Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An example of "vocal gymnastics," anthem style

Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, and any singer like them, can certainly belt out a tune vocally.  They have impressive voices.

So why is it that their singing can grate on my nerves at times?

It has a lot to do with "oversinging," or melisma, or a term that I've used myself that I didn't know anyone else used until I found a reference to it on Wikipedia -- "vocal gymnastics."

I have nothing against vocalists showing they have the ability to hit a wide variety of notes.  But do they have to hit so many of them on one word?  After all, can't it be just as powerful -- if not more so -- to hit a handful of notes at the most with emotion, the right use of vibrato, those kinds of little "touches."

Or are we resigned to this "vocal gymnastics" style continuing to assault us with reckless abandon, "American Idol" style?

For an example of this craze, I give you how the notes might look when a classic song is performed by the likes of Mariah and Christina at a sporting event.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What it's like to look at your own "twin"

I started a new job this week.  On the second day of on-the-job training, a comparison was made by a co-worker that involved me, a comparison that I've heard so many times that I could say, "If I had $10,000 for every time I heard that, I might not have to work a full-time job."

What is it that I keep hearing, over and over?

"You know who you look like?"  As soon as I hear that question, I know the answer without the other person needing to say anything, but I play along with a big smile before hearing those two familiar words:  "Kenny Rogers."

Kenny Rogers in his First Edition days.
I heard it at my 25-year high school reunion.  I was voted then as the "person who's changed the most."  I grew my hair out very long for the occasion, and wore a western-style outfit with a black vest, white collarless shirt, black pants and boots.  As I walked up to get the award, someone shouted out, "I was wondering who invited Kenny Rogers!"

I've heard it at other jobs, where "Kenny Rogers" became a nickname of mine.  I've heard it at my favorite neighborhood grocery store, where the employees get to see the regular customers enough to be able to give them a nickname like one of them did with me ... "Kenny Rogers."  During a "look-alike" week on Facebook, I changed my profile picture to one of Kenny Rogers.  It even fooled a niece of mine, who asked if I'd changed my beard.

But as I told the most recent co-worker to notice the resemblance on Tuesday, there is one video out there on YouTube of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition that made me drop my jaw in amazement the first time I watched it.  It looked exactly like me from around the time I was in my mid-20s.  Everything was the same:  the hair and the way it was parted, the beard and mustache, the glasses, the smile, the way he moved his mouth when he sang, the way he moved his head.

It was ... uncanny ... eerie ... like looking at a long-lost identical twin.

Want to know exactly what I looked like in my mid-20s?  It's all there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rascal Flatts comes out "changed"

I don't listen to country music radio as much as I used to.  If I listen to one format the most when it comes to music radio, it's contemporary Christian, especially on the K-Love network.

In the last couple of days, I heard a song on K-Love that I hadn't heard before.  It sounded an awful lot like a country song, performed by a country band that's gotten a fair amount of exposure.  The band is Rascal Flatts.  When you hear the version of Tom Cochrane's "Life Is A Highway" on the Pixar film "Cars," that's Rascal Flatts playing it.

Rascal Flatts has a great country sound, and it's the unique voice of Gary LeVox that helps to give the band a signature sound.  That was the first thing that hit me the other day when I heard the particular song that caught my ear on K-Love, and K-Love doesn't often announce the artists' names and song titles.  The second thing that hit me when I first heard it was the sound of a steel guitar.

You don't hear steel guitars too often on contemporary Christian radio.

Early this morning, I heard the song again for only the second time.  That time, they announced the song title and artist.  In fact, the announcers raved about the song.

What I was hearing was confirmed.  The group was Rascal Flatts.  The song is called "Changed."

It's a standout, in a variety of ways.  It's quite a "crossover."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A celebration of David Bowie

David Bowie
There was a time in my younger years when I -- quite honestly -- didn't "get" David Bowie.

Back in my younger years, he was just too ... "out there."  Like the character "Major Tom" in "Space Oddity" ... "out there."

Thank goodness for age and maturity, and "expanding the mind."  Now, when it comes to David Bowie, it's all good.  Good enough that it's exciting to me to know that after four decades, Bowie is still creating his own unique brand of music, and there's visual artistry to go along with it.

On Tuesday, Bowie celebrated his 66th birthday with the release of the tune "Where Are We Now?"  It's his first single release in a decade, part of the upcoming album "The Next Day."

After a decade without any new music coming from him, Bowie has shown that he hasn't lost a thing while he's been on the sideline.  It may not be among his greatest songs, but it's just good to hear him still thinking up new music.  This is classic Bowie in an introspective, reflective mood, giving a reason to celebrate his long and illustrious history on the music scene.

I'm still glad I changed my mind about Bowie along the way.

Monday, January 7, 2013

UPDATE: The train keeps on rollin' for Lester Chambers

The "publicity train" for my musical friend Lester Chambers in his efforts to raise funds to record a new album with his band The Mud Stompers keeps moving along.

Lester Chambers and The Mud Stompers (left to right, Kenneth Roy Berry, Marcia Miget, Kenny Susan, Lester Chambers, Chick Peteresen, Baron Chase)
As of this writing, with less than three days to go before the end of the Kickstarter fundraising campaign (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lesterchambers/lesters-time-has-come-today) Lester has going with Reddit.com co-founder Alexis Ohanian, the drive has 2,128 backers and it's raised close to $60,000 -- nearly $21,000 over its minimum goal to cover expenses.

January 3 provided a prime example of how busy life has been lately for Lester and his friends.  It started in the morning with an appearance at a television studio in San Jose for a recording on Press:Here on NBC -- with Alexis and Lester each being interviewed, followed by one of the funkiest performances of "Let's Get Funky" that I've heard yet out of the band.


From the television studio, the group packed up their gear and headed into downtown San Francisco, where they appeared with Alexis at WeWork Labs in front of an audience of close to 100 people for a Q&A and concert, designed to show how musicians can use the Internet to take greater control of their own artistic destinies.

It was an evening that was captured very well in an article by Drew Olanoff at TechCrunch.com.


It was a night of questions, answers, fascinating stories capturing moments in rock music history, and more musicianship from Lester and The Mud Stompers.

Since then, the phone calls continue at "Mud Stompers Headquarters."  A new CD is now in the planning stages, and recording will begin soon.

Yeah, Lester Chambers' train just keeps on rollin' along.  It could roll on to a marvelous comeback for a man who believes strongly in miracles, hopefully helping along the way to set the tone for musicians like him who want to be able to do something with their music, on their own terms.

It's a joy to behold.