Sunday, March 31, 2013

Some music to remember Easter Sunday by

I have another personal blog out there that's the "older sister" to this music blog.  It was from that blog that the inspiration for this music blog began, by posting music playlists on a daily basis.  It became the most popular part of my personal blog, and those music playlists still get viewed there to this day.

In one of those music playlists, I featured an album from former Genesis singer/flutist/songwriter/keyboardist and major solo star Peter Gabriel.  To be honest, it was an album I'd never listened to before then myself, though I'm a big fan of Gabriel's Genesis and solo work.  The album was the soundtrack "Passion," from the controversial Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.

As with so much of what Gabriel's music has done for me through the years, it was music that reached deep into my soul and touched me in a special wayAs it is with so much of Gabriel's music, it is pure art with Peter being able to paint pictures with words and/or music.

It's music to celebrate with on an Easter Sunday.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A celebration with "Symphonic Dances" in Utah

My lovely wife Amy and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary a week ago today.  Our celebration was basically kicked off the night before when we went to the Granger High School Auditorium in West Valley City, Utah, as Amy and her fellow members of the West Valley Symphony of Utah performed "Symphonic Dances" in concert, under the direction of music director and conductor Donny Gilbert.

Amy Miller performs with the West Valley Symphony of Utah.  (Photo by John G. Miller)
After many years of performing at the Granger auditorium, this was the last time for the West Valley Symphony to set foot in the facility before it's taken down to make way for a new auditorium, and a lot of memories will go along with it for the all-volunteer orchestra of nearly 70 musicians.

It's a group of musicians that does it purely for the love of the music.

Among the selections played at the concert were Russell Bennett's "Cakewalk, Leroy Anderson's "Blue Tango, Ravel's "Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte," and Tchaikovsky's "Pas De Deux" from "The Nutcracker."

Among the highlights for the evening were Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 2," "Danzon No. 2" by Arturo Marquez, and the finale of "Berceuse and Finale" from Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite."

Monday, March 18, 2013

When a Utah reggae band meets a Jamaican legend

Bludgeon Muffin was in the spotlight here three weeks ago after the Salt Lake City area reggae band played a post Mardi Gras party, and they rocked the place.  Last Thursday night (March 14), Bludgeon Muffin turned out to be the opening act for a Salt Lake City appearance at Liquid Joe's by Frankie Paul, one of Jamaica's best-loved dancehall reggae artists.

Jamaican reggae star Frankie Paul (All photos and videos by John G. Miller)
It turned into an evening to remember.

Having a couple of energetic connections with Bludgeon Muffin turned into a discussion about whether I'd be able to shoot photos and record video of the Frankie Paul show, and once that subject got the green light from Frankie's people, it turned into an opportunity for a post-show interview.

It turned into a golden opportunity, one that I wasn't about to waste.  And why not invite my friends along for the ride?  My friend Daniel Arellano -- Bludgeon Muffin's lead guitar player -- set the table for it all.  Before taking the stage himself to warm up the crowd with his bandmates for Frankie Paul, Daniel asked if I was stoked to be interviewing the Jamaican star, known as "The Jamaican Stevie Wonder."

Truth was, I wasn't exactly prepared for an interview with the prolific Frankie Paul.  That opportunity was a pleasant surprise.  But, yeah, I answered, I was very pleased.  But I wanted it to go a bit deeper than that.  I asked Daniel if he and anyone else from Bludgeon Muffin might like to take part in the interview themselves.

"Absolutely!" Daniel answered with a big smile.

Bludgeon Muffin took the stage and proceeded to turn in a killer set.  There may have been a touch of nerves coming from the stage a time or two, but it was plain to see that the band was pumped to be opening for Frankie, and the crowd responded in kind.

Then, it was Frankie's turn.  He and his band put on a rockin' show.

Frankie Paul

Frankie Paul gets 'em dancin' at Liquid Joe's in Salt Lake City March 14.

 Frankie's all about the music, and his vocal riffing was effortless.  Time after time he'd ease from a reggae tune into a classic tune from all over the place -- showing his "Stevie Wonder-like" chops with "My Cherie Amour," Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are," "The Way We Were," "Somewhere Over The Rainbow,"  the theme from "The Flintstones," "It's Not Unusual," "Just Once" -- and come back to the original without missing a beat.

If you were paying attention, you'd hear an amazing setlist, and it was all delivered with a fun sense of passion from Frankie and everyone on stage with him.

The crowd ate it all up, from the first jam to the last.

When it was all over, it was time to gather up the members of Bludgeon Muffin so they could meet a reggae hero.

Daniel Arellano (left) and Nicolas Snarr of Bludgeon Muffin show off their autographed guitar and ukulele.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's in my CD changer: The Power Station

The blog's had an "irregular pulse" again for a bit, thanks to its creator starting another new job out in the "real world" and preparing to do it over the last couple of weeks.  That means another change of pace, more adjustments to be made time-wise.

I changed all the discs in my 10-CD changer a couple of weeks ago too, about the time the new job was offered to me.  One of the discs I put in was from that '80s supergroup The Power Station -- made up of Chic drummer Tony Thompson, Duran Duran's bass player (John Taylor) and guitar player (Andy Taylor), capped off by the singing of blue-eyed soul and rock vocalist Robert Palmer.

It was a group that rocked my world when it made its debut, despite the fact that I wasn't a big fan of Duran Duran.  But I did like Palmer's singing, Thompson's powerful drumming style was all good to my ears, and the Taylors sounded even better to me when they were away from Duran Duran..

I've been going through those discs in my CD changer as I've been making the rounds getting ready for the new job.  I'll be taking advantage of what mass transit has to offer, especially with a new light rail system about to open with a station just a couple of blocks away from my new office.  As fate would have it, that new station has a name that fits what's included in my CD changer these days.

Power Station.

Get it on!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An "architect" of progressive rock passes away

Peter Banks died last Thursday of apparent heart failure at the age of 65.  For those who may be unfamiliar with the name or what he did, this will help:  the BBC's Danny Baker and Big George often called Banks "The Architect of Progressive Music."

Peter Banks (left) with Yes, along with Tony Kaye, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, and Jon Anderson.
Banks' role in the history of progressive rock came about when he worked with a bass player named Chris Squire, and that relationship developed into a group that called itself Yes.  He was part of the group's eponymous debut album in 1969 that contained songs like "Yesterday and Today," a Yes classic in "Survival," and a cover of Lennon-McCartney's "Every Little Thing."

From there it was the 1970 album "Time and a Word," with original songs like "Astral Traveller" and the album's title track, along with two more covers -- Richie Havens' "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed" and Stephen Stills' "Everydays."

That second album was the beginning of the end for Banks' time with Yes, despite some memorable playing from him on the songs "Then" and "The Prophet."  There was a parting of the ways stylistically speaking, and Banks was released which led to Steve Howe coming in on guitar -- even being pictured on the U.S. version of the album cover instead of Banks -- and the rest is Yes history.

From there, Banks formed the prog band Flash which would later include former Yes Keyboardist Tony Kaye.  There was also a memorable solo album, "Two Sides of Peter Banks," which featured Jan Akkerman, John Wetton, and Phil Collins.

It may be that not everyone knows the name Peter Banks.  But a part of his music will live on for a long time to come.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A "meeting of the spirits"

Finally, I've set aside some time to watch a video from 1979 that a guitar-playing friend loaned to me a couple of weeks ago after we'd been chatting and sharing videos about favorite guitar players, just in time for me to return it to him later today.

The video was recorded in 1979, featuring some legendary members of "The Guitar Trio" (not to be confused with my friends from the California Guitar Trio, featuring Utah's own Paul Richards whose flying fingers have been featured in this blog's main photo above since Day One of this blog).  This guitar trio was formed by jazz fusion pioneer Larry Coryell, also featuring another jazz fusion pioneer in John McLaughlin as well as Spanish flamenco guitar legend Paco De Lucia.

Larry Coryell (left), John McLaughlin (middle), and Paco De Lucia
The video is titled "Meeting of the Spirits."  It's a remarkable blending not only of guitar giants, but of guitar styles.  It's heavy on that marvelous Spanish style that De Lucia has helped to revolutionize, but the highlight for me is the extended interplay between the three men on the title song -- taking McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra classic "Meeting of the Spirits" and giving it a whole new feel, minus the keyboards, drums, bass and violin that helped make the song so memorable.

It's also memorable when three players at the top of their game rip into it, either with flying picks from Coryell and McLaughlin to De Lucia's amazing finger picking style.  The fretboard work is jaw-dropping as well.

I'd long been a fan of the trio that came after this one, featuring McLaughlin and De Lucia playing with Al Di Meola.  This was my first exposure to the trio in this formation.

It's well worth sharing with my own friends here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rest in peace, Alvin Lee

To borrow some lyrics from John Mellencamp, I was born in a small town, and I was raised in a small town.  It was out in the middle of nowhere.  It had one AM radio station that signed off at sundown every day.  In the morning, it would play either country music or easy listening/show tunes.  During the noon hour, it was polka time.

No, I'm not kidding.

In the afternoon, it was time for rock 'n' roll.  While that one radio station would play some great songs, it was still a bit limited in what it could/would play.

In my hometown, Woodstock was a universe away in 1969.  We might have seen glimpses of it on the nightly news, we might have heard a few songs from it on the radio but only the studio versions, not the festival recordings.

I don't think I knew about the band Ten Years After until around 1971, when I picked up a "greatest hits" 8-track tape from a local store for a couple of bucks.  I immediately fell in love with the song "I'd Love To Change The World."

The years went on, and my exposure to the songs from Woodstock finally came to light through the soundtrack album and film.  Alvin Lee's guitar playing on "I'm Going Home" blew me away.  I know I haven't been alone.

Alvin Lee died today at age 68 from complications following a routine surgical procedure.  A lot of music-loving friends are mourning the loss, and for good reason.  A very memorable part of our musical lives goes along with this guitar hero.

Alvin Lee's "going home."  Rest in peace, Alvin.