Wednesday, May 31, 2017

50 Years Ago Today
In June 1967, I was finishing 7th grade with British nun, Sister Michael Bernadette. Mornings before school and during recess, the schoolyard conversations with Joey Sullivan, Glenn McCarthy and the guys, revolved around Prime Time television with shows like the still popular Batman, the exciting Man From Uncle and Star Trek and the antics of the Monkees and the ultra cool mod British Import, The Avengers , the coolest of British Spy's John Steed and the adolescent fantasy, Emma Peel and of course, Pop music. The Top 10 the last week of May consisted of :
1 GROOVIN’ –•– The Young Rascal
2  RESPECT –•– Aretha Franklin 
3 I GOT RHYTHM –•– The Happenings 
4 RELEASE ME –•– Engelbert Humperdinck 
5 THE HAPPENING –•– The Supremes 
6 SWEET SOUL MUSIC –•– Arthur Conley
7 HIM OR ME – WHAT’S IT GONNA BE –•– Paul Revere and the Raiders Featuring Mark Lindsay 
8 CREEQUE ALLEY –•– The Mamas and the Papas 
9 SOMETHIN’ STUPID –•– Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra 
10 GIRL, YOU’LL BE A WOMAN SOON –•– Neil Diamond 
The charts that winter and spring had been dominated by the success of The Monkees,  The Stones, Lovin' Spoonful, The Turtles, Buffalo Springfield, Mamas and the Papas and a lot of Motown and Stax Soul, the Who were newcomers and Frankie Valli was having a solo comeback with Can't Take My Eyes Off of You. Through it all The Beatles double A sided single of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields rode the top of charts from January until May. The picture sleeve with the band in the coolest Victorian Mod outfits but all featuring facial hair to some degree, John was now wearing little round spectacles as well as the mustache that graced his face along with Paul and Ringo, George also had a goatee. The picture was cool, partially backlit with a star filter affecting the lights. Their new look was a source of much discussion. Girls didn't like it but the guys found the look intriguing. And then Sgt. Pepper came out on June 2nd in the US, (it had premiered on June 1st in the UK). The music press went mad. AM radio stations played tracks off the album which was unheard of in the days of top 40. It was like hearing sound for the first time, almost  unlike anything that came before. The rock of Sgt. Pepper and Getting Better, Good Morning, Good Morning, and Fixing a Hole, the music hall of With a Little Help From My Friends, Mr. Kite and When I'm 64, the eloquent She's Leaving Home and then there was the amazing Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds, Within You, Without You and A Day in the Life, there were hints of the eastern influences on Revolver and Rubber Soul but this was far out far east. Lucy and Day In the Life were , to me the most exciting. These songs cemented  the arrival of what would be titled psychedelic music. Hendrix was playing songs from the album in concert, the day after the release, the music press were in a frenzy and the news media followed. The album cover was a landmark of curiosity. You could sit and listen to the music while studying all the faces and statues, the lyrics were on the back cover, an unheard of first as well. The big gatefold of the band in pseudo military band costumes. The record inner sleeve was a cool swirl of reds and pinks and there was also the souvenir card with cut outs of a mustache, postcard and set. stripes. The band certainly delivered your money's worth.
The local Shop-Rite Supermarket had a downstairs annex where they sold sundries like towels, stationary, lightbulbs and record albums. It was there that I first set my hands on this amazing artistic piece. I bought it as soon as I could get the money and played the grooves out. I had a little portable radio that had a hidden turntable on the back. It had a single speaker, so, I always bought mono. I had no idea or appreciation for stereo. A few months later, I found out my player actually could play stereo but in mono. The rest of that summer was the summer of love and the rise of psychedelic music was championed by the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors and the Beatles follow up single, All You Need Is Love. The effect of Pepper was far reaching. Almost overnight, every male wanted facial hair, long hair got longer, beads, paisley, Nehru jackets and bellbottom trousers were a must, Wearing glasses was no longer an embarrassment as long as they were metal frames and even cooler if tinted. It seemed that every band needed to produce a Sgt. Pepper concept album. The Stones recorded Her Satanic Majesties Request, The Monkees, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, The Zombies, Odyssey and Oracle, Vanilla Fudge The Beat Goes On, Brian Wilson, whose sonic brilliance on Pet Sounds influenced McCartney to create Pepper, tried to equal it with his soon to be aborted Smile album effort for the Beach Boys and so many more, Many failed some barely succeeded. Still, the real "psychedelic" performers also arrived, Hendrix, The Doors, The Dead and Pink Floyd but it was Pepper that was the catalyst. So, here we are 50 years later and Pepper has  been rereleased and remastered and remixed for stereo and this is monumental. The Beatles recorded and mixed all their albums in Mono. Stereo was an afterthought executed by lower level engineers, I didn't know this at the time. As I entered high school and college, everything was about stereo and i went out of my way to rebuy my Beatle Albums in Stereo. when I bought Pepper in Stereo, I was disappointed, it didn't sound anything like the mono, it was kind of flat and the placement of the voices and instruments were awkward. I didn't understand it but I got used to it. When CD's came out the mono/ stereo arguments came out and the first four albums were only released in pristine mono. The information about their lack of involvement in the stereo mixes until Abbey Road surfaced but it wasn't until 2009 that the mono versions were released and the stereo cleaned up but not remixed except for Rubber Soul and Help! and those were not major remixes. The stereo imaging and separation were still old school. So, now fast forward to the release of the Beatle promo videos where the original tracks were remixed for surround sound. At this point the decision to remix Pepper for better stereo was made and George Martin's son was brought in to execute the project. Let me say what all the press have been saying, the stereo sound is exquisite. Following the road map of the MONO mix, the tracks shimmer and sparkle. The magic sound that I heard on my little mono player are now brought to life in a dazzling way like never before.The bass is driving, the drums  are crystal clear, the guitars shimmering and the vocals evenly spaced in the soundstage. As a bonus for the box set, they also remixed the album in 5-1 surround and it is even more spectacular. Okay, it is different but in a very good way. When listening to the stereo mix it is now like sitting at a concert and hearing the band alive in front of you but if you can listen to the surround mix, it is like being in the studio with them. Most people will not  get the box set with the surround Blu-ray and bonus track CD's but real Beatle fans should not deny themselves. For everyone else, I heartily recommend the ne new remixed 2 CD set with out takes and early versions of the songs on the second disc. A splendid time is still guaranteed for all.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Theatre and baseball are two of my passions and tonight I got to see the two combined in the Yankees/ Rays game featuring the Alex Rodriguez "farewell". The iconic New York Yankees are no strangers to "drama and theatre" but there has been no figure in baseball who truly exemplified the notion of the tragic hero than Alex Rodriguez. The tragic hero is one who is not all good or all bad, with extraordinary qualities or powers or position who brings about his own downfall by committing an error of judgement or hubris, often a sin of pride. He suffers a downfall for this error of judgement and has a too late recognition of his mistakes. This is Alex Rodriguez. He made very stupid choices, paid the price and now regrets. People, especially Yankee haters, will always say cheater but he wasn't alone by a long shot, but the ultimate admission of his stupidity further illustrates the quality of the tragic hero. Through clean times and cheating times, he always provided many great moments as a player and contributed as a solid teammate. Of course, the Yankees took a risk by giving him that ridiculously long contract but they too, are literally paying for it. A-Rod, of course, will have his shame of being "released" assuaged by the cash from the contract that he will still get, but for this Yankee fan, I'm both grateful for his "dramatic" contributions both on and off the field and his "flawed" character which will now serve as a lesson to all in both sports and other fields of endeavor. Farewell, number 13, you chose the number because you were a Dan Marino fan but ultimately it proved kind of unlucky: kind of tragic or at least ironic.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

NBC Broadway Live Take 2

Once again the "Nothing is better than Broadway snobby haters" are out in force on the interwebs attacking NBC 's second live Broadway  musical.  I commented on  last year's Sound of Mucus and I'm reusing part of my post as it still holds true. Anyone who read my blog post about the Les Mis film knows that I am a firm believer in Apples and Oranges. I support anything that keeps theatre alive. I cheer for the success of jukebox musicals. They put butts in seats and give actors and technicians work. They also introduce new bodies to all legit theatre. If they come for Motown and return for Once and then Matilda or Kinky Boots, I say bravo, the plan works. When I was in college we had so many great and near great composers and creative teams writing shows and we took sides. Some loved Kander & Ebb, others Cy Coleman or Jerry Herman, Bock & Harnick, Schmidt & Jones, Schwartz, Lloyd Weber  and of course Sondheim. But many did not care for his work. Now as elder statesman with no ascendant successors in sight, he has become a high watermark for many comparisons and that is not fair. Broadway has changed and will continue to do so. It is in a very interesting state of being right now and if NBC doing a " live" musical or Glee's recent success help make people want to see live Theatre then let's give a standing ovation. Sound of Music was a flawed piece of theatre with some really nice songs and a maudlin, saccharin book that became overshadowed by a tremendous piece of cinema that fixed many of the flaws. And therein lies the partial root of the haters hate: they so love the film and it's star that they were blinded to most other attempts especially by a "CW" musician with no stage experience.Now, with Peter Pan, they are back to show off their self important critical wit. Now they are experts in Peter Pan. Even though they mostly know old cast albums and the Disney cartoon, they are now experts on Peter Pan. Yes, some are old codgers who will always be curmudgeons carping about " how wonderful Mary Martin was and the old TV show was. Their memory, unfortunately, is clouded by the wonders of childhood memories. Others have no idea how  many versions of Peter Pan there are or were. J.M. Barrie, the author of the original book and play, rewrote it every year in his lifetime. There was a new production in London with new music every year for over 100 years. There was also a Broadway version before this one and this one had trouble before during and after its Broadway and TV version. It has constantly changed and many of the changes in this version were long overdue. There is already a volume of hate directed toward idiosyncratic film actor, Christopher Walken. His performance was incredibly well thought out and executed in his person style. He was incredibly realistic, justifying every line and injecting his own sense of humor and even improv. It was a very studied performance. His singing was no worse than. Cyril Ritchard or Boris Karloff, Ron Moody etc. may of them were over the top foppish cartoons. You may like that but you can't criticize a realistic approach as wrong. It is a very modern interpretation. Of course, many haters are just plain envious and think- if not them in the part-then no one. Such little minds, such big egos. Build a bridge folks and get over it. It's a TV show. People love kitsch and crap of many reality shows like Real Housewives or the Kardashians. I'll take a kitsch TV theatre performance over any housewife reality drek any day. Now to the rest of this Peter Pan, it was entertaining and as well done as possible. Higher tech soundstage scenery, some digital effects and high tech flying and multi cameras doing it live, while adding songs and rewriting a dated script was quite a challenge and I once again applaud NBC. The show was entertaining, the cast was delightful especially Walken's very unique performance. He was a parody of himself at times and delightful. The changes were mostly helpful but the cinematic efforts combined with the awkward commercials made the show drag but so did the original. I have seen the Mary Martin original on TV, Sandy Duncan, Cathy Rigby, Lulu in London( real English Panto style), a brilliant male Peter in Trevor Nunn's,  NT anniversary production and recent RSC radical reworking, Wendy and Peter, several community productions and this version was just as entertaining and superior on many levels. To all the "nothing is better than Broadway snobby haters", stop watching TV and film versions of shows, you can't learn to like "different" and you can't judge efforts in other media without bias. Oh, and please stay away from the  Disney  film version of Into the Woods opening on Christmas. You are going to hate it, we know you are so spare us your ire.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Farewell to My Team's Captain or Don't Be a Hater It Doesn't Become You.

I am very disheartened by the incredible amount of hate and negativity being plastered across the net, Facebook and some media personalities regarding Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter is a popular player among his peers and especially among New York Yankees fans. Last year Mariano Rivera played his last season, pretty much universally acclaimed as the greatest closer, and during the course of the season, other teams honored him on his farewell tour. It was great publicity for the Yankees as well as an honor for Mo. Before this season, Derek Jeter announced his intention to retire. This time the Yankees capitalized on the event and "farewell tour" number two began. Jeter was initially, somewhat, uncomfortable with the concept but being the team player for one of the most famous corporations in sports, he acquiesced. As the season progressed and the Yankee's efforts were hampered by injury and low productivity, especially in the last two months, the Yankee organization and the media began to focus on "Jeter's last season" with major hype.   MAJOR HYPE. Yankee fans loved it. Yankee haters hated it. I understand the Media writers and sports commentators who are trying to drum up readership or self promotion by publishing articles denigrating his stats and downplaying his place among Yankee greats but the Yankee haters that are made up of fans from other teams. Ironically, fans of Yankee rivals like Red Sox or O's and most others don't care because they are generally happy and secure with their team and understand the Yankee fans's joy and sadness for their hero's last games. Some sad Mets fans, some-not all, and others, too, are rabid Yankee haters. They revel at every opportunity to degrade Jeter and his fan base not because they simply hate the Yankees but because they hate the success and financial clout of the Yankee franchise and are seething with jealousy and envy because their team does not get the same organizational support. I'm talking mostly about Yankee hating Mets fans and the fans of a few other small market franchises that are frustrated by their team's inability or reluctance to spend money. It is sad that they need to release such vehement hateful attacks on the Yankee fans celebration of the retirement of their hero. It seems that every mention of the celebration is a reminder of how unsuccessful their team has been and every attack on Jeter and his fans is a way to bolster their own insecurities about their team and its owners. 
Yankee fans love Derek Jeter. He has been the "Face of the Franchise" both on and off the field  for almost all of his 20 years, certainly from the time he was made Captain. He plays the game with dedication, commitment and heart. He has mastered dealing with the media in the toughest market in sports. Jeter's achievements transcend just stats. His success and career has been full of intangibles. He has come to represent team success, determination and good sportsmanship.  For those want to argue stats, Derek Jeter is not "The Greatest" Yankee of all time or "The Greatest" shortstop ever but to many fans In their teens, 20 & 30's, he was the greatest player of their teams generation. He played hard and contributed to 5 championships, especially in the post season. He broke many team records and joined the charts of hitting greats that came before with his 3000+ hits. Those who use stats alone to compare a singles hitting short stop to sluggers like Ruth, Gehrig, DeMaggio, Mantle and Berra are ridiculous if not deranged. 
Negative fans of the other teams who are vehemently blasting hate on Yankee fans, especially those Yankee hating Mets fans, take a look at what you are saying and how you are saying it. When you put it in print the hate is incredibly vivid. Just chill out. Mets fans would be much better served celebrating the success of Jacob DeGrom and his potential for Rookie of the Year, celebrating the wonderful talent and success of their young pitching staff and they should be looking forward to the return of Matt Harvey next season. If they are able to add a few key position players next year or even the year after, they will have a very promising team that will be very competitive.  It's funny but both teams are in second place in their division this year. But the Mets are a fairly younger team and as such, a team on their way up.  We Yankee fans are looking at the end of an era and the start of a new one that will probably be at least two years away as the team looks to get younger talent.  
So, in the end, we Yankee fans will continue to celebrate the achievements and career of Derek Jeter and all his contributions to the most successful franchise in major league American sports. We will celebrate what he meant to Yankee Team history, to New York, and MLB and mostly what he meant to us, the fans, both young and old. For many of us, he was a part of our childhood, of teen and college years and For all of us especially those of us older, he represented a continuation of Yankee success which is a hallmark of Yankee tradition. #Re2pect.#FarewellCaptain

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Exposed: the NSA and Mr. Claus or Santa Uses an iPad

Folks, let's be serious, it's 2013 and the phenomenon known as Santa Claus is as strong as ever. But are we so naive to think that the quaint story of the jolly old fellow with the eight tiny reindeer is still going about his business in the same "magical" manner? When Clement Clark Moore wrote his famous poem in 1822, going about in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, flying or not, was an acceptable mode of transportation but even some of the youngest believers have trouble with the physics based on today's world population. Is it magic, science or science fiction? Recently unearthed documents seem to reveal that the truth lies somewhere between these three. Everyone is aware of Edward Snowden's NSA revelations but many are not aware of a select group of papers just coming to light. These are also labeled NSA but with an "I" added: NSAI. This stands for Nordic Santa Alert Intelligence. The papers reveal that Santa Claus did indeed exist at the time of Clement Clark Moore's writing and in fact, was part of a large European family of cousins who were descended from the original gift giver, 3rd century Bishop, Nicholas, later canonized St. Nicholas. They initially began their work in Russia, Turkey and Greece but then branched out to France as Pere Noel, England as Father Christmas, a sister manifested in Italy as the witch, Befana( the brothers thought she was crazy but the Italians fell for the concept, go figure) but most famously in Holland as Sinter Klaus. This iteration immigrated to the new world and the Dutch settlements in New Amsterdam, later New York. For more than a century, the papers indicate that this brotherhood and their helpers who became known as Elves, from the singular Elf. Elf is actually from the German alp and it seems they were industrious mountain folk of short stature originating in the mountains on the Swiss- German border. German Santas also had an " elf" companion Krampus that threatened punishment on those with bad behavior. He was, it seems, a type of behavioral spy reporting to the big fella and alerting him with his little "list". According to the papers the last direct descendant of the original Santa Family died in 1986, at that time the various families. cousins and business partners formed Santa Claus Inc. A corporation, designed to carry on the works of the original family devoted to serving the needs of parents everywhere in helping to arrange and/or deliver gifts to their children on Christmas Eve. Much like the corporate decisions made by the Disney corporation after Walt's passing, the results were predictable but occasionally lackluster. Initially, it seems, it was business as usual with receiving letters that got processed and then implemented through "elf" construction techniques which were amazing incredible copies of mass produced factory items like Cabbage Patch and Barbies. Eventually, they negotiated contracts with Mattel and other manufacturers like Sony, Nintendo and later Apple to become official subcontractors with access to original designs and schematics. Unfortunately, the speed of the hi- tech advances of the mid to late 90's put too much strain on the ELF(Elf Labour Foundation) and a different business model was pursued. At that point the Confederation of Legal Authentic Santas( CLAUS) established new rules for the hierarchy of Santas appearing in department stores and for the term of the elected head Santa at the Corporate North Pole Headquarters which, by the way, was later relocated to an undisclosed location in Lapland to accommodate the Reindeer descendants as there was no need to strain the reindeer with flying loads of toys with the new high speed transport networks that had been utilized for decades.
Negotiations in the 80’s with Bill Gates and Microsoft enabled the group to streamline communications and distribution. Then, further alliances with UPS, FedEx and other delivery services aided in even more streamlined operations. From 2007 on, relations with Apple and the use of the iPhone and then the iPad drastically expedited order processing, wish list management and good and bad child list checking. With this implementation, parents can become informed of their child's wish list and be directed to purchase the items with moneys deposited to their bank accounts and credit cards from the NSAI.  It also, seems that a deal with NASA and the NSA have especially innovated on two fronts. The NSAI have been allowed access to certain of the NSA's surveillance operations that have really helped to perfect the good and bad child behavior tracking. The technology allows them to tap into all surveillance cameras and various  communication devices like mobile phones, video game devices, computers, tablets and TV's around the world( have you never noticed that there are screens everywhere and they ARE two way).  Of course, there is also the robotics in the seemingly innocuous "Elf on a shelf". Parents think they have to play games with the position of the "Elf" to fool their offspring into positive behavior when the truth is that the technology is far more advanced than that. And finally, drone technology from the US Military has innovated deliveries and a deal between the NSAI andJeff Bezo's will allow that much rumored tech to be implemented for Amazon in the future, in exchange for extra order fulfillment for the NSAI. The need to drop down a chimney disappeared decades ago. The NSAI has used pre delivery services and parental assistance for years. The disappearing cookies, milk and carrots for the reindeer are either consumed by family or collected and distributed at local food banks. So, parents should should really consider stopping the convenient but all too full of holes stories about the magical Santa and his reindeer, it might be quaint for the young ones but really dumb especially for the older media savvy child. It is simply easier to tell them the truth and they might continue belief until marriage age. It is the 21st century, people, and yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and he does, in fact, see you when you are sleeping and awake and  does, indeed, know if you have been bad or good.  So, just be GOOD. Merry Christmas!!!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shakespeare's Birthday

As it is Poetry Month, I thought I would post one of my favorite Sonnets in honor of Shakespeare's 449th birthday. (Next year is the big 450,  Will!) This has been a good but somewhat tempestuous year year for our Calhoun H.S. Shakespeare Productions. Summer of 2012 saw several alums delve into intriguing productions of Coriolanus and the Tempest. Then the Tempest know as Sandy disrupted our production of As You Like It, sending it to four different performances in two different locations over 6 months. As You Like It was also a new landmark for me as I composed the music for the 6 songs in the show and wrote a setting for some dialogue as well as revising another original piece. Now, we are working on the very sunny Much Ado About Nothing to end our season. Pictures from As You Like It set designs for both Auditorium Thrust stage and Little Theatre will follow.

 Sonnet 38

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue,
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed:
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love, loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.