommy Kissin' Santa Claus by John Mellencamp
078. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Luther Vandross
079. Little Drummer Boy by Bob Seger
080. Silent Night by Celine Dion
081. Where Are You Christmas? by Faith Hill
082. Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms
083. Christmas (Don't Be Late) by Alvin & The Chipmunks
084. Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea
085. Hey Santa by Wilson Phillips
086. My Only Wish (This Year) by Britney Spears
087. Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald

The 8th Day Of Holiday Jive

088. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies
089. Happy Holidays by Andy Williams
090. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Frank Sinatra
091. Joy To The World by Aretha Franklin
092. This Christmas by Donny Hathaway
093. Christmas by Blues Traveler
094. This Christmas (Hang All The Mistletoe) by Macy Gray
095. Last Christmas by Carrie Underwood
096. Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Taylor
097. Peace by Norah Jones
098. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Perry Como
099. Blue Christmas by Nancy Wilson
100. Jingle Bells by Booker T & The MGs

The 9th Day Of Holiday Jive

101. Christmas Tears by Eric Clapton
102. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer by Alan Jackson
103. Run Rudolph Run by Brian Setzer Orchestra
104. It Must Have Been Old Santa Claus by Harry Connick Jr.
105. Mistletoe - Colbie Callait
106. O Holy Night by Jessica Simpson
107. Deck The Halls by Trans Siberian Orchestra
108. I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas by Bon Jovi
109. Christmas Through Your Eyes by Gloria Estefan
110. Christmas Is The Time by Lou Rawls
111. I'll Be Home For Christmas by Tift Merritt

The 10th Day Of Holiday Jive

112. Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guraldi Trio
113. Oh Christmas Tree by Kenny G.
114. When My Heart Finds Christmas by Harry Connick Jr.
115. Christmas Dreaming by Frank Sinatra
116. Jingle Bell Rock by Randy Travis
117. Santa Baby by Madonna
118. Elf's Lament by Barenaked Ladies
119. Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson
120. Silver Bells by Martina McBride
121. Coming Home For Christmas by Jim Brickman
122. Christmas Wish by Straight No Chaser
123. Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan
124. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Christina Aguilera

The 11th Day Of Holiday Jive

125. Frosty The Snowman by Leon Redbone & Dr. John
126. Give Love On Christmas Day by Yolanda Adams
127. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Aaron Neville
128. Carol Of The Bells/What Child Is This by Yolanda Adams
129. Christmas Blues by Dean Martin
130. The Christmas Waltz by Frank Sinatra
131. Please Come Home For Christmas by The Eagles
132. O Little Town Of Bethlehem by Amy Grant
133. The First Noel by Nsync
134. Fairy Tale Of New York by The Pogues & Kristy MacColl
135. I Believe In You by Bob Dylan
136. Christmas Wrapping by The Spice Girls

The 12th Day Of Christmas

137. Winter Wonderland by Jason Mraz
138. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Mariah Carey
139. River by Sarah McLachlan
140. This Time Of Year by Brook Benton
141. O Holy Night by Celine Dion
141. Do You Hear What I Hear? by Carrie Underwood
142. Here Comes Santa Claus by Elvis Presley
143. Merry Christmas Baby by Christina Aguilera
144. Angels We Have Heard On High by David Archuleta
145. Good King Wenceslas by Loreena McKennitt
146. Cool Yule by Bette Midler

16 November 2009

Bruce Springsteen Set List, Milwaukee 11/15/2009

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Live at Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
November 15, 2009

Set I

01. Cadillac Ranch
02. Badlands
03. Hungry Heart
04. Workin' On A Dream
05. Thunder Road
06. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
07. Because The Night
08. Backstreets
09. Born To Run
10. She's The One
11. Meeting Across The River
12. Jungleland

Set II

01. Darlington County
02. Working On A Sunny Day
03. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
04. Loose Ends
05. Jole Blon
06. Growin' Up
07. Into The Fire
08. The Rising
09. No Surrender
10. Living Proof
11. Kitty's Back


01. American Land
02. Dancing In The Dark
03. Rosalita
04. Higher And Higher

14 November 2009

CD Review - Sharif

Sharif - Kisses and Lies

Release Date: 2008

Genre: Alt Country/Roots/Americana/

SonicJive: http://www.sonicjive.com/sharif

Format:  CD

Label: Sharif (self-labeled)

Total Time: 56:32

Reviewed: 14-November-2009

Track Listing:

01. Far From You 4:47

02. Dark Side Of The Dawn 4:05

03. Another Wasted Rose 4:11

04. Worth The Fall 4:34

05. By Your Side 3:37

06. Oceans Of Trouble 3:35

07. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight 3:35

08. Deeper In Her Arms 3:54

09. Memories Like A Melody 4:10

10. The Price You Pay 4:30

11. Won't Go Home Without You 3:55

12. Do I Want You Enough 4:06

13. Moment Of Trust 4:28 

14. I Won't Need Your Kisses Anymore 3:05


Simply sublime, Sharif has talent in its truest form - he has a natural gift for captivating the listener without overplaying his hand.  On Kisses and Lies, lyrically and thematically, Sharif picks up where Gram Parsons unfortunately left off.   This is not to adjudicate that he is a copy or cover act by any means. He is original, special and inspirited, which may be his greatest similarity to Parsons. Sharif remains ensconced in the roots of the alt. country/folk/americana sound yet with a more modern and uptempo motif.   Kisses and Lies is filled with the obligatory discourse often associated with this genre; heartbreak, women, alcohol, etc., but Sharif keeps it fresh, succeeding by using a tried and true precept without sounding, well, tried and true.

Kisses and Lies  (the third release by Sharif) was written, produced and arranged with an elegant grace and an air of simplicity.  For example, on "Worth The Fall", the hushed guitar combined with the gazing vocals of Sharif and the simply crafted lyrics combine to beautiful effect.  "Dark Side Of The Dawn", featuring Rhett Miller, offers brilliant harmonies and is so deceptively humble that it feels at once unobtrusively familiar yet assertively original. "Far From You" is wonderfully absorbing and genuine.  This is one of those songs that begs the listener to claim ownership, sharing it with others yet defiantly claiming it as one's personal statement. The Hank Williams-inspired "I Won't Need Your Kisses Anymore" is an acoustic treasure, lemon-bitter lyrically with a sweet old-school musical twist. This is a great departure from the rest of the disc.  If I could make one suggestion, I would have moved the song up in the track hierarchy, as it deserves to be noticed.  On the other hand, if you are listening, it is definitely worth the wait. "Another Wasted Rose"  is the crowning point of the disc and is indeed a song that even Parsons himself would be proud to own.  It is sadly beautiful and simply spectacular.

This self-produced effort features a veritable all-star backing of A-list musical talent.  His backing band includes Tim Bradshaw (John Mayer, David Gray), Jon Graboff (Ryan Adams), Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne, Ringo Starr), Stewart Miles (Jason Mraz, Lifehouse, Shawn Colvin) and Brian Jones (Mandy Moore, Liz Phair). Additionally, inspired appearances by Rhett Miller (The Old 97’s) and Robb MacLean (Limbeck) on backing vocals offer added bonus .  The fact that the LP is indeed self-produced with this peer group should serve to open a lot of eyes and ears to the talent of Sharif.

Sharif is an astounding talent.  His vocals are honest and rootsy.  His songwriting is unaffected and lies simply in thought and process, a refreshing interchange to the often over-complicated sound so preeminent in music today. It's rare in musical composition that as a listener one can find a friend, a drinking buddy and a confidante. Sharif provides a steadfast soul and resolute voice with which to ally.  Kisses and Lies feels like a late night drive with a most trusted friend, wherein the listener prefers to take the long way home just to enjoy the company.

Michael Canter, www.sonicjive.com 

Steely Dan: Four Decades

Steely Dan has been more of a conceptual framework for inventive music-making than a typical rock band. Spearheaded by a pair of resourceful musical auteurs – Donald Fagen and Walter Becker - they have done nothing by the books since launching Steely Dan in 1972. The band’s very name is a scatological reference from a novel by Beat Generation anti-hero William Burroughs. Rolling Stone magazine has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies."

Steely Dan is arguably one of the greatest bands of the 1970s, crafting a wry, nuanced and hyper-literate series of albums - seven in all, released from 1972 to 1980 - that are highly regarded by connoisseurs of pop hooks, jazz harmony and desiccating wit. Though they remain a staple of classic rock radio, Steely Dan has never been a mainstream, hit-making juggernaut. The band only had three certified radio hits (“Do It Again,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Hey Nineteen”), and only the LP Aja was certified platinum on first release.

Among their peers of that era, Steely Dan is probably the most publicly hated. Naysayers criticize the chilly sophistry and obsessiveness of Gaucho and the perfectionist jazz-pop modulation of Aja.

Critics also claim that their lyrics are filled with fetish innuendo, crossing sexual boundaries and drug references hidden behind playful melodies that camouflage their lewd and lecherous meanings. Case in point, the song "Everyone's Gone To The Movies";

Kids if you want some fun
Mr. LaPage is your man
He's always laughing, having fun
Showing his films in the den
Come on, come on
Soon you will be eighteen
I think you know what I mean
Don't tell your mama
Your daddy or mama
They'll never know where you been.
-- Everyone's Gone To The Movies

The song's upbeat feel contrasts with the disturbing content of the narrative delivered by Donald Fagen. While no official interpretation of the song exists (since neither Fagen nor Walter Becker has as yet stated the meaning outright), the theme is clear: Mr. LaPage comes on to underage girls by showing them pornographic movies while their parents are away.

"Our songwriting is always a balancing act: Songs can't be too funny, they can't be too obscene, they can't be too nasty, they can't be too pretentious. We have to sort of try and juggle the different elements that we're using in the songs, and I think we've learned how to do that over the years so that the songs will sort of work on a bunch of different levels at once. You can listen to them one way and hear one thing, and you can listen to them one way and hear something different."
-- Walter Becker

Trying to annotate a Steely Dan song is next to impossible. No one knows what goes on in the minds of the creative duo. For the most part, Becker and Fagen treat songwriting like a Nabokovian game, laughing as they scatter ambiguous messages. Their opaque lyrics are filled with cryptic references, bizarre characters, inside jokes, black comedy and bitter cynicism. But the melodies are extremely catchy, and that is why they are truly underrated as one of the great groups of their era.


Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in 1967. Fagen was passing by a cafe called The Red Balloon when he heard Becker rehearsing the electric guitar. He would later recount the experience during an interview: "I hear this guy practicing, and it sounded very professional and contemporary. It sounded like, you know, like a black person, really." He immediately introduced himself to Becker, and asked him "Do you want to be in a band?"

Bonding over a shared love of Dylan, jazz, and beat literature, they set out to become professional songwriters and soon began playing with local groups. One of these bands, first known as The Bad Rock Group and later as The Leather Canary, included future comedy star Chevy Chase on drums.

After serving as touring musicians with Jay and the Americans and trying their hand as staff songwriters, they left New York and formed Steely Dan in Los Angeles as an outlet for a growing backlog of offbeat, original material that no one else seemed inclined to record.

I remember the thirty-five sweet goodbyes
When you put me on the Wolverine
Up to Annandale
It was still September
When your daddy was quite surprised
To find you with the working girls
In the county jail
I was smoking with the boys upstairs
When I heard about the whole affair
I said oh no
William and Mary won't do
Well I did not think the girl
Could be so cruel
And I'm never going back
To my old school.
-- My Old School

In its March 24, 2006 edition, Entertainment Weekly details a return trip to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York by Donald Fagen, in which he describes a raid by sheriff's deputies in September 1969 where Fagen, Becker, and some 50 other students were arrested. Charges were dropped, but the harassment was the origin of the grudge alluded to in "My Old School." Fagen was reportedly so upset with the school being complicit with the arrests that he refused to attend graduation. The line "It was still September/When your daddy was quite surprised/To find you with the working girls in the county jail" refers to Fagen's girlfriend at the time, Dorothy White, who was arrested with the group.

The same article speculates that a Bard professor's wife, Rikki Ducornet, was the inspiration for "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." Fagen won't admit it — he's always been extremely reluctant to explain his songs — but it's easy to imagine that Ducornet was the inspiration for one of his band's most famous tunes.

We hear you're leaving, that's OK
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart
Rikki don't lose that number....
--Rikki Don't Lose That Number

"I remember we had a great conversation and he did suggest I call him, which never happened," says Ducornet, now a well-regarded novelist and artist. "But I know he thought I was cute. And I was cute," she laughs. "I was very tempted to call him, but I thought it might be a bit risky. I was very enchanted with him and with the music. It was so evident from the get-go that he was wildly talented. Being a young faculty wife and, I believe, pregnant at the time, I behaved myself, let's say. Years later, I walked into a record store and heard his voice and thought, 'That's Fagen. And that's my name!'"

Rikki Ducornet

The Wordsmiths

"Most people are not interested in the kind of harmonies we use or are not interested in using elements that suggest jazz or pop music that dates before rock and roll. I think what we do is quirky enough in a lot of ways that it's only a good idea to be inspired by it in the most general sort of way. It's like Thelonious Monk is another example. Not to compare what we do with Thelonious Monk, but he's an example of somebody that I think has been inspirational to many musicians in a variety of ways, but generally speaking, you don't hear anybody doing anything that sounds like Thelonious Monk for the same reason. It would just be silly."
-- Walter Becker

Beneath the highly polished surface of Steely Dan’s music, astute listeners could hear a visceral love of and identification with the very soul of jazz. Fagen and Becker referenced Duke Ellington, Stan Getz and Horace Silver at least as much as any rock-oriented source material. Even so, there was a certain accessible quality to songs like “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Do It Again” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” that allowed Steely Dan to connect with rock fans, especially those who were college-aged and educated.

The irony is that many Steely Dan fans are drawn to the melodies rather than the lyrics. And herein lies the greatness of Steely Dan: they wrote complex, mysterious songs disguised as catchy pop tunes. They’re approachable and subversive at the same time.

"When Donald and I independently started to move away from jazz and into the field of pop music, it was basically because it seemed like the door was being thrown open in pop music to a much wider and deeper kind of writing, particularly of lyrics. That was because of Bob Dylan and other more ambitious songwriters of the day, so that was the deal we had with pop music: We could do something a little bit beyond the minimal thing that had been happening for a long time."
-- Walter Becker

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last
You wouldn't know a diamond
If you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious
I can't understand
Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine
-- Reelin' In The Years

10 November 2009

Fire & Rain by James Taylor

"Fire and Rain" is a folk/rock song written and performed by James Taylor. As a song on his second album, Sweet Baby James, the song engendered widespread attention for him. The album was released in February 1970, with the song being released as a single the following February. "Fire and Rain" quickly rose to number three on the Billboard hot 100 charts.

Taylor wrote this song in three phases: in a London flat while he was signed to the Beatles' Apple label; in a New York hospital as he kicked heroin addiction; and during a stay in a Massachusetts psychiatric facility. "It's like three samplings of what I went through," Taylor said through a label spokesperson.

  • The first part was indeed about Taylor's friend Suzanne, who died while Taylor was in London working on his first album after being signed to Apple Records. Friends at home, concerned that it might distract Taylor from his big break, kept the tragic news from him and it was only some time later that Taylor found out.

  • The second part details Taylor's struggle to overcome drug addiction and depression.

  • The third part deals with Taylor coming to grips with fame and fortune and looking back at the road that got him there. It includes a reference to James Taylor and The Flying Machine, a band he briefly worked with before his big break with Paul McCartney, Peter Asher and Apple Records.

Moody and introspective, "Fire and Rain" became something of a prototype for the singer-songwriter genre that would boom in the few years following its release. Its apocalyptic imagery proved provocative to would-be interpreters. The sparse arrangement, centered around Taylor's ringing acoustic guitar figures, also became a signature sound for Taylor and was influential among other performers.

The origin of the song is fodder for rumor and innuendo. Most prominently, it has been falsely rumored that this is about the death of Taylor's girlfriend in a plane crash. The story alleged that Taylor separated from his girlfriend (Suzanne) to go on tour, but when his friends arranged to fly her to see James, she died in a plane crash. The story is not true and in fact, Taylor has clearly and categorically refuted such fanciful interpretations by fans and others.

On the VH1 series Story Tellers, Taylor said that the song was, indeed, about Suzanne Schnerr, a friend of his who died suddenly while he was away from home. The second line of the song references that statement: "Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you".

In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band The Flying Machine to coalesce. The lyric "sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground" refers to the name of his band The Flying Machine rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored.

As he was wondering what to do with himself, he received word of Schnerr's death, and the song explains that her death was a check for his own worries, a way of realizing the transience of life and his need to get back to his old friends. In other interviews, Taylor has also indicated that a battle with drug addiction figured into the song.

"Fire and Rain" is in the 227th position on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Written by: James Taylor
Produced by: Peter Asher
Released: Feb. 1970 on Warner Bros.
Charts: 16 weeks
Top spot: No. 3
Appears on: Sweet Baby James (Warner Bros.)


Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around
Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you, baby, one more time again

Thought I'd see you one more time again
There's just a few things coming my way this time around
Thought I'd see you, thought I'd see you fire and rain

09 November 2009

CD Review - theendisthebeginning

theendisthebeginning - master machine

Year: November 10, 2009
Genre: Indie/Post-Rock/Alternative/Ambient Rock
Format: CD
Label: The Brown Noise/Chupee Records
Total Time: 20:27
Reviewed: 09-November-2009

Track Listing:
01. handinhand 4:29
02. adrift (lessons in time) 4:22
03. team torment 4:16
04. serpentile 3:27
05. master machine 3:43

The superb debut EP Master Machine from Southern California-based act theendisthebeginning is a polished and poised effort that is both lucid and driven. The music is exceptional and dwells in complex and brooding atmospheres that is conveyed in delicately layered brushstrokes. Master Machine blends soulful vocals, shuffling rhythms, ricocheting guitars and ornate synths into a measured and beautifully crafted CD.

Serpentile is the strongest track on the CD. Overachieving and anthemic with strong commercial potential, the band shines in all aspects on this single. Reminiscent of early U2, the foundation here is the reveille synth and guitar work of Clint Kaminska and Robert "Armando" Flores. Serpentile surges and erupts from its first notes. The layering is sublime and resonant with texture, a progressive stampede with a trance-like pulse.

Throughout the disc lead vocalist Daniel Pedrosa works well within the detailed song structures, showing a refined technical proficiency often missing from a typical debut release. Indeed, it is almost easy to miss the emotion of the lyrics because Pedrosa is right on at all times and in effortless fashion. On Master Machine and Adrift (Lessons In Time), for instance, he conjures images of early Peter Gabriel. Pedrosa personifies a quiet confidence in his singing, effectively deferring to the instrumentation when necessary yet capable of commanding attention and carrying the song at a moments notice. Vocally and lyrically he creates and defines the ambiance of each track. On handinhand, a progressive gem that uses a double-track vocal technique, Pedrosa plain and simply owns it.

All tracks on Master Machine are undeniably remarkable. The production (as well as the arrangement and mastering) of this disc is incredible. The EP is an ambitious, multi-layered portrait that unfolds over 20+ minutes of inexorable melodies, passionate lyrics and great music. Fans of Broken Social Scene and the earlier works of U2 will enjoy this release immensely. But make no mistake, the band surely set out to create something bold and inventive. In short order, theendisthebeginning has certainly succeeded with Master Machine.

-- Michael Canter, www.sonicjive.com

03 November 2009

Bill Graham Love & Music

Perhaps the only music organizer/promoter to become a celebrity in his own right, Bill Graham (born Wolfgang Grajonza) had a far from auspicious beginning to his life.

Graham was born Wolfgang Grajonca on January 8, 1931, in Berlin and literally walked across Europe to escape the Nazis. He was raised in New York by foster parents and moved to San Francisco in the mid-Fifties to pursue an acting career. Instead, events conspired to thrust him into his calling as a concert impresario and business manager. Several fundraisers for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a political comedy group he managed, were wildly successful due in large part to the Jefferson Airplane. Graham grasped the potential: something electrifying was beginning to happen in San Francisco, and the scene lacked only a focused, business-oriented mind to harness its power.

The events were a huge success and launched Graham into a new career as a music promoter. Several more benefit concerts at The Fillmore Dance Club soon followed, one featuring an early appearance by the The Grateful Dead. A close association between Graham and the Dead would continue for the rest of Graham's lifetime. However, initial attempts by Graham to officially take control of the Fillmore were denied, the authorities going so far as to raid the venue and throw Graham in jail. Such was the resulting public outcry, however, that charges were dropped and the necessary permit was subsequently granted.

Fueled by the success of his benefits, Bill Graham opened The Fillmore East in New York City in 1968, and relocated the original Fillmore (renamed The Fillmore West) to a larger venue on the site of The Carousel Ballroom — a music hall owned by the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead — and re-christened it Fillmore West. Both venues became music centers for the emerging counterculture, frequently showcasing bands such as The Dead, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Santana.

In 1967, Graham expanded into concert promotion full time, working as a publicist for many of the bands that had played at the Fillmore, concentrating on shows at the famed Winterland in San Francisco. Occasionally Graham would still promote shows at the Fillmore. On December 31, 1969, Band of Gypsys – a trio with Hendrix, Cox and drummer Buddy Miles – played Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in New York. Graham called the show “the most brilliant, emotional display of virtuosic electric guitar playing I have ever heard.”

A tireless worker known for his gruff exterior and unsullied idealism, Graham challenged the rock audience by booking bills that mingled jazz, blues and folk artists in with all of the psychedelic rock bands of the day. One might walk into the Fillmore and find Miles Davis sharing a bill with Neil Young or the Staple Singers opening for Steppenwolf. His broad, generous view of music and the public’s ability to appreciate it stands in marked contrast to the genre-casting that would subdivide the rock and roll audience, to its lasting detriment, in the Eighties and beyond. After closing the Fillmores in 1971, Graham continued to run Winterland (site of the Band’s farewell concert, “The Last Waltz,” in 1978), while managing acts like Santana and the Neville Brothers, promoting national tours for Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and others, and helping to organize the Live Aid benefit concert of 1985.

In 1980, Graham began occasionally hosting performances in the original Fillmore building, and by 1988 a branch of the now-monstrous entity Bill Graham Presents was again regularly presenting shows until the club was forced to close as a result of structural damage suffered in the 1989 earthquake. Before restoration plans could come to fruition, however, Graham was killed in an helicopter crash in October of 1991.

Both during his lifetime and afterward, Bill Graham has had no shortage of either detractors or sycophants. A tough (and successful) businessman, it is clear that treating people too gently was not one of his personality defects. It could be argued that both his greatest praise and most severe criticism are a result of the same achievement: providing the means for the underground, independent 60s rock scene to emerge into the mainstream and evolve into a colossal money-making industry -- not that either aspect can be wholly attributed to his actions.

From Rolling Stone Magazine, after Graham's untimely death:

"For three decades Bill Graham ruled live Rock & Roll. It wasn't simply that he was on a first name basis with just about every important rock star, he was one of the few people in the music business who could hold his own with any of them and who, in his own right, was their equal. Graham didn't simply stage thousands of rock concerts, that was business as usual for his skilled organization. He really earned his reputation by putting together extraordinary benefits and rock events on almost a yearly basis.

For thirty years, Graham never stopped raising money for dozens of causes, ranging from AIDS research to the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, Amnesty International to the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Graham never seemed happier than when he was harnessing the tremendous power of rock & roll for the good of a cause. He truly seemed to delight in bringing together the biggest names in pop music to help make the world a better place, while at the same time making himself just a little bit more legendary."

— Michael Goldberg, Rolling Stone, December,1991

News Sources: www.billgrahamfoundation.org, Rolling Stone Magazine, Rage & Roll: Bill Graham and the Selling of Rock by John Glatt, www.rockhall.com, www.nndb.com