Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Blogging Update -- Time for a Change...

Hi, there.

Well, it seems that in my on-again, off-again blogging, I have been very much in the off-again mode this past month.

First, let me apologize for any concern that my unplanned and sudden absence may have caused -- I can assure you that really, all is well.  I went through a battle with the flu and some other things, and in spite of my good intentions, my short blogging lull stretched from a few days into several weeks.  But on the overall scale of "things-that-could-go-wrong," I'm thankful that my absence was mainly caused by things that are actually pretty low on the list.

However, it's become clear to me that at this stage in my life, blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat.  It's not that I don't like it, and -- thankfully -- it's not because I don't have anything to blog about.  This is supposed to be an outlet for "the creative output of StratPlayer" and I'm glad that I'm still managing to squeeze in at least a little time to do the creative things that I want to blog about.  So that's a plus.  It's much better to create and not blog, than to blog about what I'm not creating, right?

But still, I think it's time to make some changes to this blog.  I obviously need to step aside from any scheduled blogging activity.  I enjoy them, but I can't seem to make them a consistent, long-term commitment that I can honor.  So I'm stepping aside from the Battle of the Bands, and also from the Insecure Writers Support Group.  I enjoyed both and have nothing but respect for the founders of both, but I think it's wrong to take part in something unless I can consistently do so.

I may still post a "Newsday 200" kind of story from time to time, but the scheduled "Tuesday" part of it will stop. 

Moving forward, this blog will become more of an unscheduled, solo journal -- no "gotta post on a given day" kinds of posts.  More like just a place to post and share any writing and music that I create.  That's really my core intention for this blog, anyway.

But I'm afraid this will not be much of a social blog.  No blog-hops, no blogging events, no blogathons, no "sign-up-in-the-linky-list" activities.

I know there are a LOT of wonderful bloggers out there that I've come to know and admire and enjoy over the years, and I do regret that I don't have the time to interact with them much for the foreseeable future.  I also know that my blog will likely suffer in terms of readership -- there will unfortunately be very little, "I'll read and comment on yours if you read and comment on mine" exchanges for a while. I don't want this to sound selfish -- as I said, I REALLY do enjoy all the other bloggers I've interacted with, and I will still try to visit their blogs as I can. 

But for at least the short-term future, my blog will pretty much shift to being just an journal of my own stuff and not as much of a home base for any interactive, social blogging activity.

Of course, I still welcome you to visit and read and listen and hopefully enjoy what I post here.  But that posting may be on an erratic schedule, and I will not be able to do much in the way of return-blogging and commenting reciprocity.  Please don't take it personally -- if you have a blog of your own and don't see much from me, it's absolutely NOT that I'm avoiding you or that I don't enjoy your blog. 

I'm just that when it comes to blogging, I'm afraid I'm kind of stuck in a "post-and-run" time-crunch these days.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BOTB 2/1/14: "All Along the Watchtower"

Happy February!

That's probably not a salutation you encounter often.  However, if you live in the northern half of the US and you're like me, then you're probably very sick of winter and cold and snow and yearning for warmer weather.  Well, I may not be able to take the fact that we're out of January as a sign of imminent spring, but at least it means we're getting closer to it, and I'm finding that cause for joyous salutation!

You know, you might think that having to endure a long winter would inspire me to blog more, but it seems that my blogging activity has been much less over the past few months.  The good news is that I have been busy actually doing the things I blog about (making music and actually writing), and if I have to choose, I'd rather be creative and not blog, than blog and not actually create.  I just need more hours in the day to be able to do it all, I guess.  :)

But I do want to keep this blog at least a little active, and the Battle of the Bands (BOTB) is one way to do that. Committing to posting on the 1st and 15th of each month means that you're guaranteed at least some new content on a semi-regular basis.  Just in case you haven't seen my previous BOTB posts, let me explain that the BOTB is a blogging event started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013.  This event occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th -- and each of the bloggers taking part offers readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition. 

Today, I'm going with a classic song that -- truthfully -- I'm surprised hasn't already been covered by one of the other BOTB bloggers:  "All Along the Watchtower".

"All Along the Watchtower" was written by Robert Allen Zimmerman (aka 'Bob Dylan') in 1966 as one of many songs he wrote while recovering from a motorcycle accident.  Dylan then recorded it in 1967 as part of his John Wesley Harding album.  Here's Dylan's original 1967 version in a video that's sound only:

Jimi Hendrix was so impressed with the song that he recorded a version of it six months after John Wesley Harding was released, including it on the Electric Ladyland album in 1968.  Here's that version:

The Hendrix version has a lot more production, definitely has some excellent guitar playing, and is probably the better-known version of the song, but is it really better than Dylan's original?  What if there was a version of the song that combined stellar guitar playing with Dylan's original sparse arrangement?  How about a solo acoustic rendition of the song?  Well, here's a live version by acoustic guitar master Michael Hedges recorded at Wolf Trap in July, 1986:

A side note -- i you enjoy acoustic guitar and are unfamiliar with Michael Hedges, I encourage you to seek out some of his recordings.  He was a phenomenal player who specialized in alternate-tunings, and who -- like Hendrix -- died at a much-too-young age.  Hedges was 43 when he was killed in a car accident in 1997.

For this BOTB, I could post many, many more versions of "All Along the Watchtower"  --  it's been covered in the studio and live by a myriad of musicians and there's even a very cool Indian-influenced version of it on the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. Also, given it's catchy groove and three-chord simplicity, there are a gazillion self-made cover videos that have been uploaded to YouTube.  You could spend days listening to versions of this song.

But what about Michael, Jimi, and the original composer, Bobby Z.?  Who did it better?  You get to decide in the comments below!

I invite you to listen to each and give them a chance. After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the end of next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.

And in the meantime -- keep thinking thoughts of spring!