Ladies and Gentlemen…Orion Freeman!

Morning Son by Orion Freeman

“Morning Son” – Orion Freeman

While I type, feel free to listen to the first song off of Orion Freeman’s new album. The song is calledFamily Treeand the album is calledMorning Son. I’m hoping you’re as moved by this singer/songwriter, poet and artist as I have been over the past 5+ years. I had plans to post about him in November 2016, but at the time he was on a real life journey in Peru, India, Nepal and Thailand for 6 months. Then when I heard there was a new album coming out, I waited…and it killed me to wait because I want everyone to know this guy’s name…Orion Freeman.

Orion Freeman (and Tom on the left) playing at Burlap and Bean – April 22, 2017

Last night, my husband and I went to a local coffee shop to see Orion Freeman perform. It was his CD release party for his second album, Morning Son, and he played to a capacity crowd (actually, I think the crowd went a few bodies over capacity, but I’m not going to tell). This was our second time seeing Orion play live. The first time was in December 22, 2011 when we went to an open mic night at Steel City Cafe in Phoenixville to hear our son’s band perform. Yeah…it’s been over 5 years, but you only have to hear Orion once and you’ll be hooked. That night he was playing on a guitar that had no pick guard, so Orion had put masking tape where the guard should be to protect the finish.

Download a copy of Divine Game by clicking on image.

A couple years passed, and Orion reappeared when he started a Kickstarter campaign to finance his first album “Divine Game“. I was ‘in like Flynn’ to help out and get my digital download and CD as soon as it came out! Oddly though, I set the CD aside and didn’t listen to it until last summer. I was blown away! Why? Oh why hadn’t I listened to this album sooner? That was the moment I knew I had to let the rest of the world know…Orion Freeman is a true poet and an amazing lyricist. He music is amazingly calming and transports you to a softer, gentler place in this mad, mad world we live it.

It’s hard to believe that an artist such as this can put out music as glorious as his soulful folk pop and still not be recognized by the big wigs in the music industry. Where are the radio jocks and music media personnel that used to all claim that they’re the people that make and break new artists? Is the music industry now run like our government with thousands of lobbyists from the major record companies buying their multimillionaire lip sync-ers radio time? Fuck that! People…it’s our job as Americans to take back our radio and media and let them know what we want to listen to! And I want to hear Orion Freeman! Get your copy of his new album “Morning Son” on Monday, April 24th here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ladies and Gentlemen...

Book Review: “Touch the Earth” by Julian Lennon

Imagine my surprise when a book I ordered from Amazon showed up last week with my pre-order for Julian Lennon‘s new children’s book – Touch the EarthAmazon still says the release date is April 11th…so I’m not sure why I got my so soon. But, I’m not going to complain and my granddaughters paid me a visit a couple days later so I was able to read it to them.

This is a beautiful book with amazing artwork and an environmental theme that we can all relate to these days. Julian sets out to teach young children about the need to clean, safe drinking water all over the world, whether it’s for plants, animals or humans. The reader takes a trip around the world via a plane called the White Feather Flier. They help by pressing a small button on each page and tilting the book in the direction the plane needs to go to provide the necessary elements for clean, safe water.

Calla and me enjoying Touch the Earth by Julian Lennon

I so wanted to really be impressed with this book, but though the story is good and teach children well, the concept of pushing buttons and tilting the book just doesn’t fly in the virtual world we live in today. The book would absolutely rock as a computer or phone app for children to play.

Now don’t get me wrong. I plan on giving my copy to my granddaughters….BUT, I did ordered a signed copy from Premier Collections for $20 (they also say the book won’t be released until April 11th). I plan on keeping a pristine copy on my bookshelf all for myself because I have always adored Julian and will always support him and the White Feather Foundation (a portion of the proceeds from this book go to the foundation).

Sorry Julian…but please move to the obvious next step and create a computer version of this terrific story. You’ll go far with it! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Julian Lennon

Book Review: “The Beatles: Every Little Thing” by Maxwell MacKenzie

It’s pretty amazing what you can find while wandering around your local public library’s used book sale racks! I was actually dropping off Help Wanted posters for my boss at the local libraries when I noticed that one of them had a bookstore. That’s where I found a gently used copy of The Beatles – Every Little Thing by Maxwell MacKenzie for $1.50(and another book which I’ll review at a later date). This book is describes as “a compendium of witty, weird and ever-surprising facts about the Fab Four.” It was originally published in 1998.

The 209 page book is simply divided into sections with headings such as: Early Influences; Early Gigs, Clubs and Auditions; Girlfriends, Wives, and Families; Banned Beatles; Beatles on Film; etc. From there, each sections is just a list of one-two sentence facts about John, Paul, George and Ringo.

I guess the two biggest questions one might want to know before investing in this book are: Is it accurate? And will you learn anything new? I’m only 34 pages into it so far (more on that later) and so far, I’ve found a couple ‘alternative facts’, such as the fact that John was born the night of an air raid. That myth was dispelled a long time ago. And as for learning anything new, well, that would depend on your level of expertise or who you’re buying this book for. As for myself, I’m not ready to give up on it completely. I plan on leaving it laying around and pick it up now and then for some light reading. It would make a nice gift for someone who’s just discovered the Beatles or maybe for a young reader who’s writing a report for school. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

On another note, I want to bring to your attention an amazing auction that is going on right now. Heritage Auctions of Texas is currently selling seven fab paintings by artist Eric Cash. Anyone who’s attended a Beatles Fest will know his work and who Eric is. This past month, I managed to save one of his paintings from the auction block when I bought “Sea of Green”. I couldn’t be happier and I’m waiting to take it to be professionally framed! In the meantime, check out the other pieces. You won’t regret owning one of these amazing paintings. Check them out here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

NAMM 2017: Laurence Juber live on stage

Believe it or not, I had never seen nor heard Laurence Juber play guitar until I saw him at NAMM 2017 on the Museum of Making Music stage! Unfortunately, my cellphone said I had recorded enough after only 3 minutes of his rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Still…this is an outstanding clip of his incredible guitar playing! Enjoy!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under NAMM 2017

Guest Post: Elvis Costello & John Pizzarelli – a comparison of memoirs

dave-thomasThis week’s post is brought to you buy retired music teacher & fellow Beatle freak – Dave Thomas. Dave wanted to write a comparison between two books written by musicians that have both colaborated with Paul McCartney. One of the books, Elvis Costello’s memoir, I reviewed on November 15, 2015…you can reread it here.

————————————————-

While somewhere in the midst of reading Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello, and hearing him talk (albeit briefly) about his collaboration with Paul McCartney, I found myself thinking about a book by another artist who has worked with Sir Paul:  World on a String: A Musical Memoir by John Pizzarelli.  I read the latter book some time ago, and was struck by the similarities, yet drastically different tone and content of these two books.
I have never considered myself to be a huge fan of Elvis Costello’s music, but I have always had a great deal of respect for both the breadth of his musical knowledge, as well as his skills…and while I am not familiar with a great deal of his catalog, most of what I AM familiar with I enjoy very much.  When I am in the mood for lyrics that make me think, Elvis Costello has never disappointed.  His lyrics, by and large, are quite poetic, and in many cases, stand alone quite nicely apart from their musical accompaniment.  In his memoir, he will often slip in and out of these lyrics, using them to illustrate a point, or describe an event in his life.

Overall, his 2016 memoir (Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink) left me with very mixed feelings.  Perhaps it was the out-of-sequence way in which it was told, which made the story a bit difficult to follow at times.  Costello has worked with many musical partners over the years, in a variety of musical genres and styles…but the way the book has been edited left me with a case of musical and literary whiplash as we jumped into and out of stories featuring this eclectic mix of characters.  Perhaps it’s just that after 688 pages, I really don’t feel like I “know” Elvis Costello any better than I did before.  I know many more things about him than I did before, but all of these facts fail to leave me with a clear picture of who he really is. While clearly a talented, intelligent man, neither Mr. Costello’s music, nor this book, gives one the impression that he is “accessible”.  Perhaps that was his intention – he appears to be a private person who, although he sought fame, is not as comfortable with the reality of it, as he is the idea.
Given the length of the book, I would have hoped for more detail in his stories.  I was particularly disappointed at the lack of anecdotes surrounding his late 1980’s collaboration with Paul McCartney, which led to McCartney’s album “Flowers in the Dirt”, and also had an impact on Costello’s album, “Spike”….but the whole book felt somewhat lacking in specifics.  He dances around the edges of stories, especially those originating from a more reckless time in his life, in the earlier stages of his stardom.  He mentions several failed relationships along the way, but we never get a real understanding for why they failed; neither do we hear very much about his current relationship with the talented Ms. Diana Krall.
He talks quite a lot about his musician father, Ross McManus.  Elvis’ relationship with his father seemed to often be rocky, but he does owe a lot of his early musical influences to his father’s work as a musician as a trumpet player and singer.  They even collaborated on a few projects together, starting with a commercial jingle in 1973.  But it is difficult (based upon this book) to draw a clear musical line from the father’s work to the son’s.
There are a few (and just a few) moments of lightness and humor in the book, much of it having an air of lessons learned and a few regrets…but Costello’s tone seems to soften slightly when he talks about his father’s failing health robbing them of the music that was a large part of the bond between them.
This is all in very stark contrast with World on a String, by John Pizzarelli.
First – full disclosure:  While I cannot say I “know” John Pizzarelli, I have had numerous opportunities to interact with him, (along with his father, Bucky, and his brother, Martin) over the years – starting with the wedding of some mutual friends (mine and John’s) about 30 years ago.  John was still in his early 20’s, honing his skills, and I’ve enjoyed watching his talent develop and grow over the ensuing years.  Because of the interactions that we’ve had, I can tell you without equivocation that John Pizzarelli is one of the nicest, hardest working guys in “show business”.  So without any slight intended toward Mr. Costello, I acknowledge that this review may tend to favor Mr. Pizzarelli’s book.
I used the term “show business” above for many reasons, not the least of which is that it evokes an era that Pizzarelli is completely familiar with and comfortable in – the era which gave us the “Great American Songbook”.  The names Berlin, Mercer, Gershwin, Schwartz, Porter, van Heusen and Arlen come up frequently on his recordings, in his shows, and in this book.
John is a master story-teller, a pretty decent mimic (a talent which he employs often when telling stories), a wonderful crooner and a world-class guitar player.  Like Costello’s book, Pizzarelli spends a great deal of time talking about his father’s musical career, but in this case, the direct career line from father to son is unmistakable.  In fact, a great deal of John’s early career was spent playing gigs with Bucky, and the two still occasionally play together, as Bucky continues to demonstrate his mastery of the instrument at age 91 (as of this writing).
Unlike the somewhat dry, factual recounting we get from Costello’s book, Pizzarelli’s mood is upbeat and jovial, his stories full of amusing anecdotes and inside stories of well-known musical figures. The only change in tone comes when he speaks of his 1st manager, and to a lesser degree, his co-star in the Broadway musical Dream, Lesley Ann Warren.  Every story has enough detail to give you a “you are there” feel, despite the fact that at 304 pages, it is less than half the length of Costello’s book.
The Pizzarellis were, and are, a typical New Jersey Italian household: Sunday dinners were a very important event!  What was not typical was the people around the table at those dinners:  Les Paul, Zoot Sims, Joe Pass, and many, many other musical legends who knew and worked with John’s father, Bucky.  Reading this book (or better yet, listening to the audio version, read by John), you’ll feel like you’re at one of his shows, and at times, even sitting around in his living room being regaled with stories of jazz history.  His writing style puts you at ease, with a great deal of humor sprinkled throughout.
Unlike Mr. Costello, whose parents divorced when he was not yet out of secondary school, John’s childhood centered around a very strong home life.  It is no coincidence that Bucky, who was the original guitarist for the Tonight Show, decided not to move to California when Johnny Carson took the show from New York City to Burbank, because most of the Pizzarelli family was on the East Coast.  John was taught to play guitar by his father and uncles, and has worked all over the world for the last 30 years, often with his father Bucky on guitar and/or his brother Martin on bass.  In fact, both John and Bucky perform on Paul McCartney’s 2012 release, Kisses on the Bottom, (along with Costello’s wife, Diana Krall), and Pizzarelli’s stories about working with Sir Paul are much more forthcoming than Costello’s.
The reader gets the impression that his strong family ties are the main reason why John has stayed so grounded over the years, despite working with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Doc Severinsen, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, and probably most of the jazz musicians any reader could name.  The book leaves you with the impression that John is every bit the same person in private as he is on stage.
Two artists of our generation, born 6 years and 3,500 miles apart, with very different backgrounds, very different talents, and each having (for the most part) a very different fan base….  but both their paths intersected musically with Paul McCartney.  Such is the power of music to unite, and such is the magic of a Beatle.  But then, The Beatles have been uniting people through their music for over 50 years, so I guess that’s no great surprise.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Review

NAMM 2017: The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus

I know it’s been several weeks since I last posted a blog, but a friend of mine kind of lit a fire under my ass and so here it is. I need to apologize ahead of time for the lack of audio in this video. That’ll teach me not to preview the video before leaving NAMM 2017! Yes, I’m really embarrassed that this didn’t come out right. I believe the mic wasn’t properly plugged into my iPad. Also, the initial feedback you’ll hear fades away…so bear with it.

20170119_1339501The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is absolutely amazing! From the outside, there is no clue as to how extensive the inside is. This is an entire recording studio on wheels! The bus travels to schools from coast to coast in the U.S., teaching kids how to record music, engineer and make videos. And this is its 20th anniversary doing so!

As the video opens, our host Ryan sits at the main console and to his right, you’ll see his image on a computer screen. That’s because the bus is filled with video cameras. Not just for security reasons, but for also recording music videos. After a few minutes, Ryan gets up and goes into the second section of the bus and closes the door behind him to demonstrate that each of the three sections of the bus are sound proof. In the second section are the drums. In the third section of the bus you’ll notice a lot of curtains are hung. When they are all fully spread out, they become a green screen for shooting videos with any background the artist my choose to use. The third section is also where the the employees sleep while traveling all year round with the bus. The bus sleeps three and Ryan at one point spent over 4.5 years traveling on the bus. (note: every other night they sleep in a hotel so they can shower and get a proper meal!) 20170119_1055521

There are a lot of corporate sponsors that make this bus what it is, but you can also donate to help keep it on the road. Yoko Ono has donated to the bus and Sean Lennon has visited the bus (Julian has not…yet.) There’s even a John Lennon Educational Tour Bus in England now.

For more information on the bus and it’s schedule, go to: www.LennonBus.org. If you’re an educator, you can also request that the bus visit your school.

You can also Follow and LIKE them on Facebook!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under NAMM 2017

NAMM 2017: Gretsch and George Harrison

My cameraman started a little early on this video and I’m too lazy to edit the first five seconds out, but it just goes to show why I’m usually behind the camera!

img_0151Thank you to Joe Carducci, the Product Marketing Specialist at Gretsch Guitars, for taking several minutes out of his day to tell us the story about hoe George Harrison acquired his first Gretsch Duo Jett guitar and how the company set out to replicate every detail of it.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under NAMM 2017