Thursday, February 27, 2014


Arlee Bird of Tossing It Out fame posted yesterday about the demise of American pop icon Michael Jackson.

I asked him what prompted this post, and he indicated that it was conceived as a hint for his forthcoming Battle Of The Bands post.

The post sparked a lot of discussion over the relative merits of Michael's musical legacy, the sad tragedy that was his personal life and even the musical merits of the popular music of our time.

Pretty weighty stuff.

What I find interesting is the timing of Arlee's post. 

On this week in 1970, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 was the number one album on Billboard's soul chart, a position it would hold for nine weeks.

The album, besides being the first album I ever purchased, yielded the group's first (of four) Hot 100 number one singles.

On this week in 1983, Michael's sixth solo album would begin a 37 week run at number one on the Billboard album chart. That album, of course, was Thriller, and while one could debate the relative merits of the music, there is certainly no question that the album had a tremendous impact on the music industry and catapulted Michael into superstar status.

Seven top ten singles.

65 million units sold.

Eight Grammy's won, including Album Of The Year.

Sadly, the artist's idiosyncracy seemed to grow with his success, and his behavior became more and more apparent, first manifesting itself in his various surgeries (I never bought into the rare skin-bleaching ailment) and then in his associations with young children.

I have said it before-Michael was a troubled soul. I want to believe he was too gentle to have molested children, but I certainly do not know the truth.

All I know was that he was a talented artist who suffered from some personal demons, and he died too young.

And I choose to remember him as he was when I was buying his records. Before the mega-stardom and the "King Of Pop" label.

When he was simply Michael Jackson.

And certainly before idols were being erected in his image!



Monday, February 24, 2014


Well, not really.

But there was some SMOKIN" music on the water last week on the first incarnation of the Progressive Nation At Sea.

Progressive Nation was a travelling progressive rock 'festival' headlined by Dream Theater, the concept created by then-drummer Mike Portnoy.

This year, he decided to float his vision between Miami and the Bahamas, inviting a host of fellow prog and metal musicians to perform for the 1,500 or so fans who shelled out one large for the privilege of seeing them.

I was one of those seafaring souls who set sail on the Norwegian Pearl for a three-hour tour. 

More like 92 hours.

There was an impressive lineup, with enough musical variety to satisfy all manners of musical tastes.

I was mainly there for Transatlantic and Spock's Beard, although there were many other bands I was interested in seeing. I saw both of those bands, and The Flower Kings, twice each, and in all I attended all or part of twenty-three shows.

A year's worth of concerts in four days.

Highlights for me were the three aforementioned bands. 

Transatlantic opened and closed the cruise, and their encore featured the band backing Jon Anderson and performing a few Yes songs. 

Spock's Beard's second show saw original singer Neal Morse coming out and fronting the band for performances of "June" and "The Light."

Adrian Belew's Power Trio kicked booty, and the Flower Kings were awesome live (better than their CD's).

Sadly, King's X was not as good live as I was anticipating-their CD's have a lot of melody lines that seemed to get lost in the performance which seemed geared towards metal fans.

Big Elf were at the "hard" edge of my range, but the shows were great, and The Dear Hunter shows seemed brief after the marathon show they played in Phoenix at the end of December.

Jolly's show was also more metal-leaning than I was expecting, but not so much that it precluded me from enjoying the set.

Haken and Riverside were treats, as I am a fan of both bands but thought I would never have an opportunity to see either one live as they are based in the UK and Poland, respectively. 

And since a member of Anathema and I share a surname, how could I not see them?

Whoever told me that Animals As Leaders were "jazzy" was fibbing. While they would start on some instumental lines that promised to be interesting, after a couple of bars they were back with the driving metal power riffs. Technically proficient, but a little too hard for my taste. Periphery and Safety Fire were also a lot harder than my tastes, but I was prepared for them, having heard their CD's. 

I was also disappointed with Pain Of Salvation, although in fairness to them, a primary band member was too ill to make the trip. Without Daniel Gildenlow, they were missing a key ingredient and came off simply too loud for my taste.

There were a lot of younger bands that showed promise, so it seems that the future of progressive rock is in good hands as long as the fans show up.

There were only about 1,500 in attendance, about half from the US with the remaining half representing more than 40 other countries. Attendance was far below the ship's capacity, but hopefully attendance numbers climb if the cruise is offered next year. 



And now, back to walking on dry land...

Saturday, February 15, 2014



I'm back!

The five bloggers below are co-sponsoring a blog event on the first and fifteenth of each month. 

Robin (Your Daily Dose) 

UPDATE-I forgot to mention Chris Fries, the sixth, blogger! Sorry, Chris!

Chris Fries

I kind of crashed their party until I ran out of covers of Todd Rundgren songs a couple of weeks ago.

Then Chris Fries (blame him, folks-I'm just a pawn in his sinister scheme) had a good idea that had never occurred to me-why not showcase the examples where Todd covers someone else's material?

Aha! The shoe is on the other foot!

Back in 1976, Todd released his seventh solo album.

The first side of the album was dedicated to "faithful" re-recordings of classic 1960's psychedelic era songs.

In other words, Todd being the chameleon that he is, generated near replicas of these songs.

His cover of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" was released as a single, peaking at at number 34 on the charts, and is obviously vastly superior to the original, clearly an undisputable fact that I am sure Stephen T. McCarthy will simply agree with without any editorial whatsoever.



Friday, February 14, 2014


Beatlemania is in the news this week as the media hypes the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to these shores.

Todd Rundgren's band, Utopia, submitted the following song ("I Just Want To Touch You") for inclusion in the soundtrack to the film Roadie-it was rejected because it sounded too much like The Beatles. 

Rather than post any Beatles videos (Robin at Your Daily Dose already posted all the good ones anyway), I thought I'd put this up since I thought it was clever thirty-four years ago and I still do. And I also figure most viewers have never seen it.

On September 24, 1980, Utopia released an entire album of Beatles homages, entitled Deface The Music. 

Although this album clearly showcases the fact that The Beatles were an obvious influence for Rundgren, you may find it interesting to know that there was a short period of time when Todd got caught up in a very public feud with John Lennon himself!

This “war of the words” all began with these quotes in the music magazine “Melody Maker” in 1973. 

I read the article (“Rundgren: All Or Nothing” by Ailan Jones) back in the 80’s but no longer remember the context of the quotes (although I remember that Lennon had a right to object).

“John Lennon ain’t no revolutionary. He’s a f——- idiot, man. Shouting about revolution and acting like an a__. It just makes people feel uncomfortable.”

“All he really wants to do is get attention for himself, and if revolution gets him that attention, he’ll get attention through revolution. Hitting a waitress in the Troubador. What kind of revolution is that?”

“He’s an important figure, sure. But so was Richard Nixon. Nixon was just like another generation’s John Lennon. Someone who represented all sorts of ideals, but was out for himself underneath it all.”

These quotes drew an immediate and angry response from Lennon.

Here is John Lennon’s Letter to Todd Rundgren published in Melody Maker in response to Rundgren’s comments.

(from dr winston o’boogie)

Couldn’t resist adding a few “islands of truth” of my own, in answer to Turd Runtgreen’s howl of hate (pain.)

Dear Todd,

I like you, and some of your work, including “I Saw The Light”, which is not unlike “There’s A Place” (Beatles), melody wise.

1) I have never claimed to be a revolutionary. But I am allowed to sing about anything I want! Right?

2) I never hit a waitress in the Troubador, I did act like an ***, I was too drunk. So shoot me!

3) I guess we’re all looking for attention Rodd, do you really think I don’t know how to get it, without “revolution?” I could dye my hair green and pink for a start!

4) I don’t represent anyone but my SELF. It sounds like I represented something to you, or you wouldn’t be so violent towards me. (Your dad perhaps?)

5) Yes Dodd, violence comes in mysterious ways it’s wonders to perform, including verbal. But you’d know that kind of mind game, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

6) So the Nazz use to do “like heavy rock” then SUDDENLY a “light pretty ballad”. How original!

7) Which gets me to the Beatles, “who had no other style than being the Beatles”!! That covers a lot of style man, including your own, TO DATE…

Yes Godd, the one thing those Beatles did was to affect PEOPLES’ MINDS. Maybe you need another fix?

Somebody played me your rock and roll pussy song, but I never noticed anything. i think that the real reason you’re mad at me is cause I didn’t know who you were at the Rainbow (L.A.) 

Remember that time you came in with Wolfman Jack? When I found out later, I was cursing cause I wanted to tell you how good you were. (I’d heard you on the radio.)

Anyway, However much you hurt me darling; I’ll always love you,

J. L.

30th Sept. 1974

Sad that two grown men with similar musical talents would not bond a little easier than this. I wonder, does this letter constitute "bullying?" Under current PC guidelines, aren't Rundgren's comments a hate crime?

Todd has pointed out that the two later settled their differences, and sadly, Lennon was murdered shortly after the album's release.

I had never read anything indicating whether Lennon had heard it or what he might have thought.

This has always been a fascinating bit of music history to me. It also showcases how combative Lennon was in general in the early 70′s, as he had a similar feud with Paul McCartney that lasted well into the decade. 

The connection between Lennon and Rundgren took a strange turn when it was revealed that Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, was similarly obsessed with Rundgren and tried to find him a few days before Lennon's murder.

Chapman left a copy of Rundgren's second album (The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren) in the hotel where he checked out the day he killed Lennon.

When he was apprehended, Chapman was wearing a promotional T-shirt for Rundgren's Hermit Of Mink Hollow album.

In an interview after his incarceration, Chapman said Rundgren's music was the "soundtrack to my life."

This may have been one of the events that inspired Rundgren’s Healing album.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Transatlantic, the progressive rock "super-group" made up of Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard), Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and Pete Trewevas (Marillion) is back!

And considering we waited eight years between Bridge Across Forever and 2009’s The Whirlwind, the five years we spent in anticipation of the follow-up to The Whirlwind is somewhat short.

The Whirlwind is a tough act to follow, however-, it was Transatlantic's best effort (in my opinion).

Kaleidoscope does not attempt to follow the single 78 minute epic, rather showcasing shorter pieces, although  two of those “shorter” pieces exceed 25 minutes each.

While this is not a bad offering, it is not as cohesive as its predecessor.

It contains all of the elements you expect from the band- great melodies,strong mucisianship, interesting lyrics, interesting progressions, but the album’s pace is a little uneven (especially track 4, “Beyond The Sun”).

One drawback to Neal Morse being as prolific as he is, is that some of his epic length songs (either here or on his solo albums) are becoming a little predictable, almost formulaic. 

You hear it on the song he wrote for the last Spock’s Beard record, as well as on “World Without End” from his last solo disc, as well as on this album's opener, “Into The Blue.” 

While it still makes for a good listen, it sounds a little too familiar, up to and including the "big finish." 

“Shine” has some nice moments and a killer guitar solo, but-I can't believe I am saying this about a Transatlantic song- is actually a little too long. 

“Black As The Sky” is fresh and driving with a nice instrumental section. 

I mentioned “Beyond the Sun” earlier, and this song might have been better saved for a Neal solo album, as it kind of derails the album’s flow.

The album closes with the 32 minute title track which does not fall as easily in to the formula trap-you can hear echoes of past efforts, but it still manages to be fresh and original- a great epic!

Buy the version with the bonus CD and you get a nice selection of cover tunes, including a version of Yes’ “And You And I” that is a prelude for anyone who attends the Progressive Nation At Sea finale (Jon Anderson backed by the band).

In a nutshell-half of this album is awesome, and half falls a little short of it’s predecessor.

That said, I would still recommend it highly.

Anyone who lives close to one of the rare Transatlantic tour stops should make it a point to see them live.



Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I think regular readers of this blog would expect my vote for best rock and roll producer to be Todd Rundgren, and he certainly is among my favorites.

Truth be told, I am not sure I could name a favorite, because there are a lot of great ones out there, and they each seem to excel in their own niche.

I might have to go with Rick Rubin if I were pressed, simply because he has worked with such a diverse roster of artists, but is not quite as heavy-handed as Todd (who ends up leaving most of his charges with an album that sounds like it belongs in his catalog).

The Washington Times published their list of the top five knob-twiddlers. Each has exerted a strong influence over how acts sound, because at their best - or, if you prefer, their pushiest — producers often are de facto composers.

The text below in red font is from the Washington Times article.

1. George Martin — How do you turn a scruffy quartet of Liverpudlians into the most innovative act in rock history? Hook ‘em up with the classically inclined yet progressive-minded Mr. Martin.

2. Phil Spector — The progenitor of the so-called Wall of Sound (lots of echo and orchestration), Mr. Spector and his sonic architecture left indelible impressions on artists from Brian Wilson to Bruce Springsteen.

3. Quincy Jones — The 75-year-old is legendary in his own right as a composer and arranger. (The theme music for “Sanford and Son,” anyone?) But he found his biggest payday in a former child star, whom he helped turn into the biggest pop star in the world. Michael Jackson’s three albums with Mr. Jones (“Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “Bad”) were his best and best-selling. He hasn’t come close since.

4. Jeff Lynne — An inveterate wall-of-sounder from his days as the frontman of the Electric Light Orchestra, Mr. Lynne has a distinctive stamp: bright guitars, sunny orchestration and ringing vocal harmonies. Using a pair of unearthed John Lennon demos, he even made the Beatles sound like Jeff Lynne.

5. Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois — How do you take a scruffy quartet of Dubliners and turn them into the most popular band of the past 25 years? Hook ‘em up with master boardmen like Mr. Eno and Mr. Lanois. They’re not shabby on their own, either. Mr. Eno, a Roxy Music original, has done memorable work with Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads, while Mr. Lanois helped revitalize the recording career of Bob Dylan (“Oh Mercy,” “Time out of Mind”).

I would have ranked Todd higher than a couple of the names on this list, but there are others that are not on here that I cannot believe were left off.

Even if the list is all about who sold the most records, I think you might have to consider Alan Parsons for an obscure album called "Dark Side Of The Moon," or Robert "Mutt" Lange for a few Def Leppard titles that sold a bazillion copies. 

Heck, just going by the nickname of "Mutt" should insure his  spot on the list! 

Jimmy Iovine also comes to mind, as does T-Bone Burnette, and what about some character named Brian Wilson who I hear sold a few records when he was not on the beach with his woodie and his best girl?

If sales are important, Todd did produce an album called "Bat Out Of Hell" that sold a copy or two and paid for his house on the beach in Hawaii.

Not bad for a kid from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

That darn liberal media can't get anything right...

Back off, musical Left-I am kidding! 

The only constant about any "top" list is that every reader will think someone was left off!

I just happen to be right.

There are also interesting lists of producers HERE and HERE 

Sunday, February 2, 2014


A co-worker gave me a little kitten almost fourteen years ago to replace a cat of mine who had recently had to be put down.

I wanted a black short-hair, and got a tortoise-shell long-hair. They had named her Lucky since the mother had moved with the kittens and left this one behind, and the family did not find her for a couple of days (lucky to be alive).

While she was pretty reclusive most of the time, there were times her personality would shine. Like any girl, Lucky loved shoes and handbags (she would burrow into my shoes-couldn't have smelled good, and loved digging into my friend Lisa's handbag).

Lucky also had a thing for jewelry, as a chain my sister gave me often went missing, to be found in the same hiding place where Lucky hid plastic bottle caps and those plastic rings that come off of the milk bottle.

She'd started losing weight rapidly last year, and the night my mother died last August, I had made up my mind to have Lucky put down before I flew back for the service. The next day she was playing like a kitten with Rocky, the other cat.

Two weeks ago, Lucky was in a bad way again. I had a vet come to the house and she looked good when he examined her, although he confirmed with my guess that her kidneys were failing, and pointed out a growth in her stomach that he suspected was cancer (considering the weight loss), but did not recommend doing anything as it would not change the inevitable. He agreed that she did not appear to be suffering, and did not think it was yet time to consider putting her down.

A couple of days after Dr. Martin's visit, she started to lose a step again. Lucky refused food all day Friday, not coming out of the cubbyhole in the scratching post (that was never used since I have a couch).

Yesterday, I asked had Lucky put down. She was a couple of months shy of fourteen, and I think I gave her a good home.

For you cat owners, I cannot say enough about having the vet come to the house. Neither the visit nor the euthanasia was much more expensive than a vet's office, but the cat is in familiar surroundings. My cats freaked every time I took them to the vet, to the point that I stopped about three or four years ago.

So what does all this have to do with music? Not a thing. Except this blog is partly Rocky's, and now he's an only cat-but seems to like that.

Saturday, February 1, 2014



The bloggers below are co-sponsoring a blog event on the first and fifteenth of each month. 

Robin (Your Daily Dose) 

Chris Fries

I kind of crashed their party until I ran out of covers of Todd Rundgren songs, which I have as of today's post.

So, for the last time, let's compare a Todd original to a cover, this time to The Lovemongers (essentially Heart unplugged).



So one last time-tell me what you think!