The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Month: July 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

No “Vick”tory for animal rights.

I am not even sure, really, where I want to start with this whole Michael Vick thing.  I am no expert on football.  I could not tell you anything about Vick’s football career or about his lifetime averages during play.  If he has any MVP awards in his name or if he has his own fan club.

What I can tell you is that I think that Goodell made a huge mistake reinstating Vick into the NFL.  Letting him into the league does nothing more than prove that as a famous sports star, you do not have to be made an example of.  If you do something monumentally wrong, you will still be allowed to go back to try for your old job, like nothing is wrong.

I know that there are many of you out there that will look at what happened to this person and say, “What’s the big deal… they were only dogs!”  And, technically, you would be right.  They were dogs… living, breathing creatures that feel fear, pain, remorse and in some cases are willing to give their own lives to save that of their people.

What Michael Vick did was an atrocity, and do not try to give me that “he served his time, let him be.” crap.  When you torture, maim and kill living creature for the sake of entertainment, you are a sick sick person and need to be treated as such.  Not allowed to return to play like it was no big deal.

You see… this is the whole Daryl Strawberry thing all over again.  Granted… Vick in not using drugs, to the best of my knowledge, but the point I am making is that he has been convicted… CONVICTED… of a crime that demonstrates intentional acts of cruelty, served a light “hand-slap” sentence, has to pay some money, and then, once back out, good ole Roger says “Come on back!”  In the case of Strawberry and Vick… it is not so much about the crime itself, but the effect that the criminal has on the sport itself.

Now… look at what Strawberry and Vick have done… The scope of the crimes themselves.  Then look at Pete Rose who, as we all know, was handed down a lifetime ban from playing baseball because he was gambling.  Yes, I know, against his own team… but how many dogs, or animals in general, died because of that?  Does gambling even come close to the drug issues that Strawberry had or the scope of the crimes that Vick committed?

Seriously… I have no problem with the fact that Rose was banned from baseball, but as long as the rules apply equally to all sports and all players.  There needs to be parity in how these people are punished and the punishment should not be based on the popularity of the person being punished.  If anything, the courts should go HARDER on the celebrities because they are in the public eye and, supposedly, roll models.

Vick did not get the punishment that he deserved.  In MY opinion, we should have brought back public flogging or caning just for him and this scenario.

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Entertainment News and Gossip.

Now that I am closing out this month of musical memories, I feel compelled to talk about something that has always bugged me.

This need people have to live through the lives of stars by watching shows like Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, Extra and the others, amazes me.  Do people really have that little to look forward to in their own lives that they need to follow people this religiously?

Take, most recently, the death of Michael Jackson as an example.  It is sad that he died, he did leave his mark on the world, but why were people camping out for hours just to see what???  his body?  This mooching family?  What were they hoping to gain by sitting out in front of the house or the hospital?

Go back a few years and you see the same thing happening with Elvis.  Elvis was, in my personal opinion, a much better overall performer than MJ, yet when he died, I was not really moved except to think that my hopes of ever going to a concert to see him.

When Pink Floyd split up the last time, I was upset because I knew that I would never see them in concert, but I did not lose sleep over it!  I bought more of the CDs and moved on.

I do understand that there is a need to follow the people that we idolize or respect.  There is a desire that we all have to be a part of that success or that life.  But can’t you see that spending your life following that closely only causes you to lose track of your own life?  I would have to think that the James Browns, Michael Jacksons and Elvis Presley’s throughout time would not have wanted people to be so infatuated with them that they dismiss the lives that they could have.

I know that there are varying levels of fanatics and followers… so not all of you that went to the funeral or watched it on TV are in the category that I have suggested above.  But you who are reading this now, know that there are those out there whose entire world revolves around the objects of their obsessions.  People that spend their lives to become as much a part of their Idols as they can.  In some cases losing all that they love or desire.

Follow your own dreams and desires.  Be what you are meant to be and allow what you have experienced from these stars and singers to complement you and add to your uniqueness.  Be the best person you can be without trying to be someone else, you will like yourself better for that and so will others.

Warren Zevon

Bordering on the demented, there no better way for me to end this month of musical conversation that to talk about Warren Zevon.

Like most people, my first experience with his music was with the song “Werewolves of London”.  But not being able to stop there, I went out and picked up the single.  Yes… the single that had the wolf on the red vinyl record with “Rolland the headless Thompson Gunner” on the B-Side.  Man… what I would give to still have that disk today!

I played that record until my mother threatened to use it as a Frisbee.  So I relented and only played it while she was away at work or out of the house in general.  I had other Zevon records and tapes, but that one always stood out to me as the best one.

Unfortunately for all of us Warren left us to cancer on September 7, 2003.  He was only 56 years old, which is still young by anyone’s standards.  In his case, however, it can be said that he met his death with honor and dignity.  He knew it was coming and made no efforts to seek sympathy.  He simply kept working on his music right up until the end.  This can be best seen by watching the last interview he gave with David Letterman in 2002, which you can find on YouTube.

The reason I started this article with the performers death is because I think that Warren is one of the more unsung players in music.  You really never hear people talk about his work that much and when they do play songs like “Rolland” and “Werewolves” many people have this look like ‘who’s that?’  That is not to say that he is not appreciated, of that there can be no doubt… but there is a lot of people out there that either do not know about him or have heard the music and do not know who the artist is.  That is unfortunate for him and them.

Zevon’s early musical career was pretty much unremarkable to most of us, but not unimportant as it led to the the advance of his style and eventual success in 1978.  With the release of Excitable Boy and the success of the Werewolves single, he became a much more well known name.  This was the point where I first heard his music, because the radio stations just could not seem to play enough of his songs.

It is hard for me to talk too much about the other music he released because I have not heard all his work.  I only have personal experience with three of his albums, but his musical legacy is so much stronger that just Excitable Boy, A Quiet Normal Life and Life will kill ya… these being the CDs that I have now… the first two records long since disappearing from my collection.

That is not to say that I do not have an opinion about the rest of his work.  I have heard several of his other works over the years, but the money has just not been there for me to go on the CD shopping spree that I would like to.  You see… as much as an audiophile as I am, I would go broke in no time if I were to buy all the CDs and Vinyl that I wanted.  There is just too much good music out there.

His last CD that was released was The Wind… which he was lucky enough to live long enough to see it released and become a success.

In all the interviews I ever saw of him and all the reading I have done to write the piece, I have learned much more that I really expected to about the man.  His image has changed in my mind… I no longer see him as the rebellious recluse that some had made him out to be.  I have found that he was more of the “Everyman’s Musician” in that he seemed to come off as the kind of person that had something in common with all of us.  When he talked, it was with a personality of a person who did not think of himself as any more important than the rest of us.

To me, his music was always fun, inspirational, singable and something that I am not sure anyone could find any fault with, and there really is no song I have heard by him that I did not like and there is still a lot out there for me to hear in all the CDs that I have not yet purchased.

I would like to thank all those that have joined me this last month on my personal trip through my musical favorites.  I especially would like to thank all those that participated in the conversations with advice and suggestions for my listening experience.  Your input was invaluable and what this site is all about.  I post my stories and articles to share, and this month I learned that there are people out there reading my work.

I thank you all.

XTC

I first heard of XTC when I heard the song “Senses working overtime” on the radio.  Because of the way my hearing has always been, however, “Senses” is not what I heard.  So when I walked into Sam Goody Music, I had the misfortune of hearing several people laugh at me when I asked for “SISTER’s  working over time”.

Needless to say, they corrected me and set me up with two tapes.  Again, when this happened, CDs were a luxury that I could not afford as was a CD player.  The Tapes were English Settlement and Skylarking.

English Settlement really did not do much for me.  The music seemed to all be the typical kind you might hear on the radio any particular Thursday afternoon, but I will admit that it was OK.  The one that really moved me, though, was Skylarking.  The songs, sound, rythym and story were great…  but as you might have already guessed about me… it was the story that was told through the lyrics and the track placement that hooked me.

If you listen to all of Skylarking, you will hear a story of meeting, courting, life, birth, death, questioning our existence and love.  You may not catch it the first time around, but listening to it enough, you will see it all there.  While I could find no confirmation of it, I have to think that the album was inspired by something that happened to one or more of the writers.  Who knows.

XTC themselves have been around since the late 1970s and the members performing for longer than that.  Unfortunately I have no personal experience with their music dating before 1982, so it would be unfair for me to comment on what they were before that.  I do see a lot of information out there about them on sites like Wikipedia and the like, but I would like these articles to be as much in my own words as it possible.

One of the lead names attached to XTC during their rise to fame was that of Todd Rundgren.  Yes… THAT Todd Rundgren.  While I will admit that his leadership did guide XTC to greater success, I think it also drove them apart.  Again… this is my own opinion and not based on anything other that what I see in the music and read in the trades.

Based on what I have read, one gets the feeling that Todd’s brief direction of the group caused them to burn brightly and use up quite a bit of their success.  But what was created in this period of time, while he was pushing them and going forward, was… in my humble opinion… some of their best work to date.  This culminated in the release of their last two CDs… Apple Venus volumes 1 and 2 in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

The Apple Venus CDs appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, however… shortly there after there was nothing else to be heard from the group.

One could say that the bloom had fallen off the rose by this time and there appears to be no effort to get the group back together again.  Though if someone out there reading this hears different… I would like to know.  XTC is actually on the short-list of groups that I would be willing to go stand in line to see… preceded only by Pink Floyd and Jimmy Buffett.

If by some chance any reader thinks that I am bashing Todd Rundgren with this or blaming him for the breakup of XTC, that could not be further from the truth.  I think that he simply exposed flaws in the band that were already there.  They were destined to break up at some point.  He caused them to refine their talents and work harder for a period of time so that the production house would be happy.  They might have made it a few more years without him, but I suspect that the sound would not have been the same quality.

Please… go out and pick up a copy of Skylarking, then let it help you decide if you think the others will be good for you.  Personally, I think that if you like Skylarking, then you will like all their work, including the early stuff.

Enigma

If I were to describe Enigma in any ONE statement, it could only be “The sound of sensuality.”

I suspect that there are people out there that would find other ways to describe the sound, as everyone hears something different when they listen to the same music.  But for me, when I listen to the music of Enigma, I hear several emotions, among these would be love, lust, passion, anger, desire and romance.  Listening to any of their CDs, for me, is like listening to someone share their emotions with me through music.

Naty and I first heard music by Enigma when we had the misfortune of seeing the movie “East of Eden”, which featured the song Return to Innocence.  That song, in spite of the movie, caused us to wait until the credits and see who performed it.  We then went to the music store and picked up a copy of the Tape MXMXC A.D., CDs were still a bit of a luxury for us back then… and listened to it.  We were both very moved by that tape and, literally, played it until we wore it out.  Playing it, in my estimate, several hundred times.

The Group or Project.

There is not really a lot of background to the group, Enigma, itself.  In fact, they only sprang into existence in 1990, though the founding leader of it, Michael Cretu, had a decent musical career dating to the late 1970s.  He founded the group in 1990 and the rest is musical history.  Fortunately it does not stop there…

You see, Enigma was always expressed as a concept or a project.  I do not think that Cretu expected for the group or the sounds to catch on as well as it did.  After the success of MXMXC A.D., and the subsequent releases by Enigma, it became apparent that not only were they a success, but they had touched on a sound that had mass appeal.  Not only were their own CDs and Tape flying off the shelves, but other groups were picking up the ball and running with it.

In the early nineties you will see a surge of groups with that same style of sound, such as artists like Ray Lynch and Michael Oldfield, both excellent examples of people who appear to have been inspired by Enigma without sounding like they are copying the style or work.  There are other groups that fall into that same category, but my purpose here is to talk about the one and give some examples in the hopes that my readers might go out and look into them.

Their current album, Seven Lives Many Faces, is nothing less that what I would have expected from them.  The music pulls you in and keeps you entranced.  There is something about this, as well as all their other work, that almost feels like it is calling you into it.  Hypnotizing you, if you will, to go a little deeper, listen to a little more.  This best way to prepare you for your first listen to them is expressed in the first track on the MXMCXC A.D. CD…

Good evening
This is the voice of Enigma

In the next hour
we will take you with us
into another world,
into the world of music, spirit and meditation

Turn off the light,
take a deep breath
and relax

start to move slowly,
very slowly
Let the rhythm be your
guiding light

All in all I do not see how you could go wrong with anything that is put out by Enigma… the music is incredible.  You will find a little of all the emotions in this… but hopefully you will find the sound to be as uplifting, motivational and spiritual as I have.


Moby – Great thinking music

What can I say about Moby…

As long as I do not think about his politics or his social choices and concentrate on the music, then I am fine.  It is really hard for me to do that with most performers.  This is partially why I can not stand people like Pernell Roberts or Mike Ferrell.  They let their politics destroy what I thought was their best attribute… acting.

Moby, also known as Richard Melville Hall, I can deal with, though.  His music is very hard for me to explain to someone that might never have heard it, or at least did not know they were hearing it.  You see, most of his music he puts together, he lets go with no royalties on it.  That is to say if you use it for your non-commercial , endeavour he will not go hunting you down and pelting you with his Vegan Hummus.  If you do decide that you want to use it for some commercial effort, then you have to give any income generated by it to the Human Society.  I guess I can agree with that… at least is it not going to some program to save some endangered slug in Jacutan.

Back to the music.

In a nutshell, the music is progressive, with a little electronica and a little rap here and there.  Like I said, you really have to listen to it to appreciate it.  I will include some clips at the end of this article.

Personally, I use his music to think to.  It inspires creative thought for me and relaxes me.  Not the kind of relaxation that makes me want to go to sleep, but the kind that lets me feel laid back.  I guess you could say it is like psychological pot.  Then, once I have become mellow from the tunes, the thoughts begin to flow.

Many of his songs use sampling from other songs or other people’s spoken words.  But they are then put to music in such a way where I think that it actually is complementary to the original artist.  But I felt I needed to share that with you up front, in the event you are one of those people that flat out will not listen to a piece of music because they sampled from someone else.  Trust me, I know people like that.

If you are interested, then I would suggest getting started with his CD titled “18”.  It has a lot of good stuff on it that will determine right away if you are going to like his work of not.  If you decide that this type of music is in your style, then the next I would suggest is “Play”.

What you may find in listening to these is that you will have heard many of the songs before.  In movies, in commercials… who knows.

Overall I would have to say that Moby is one of those artists that transcends his politics by putting out great music.

Electric Light Orchestra

There are very few conversations that you can have about musicians and bands that were ahead of their time without mentioning, at some point, Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO.

For those of you who may not know who ELO is, you will probably be surprised.  Their music has been used in movies, commercials, television programs as well as being covered by several other groups over the years.  So it is very likely that you have at least heard some of their work and just not realized it.

Founded in 1971 by two guys (Raymond Wood and Jeffery Lynne), they created a group with a sound not entirely unlike the “electronica” sound that you hear today, combining the sounds of violins and organs with the sounds of electric guitars and synthesizers.

Today you might listen to their work and think that this sound is nothing really that spectacular or special, but you have to stop and think for a moment about the time that the music was originally released and who it was that they had to compete with at that time during their formative years.

In July 1971 (1972 in the USA), when their 10538 Overture was released, they were competing against such rock legends at Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, The Bee Gees and various others.  Needless to say, one might think that they really did not have a chance right out of the gates… they had a lot of well established competition.  People were not really ready to listen to something  new, with a completely new sound.

The Overture peaked at number 9 that July, in the USA. So in spite of the odds, they found their market and their niche.  The rest, as they say, was history to be made.

The music did continue to get better and their world appeal increased but personally I think they peaked with the release of the album Time, in 1980.  I still think that it stands as one of their best works as a whole.  That is not to say their other albums were bad, it was just that with the others, there are songs I like and ones I did not.  You know, the ones that you fast-forward through, or skip if you are playing them on a CD.  With Time, I could listen to the entire album and not want to skip a single song.  My two favorites on that album would be Ticket to the moon and Hold on Tight… the later a fairly popular song even to this day.

The band kind of started to fall into disrepair after the release of Time, releasing Secret Messages in 1983 and Balance of Power in 1986.  I am sorry, but even though Secret Messages had a couple good songs on it (Rock and Roll is King and Four Little Diamonds), I feel that the entire album was a parody of themselves and a lame attempt to gain new momentum for the band, which was starting to break up about that time.  The album intentionally included back masked messages on some of the songs… a couple of them I heard, most I did not.   Balance of Power, however, was a noble attempt… they had a good sound and some catchy lyrics, but gone was the original sound of the ELO that I remembered.  It did not have the deep rich “Light Orchestra”  sound that they had become so well known for, having become mostly synth and guitars with no more strings or brass.  In addition, you would think that we should have suspected something was happening when they were no longer using their trademark “spaceship” logo on the front of that album.

In spite of a few attempts to reignite the spark they had, namely the formation of ELO Part Two, in the early nineties, it was apparent that the band was gone.  In 2000 or 2001 the album Zoom was released.  I had been expecting this for a while and was waiting in anticipation for this, not know at the time that the ONLY original member of ELO that woudl be in the band was going to be Lynne… Tandy did participate on one song, but I have a feeling that was because he felt some requirement to do so, nothing more.  The rest of the album had some good music, but I felt that it was more like going to see “The Beatles Experience” after having seen the real thing.  It was fun, and the music was alright, but it was just not the same.

ELO is gone… but I still have the CDs and a couple of the 8-track tapes, somewhere.  Like so many other things in our lives, it is sad to see something like this go.

My message to the remaining band members?  Do not try to put the band back together again.  Leave us with the memories we had.  OK?

Here are some pieces for you that may not be familiar with the work:

Rick Springfield

This article may not be what you are expecting for a piece written about Rick Springfield.  No mushy talk about how he was considered an 80s heartthrob or the fact that he played Noah Drake in a soap opera.  All of this is true and I am sure that there are many woman… and possibly a few guys out there… that would throw their underwear at him, even to this day.

My like for Rick was based on the story many of his lesser known songs conveyed to me, the songs that never gained the popularity of “Don’t talk to strangers” or “Jesse’s Girl”, which were good, fun songs.  As anyone who really knows me already understands, I have always been the one that looks for the deeper meaning in music and the songs that are sung.  I have always felt that singing was both for entertainment and to tell a story that you might otherwise not be able to tell through just talking.  You just have to take the time to listen to the words.

Many of Rick’s songs that were mainstream became so because they were easy to dance to or easy to sing along with, but not all of them really had a back-story.  They were auditory bubble-gum for the kids to listen to and play to.  Songs that were more for the ratings and sales than for the intrinsic meaning there.  I am sure that Rick will disagree with me on some those points, but they are my opinions.

When you listen to the whole album (or CD), though, you see something that people who just go for the popular songs miss.  Hidden in the music is a story in some of the songs.  Those are the ones that have always had a meaning for me.  A story to tell that I would listen to and that I could find some connection with him through.  But in order to understand what is being said, you have to listen past the beat and the music, to the words and what they mean.  Listen to the voice and the emotion that it is carrying.  Here is a list of some of the songs I am talking about:

Album: Success hasn’t spoiled me yet   Song: April 24, 1981

Album: Beautiful Feelings  Song: Guenevere

The Entire “Tao” and “Rock of Life” Albums. – Both of these albums feel like a defining moment in Rick’s carreer.  Sort of a spiritual transition.  You hear a more contemplative sound in the music and you feel like he is telling you something about himself.

Listening to his music over the years, and having a chance to listen to it in chronological order, or as the albums were released, you get a sense of his developing spiritualism and hear his style maturing as he grows with his music.  As time goes on, you get a feel for understanding how his faith works and, in turn, start to feel it yourself.

I have been accused of reading too much into music and you will never hear me deny it.  But I think that when a person puts as much into the song as people like Rick, among others, do, they WANT you to understand what they are saying.  It is easy to just listen to the tunes and dance to the beat, but I do not think that is what it is all about.  There is a story to songs like “Like Father Like Son”, off his “Living in Oz” album.  If he took the time to write the piece and put it out there, then he wanted to share it with us.

I have not had a chance to listen to his newer works, but I will be making an effort to get them shortly.  I have heard nothing bad about them and, in fact, I see very good reviews of his newer work.  He has even released an album of lullabies.

So… it looks like Rick is going to be around for quite a while longer, entertaining those of us who were around when he was building up his steam and now a new, younger fan base.  If you listen to the stories, he can still pack in an audience and even holds a cruise on a regular basis that is almost always sold out.


Meat Loaf and Commercialism

I like Meat Loaf… both the dinner kind and the musician, but for the sake of this I am speaking of the musician, Marvin Lee Aday… aka Meat Loaf, for the topic at hand.

As I said, I really like his, Meat Loaf’s, music.  I have been listening to his work for about as long as I can remember and the first Album I owned by him was, of course, Bat Out of Hell.

So tell me, please.  Who in the world told him to do the “A1” steak sauce commercial that I just had to misfortune of seeing for the first time?  It was bad enough that someone told him he could act, but that was excusable since it was done at a time when it seemed that everyone wanted to get into acting.  Thank god that never spread to Ozzy Osbourne.  Could you imagine him trying to play the part of say an action hero?  Some Rambo type character?

But going back to Meat Loaf, He has proven himself at a very capable and versatile musician.  For his music, there is actually little I can say bad about it.  The only song that I do not really care for is “Anything for love”, but my reason for not liking it is not his fault… it is the fact that the radio stations played the crap out of it and it seemed like almost every television program, commercial and movie decided to use that particular song.

So… I see this commercial with Meat Loaf, eating meatloaf and then pouring A1 on it and singing “Anything for love.”  So not only did this commercial have to have Meat Loaf eating meatloaf… read into that anything you want, but then it had the single song that he released that I cannot stand.  Now, however I have a new reason to not like it and this time it IS his fault.

*  Thank you Sara for pointing out my error in the difference between Meatloaf and Meat Loaf as opposed to referring to both as Meatloaf.  Therefore I have edited the above article to differentiate the Meat Loaf and the Meatloaf.

The Jackson Legacy…

Since I am keeping the topics for this month music, I figure I would get a quick slam in on the Jackson family.

Is it just me, or is that family whoring out the death of MJ in order to gain attention?  The other day I watched  hook on TV (these are the little things they show you in the hopes of keeping you from changing the channel… it did not work for me) where they were discussing the fact that Joe Jackson was hyping his own business in the wake of his son’s death.

Then I am hearing all this BS about the “Reverend” Jesse Jackson and that hack, Al Sharpton, consoling the family.  These are nothing more than two more people sucking on the teats of Michael Jackson’s demise for their own personal gain.

You know that there will be some massive tribute and they, Joe, Jess and Al, will all be part of it.  They will probably charge huge sums of money for people to get in, under that guise that it will all go to some charity somewhere… probably the “Get Joe Jackson another face lift”, you can already tell that he and Michael were going to the same doctor.

This whole things stings with the makings of some conspiracy story, to me.  I see a made for TV movie in the near future.  I see that this is going to be built up into some twist plot by a subversive group that wanted to take Michael out because he “escaped justice”, as two people I talk to on a regular basis have already told me they believe.

It just amazes me that people cannot let the dead rest.  On that note, I will cease to discuss MJ any further…

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