29 January 2007

I have been quietly standing in the shade, All Of My Days…

If you watched television a few years ago you heard a cool song being used in a VW commercial. These people are driving down a moon lit winding road with their top down and Alexi Murdoch’s song “Orange Sky” from his EP, Four Songs, is lulling these friends into an idyllic late night drive. It’s a very cool commercial and a great way for this then unknown singer songwriter from Scotland to get some notice. It was a brilliant idea – produce your own record/EP, get it into the right marketing hands and hope for the best. That one commercial put him on the global map.

He has this unique voice that’s hard to describe and some of his music is very definitely what I think of as Modern Scottish Folk Music. Reminiscent of Luka Bloom, but expressive in the way that is truly Alexi Murdoch, his tunes are sublime and low key, accessible and easy to understand. His sound is part Folk, part Jazz, and a little bit of Rock. Depending on the production value of a song he reminds me of Snow Patrol only more subtle and yet still interesting. Like them his sound is moody and perfect for a rainy day. It must be the weather and the Celtic history across the pond that produces such incredible songwriting on both accounts.

He released a full length CD last year entitled Time Without Consequence. It’s mostly new material like the above referenced “All Of My Days” while it incorporates 3 songs from his EP including “Orange Sky”. I highly suggest you check it out (itunes and www.myspace.com/aleximurdoch). It’s a great mix of tunes and worth multiple obsessive listenings.

Saturday morning was a great morning. I got up, gave Phin his daily dose of fluids and headed out the door to my favourite neighbourhood coffee shop Marco’s. I spent a few hours reading The New Yorker with my ipod on it’s standard ‘shuffle’ mode tuning out the world and listening for inspiration. It’s a wonderful invention that as a musician is critical to my existence. How else would I be able to listen to Vivaldi in one moment and Jack Johnson in another? During this vital time as we near the end of completion on my EP, I need all the ‘help’ I can get – to be able to access every different kind to music I own at the push of a button is truly priceless. And there’s nothing better than sitting quietly in the shade at a coffee shop, magazine in one hand, beverage in another and a world of music at my disposal.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday…CHEERS!!

PS: Thanks to Lee Rudnicki (Blog 7/Broken Ocean Entertainment) for his feedback and input on the EP during our midnight listening this past week – MUCH APPRECIATED!

22 January 2007

Life’s like an hour glass glued to the table…and Breathe, just Breathe….

In 2005 I was doing my usual radio listening of East Coast Stations. The great thing about the Internet is the access to other markets and sometimes small town radio stations that aren’t afraid to play something new (unlike L.A. that waits for something to be a hit on the Eastern Seaboard before playing a song). That’s how I first heard Anna Nalick and the above- mentioned “Breathe (2AM)”. The first line caught me - “2AM and she calls me ‘cause I’m still awake, can you help me unravel my latest mistake? I don’t love him Winter just wasn’t my season...” The sense of urgency and desperation felt in those first lines are hard to ignore and hard not to listen to. At the time her album Wreck Of The Day was released she was 21. It’s an impressive debut – though not as impressive as Kate Bush releasing her first album, The Kick Inside, at the tender age of 16, and certainly the songs aren’t nearly as deep or as good, but it’s impressive, nonetheless.

As I listen to Wreck Of The Day I can’t help but think about Fiona Apple, and Avril Levigne, maybe even Nellie Furtado without the funkyness. Produced by the founders of Blind Melon, who broke up after that Shannon guy killed himself (I totally saw that one coming), Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith do a fine job and add the edge needed to make this a ‘hit’ album. But, for as much as I like the song “Breathe (2AM)” I don’t think there’s anything glaringly unique about this CD. She sounds like an edgier teen Pop Queen with better songs. Not the worst thing, but nothing all that new, either. She claims Tori Amos as an influence, which by default you can say Kate Bush, but I don’t hear it. I think in a few years, when she’s closer to 30 and done some living she’ll be really hard not to listen to. She definitely shows promise and I think she will get better with age, perhaps as she ‘Breathes’ a little.

It was Friday night in West Hollywood and Abby and I were desperate for a night out after the last few weeks of human sickness, cat sickness, and the year generally just not starting off on a good, or positive note. We met up at one of our favourite haunts, Basix, known for tasty, affordable food and a “Happy Hour” that goes from 5p – 7p. It’s a fun, neighbourhood place to go, we know a handful of the wait staff and are always greeted warmly. However, on this night, a little too warmly. One thing I will never understand about LA is it’s proclivity towards using heat lamps. Yes, in a town where the temperature rarely drops into the 30’s, and does so only in the middle of the night, if then, they use heat lamps to warm out door patrons in the ‘winter’ time.

I would say the temps were in the low 60’s when we sat down on the patio – a choice spot for rush hour traffic gazing, people watching and ‘fresh’ air. As I sat there, awaiting the 1st Martini of the night, I could feel an odd presence. I looked up, and it was there….the red glow of the dreaded heat lamp. Just like the salmon I was about to order, I was being grilled up, only without the sauce (though for many the Martinis might count), or the bok choi. I didn’t know what to do. Do I ask them to turn it off? Or down? What made it worse is that they had the clear ‘curtains’ down, enclosing us in a bubble. They serve to keep the wind out, heat in, and, unfortunately also, the smoke from the smokers. I felt trapped. No ‘fresh’ air and no breeze to dissipate the heat from that red glow.

After discussing it with Abby and looking around at the full patio I opted not to say anything, since I wasn’t the only person in that space. But still, I don’t understand why heat lamps are even necessary in this town. It’s never that cold – for god sakes, we don’t live in Maine! I LIKE the chilly air and the crispness of a cool night. If I wanted to be warm and toasty I would opt to eat inside and not fake it by sitting outside under a heat lamp. But that’s just me – I want to breathe when I eat.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!

15 January 2007

If I should live forever, and all my dreams come true, my memories of love will be of you…

When Placido Domingo starts singing the words to "Perhaps Love“ on the CD of the same name, released in 1981 and Produced by Milton Okun, it’s hard to imagine that the songwriter was the late John Denver. However, when Mr. Denver chimes in a verse later the picture becomes complete. The combination of the operatic depth of Mr.Domingo and mountain air feel of Mr. Denver while at first is shocking ends up making sense. The interplay between the two voices is refreshing, warm, and incredibly touching. They balance one another and give the words and production a range that few songs possess. With the acoustic guitar sounds combining gently with the orchestral one gets the feeling that the integrity of every note is cherished and loved. Once you get over the amazement of what you are hearing you know it’s a John Denver tune as it is true John Denver - romantic, hopeful and thought provoking.

"Perhaps Love is like a resting place, a shelter from the storm, it exists to give you comfort it is there to keep you warm and in those times of trouble when you are most alone the memory of love will bring you home… …like a fire when it’s cold outside, thunder when it rains, if I should live forever and all my dreams come true my memories of love will be of you…“

One would be remiss not to mention the rest of the CD. It may be the original Opera meets Pop/Folk production. All of the songs interplay the two genres, although there is only one other John Denver song – a remake of "Annie’s Song“. All in all this CD lays the groundwork for later artists such as Josh Groban and if you like him – check out the original!

It was 7 years ago this week that my Mother passed away unexpectedly. It feels like yesterday and to be honest, there are times when I still feel I want to call her and ask her advice. Last week when all Hell was breaking loose with Phineas – he’s better now, thankfully – I needed my Mom. I’ll always need her. I don’t think we ever loose that feeling – no matter how many years pass. "Perhaps Love“ was one of her all time favourite songs and CD’s. The only time she ever saw me perform (after my days dancing on the sidewalk at 69th and Columbus) was at a High School talent show. I surprised her by performing "Perhaps Love“ with a friend of mine. I looked out to the audience a verse in and she was beaming with pride as tears gently caressed her face. I’ll never forget that moment and the feeling that if I should live forever and all my dreams come true – my memories of love will be of her.

Thanks for tuning in….Until next Monday…NASDROVIA!

09 January 2007

I’m sooo tired, I haven’t slept a wink, I’m sooo tired, my mind is on the blink….

It’s a fact I recently figured out – you either like The Beatles or you don’t. After years of being surrounded by fellow musicians and well-tuned music lovers I found myself face to face with someone who HATED The Beatles. This person is neither a musician nor a music lover – discuss amongst yourselves. I couldn’t believe my ears. How can you possibly HATE The Beatles?!?!? It was a night a few months ago in The Bronx. I sat face to face with one of my oldest friends (20+ years) and was told that she HATED The Beatles. My jaw dropped, Fritz’s jaw dropped, and the entire tri-state area gasped – including the folks who live on West Side of Central Park. Now, we all have a right to our opinion – this is, after all, the person who turned me on to Everything But The Girl oh so many years ago – so she can’t be all that musically illiterate, right? But still. How can you at least not appreciate their contributions to the world of music and song - writing as we know it?

You don’t have to love the wit of John, the romanticism of Paul, the mysticism of George or the fun-loving nature of Ringo – but you can at least realize that without The Beatles most of us would not be musicians, most of us would not be as politically aware, or even humming the likes of Elvis Costello, Badly Drawn Boy, Elliot Smith, Annie Lennox, Aimee Mann, Aqualung, Ben Lee, Everything But The Girl, or ANYONE who has touched a guitar in the last 40 years. Without The Beatles would we be hearing a trumpet in a pop song? Would we be hearing a cello or a sitar played alongside an electric guitar? Or an airplane as background noise? Or a yawn in the middle of a song? Now of course we know a lot of this has to do with the masterful touch of George Martin, but he had to be inspired by what he heard between the lines in order to come up with some of this stuff, right? If you believe that something comes from everything, than you have your answer as to what the world of music would be like if The Beatles had never existed.

As for me, I’m so tired that I’m not sure any of this week’s blog is making sense – so please accept my apologies. The reason I didn’t post this yesterday is because I’d spent Sunday night/Monday morning awake and cleaning up after my beloved cat, Phineas, who has gotten very ill and was puking blood all night. I lay awake keeping an eye on him, tending to him as if he were my child, and holding his large body as he yakked his guts out. As the hours slowly ticked by and we awaited the opening of my vet - for the thought if taking him to an emergency place that doesn’t know him, or us, and likely would tell me to go to my vet anyway after taking large sums of money from me I don’t have made me just as scared as what Phin was going through. Meanwhile he was tough, scared and a real trooper. After surviving a month missing here in West Hollywood in October 2005 (we found him under a house) and the sickness that followed that horrible experience – this is one tough Dude. Cats are amazing creatures and this guy in his 11 years with me has gotten me through some tough times. While we don’t know what’s wrong with him yet, I’m hopeful that this is something a few days at the amazing Laurel Pet Hospital and some meds to follow will cure. In the meantime, send your good vibes in this direction, send cash (kidding – sort of), and keep your fingers crossed! Now, if you’ll pardon me, it’s time for a much needed nap!

Thanks for tuning in….Until next Monday….CHEERS!!!

01 January 2007

We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to time…reliving in our eloquence of another Old Lang Syne…..

If you were awake in the late 70’s and/or most of the 80’s than you know that Dan Fogelberg is the quintessential Adult Contemporary artist of that time. With songs such as the above mentioned “Old Lang Syne” (played often around this time of year) and the unforgettable “Longer” (a wedding standard in the 80’s) and his “Leader Of The Band” – an homage to his High School Bandleader father, this gold and platinum selling singer-songwriter has touched on a wide range of topics and done so with a sweet soul, a slightly rough voice, and a sweet sound. As with many fine songwriters, he draws from his life and makes the stories accessible and likable.

It amazes me, as I listen to his CD Live: Greetings From The West, how many of these songs I remember hearing on the radio in the 80’s. He was everywhere! He was also heard in my house – he was one of my Mother’s favourite singers from that time. I have to say – though you only hear him on those “Lite FM” stations these days, his perspective is timeless. Which, if music is any good – it IS timeless and transcends the trends of the morning, and continues to offer a voice that begs not to be forgotten. There is a sensitivity to this guy that I think was rare in the 80’s. While I listened, and still listen to, the likes of The Cure, Kate Bush, OMD and others, I like sitting back and chilling out and letting my emotions run their course. It’s easy to do when you hear this guy. “You said to be patient and give you some room, you said you had changes you need to work through, but the longer I wait the farther I feel from you, I’m so lonely in love, why must I be lonely in love?...” Jesus!!! I think it takes a lot of courage to write something that bare and truthful, and then release it as a single.

How many times have you dreamed of running into your ex on Christmas Eve and sharing a few beers in a car and hearing that they are miserable? It’s a cool story of Old Lang Syne and while it’s reminiscent of Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” (and the Sequel) he tells the story with a cleaner and less gritty perspective, somewhat matter of factly, but yet still with a longing and wonderment we can all identify with – a more romantic touch, if you will. “As I turned to make my way back home the snow turned into rain….” And just as he sings that you hear the notes from the classic “Auld Lang Syne”. It’s a timeless song. If you want to revisit this guy, I highly recommend you check out this Live CD, he really can play, sing and he has a great band backing him up. It was released in 1991 and truly is a greatest hits stew of songs you know and a few you may not be as familiar with.

So I can’t say we drank any toasts to innocence last night – Boo came back on Saturday sick only to find me sick - a hell of a way to start the New Year and a hell of a way spend our first days together after a month apart. Oh Well. I have been reminded that ‘sick in bed’ is how we have spent the last few New Years together. Though this is the first time where I’m not the only patient. OY.

It was a good trip home and I’m glad I went. Cate was surprised to see her favourite Aunt show up Christmas morning, albeit slightly hung over from the Eve’s festivities at an Italian restaurant in the Bronx that makes the most amazing Martini’s (besides my own). While we only had a couple of hours together before she whisked away to Daddy’s, it was time well spent! On Wednesday Me, Sis and Fritz went to the Berkshires, my other favourite place on the planet, to see our dear friend Lauren and her daughter Catherine – my 2nd favourite niece. While I didn’t get to drive the Mini this time, we, along with Lauren’s brother Scott, all went to my long time love, The Red Lion, a hotel, restaurant, and downstairs pub in Stockbridge where I’d spent some fine afternoons of my early adulthood with my other “Brother”, Hank, (wish you were there!) and his father. It was great to be there – thinking of Hank’s parents who are buried nearby and to whom I always give a special toast/nod when I’m back in that area. It’s a special place for so many reasons and it really makes me feel at home to be there and to have most of us together. It gave me a lot to think about as far as what I want for the New Year, how I want to spend my time on this earth, and where. It was a poetic moment when as we got in the car to turn back to Connecticut it had been snowing, lightly, and as we headed south it turned to rain……..

While I have no idea what comes next, and I don’t do resolutions, I do have a feeling that things will change, life will move forward, the Demo/EP will be finished, and as my dear Suz told me – they have a saying in Scotland – “What’s for ya, won’t pass by ya”. Words to live by I’d say.

Thanks for tuning in….Until next Monday….CHEERS!!! and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! (Go Michigan!!!)