Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Wrap Up: BOTB Results, Update, Music, and More

Today is my last post of the last month of what will soon be 'last year,' and there are a few things I would like to wrap up before taking a break for the Christmas holiday:

Deja Vu Blogathon
First off, let me offer a sincere "Thank you!" to all who visited and commented on my Deja Vu blog post. I really appreciate all the kind words.

It was also great getting to visit all the posts of the many bloggers who participated.  I tried to visit every single blog in DL's Linky-List, and I commented on most of them.  The only ones I didn't comment on were the ones who hadn't put up Deja Vu posts at the time of my visit. So if you did so late in the day and I missed it -- I apologize.  But I DID actually visit your blog at one point looking for it.

I just didn't keep a record of which blogs didn't have a post up so I could go back later, and I confess I'm too lazy to go back through 75 blogs again looking for the ones that posted late.  :)

Fianlly (and especially!): "THANK YOU" to my writing buddy Don 'DL' Hammons for hosting the blogathon -- It was a lot of fun to do between my last Battle of the Bands (BOTB) entry and its results post.

Battle of the Bands Results

...And speaking of Battle of the Bands:

The results from my December 15th Battle of the Band (BOTB) post did not end up anywhere as close as I thought it might be.  I took a lot of time going through tons of videos of "God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen" on You Tube before deciding on the two that I ultimately chose, and I thought I had two worthy contenders.  Truthfully, I did expect the Phil Keaggy and Kim Hill version to win, simply because it was much closer to a traditional interpretation of the song, but I thought the Pillar version might get a few more votes and make it competitive.

Personally, I really like both versions, but for different reasons.  I like the energy, moody ambiance, and guitar of the Pillar version. There are some excellent dynamics in this take, from quiet and spacy to high-energy, although the growl/scream at the apex of the build-up is a bit much.

But I also find it interesting that although Pillar is nowhere near the "traditional" version of this song, it is one of the few versions I found on YouTube where they do more of the "traditional" verses, including the second verse with the often misunderstood line, "The which his mother, Mary, did nothing take in scorn." Most versions skip this verse, as the Kim Hill and Phil Keaggy cover does.

However, I do love the guitar, bass, and flute and haunting vibe of the Keagy / Hill version. There is still a cool mix of old and rocking-new in this version, but with a much more 'traditional' vibe. And of course the guitar playing is wonderful.  So in the end, I find myself in much the same position as several other voters -- I like the Pillar version, but I'm voting for Keaggy and Hill.

So my vote adds to their landslide victory, with the final tally:

-- Pillar: 2
-- Keaggy / Hill: 11

I guess Christmas brings out the traditionalist in me, too.

Battle of the Bands Update

...And while we're on the topic of the BOTB:

I'd mentioned before in my results post from my December 1st BOTB that I have some upcoming changes planned for my blog.  But I have to confess that I've also been all over the map as to how these changes will impact my participation in the BOTB going forward.  Honestly, I've waffled between deciding to quit and deciding to stay many, many times over the last month.

But, in the end -- despite my assurance to Stephen McCarthy in the comments of that BOTB results post -- I've finally decided to step aside from the BOTB  -- or at least for a while.

It was not an easy decision -- I have really enjoyed taking part, and I will definitely continue to vote on the other BOTB blogs on the 1st and 15th of each month.  But I will not be making any BOTB posts myself in 2015 (or at least that's the plan as of now).

My blog is titled, "The Creative Outlet of StratPlayer," but in the BOTB posts, I'm really offering nothing creative of my own -- I'm just sharing videos of other people covering songs and asking you to pick which one you like best.  It's fun -- I do enjoy getting to comment on the music and give background on the songs, and even trying to interject some creative stuff into my BOTB Results posts.

But, truthfully, the Battle of the Bands posts are not quite in line which what my blogging intent really is.  And that creative intent is what I want to refocus on for 2015.

So, with regret, I am announcing that I will not be hosting BOTB posts in 2015...

Create 52

...But speaking of my creative intent for this blog:

In 2015, I will be trying something new on my blog -- a thing that I'll be calling "Create 52."

Under this name, I'll be making a new post on Monday of each week with at least one new creative piece I've created -- music or writing, mostly, but who knows what all may end up here? 

As I mentioned above, my intent is to refocus my blogging energy to highlight the thing I create, and also renew my efforts to actually creating on a regular basis.  So as part of the "Create 52" push, I will be increasing my writing efforts as well as generating music on a regular basis.

I'll explain more of what I'm going for with my first "Create 52" post on Monday, January 5th, but for now I will say that I'm definitely looking forward to this refocused effort on creating and blogging.

I hope you will enjoy what you see here in 2015!

Music: For the Fun of It

...And speaking of creating:
Let me close out 2014 with one more musical offering -- it's not a Christmas song, but you can consider it a small Christmas gift.

This is another wikiloops jam, but it's one where all the pieces were already in place and I just added a single track of lead guitar. The user 'scrawfrd02' had laid down an acoustic guitar track and then added another track of piano, bass, and other keys, including a catchy little line of pseudo-horns in the background. Then the wikilooper, 'Jaymny,' added some drums (and the intro count-off) to the piece. I found their jam fun and compelling and wanted to take part.
So I added a single guitar track on top of it -- a lead where I tried to not overpower all the tracks that were already there. I used that little 'horn' line as the starting point the lead I added.  I recorded it in stereo with differing delays for the left and right channel, went for a smooth but edgy distorted sound, and tried to put it far enough into the mix so that it blended in without dominating the other parts.

I think it turned out OK for a quick, "off-the-cuff jam" kind of thing. 

Click on the image of the StratoRaptor to the left, the image of Wikiloops track above, or here on THIS LINK to check it out.  Feel free to comment on what you think of it -- I 'm always interested to hear feedback on what worked, what didn't, and on ways to improve.

Thanks for listening!

Merry Christmas!

...And finally, and perhaps most importantly:

I want to be sure to wish you and your family a very, very merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!!!

I hope your holiday season is filled with love and joy, and that 2015 will be a year of blessings and  great things for you and your loved ones!

See you January 5th!!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Deju Vu: Day of the Do-Over

Today is the Deja Vu Blogfest!

Organized by my good friend, DL Hammons, with Nicole Zoltack helping out this year, the purpose is simple -- to allow bloggers to revive a favorite post from the past year and give it a do-over. To offer one of their neglected, overlooked, and under-appreciated posts a new chance to shine. As DL says:

"On December 19th, anyone who decides to participate will re-post their favorite blog offering from earlier in the year, or one that you believe failed to receive the exposure it deserved." 

I considered several older posts for my Deja Vu do-over, but finally decided on this one, where I offer my first piece of music with the "Forgotten Voices" theme -- "Streak of Moonlight."  Even after two later entries ("My Name is Romance" and "The Bell Song"), I still consider this to be the 'best' one, and it remains one of my most favorite musical creations.

I hope you enjoy this (slightly edited for presentation) post from 4/8/2014:


Streak of Moonlight

(image from wikimedia commons)

What do you know? It's been less than a month between my posts!  :)

Today I want to share with you my most recent solo, non-wikiloops, musical piece.  I call it "Streak of Moonlight".  I've uploaded it to my SoundCloud page and you can also listen to it HERE, or right from this blog by clicking on the embedded player below.  I hope you like it -- you can read more about it below...

I hope you enjoyed it!

This piece is all me -- I put together the drum tracks from editing and combining some MIDI drum loops that I found, then I added some simple keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar, more keys, lead guitars, a smattering of ambient background guitars.

But there's something else about this piece that was a new experiment for me -- hear the voices?

I've realized that the human voice can add a tremendous amount of emotion and focus to a piece. But I don't sing -- trust me on this.  So what to do?  Well, I don't want to sample vocals from another musician, and I don't want to deal with copyright infringement, and I'm not going to spend money on what's basically a hobby, and I'm still  a little too insecure about my own pieces to try and get any singers I might know to record something for me, so my choices are pretty slim...

Enter the wonder of recordings of old, forgotten radio programs -- I'll stay away from any of the well-known classics.  So hopefully in the case of the things I use, the artists involved are long gone and if there were copyrights, they've likely either expired or been shuffled through so many hands that they've essentially been lost.  Plus, at this point, what I'm doing is not a commercial endeavor -- I'm not making any money off of this.  I'm giving it away for free.  So if there were still a valid and tracked copyright that I've unintentionally infringed on by using short samples of radio broadcasts from 70 or more years ago, there are certainly little if any damages, and I will gladly give full and proper attribution or comply with any 'cease and desist' orders should they ever come my way.

So, there you go.

This piece is called "Streak of Moonlight" because the vocal samples come from a episode of a 1936 radio romance which was entitled -- you guessed it -- "Streak of Moonlight."  The snippet of strings is also from that recording.

I took my time putting together this piece.  Each layer assembled was done slowly, and I like how this turned out.  There's still some of that 'jam' feel to it (especially in the double guitars during the third lead break), but it has some nice structure to it, too, I think.  It also has a bit of a "chill" feel with some ambient, delay-heavy guitars in the background and my simplistic keyboard drones mixed in.

I really hope you enjoy this, and I'd love to know what you think.  Feel free to comment and let me know...

Thanks for listening!


Thank you so much for stopping by during this blog-fest and re-visiting my blast from the past!

I also encourage you to visit the other bloggers taking part in today's Deja Vu blofest. There is a Linky-List at DL's blog listing all of the participants -- check it out HERE, and take a tour of all the do-overs going on around the blogosphere!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

Merry Christmas!

Yes, it's December 15th already.  We're halfway through the month of December and Christmas is fast approaching! Are you ready?

Today is also the date for the final Battle of the Bands (BOTB) of 2014.  As with my last BOTB post, this one is going to have a Christmas theme!

So let's get right to it...

One of my favorite traditional Christmas carols is "God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen."  This song has been around for a very, very long time, although no-one knows exactly how long.  It was officially published in 1833, but existedt long before that. The earliest recorded reference to the song is from 1780. Several sources say it even goes all the way back to the 15th century. 

Besides the uncertainty about its origins, there is also often confusion over some of its lyrics. The first line has been frequently misunderstood and the topic of much discussion. Other lyrics have been, too ("Why exactly does the song call Mother Mary a 'witch'???").

But even with confusion over its origins and some of the lyrics, one thing that is very easy to understand about this song is that it is clearly a Christian Christmas carol -- there are no flying reindeer, talking snowmen, or wintery vehicular homicides here.

This is a song expressing joy at the birth of Jesus and finding comfort in the salvation that He has brought.

In addition to the joyful message of the song, I also love the haunting, timeless melody and the way it plays off the chords.  I find "God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen" to be a song that offers a tremendous amount of potential for musical expression and interpretation. All you have to do to see this is explore a bit on You Tube.  There is an amazing range of versions of this song available: old standard, swing-meets-rap, big-production-orchestra-and-choir, Dio/Iommi metal, obligatory-Mannheim Steamroller, Celtic harp, pop-diva, Charlie Daniels-bluegrass, smooth-jazz-saxophone, TV-show-acapella-and teen-pop, country-shuffle-jazz, Annie Lennox-electronic-meets-Renaissance, Irish jig, throbbing-metal-guitar, Jethro Tull-jazz-meets-prog-rock, modern-reggae, epic-synth-production, and low-budget-rap.

Yes, there are a gazillion covers of this song in almost every style imaginable.  If you can't find a version of this song you like, you just haven't looked hard enough.

So which versions did I choose for this Battle of the Bands?

Well, I seriously considered several of the ones I mentioned above, but then I finally decided to go in a different direction:  After all, this is a Christmas song with a blatantly Christian message -- so why not feature two versions by Christian artists?

OK -- but even within that genre restriction, this song encompasses a wide range of styles and I still had several possibilities. But I narrowed the list until I had two contenders.

Below are the covers that I chose -- I really like both and enjoy their decidedly different approaches to the song.

Let the Battle Begin!

First up is a version by the Christian rock band Pillar, doing a modern, edgy take on the song. This is from a 2012 Christmas single that has not appeared on any of their albums, I don't believe. See what you think:

Next is a version featuring two Christian artists -- the renown guitarist Phil Keaggy and singer Kim Hill, doing a somewhat more traditional rendition from the 1990 Christmas compilation album, Our Christmas:

Your Vote

So now it's your turn to add input: Which version do you like better?  Pillar's modern, rocking version, or the one by Keaggy & Hill with its take on a more traditional approach?

I invite you to listen to both of these and give them each an honest chance. And remember that this is a contest about the music -- not the images in the videos, Please use your ears to judge, not your eyes.

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 videos strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- afterwards, 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 next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote, announce the winner, and then talk some more about upcoming changes to my blog in 2015.

But before that, you can also visit on the 19th for my post in the  "Deja Vu" do-over blogfest.

In the meantime, I hope you get to enjoy the Christmas season! Remember to rest ye merry!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Introspection, Music, and BOTB Results

(Rodin's 'The Thinker' -- Image from wikimedia Commons


I've been doing some thinking lately.

Nothing Earth-shattering; just some ideas about how best to focus and apply my creative impulses and ways to use my limited free time.  I'm not sure if thinking about creativity can be considered creative thinking, but I'm at least trying to be creative as I think of creating new ways to highlight the things I've created.

Got that?

Anyway --  I've made some decisions and set some goals that I want to accomplish in the upcoming new year.   And since my I consider this blog to be geared toward "the creative outlet" of your humble author, all these decisions and goals will eventually impact what you see here. Again -- nothing major, but looking ahead, I want to give you a heads-up that I have some new things planned for my blog.

I'll give you more details on the results of my introspection as we get closer to 2015.


And speaking of introspection: recently took a (post-joyful-and-gluttonous-family-feast) free moment on Thanksgiving two weeks ago to download another very cool jam from wikiloops and to lay down a simple rhythm guitar track over it. Then, the next day, I quickly added two more guitars and came up with this piece, I call, "Thanksgiving and Introspection." 

I loved the mix of drums, flute, and keys that "MrAdamOnDrums" had set up in the jam, and found it a very fun thing to play over. I think the result end up being a little spacey and...  um, introspective?

Feel free to click on the link in the title or on the StratoRaptor icon to the left in order to check it out. I'm very thankful for you taking the time today to listen!

BOTB Results 

And speaking of today:

This is December 9th! 

Did you know that 49 years ago, on this day in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas made its TV debut on CBS???

I've twice used music from this wonderful Christmas special in previous Battle of the Bands (BOTB) posts -- last year for my first BOTB post, and in my most recent one from last week. There, I pitted two live guitar renditions of "Linus and Lucy" against each other.  Gary Hoey played one and Danny Gatton the other.

I'm glad that both versions received some votes, but I'm also not surprised that Danny Gatton got more.  To my ears, it's easily the better version.

Yes, I gladly admit that Gary Hoey has talent -- he has chops galore and does a rocking, somewhat interesting version -- framing the piece with the Hendrix-esque opening and closing riffs, adding room for the bass and drums to add fills, and offering plenty of wah-wah shredding.  But somehow, it just doesn't quite grab me. It feels too pre-canned, too generic, too artificial. From saying the song is, "by Charlie Brown" (I think you mean "Vince Guaraldi," Gary -- Charlie's a cartoon character) to blandly pointing at the drummer during every break (okay -- yes, that's a video criticism, not an audio one, but it matches the effect I get from the lackluster interpretation), it just seems put-on to me. It's like Gary's not really feeling it -- it's flashy, but he's just going through the motions. No, I can't fault his technical ability and respect him for it, but the delivery still seems blase.

(Danny Gatton -- from
On the other hand, Danny Gatton seems to be riding a wave at a break-neck pace, teetering on the edge of disaster, careening around those frets with heartfelt abandon. It feels like even HE doesn't know what note's coming next.  I picture him smiling with a, "Whoa! Did I just play that?!?!" expression on his face. Maybe that's not the case -- he might have played that ending medley a gazillion times exactly the same way -- but it SOUNDS like it's new and exciting.  It feels to me like he's serving it up with his heart and soul in every measure of the tune. And the playing is exemplary as well, even more-so than Gary Hoey -- Danny's is fast, expressive, and full of nuance, even at blinding speed. Gatton's not just regurgitating the riffs he's drilled into his subconscious through rote repetition -- he's fully in-the-moment, expressing a range of emotion, and having fun with the audience.

Even if Danny Gatton was less proficient on the guitar than Gary Hoey (and I submit Danny is clearly much MORE proficient), I'd still vote for feeling over flash.

So -- just in case you couldn't tell, I'm adding my vote to the Gatton group to seal the win:

Danny Gatton -- 8;  Gary Hoey -- 4.

Thanks for visiting! 

I invite you to come back on the 15th for another Christmas-themed, special Battle of the Bands.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Linus and Lucy" Live!

Happy December!

Today is the first of the month which means it's time for another installment of The Battle of the Bands (BOTB). This blogging event was originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013. It occurs on the 1st and the 15th of every month, and I think it's a fun way to share and discuss music. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

With it being December, it's also a great time for a battle of Christmas music, or at least in this case, some music which has a tie-in to Christmas (for my BOTB post on December 15th, I'll feature a much more traditional Christmas song).

One of my favorite Christmas things is the TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. First broadcast in 1965, this animated special of 'The Peanuts' gang drawn by Charles M. Schulz  is something I love to see every year.  Part of it is tradition -- it's one of the earliest TV specials I recall seeing, and it's been on every year since I was 5 years old.  But besides nostalgia, I also love the gentle, warm way it touches on the importance of friends, redemption, acceptance, and it's timeless message about the over-commercialization of the holiday and what the true meaning of Christmas really is.

And also, there's another reason to love A Charlie Brown Christmas -- the fabulous music!!!

Composed and performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio, the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas is filled with wonderful, timeless songs.  In fact, I even featured "Christmas Time is Here" from this soundtrack last year for my very first BOTB post, and so I thought I'd visit it again this year. 

In this battle, I'm using one of the most iconic tracks from the album -- the Linus and Lucy theme.  It's probably the least "Christmas-y" song since it features no words and seems to have little to do with the holiday other than it's association with this TV special.  But it's also probably one of the most well-known tunes from this album -- it went on to become the theme for the Peanuts and virtually every other Charlie Brown special.

I'm not going to use the original in this battle since I think it might win over any contender, but for your reference (and listening pleasure), here is that original jazzy version by the Vince Guaraldi Trio:

Great song, isn't it?  I love the vibe, the changes, and the soulful playing -- even if someone doesn't like jazz, they often like this. It transcends genre.

There are a LOT of covers of this song that I could use for a battle, but being a guitarist, I'm going with two very different interpretations of it, both of which are done live.

Let the Battle Begin!

First up is guitarist Gary Hoey, with a live performance of the song.  Gary's done a lot of Christmas covers, with several "Ho Ho Hoey" CDs available along with Christmas shows. This might not be a song you would expect to hear Hendrix references, but Gary pulls it off. Here's a live video from 2009:

Another guitarist who covered this song was the phenomenal Tele-master Danny Gatton. During the late 1980s and early 1990's, he typically incorporated it into a medley that ended his concerts -- he'd work in snippets of "The Orange Blossom Special," and many other bits into a blazing song that covered 8 to 10 minutes. Here's a video from You Tube which showcases mainly just the "Linus and Lucy" beginning, done live in Washington DC in 1989. While it doesn't have all the amazing playing that would typically come after, it does focus on the song-at-hand, which prevents clouding the waters of this battle.  See what you think:

Your Vote

So now it's your turn to add your input: Which cover do you like better?  Gary Hoey's hard-rocking version with the great playing, or Danny Gatton's telecaster-shredding rendition from the beginning of his show-ending medley?

I invite you to listen to both of these and give them each an honest chance. And remember that this is a contest about the music -- not the images in the videos, Please use your ears to judge, not your eyes.

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 videos strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- afterwards, 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 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, I hope you enjoy the Christmas season: Its great music, its wonderful traditions, the joy of family, and -- of course -- The True Meaning of Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Passing Time: Music, BOTB Update, and Harold Ramis

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)


It seems lately, I get very little free time, so I'm never at a loss for finding ways to pass the little time I'm given. One of my favorite ways to pass the time is playing my guitar and making music.  I used to pass a lot of time at the excellent jam track site, Wikiloops, but I hadn't visited since July -- there have just been many other things that have commanded my attention. night I had some free time to pass, so I decided to remedy that long absence and do some jamming.  Looking through the wide selection of jam tracks, I found an older track of drums, bass, and keys and decided to add some guitars.  I call the result, "Passing Time".  Click on the images to the left or below, or on the link in the following paragraph to check it out (and I'd LOVE to be able to embed it somehow within my blog post like a YouTube video, but no such luck).
"Passing Time"  was a fun piece to do, and I hope you enjoy it.

Lately, I've passed most of my time musically either learning new songs and practicing for the worship team I serve with at church, or making a recording of my own with a lot of detailed tracks.  This wikiloops track was a return to the old, fun, off-the-cuff jam mentality.  I downloaded the mix by "MrAdam OnDrums" and "Bass-By-Face," played through with it twice to learn the melody line, and then added a rhythm guitar and a lead, both recorded on the first pass.  It was refreshing to be in the moment and let the results stand, and not worry about redoing tracks to tweak them.

Sometimes, time seems to pass best when you're focused on being in the moment, and not looking back or looking ahead.

BOTB Results

Almost a week of time has passed since my last Battle of the Bands (BOTB) post. I featured "Who's That Lady" by the Isley Brothers -- both their 1973 version and their little-known original version from 1964.  I also threw in a version by Santana.

Although Santana did get a vote, I hadn't expected that version to win and actually worried that it might not get ANY votes.  Still, it was such an interesting version of the song I wanted to include it.

But I do think that both the Isley Brothers versions are very good. I'd always loved the 1973 version and really enjoyed the 1964 original once I discovered it. I thought the battle would be tight, and that the original version might even win.

Turns out I was initially right, but then -- as time passed -- I was wrong.  The battle started out neck-and-neck, but then the 1973 version ran away with it.  Myself, I'd really like to vote for the 1964 version -- the sound is smooth, cool, and soulful and I love the organ and guitar, along with the horn break. Against many other songs, I'd definitely vote for the 1964 version of "Who's That Lady?" But in this battle, it would mean voting against the 1973 version, and there's just no way I can do that!  So chalk up another vote for the classic 1973 version with the awesome guitar by Ernie Isely:

Final Tally: Isley Brothers (1973), 8; Isley Brothers (1964), 3; Santana, 1

Oh, and also, in passing, here's an interesting aside:

In that last BOTB post, I started with a reference to Beverly D'Angelo since her birthday was November 15th.  I also managed to find some connections between her and The Isley Brothers, using the National Lampoon movies, "Vacation" and "Animal House." And Harold Ramis was the common link.

Well, guess what?  Today is Harold Ramis' birthday.  Yep -- he was born November 21, 1944. 

But the sad thing is that while we may still be able to pass our time with all the great movies and other work he left us with (like the classic SCTV), Harold's time of passing has regretfully already passed -- he died earlier this year (February 24th).

So let me help pass some more of your time by remembering the passing of his passing. There are several "Harold Ramis Remembered" videos out there that I found to do that with, but here's one that I liked:

Spend some of your passing time, passing the time by watching some of Harold's work.

And afterwards, if you've passed some much time passing time that you wonder if your time of passing has passed, here's another Harold Ramis "Moe Green" SCTV clip to help you out:

Thanks for visiting and passing some of you time with me! I really appreciate it!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Who's That Lady?"

Today is November 15th, so you all know what's special about today, right?

Yep -- it's the birthday of Beverly D'Angelo!

Beverly (born 11/15/1951) is one of those actresses who has been in a ton of roles and always looks familiar to me on the screen, but who I can never quite remember her name.  I always find myself asking, "Who's that lady?" when I see her.  I'm not sure why -- she's pretty well-known. She's often associated with her role as Ellen Griswold in the National Lampoon Vacation series of movies, but she has also played supporting roles in a host of other movies and TV shows.

But besides being Beverly's birthday, November 15th is also the day for another entry in the Battle of the Bands (BOTB) blogfest.  This blogging event was originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013. It occurs on the 1st and the 15th of every month, and I think it's a fun way to share and discuss music. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

It might seem odd to start a BOTB post with a mix of Beverly D'Angelo and a picture of the Isley Brothers, but it is Beverly's birthday, and after all -- they ARE connected:
See? It's all related!

Anyway, speaking of the Isley Brothers...

Let the Battle Begin!

In 1973,The Isley Brothers went from the original threesome of vocalist brothers O'Kelley, Rudolph, and Ronald to an extended family group which included younger brothers Ernie on guitar, Marvin on bass, and brother-in-law Chris Jasper on keyboards.  To highlight the new makeup, they chose the title "3+3" for their album that year -- their 11th as a group, but the first with the mix of the three original members and the three 'official' new additions.

They also had a hit from that album, titled, "That Lady," although it was called "That Lady (Part 1)" for the shortened single version. The song featured Latin-sounding percussion and a psychedelic-funky-sensual vibe with prominent distorted guitar by Ernie.

Take a listen to the full album cut:

Great song, isn't it?. And do you like the guitar? I do. Ernie Isley's guitar playing has often been referred to as "Hendrix-influenced," although that could probably describe 99% of the guitarists in 1973 at some level. But with Ernie, the comparison was legitimate and deeper than most: Hendrix had played and toured with the Isley Brothers from 1963-1965 and had lived in the Isley home during much of that period. Young Ernie was definitely influenced.

But besides the trippy Hendrix-ish guitar, Santana-like percussion and organ parts, and abrupt ending (made worse by the above video cutting off the last note), there's something else interesting about this song:

It's a cover.

And you know who did the original version?  The Isley Brothers.

In 1964, they had actually released it as a single with some different lyrics under the original title, "Who's That Lady?"  However, back in 1964, the single was pretty much ignored and never charted.

But I think that original version is a cool, smooth, soulful rendition with a nice horn break and some organ that I know Mr. McCarthy will definitely appreciate. Here's the original 1964 version, also by the Isley Brothers:

It's a pretty cool version, I think. Even without the Hendrix-like guitar and Sanata-ish percussion of the redone 1973 version.

Oh, and speaking of Santana -- did you know he also did a cover of this song? In 1990, for the album Spirits Dancing in the Flesh, featuring Alex Ligertwood on vocals.  It's a little different rendition.  I don't often include a third rendition in BOTB battles, but I think this one is interesting enough to add to the mix.  Based on the comments on the YouTube page of the video, some people don't care for it at all. Others love it.

See what you think:

Your Vote

So now it's your turn to add your input: Which version do you like better?  The funky hit 1973 "cover" version by the Isley Brothers, their 1964 original version, or Santana's 1990 interpretation?

I invite you to listen to all three and give them each a chance. And remember that this is a contest about the music -- not the images in the videos, While there shouldn't be much in these videos that might sway you, please use your ears to judge, not your eyes.

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 videos strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- afterwards, 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 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 -- take some time to enjoy a classic old comedy movie like National Lampoon's Animal House with John Belushi, or National Lampoon's Vacation with Chevy Chase and... errr, ummm... who's that lady???

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sympathetic Vibrations: BOTB Results and More

Sympathetic vibrations are vibrations that arise in one body, induced because another body nearby is vibrating.  If I pluck the open E string on my guitar, the other strings will begin vibrating slightly, even though I never touched them.

Some frequencies will resonate more than others -- an E-Flat will not induce many sympathetic vibrations in the other open strings, since they are all tuned to pitches that are closer to natural intervals of that open E. 

I kind of enjoy the way certain seemingly-unrelated facts and details actually induce sympathetic vibrations of inter-relatedness. It's fun to uncover these elements of resonance.

Let me give you some, from various assorted things I uncovered -- elements that are related and intertwined and hopefully interesting to you, too.  Oh, and I'll also even try and work in the results from my last Battle of the Bands post in the process:

  • Steady 40-mph winds across the bridge's span created resonance wihin the structure -- sympathetic vibrations that amplified each other in a positive feedback loop, with much-less-than-positive results. The vibrations were strong enough to destroy the bridge.
  • "The Vibrations" was also the name of a band from Los Angeles that actually made the first recording of the song, "Hang on, Sloopy" in 1964.  If Sloopy had been on the Tacoma Narrows bridge on Nov 7, 1940, Sloopy would have really needed to hang on.
  • The Vibrations may have released the first version of "Hang on Sloopy," but the version released by The McCoys (with 16-year-old Rick Derringer) in 1965 was the one that became the hit.  It evidently resonated with the record-buying public much more:

  • "Hang on Sloopy" also resonates with the state of Ohio, where it is the official rock song of the state, passed by resolution in 1985.  Here's some of the wording from that resolution:
WHEREAS, "Hang On Sloopy" is of particular relevance to members of the Baby Boom Generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously; and

WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff; and

WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down
  • Part of the reason Ohio adopted an official rock song is because The McCoys were from Dayton, Ohio. But also, Ohio has a legitimate rock 'n' roll heritageThe Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, and Ohio was the birthplace of such diverse artists as Devo, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, Joe Walsh, and Boz Scaggs. Ohio has a lot of sympathy for those rock 'n' roll vibrations.
  • Another band from Ohio is The Black Keys, who are from Akron, Ohio. The Black Keys won Grammy Awards in 2013 for Best Rock Song for "Lonely Boy" from the album El Camino, which also won Best Rock Album (and this video is the official video for the song, with over 39 million views). This song clearly resonated with the Grammy voters:

  • Another winner at those 2013 Grammy Awards was Gotye for "Somebody That I Used to Know," the song I featured in my last BOTB post. The song won the 2013 Grammy for Single of the Year.  In my BOTB, I posted it against a remake, "mash-up" version Gotye also made from all the videos people had created using that song.  I think the song is catchy, if not stellar, but I really like the quirky, fun effect in the mash-up video.  I think the mash-up resonated more with me, so I add my vote to that version to give it the win:

Gotye (original) -- 6;  Gotye (mash-up) -- 8.
  • In my BOTB post, I found it interesting that how the song and its 'remake' touched on issues of originality and covers and samples.  But here's something also very interesting that I didn't mention about the song (becuase I just discovered it today):  Gotye is paying ALMOST HALF of the royalties from the song to the estate of a deceased South American guitarist! Why? Because of the samples Gotye used and because of a deal set up well before the song ever became a hit. See? There's that issue about sampling, and originality, and covers, and ownership again. It matters.  A LOT. There is very little sympathy when someone uses another artist's vibrations without permission -- Gotye might have risked losing ALL of his royalties without a deal in place.
  • The samples Gotye used in "Somebody I Used to Know" are by guitarist Luiz Bonfa from the song "Seville." It's not on You tube by itself, but if you check out the video for THIS ALBUM and go to the 29:10 mark, you'll hear the sample that Gotye used.
  • Luiz Bonfa had a long career in Brazil -- he was originally born in Rio De Janeiro in 1922. Besides the link to Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," Bonfa is known for his music for the 1959 film, Black Orpheus, which also included music by the famous Bossa Nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Rio De Janeiro was also the birthplace of writer and professor K.C. Cole, who wrote the book "Sympathetic Vibrations" in 1985, which is pictured at the top of this post,  The city is also the home of the Rio-NiterĂ³i Bridge, one of the largest box-girder bridges in the world.
  • Even though it is not a suspension bridge, it is subject to wind-induced oscillations, much like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was. There are papers describing how damaging resonance can be prevented by attenuating the sympathetic vibrations by adding opposing mechanical oscillations to dampen the ones caused by the wind. Modern technology helps Sloopy hang on. Here's some video of this bridge that's NOT breaking down in the wind:

Thanks for reading!  See you November 15th for another BOTB post!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Somebody That I Used to Know"

It's November 1st, time once again for the Battle of the Bands (BOTB), the blogging event originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013. It occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th -- and is a fun way to share and discuss music. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

In my BOTB post from October 1st, I put together a battle based on The Last Time and Bitter Sweet Symphony -- a song that led to lawsuits over the use of samples and opened the question as to when is a new song really a cover, and "how much" of a sample is acceptable to use?  I also touched on some of the issues regarding sampling and copyrights regarding my use of samples from Lily Pons in my piece, "Bell Song" in my last post.

In this battle, I'm doing something a little different, but touching on some of those same issues. Today, I'm highlighting a "cover" that was re-done by the original artist, but not using any new or "original" sounds, but instead using samples of other covers of that artist's original song.

So let's get on with it:

Let the Battle Begin!

In July of 2011, the Australian (born in Belgium) musician Wouter Andre "Wally" De Backer released the song Somebody That I Used to Know under his commonly-known name of Gotye.  The song became an enormous hit -- it reached #1 in many, many countries and has been heard a gazillion times.  The 'official' video is below -- it has over 570 million views on You Tube. Yes, that's 570 MILLION -- it a  hugely popular song!

Give a listen:

It's an catchy song, isn't it? Simple, but with a clever arrangement, interesting instrumentation, and a universal sentiment that anyone who has loved and lost can relate to at some level. The song has nice dynamic range, a melody that really sticks in your brain, and a chorus that is easy and inviting to sing along with.

This video has also sparked a TON of covers -- thousands of them!  Most of them from "unknown" musicians.  This song became an internet phenomenon, infesting social media, flooding You Tube, and stoking the entirely modern  urge of people to make videos of themselves.

In the past, the "music mass producers" used to be a small number of sources distributing their limited 'product' to the masses, but as this sea of videos shows, it has now become commonplace for the masses to create their own music and to share it among themselves, even if it's often only parodies and cover material. I find this a thoroughly fascinating transition, although perhaps a little overwhelming -- there is now just SO MUCH music available out there that no human will ever be able to hear it all.

Someone could spend endless hours on You Tube listening to all the covers of Somebody That I Used to Know -- there are acapella versions, versions with 5 people on 1 guitar, metal-guitar versions, versions with 5 people on 1 bouzouki, choir versions, and untold thousands of others, both real and parody.

Goyte -- whose solo records have often featured musical samples saw some potential in this treasure trove of material, and put together his own "cover" video.  Here's what he said about it:

Reluctant as I am to add to the mountain of interpretations of Somebody That I Used To Know seemingly taking over their own area of the internet, I couldn't resist the massive remixability that such a large, varied yet connected bundle of source material offered.

Thank you to everyone who has responded to Somebody That I Used To Know via YouTube. It's truly amazing!

All audio and video in Somebodies is from the YouTube user videos featured, each of them a cover or parody of Somebody That I Used To Know. No extra sounds were added to the mix, but I used some EQ, filtering, pitch-shifting and time-stretching to make the music.

 I avoided using any existing remixes of the song, or any covers from tv talent shows.

Here's the sampled re-cover of the original covers of the original song, remixed and "created" by the original artist -- Sombodies: A YouTube Orchestra:

This is a lot of fun, huh?

But here's a question: Is this a "cover" or a "parody"?  Or a cover of parodies? Or a parody of covers?

Or is this really even Gotye's "song"?  Well, yes -- of course the source song itself was his, but in this video, Gotye does none of the performance and makes none of the sounds. It's all samples of other videos. So is it really even "his" work???

Does it even matter?

Probably not to many, but I find it interesting how it again touches on a lot of the same issues of ownership of songs, and "originality," and "inspiration" versus "sampling" that came up in the Oct 1st BOTB post with The Last Time versus Bitter Sweet Symphony, and in my "Forgotten Voices" sampled tunes.

Does making a YouTube of yourself covering a song violate the copyright? Maybe. Or does it depend on the intent? This is why that "parody" versus "cover" thing matters. Perhaps sharing something for free on YouTube versus charging for downloads probably helps determine the intent.

Perhaps.  But at any rate -- even if people suddenly felt some weird desire to make them -- I'm pretty certain that you'd never see this many homemade cover videos of The Last Time on YouTube.  I also strongly doubt that the owners of the copyright of that song would ever choose to make a fun remix video from those recorded covers. More likely there would be an army of lawyers rapidly dispatched and the cover videos pulled as soon as any sprouted on You Tube.

Your Vote

So now it's your turn to add your input: Which version do you like better?  The original by Gotye, or the sampled "cover of the covers," also "by" Gotye?  And what do you think about some of the issues I mentioned regarding originality and sampling and covers and all of that?

I invite you to listen to both version and give them each a chance. And while I usually tell you to focus on the music and not the video, here the videos are the core components, so today you should keep your eyes open to enjoy them!

After listening (and watching), 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 videos strike you, even if it's less than positive. Add in your thoughts about "sampling" versus "original" material versus "parodies" of songs on YouTube.

Then -- afterwards, 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 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 -- feel free to drop by my blog often.  Don't let yourself just become somebody that I used to know!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Forgotten Voices: The Bell Song

(Radio Digest from 1931 with Lily Pons on cover)

I haven't posted much music on my blog lately, but I've just finished another piece in my "Forgotten Voices" collection and I'd like to share it with you (you can also see "Streak of Moonlight" and "My Name is Romance" for the other pieces in this collection so far).

"Forgotten Voices" is based on the idea of using voices from old radio broadcasts of the 1930s as the foundation for new music I create.  I don't sing, so I think this is a fun way to get some human voices into my pieces without worrying too much about infringing on copyrights (see my BOTB post with The Verve for good reasons why it's best to avoid sampling material with protected copyrights).

In searching for some vocal material to use for a song, I came across a recording that just said it was from a radio broadcast of a piece called "The Bell Song" aria from sometime in the 1930s. I loved the haunting voice and started to build a tune around some samples from it.  I chopped and rearranged, adjusted timing, added MIDI drums, some keyboards, bass, some bell sounds, and nine or ten guitar tracks (rhythm, fills, and leads).

This piece took a long time to make, but I like how it turned out.  Take a listen and then I'll talk a little more about the source vocal samples (HERE's the link ot it at SoundCloud if the embedded player below doesn't work):

Thanks for listening!  I really appreciate that, and I hope you enjoyed what I did with this.

But, as I mentioned above about those vocal samples from the radio:

While recording this (it took a long time to put all the pieces together), I did some searching and discovered, that "The Bell Song" is actually a well-known aria from an opera called "Lakme" written by Leo Delibes in 1882. It was performed many times during the 1920s to 1940s by the famous opera singer Lily Pons. It became her "featured piece" and was strongly associated with her. She even did it in a 1935 movie starring Lily Pons and Henry Fonda called "I Dream Too Much".

And I'm pretty sure that's Lily Pons singing in the samples I've used in my re-imagined "The Bell Song".

Which this brings up the questions:

Is a "famous" singer doing a well-known aria really a "forgotten voice?"  Also, one of the points of using old radio "forgotten voices" is to avoid infringing on copyrights -- so how loose of footing am I on here?

Well, I think the first question may be valid, but it's still been around 80 years or so since the samples I used were originally recorded, and Lily's been deceased since 1976. And I think there's likely a good percentage of people who've never heard of her. So I'll give this question a, "not preferred, but acceptable" answer. While I really enjoyed making this, in general I'd much rather use truly unknown or "forgotten" voices.

As to the copyright:  That is definitely a valid question.  But after some thought and research, here's what I think.

-- With recordings, there are actually two areas of copyright.  The written song itself and the recording of a particular performance (that's why the Verve had to settle out of court twice).  Here, the actual song was written in 1882 and I'm pretty certain it's now in the public domain.  I doubt if the estate of Leo Delibes has any qualms about me using samples of the aria from his opera.

-- But the recording could be an issue.  For example, if the download I sampled was from the soundtrack of the 1935 movie, then RKO Pictures could still own the copyright or it has passed through a legitimate and legal chain of ownership since.  But after listening, I'm pretty sure the samples I've used are NOT from that soundtrack.  Plus, there are also tons of other versions of Lily Pons doing this aria out there on the Internet, and to my ears, it doesn't sound like I've used any of the ones that I found on YouTube.  Like I said, it was her "signature piece" and was performed many, many times by her.  So I'm acting in good faith that the version I've used was recorded specifically for a radio broadcast and that the origin has been lost through the years.

-- However, just because I don't know exactly where a recording of a radio program comes from it does not technically remove me from any legal obligations to the true copyright holder. But that's a risk with the whole "Forgotten Voices" concept -- In all of these songs, the original source recordings and copyrights are potentially lost through the years, and so I'm doing my best to not intentionally infringe on anyone known (or likely to even still care).

-- Also, with the "Forgotten Voices" pieces, I'm only using small samples and am clearly adding my own "new" material, So it is obvious that I'm not trying to just reissue and profit from someone else's work -- I'm hopefully adding enough of "me" that I'm creating entirely "original" material.

-- Finally, I'm also clearly not trying to profit from anyone's work because I'm not -- you know -- making ANY profit.  I'm sharing these freely and not charging a thing. This points to the "intent" of using these samples. What I'm doing may not cleanly fall under the "Fair Use," guidelines, but I'm at least definitely trying to minimize damages to any potential copyright holders who may still be out there somewhere.

So that covers my legal thoughts -- but what about my recording itself?

Well as always -- I really hope you enjoyed it, and I'm happy to hear any feedback you might care to offer.

Thanks again for listening!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jeff Goldblum's Not Dead -- He Just Forgot His Mantra (BOTB Results and More)

(Image from Fanpop)

I'm a guy who enjoys finding connections, inter-relatedness, and surprising twists. It's something I just like to play around with.

This post was originally intended to give the results of my last Battle of the Bands (BOTB) post and perhaps offer a couple of creative tidbits to the few readers who venture by this blog, but I wanted to do more than just share these things in a bland list, so I decided to see if I could create some interesting segues of connectedness for today's post.

Let's see...

1.  Well, today is October 22, 2014, one week since my last BOTB post.  It's also the 62nd birthday of actor Jeff Goldblum, who was born on this day in 1952.

2.  Jeff has been the subject of persistent, recurring internet and media rumors and hoaxes regarding his alleged death, including ones from 2012 and 2009.  He is actually NOT dead.

3.  The Michael Jackson song "Billie Jean" is also about rumors and allegations. This song has had many covers made of it, including the ones by Robert Randolph and The Civil Wars I featured last week.  I was expecting Robert Randolph to win this battle, but that was okay since my main goal was to feature him as an artist, and I think that worked out pretty well.  Plus, The Civil Wars even got a couple of votes, which is also great and entirely understandable -- they do have amazing singing ability.  But I also have to vote for the wonderful music of Robert, and in the end, he wins this going away, 8 to 2 with my vote.

4.  Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video was also parodied by Steve Martin in the opening of the January 6th, 1984 debut of the short-lived comedy TV show, "The New Show":

5.  Guess who also appeared in that January 6th The New Show premier? Yep -- Jeff Goldblum.

6.  He's appeared in a ton of things. Among the many movies Goldblum has appeared in is The Big Chill, the 1983 movie about a group of University of Michigan friends reuniting after the suicide of one of them. HERE'S the scene of them in the procession of cars driving to the cemetery.

7.  Michigan is also the site of a real funeral home that offers a way for mourners to stay in their cars for more than just the drive to the cemetery. Here's a recent news item about it:  "Michigan Funeral Home Provides Drive-thru Option".  Using that 6-word headline as the basis for a rhyming 6-word Newsday piece, I came up with this little rhyme:

Michigan helps advance the mortuary arts,
with funeral choices for mourning hearts,
after one home made this adoption:

A policy that provides the chance
to grieve during a drive-thru glance;
A busy, "mourners on the go," option.

8.  Speaking of a drive-thru -- there are many claims as to which restaurant had the first one, but In-n-Out Burger and Jack in the Box were two places where they were adopted early.  Millions of cheeseburgers have been handed out from drive-through windows ever since.

9.  And did you ever see the 1986 movie, The Fly with Jeff Goldblum?  Cheeseburgers are also a recurring motif in that film, and THIS CLIP gives one short snippet of them being used.

10.  But for short film snippets featuring Jeff Goldblum, most people would have to say this 3-second clip from Woody Allen's 1977 movie Annie Hall is probably one of the most memorable.  It's his only appearance in the film:

11.  A mantra is a repeated word or syllables used to focus and quiet the mind during meditation.  Supposedly, it is during this time of inner quiet that one's thoughts can become enlightened.

12.  "Quiet Thoughts" is also the name of a jazzy jam I added a lead-guitar track to over at wikiloops.  I haven't shared any of my music in quite a while here, so I wanted to include one as part of this BOTB-update post.  I do have some new music I've been working on for a long time, and I hope to have it finished soon, but in the meantime, I hope THIS TUNE, with my attempt at a jazz lead I did back in March of this year is enjoyable.  I really liked the bass, drums, and rhythm guitar tracks created by the other wikiloops jammers and 1 wanted to add a lead. I don't have what I'd call great jazz chops -- I just like to play:
"Quiet Thoughts"

13. Do you know who else likes to play jazz music?  Jeff Goldblum.  Read about it HERE.  As Jeff also says in the article, "I just like to play."

Yeah, Jeff -- me too.

P.S.: Glad you're not dead.