Category Archives: Music

Keeping Christ in Christmas

As in “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?” Let’s talk for a moment about babies and Christians and Christmas songs and greetings and how the upcoming holiday has become a battleground instead of a celebration and why reasonable human beings are allowing that to happen.

To begin, babies. Big confession here…I don’t find babies to be very interesting. When I say I didn’t even like my own babies all that much until I had my third, I am being completely honest. My lack of enthusiasm for infants, however, doesn’t prevent me from feeling incredibly sad for children who are separated from their families or born into situations which fail to provide opportunity or stability. You know, like Jesus – and all the children who continue to live in tents apart from their families in a state of imprisonment. How people who claim the mantle of “Christian” can fail to see the parallels between their savior and those babies is truly one of the wonders of Christmas to me.

“Baby, It’s Cold Out” is not a date rape song in my head or heart. They’re flirting, he’s cajoling her to stay and she’s finding lame ass excuses blaming everyone but herself for not being able to stay. That’s my read at least and I’m entitled to it. I refuse to feel icky about this song, but you can feel free to rail against it if you must. I’m not buying in to that craziness and I’m not taking that song off my holiday season playlist.

The phrase “Merry Christmas” should be received by non-Christmas celebrants in the same way “Happy Hump Day is. Maybe neither are your holiday, but it’s ok to acknowledge that they’re both important days to those who choose to celebrate. If someone wishes you the “wrong” sentiment, do you really get offended by their greeting? Isn’t there so much more to take offense from in our world? You know, like children in cages? As for me, I’m just going to keep saying “Merry Christmas.”

Migrants and other seekers of asylum and the chance for a better life, should be more compassionately dealt with, particularly by those who like to claim religion as their justification for how they approach the world. Please don’t talk to me about the miracle of a savior’s birth in a manger if you’re unwilling to recognize the efforts being made by contemporary families to achieve a similarly blessed life for their own child(ren).

I’m all about remembering the reason for the season, but, Jesus Christ, can’t we do a better job honoring him?

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Filed under Christmas, holidays, Music, musings, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

WEXT – Jukebox Heroes!

If you’re of a certain age, the following may tweak a memory for you…

“Standing in the rain, with his head hung low
Couldn’t get a ticket, it was a sold out show…”

I didn’t say Foreigner, circa 1981, would necessarily elicit a good memory, but I do know some folks who hold their 80s mix tapes in high regard and I imagine that track made it on to more than a couple of them.  Anyway, I heard that song on the radio recently and those lyrics totally expressed my situation perfectly – it was indeed, a sold out show.

Last summer I attended a show at SPAC specifically to see the Marcus King Band. Unfortunately, they were an early act on a day that included an afternoon on the water, pre-show. Needless to say, we arrived late to the concert and missed almost their entire set. Bummer.

When I found out the band was playing Cohoes Music Hall Thanksgiving Day Weekend, I jumped on it. Apparently, my leap was too late and I was dismayed, (and annoyed) to find the show sold out. Refusing to settle for being shut out, I sent Exit 97.7 WEXT a message asking if they had a line on any tickets, or a ticket. I’d go solo to this show for sure.

10 days later, I got a message back apologizing for the delayed response and inquiring if I was still in need of a miracle of sorts. Upon receiving my response confirming my situation, they were able to assist in my getting into the show. The Fantastic Show, I should say.  This band, and the opening duo Ida Mae, rocked the remaining paint off the ceiling of that spectacular, but sadly neglected, venue. Can’t somebody help this space to rise up and live up to its former glory?

How about this? Giving Tuesday is O.D. official on November 27th, 2018, but you can feel free to donate any time you’d like to organizations which you find important to support. If you’re looking for ideas, consider an independent radio station, like WEXT 97.7 or a historic property like the Cohoes Music Hall. Both would appreciate any assistance you could provide, I’m sure. Music makes you feel good – helping to support it feels even better.

Ida Mae

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Filed under Local, Music, Observations, Recommendations, upstate New York

Grooving with The Suffers

I don’t know what you did Wednesday night, but I doubt you more fun than I did. It was one of those wonderful Albany nights that come along, with unpredictable frequency, when everything flowed. It was just a great night.

A big part of the enjoyable evening was a concert at The Egg. A band from Houston, called The Suffers, were playing and we had tickets for the 7:30 show. I had heard their music on WEXT 97.7 and liked their sound, but we weren’t sure what to expect not being overly familiar with the band.* Promptly at 7:30, the 8 member band walked onto the stage in the Egg’s smaller theater, and immediately heated up the underpopulated room.

The lead singer, the ripe Kam Franklin, acknowledged the size of the crowd and promised a great show, which she ultimately delivered. Her vibe is absolutely juicy with laughter, terrific banter and a voice that is rich with range and tone. While there were glimpses, to me, of Tina Turner and Brittany Howard, Kam is completely her own unique ray of light and was simply a joy to watch.

The tight 90-minute set was fun, sexy and completely captivating. The audience was appreciative and many took advantage of the available elbow room and danced in and out of their seats. It didn’t matter how many people were present. Those of us there, knew we were the lucky ones to be able to say we were at The Suffers first Albany show. You should make a point to be at their next one.

 

*Once again 97.7 WEXT feeds me new music.

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Uncategorized

A Star is Born – in two takes

2573C958-C5A5-4FC8-9295-F9C63732A587The media blitz worked.  I needed to see the Bradley Cooper version of A Star is Born and I planned to make a Saturday matinee. But first, I needed to see the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Hello, Friday night and Amazon Prime.

I was 10 when that version was released and I don’t recall seeing it, although the song, “Evergreen,” certainly landed on my radar. That particular song, along with “The Way We Were,” was one of the first songs I remember crying to during the those overly emotional pre-puberty days. More than forty years later, it remains a tragic romance tour de force and I loved hearing it as part of the soundtrack. To be honest, it was the only song I found listenable in the entire film. The rest was just awful – and while Kris Kristofferson may have been  a delight to look at, his voice was just terrible. 

Back to the positive…Barbra Streisand’s wardrobe was totally on point and I loved everything about her appearance. Many of her outfits were extremely low cut, but there was no silicone spillage and she just looked great. That cream colored sweater she wore at the first concert is my current obsession and I’m requesting any and all assistance in landing one just like it for my own wardrobe. Get on it, please.

So, you could say that I wasn’t really too impressed.

On Saturday I settled into my seat at the Spectrum for the early showing of the latest remake.  An aside – if it’s not playing at that particular theater, I’m not going.  The opening scene with Bradley Cooper shredding his guitar to a song that I wouldn’t mind hearing again, immediately grabbed me. It took me twenty minutes or so to realize that I was physically on the edge of my seat trying to get closer to the action on the screen. He was absolutely compelling and, basely, totally friggin’ hot. Oh – and he can sing!

When Lady Gaga hit the screen, I was delighted, and the first time I heard her sing I was completely blown away. La Vie en Rose is one of my favorite overwrought ballads and her performance was magic. I loved her look and found her completely believable and genuine. Wow.

So, the movie was a little long with some extraneous character development, but since it meant more time in the dark with Bradley and Gaga, it wasn’t a problem for me. The music was really terrific with songs I can actually imagine purchasing and adding to my Apple library. The performances were sincere and  totally believable and I absolutely loved this film. 

Guess I need to check out the Judy Garland version. How about you? Have you seen any/all of the Star is Born movies? What’s your favorite?

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Filed under art, favorites, Local, Movies, Music, Observations, Recommendations, television, Uncategorized

Miss(ing) Amy Winehouse

Earlier in the summer, this video came across my Facebook wall and ignited my current obsession with Amy Winehouse. I’ve loved Amy since one of my favorite students (DC) turned me on to her about 10 years ago, but I guess it was time for me to dive a little deeper into her music.

So, over the weekend I watched “Amy” on Amazon Prime. I’m sure all the cool kids watched the movie when it came out in 2015, but it was new to me and I really gained insight into what a tortured genius she was. The movie used family photos, videos and interviews to provide a portrait of a young woman with huge talent, but even larger issues. I hadn’t realized she had written so much of her own music and learning the stories behind the lyrics gave me new perspective on her life. Watching her perform was absolutely mesmerizing and despite knowing what the ultimate outcome would be, I just kept waiting for someone to save her. So tragic.

With my now full blown infatuation, I’ve been exploring what Amy Winehouse music is available on the various streaming services. I’ve committed to a few months of Apple Music, (because I find their playlists to sometimes be pretty interesting) and I’ve been listening to a few built around the song Valerie. The winner I came up with for today was titled “Lana Del Rey: Influences” and the artists Apple Music tied together was surprisingly awesome. In addition to Amy Winehouse, there are songs by Janis Joplin, Portishead, Lou Reed, The Doors and Billie Holiday featured. And somehow, they all just work together in a fantastic way.  Good stuff – check it out.

Who are you missing these days? What performer/musician would you most like to see reincarnated?

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Poems, prayers and promises

When the weather is tropical and everywhere you look you see green, life starts to feel like an epic poem written by Mother Nature. There’s so much happening around us with things growing and water puddling and smells that define a season – flowers, bar-b-q and chlorine. I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to sit and walk and run and just appreciate these things. I take the responsibility of being an observer pretty seriously and know it’s an incredible luxury.

I’m generally not much of a pray-er, other than to give thanks, but I’ve been working the prayer thing a little harder as my kids continue to extend their reach. Health and safety. No cobras. Safe driving. That sort of thing.

Promises? What do I know about those? Hmmm…I’d have to go with that they’re important and meaningful and should not be made lightly. Like that promise I made a few days ago to share some impressions from recent live music shows I’ve seen.

First up are some pics from the concert Liam and I attended in Vienna. We bought the tickets from a guy selling them near a park and I was pretty convinced he was going to steal my credit card information and cost me a bundle, but happily it was legit and he was a total professional.

 

The show, at Schoenbrunn Palace, was a “fine selection of masterful music by Mozart and Strauss…” it lasted about 90 minutes with an intermission and it was lovely. I didn’t grab a video because they asked guests not to and that’s a rule I can respect, even with my regret at not sneaking a single photo at the Sistine Chapel.

My son and I also attended a classical concert in a gorgeous chapel in Prague. I did take a video there and I’m sharing it

 

I love Vivaldi (not that I know sh*t about classical music) and I felt quite moved by the experience. Wonderful.

Also wonderful in a different and much closer to home way are the Monday night jazz offerings at Lucas Confectionary. I’ve been twice so far, once on the back terrace and once indoors and air-conditioned, and have loved it. Great wine choices (A Pigato?! A gruner from Oregon?! Wow!), a cool vibe indoors or out, and a capable and into it band really makes for an excellent way to start the week.

As for what I’m sharing below – my youngest listens to music that I can usually really respect. Recently he’s been on a John Denver kick, which I find pretty amusing. While doing a little searching online, this song came up and it spoke to me. Do you think it reads as more a poem, a prayer or promise?

I’ve been lately thinking
About my life’s time
All the things I’ve done
And how it’s been
And I can’t help believing
In my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end
I’ve seen a lot of sunshine
Slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures
Had myself some friends
And spent a time or two in my own home
And I have to say it now
It’s been a good life all in all
It’s really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share
The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do…

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Filed under aging, Albany, art, Austria, beauty, concerts, Czech Republic, DelSo, Europe, Events, favorites, love, Music, musings, Observations, poetry, Summer, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation

Brad Mehldau Trio at The Egg, 4/22/18

I know about as much about jazz as I do about wine. I like some of it, I recognize a few names and I am usually willing to try something new when it comes to both of those topics. While my favorite wines are often bright and fruity, when it comes to jazz I’m more taken by dark and smoky sounds. I like jazz that sounds like you might have once heard it played in a candlelit bar in a city whose name you can’t quite remember.

Last night I took a chance on trying something new, jazz-wise. I had seen an ad for the Brad Mehldau Trio and the description “Thelonious Monk classics, American Songbook standards…” had grabbed me, so I got myself to The Egg on Sunday and bought a ticket. After a quick stop at Cafe Capriccio for a delicious Stoli gimlet, that is.

The trio consisted of Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and each of them were mesmerizing in their own way. At times, I felt as if I were a voyeur observing the relationship that seemed to exist between each of the musicians and their instruments. It was so intimate – the curve of Mehldau’s back as he curled over the keyboards, the drape of Grenadier’s arm around the neck of his bass, the varied tension that Ballard possessed in his hands..

Closing my eyes, I absorbed the music in the center of my body. The songs rolled into one another, with some alternating solos thrown in, and after about 85 minutes or so, it was over. I was home by 9:15 with a new favorite contemporary jazz trio and a promise to myself to buy  their upcoming album and enjoy it with some wine.

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