Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time to "Wake Up" again!

As I write this I listen to what is possibly the one of the best releases of 2010 "Wake Up" by John Legend and the Roots.  The best description of the work is a fresh reading of conscience-raising soul music from the 60's and 70's.  The net is result is a very tight blend of funk-soul-r&b sensibility.  Possibly the most important take away is that the protest song has not died, but rather it went to sleep....John Legend and the Roots set out to wake it up! Many standout tracks make this extremely listen-able..My personal favorite has to be "compared to what" and "hard times"  The themes touch on class distinction, poverty, and the importance of education reform.  Even more powerful is the rendition of Bill Withers' "I can't write left-handed", which is an anti-war song questioning the Vietnam conflict.  Hauntingly it is easy to erase "Vietnam" and replace "Afghanistan".  The key message is that we need to wake up and be our own agents of change....that is where change starts.  Only then can we begin to grow as a society..... please check it out and pass it on!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review

A little late in coming all the same, but I finally had a chance to read 2007's autobiography by Eric Clapton, simply titled "Clapton".  This book is a brilliantly written testimonial about one man's struggle to maintain conviction and integrity to play the kind of music that he truly believes.  You can almost hear Clapton's voice telling the reader the story of his life and the struggle against the demons that haunted him....The book transitions in sections from "The early years" through each musical segment along the way.  In addition, as each segment progressed, I took it upon myself to listen to the music of that particular segment.  For example, when he spoke of Derek and the Dominos, I listened to "Layla and other Love Songs"  As a result there was an entirely new dimension to the story.  Clapton is a very humble storyteller in that he completely acknowledges all of his influences, and speaks in complete reverence of all who have helped him along the way.  Clapton speaks fondly of his relationship with George Harrison and how it evolved from acquaintance to collaborator, his admiration of Jimi Hendrix as a pure performer that lived and breathed his craft.  The early years saw the courage of non compromise keeping the spirit of the music vs "selling out" in the name of hit records.  That thread seems to follow through the entire book...Most importantly there is testimonial to beating the demons of addiction and helping others to realise their potential. An amazing read even without stopping to listen to the music, enjoy the ride!   

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Union

The Union is an amazing combination not only of the talents of Elton John and Leon Russell, but the producing magic of T-Bone Burnett, Bernie Taupin and a cast of many talented guest musicians.  Clearly a labor of love, Union is literally a beautiful tapestry of music that re-unites two old friends not just for a mutual admiration effort but a synergy of talent.  The sound is very Spartan and simple weaving two pianos into a sound that works...no frills.  Elton speaks in the liner notes of this being an effort that he has always wanted to accomplish....the only thing he had to do was to pick up the phone and call!  What an amazing assemblage of talent that includes Neil Young and Dennis Wilson doing back-up vocal duties.   T-Bone Burnett...need I say more? His contribution is clear with his reputation for getting artist's most heartfelt contributions combined with simplicity of production. The songs hawk back to the story-telling days of Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection" or "Honky Chateau".  Truly one of the best releases of 2010.  Here's to hoping it brings the same amount of joy to you and yours!