July 11, 2010

Random 10

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 7:59 pm
  1. Peace, Love and Understanding, Robben Ford, Keep On Running
  2. Preaching Blues (Up Jumped the Devil), Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings
  3. Granny (Live), Dave Matthews Band, The Gorge
  4. Shilo, Peter Himmelman, Skin
  5. Rock Me Baby, Memphis Slim, I Am The Blues
  6. Sweet Sixteen (Live), B.B. King, Live in Cook County Jail
  7. Minarets (Live), Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Live at Luther College
  8. Messiah Part III: No. 50. O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?, London Symphony Orchestra
  9. Like A Prayer, Glee Cast, Glee The Music – The Power of Madonna
  10. Wang Dang Doodle, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ In The Moonlight

May 1, 2009

Random 10

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 2:33 pm

Soundtrack for my run today:

  1. Lie to Me (Live), Jonny Lang, Live from Austin City
  2. Blue Train, John Coltrane, Blue Train
  3. Born With the Blues, Lonnie Brooks, Live from Chicago – Bayou Lightning Strikes
  4. When You Got A Good Friend, Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings
  5. Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard, Ocean Avenue
  6. Crucifixion, Rev. Gary Davis, Heroes of the Blues
  7. Shoot That Curl, Chris and Kathy, Cowabunga: the Surf Box
  8. Boot Hill, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, The Sky is Crying
  9. Crawlin’ King Snake, Peter Green Splinter Group, From Clarksdale to Heaven
  10. Season of the Witch (Live); Bloomfied, Kooper, Stills; Super Session Live at the Filmore East

April 17, 2009

Lyric of the Week

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 6:49 pm

The Earlybird Cafe by Lane Teegan
(courtesy of Backyard Steve, performed by John Mellencamp on Fresh Air)

Everybody’s laughin’ at the Earlybird Cafe
I’ve been headed there since yesterday, I believe I’ve lost my way
Charlotte’s there in organdy, Billy’s there in suede
Y’ know that money’s in their pockets, & all their dues are paid
there’s wine on every table, & food on every plate
well I hope I get there pretty soon, before it gets too late

Someone asked me what time it was – I told him it was now
he asked me just what that might mean, but time would not allow
so I gave away my watch to a passing businessman
I hope he understands me now – I’ve done the best I can
But it was getting early, as I rushed away from there
with that ancient earth beneath my feet
and new dust in my hair

So I went on down the highway to the other side of town
my clothes was gettin’ wrinkled, & my socks was fallin’ down
but I could not stop to pull them up, for fear that I’d be late
so I kept on runnin’ down the road until I saw the gate –
of the Earlybird Cafe, glowin’ golden like the sun
everybody they laughin’ & callin’,
“Come on in, we’ve just begun !”

So I went on in, & I set right down, & I ordered me up some wine
y’know the talk was fast & clever, & the women all was fine
Charlotte asked me where I’d been with my jaded ivory eyes
I told her I’d been hung up, with some beggar in disguise
She laughed like temple bells,
she kissed me on the cheek & said:
” It’s hard to be alive sometimes…….
but it’s easy………
to be dead!”

April 20, 2008

“Just the Black Notes”

Filed under: Church,Music — Bob Gifford @ 10:18 am

Via Andrew Sullivan, some music theory, some history, and a lot of grace from Wintley Phipps:

Amen, and amen.

January 18, 2008

It’s the Melody

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 4:02 pm

At Heracletus‘s suggestion, I’ve been listening to some Walter Trout lately, and have been enjoying his cover of Not Fade Away (click here and click the “preview all” button for a quick listen). I found the guitar tablature online, and started playing along with Walter.

I knew I’d heard the song before, so I listened to the original Buddy Holly version which is clearly the same song, but very different. Even the Rolling Stones version didn’t ring true — the drum beat in both versions, and the Grateful Dead version as well, are different, and the chord change from E to A and back again is a beat shorter in Trout’s version than the others. Trout adds this little E-D-E chord change that sounded really familiar, but wasn’t in any past version of Not Fade Away.

It was driving me crazy. As I played it on the guitar, I kept wanting to play a driving beat on the low E string as I slid down from the 12th fret, a frill not even present in the Walter Trout version.

It finally hit me — the song I was trying to play was actually on my iPod — George Thorogood’s Who Do You Love. So Thorogood took Not Fade Away, made a few changes to the chord progressions, added a cool jungle beat, and came out with Who Do You Love. Then Walter Trout went back to Not Fade Away, but played it with Thorogood’s jungle beat, fast E-A-E chord change and E-D-E chord riff added in. It sounds far more like Who Do You Love than Not Fade Away.

So why would Trout cover Not Fade Away instead of Who Do You Love? Is it the lyrics? Was it that he’d rather the copyright royalties go to Buddy Holly’s trust than to George Thorogood?

I listened to all four songs again, and it hit me — the melody. Buddy Holly wrote melodies. George Thorogood, not so much. As a guitar player, I was just listening to the drum beat, the bass and the guitar. But what makes Not Fade Away so cover-able is the melody. Anyone, even me, can mimic Thorogood’s guitar style, but it’s the melody that makes it a song.

Update: Thanks to Larry for the tip off regarding Bo Diddley and Who Do You Love. It turns out I erroneously attributed the song to George Thorogood – it was originally a Bo Diddley tune and has been covered by many, including the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, the Yardbirds, and my favorite, Carlos Santana with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. But George Thorogood definitely made it his own.

December 22, 2007

“In God’s Name”

Filed under: Music,Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:10 am

This Sunday night at 9 PM, In God’s Name, a documentary featuring leaders of 12 faiths from around the world, airs on CBS.

One of the 12 leaders is Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of my denomination, the ELCA, and president of the Lutheran World Federation.

It’s been some of the darkest moments in religious life in all of history when in the name of God we kill other people.

-Bp. Mark Hanson

November 11, 2007

Black Snake Moan

Filed under: Church,Culture and Media,Music — Bob Gifford @ 7:39 pm

I broke with my recent exploration of old science fiction movies and watched Black Snake Moan. Excellent, excellent movie. It doesn’t have a single space alien, marauding robot or spaceship, but it does have two things even better: a tale of redemption (actually two of them), and the Blues.

Black Snake Moan poses the question: can freedom be found by being chained to a radiator? The answer, of course, is yes. This is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity and many other religions — freedom as surrender.

Rae (Christina Ricci), a rather screwed up young woman who has been using sex to quiet the demons in her head, is found unconscious in the road by Lazarus (Samuel Jackson), a rather screwed up older ex-blues-musician. He takes her into his house, and when she starts wandering around in her delirium, he chains her up. When she gains consciousness, she is less than enthusiastic about this arrangement. But Lazarus tells her “God seen fit to put you in my path, and I aim to cure you of your wickedness!” to which Rae replies “What are you, some kind of pervert? Or a f**king Jesus freak?”. Both reasonable conclusions from Rae’s persective. But in what I found to be the most compelling scene of the movie, that night Rae is restless, unable to sleep on the couch in Laz’s house. So she wraps the slack in her chain around her body like a blanket, after which she visibly relaxes and immediately falls to sleep.

I know it sounds misogynistic, but it’s really not. It’s a fable about setting boundaries as an act of love, something Rae’s parents most decidedly did not do (her father abused her and her mother rejects her in a scene difficult to watch). Rae, for the first time, feels safe, and her fears begin to recede. The chain (which soon comes off, by the way) becomes a symbol of safety, of security, of being tied to someone forever in an entirely non-sexual way. The chain is her redemption.

And of course the redeemer (Laz) becomes the redeemed as he begins to play the Blues again. The movie takes place in rural Tennessee, so the Blues are true to the setting, but they fit in another way as well. The Blues is an extremely simple, and constraining, musical form. The twelve bar Blues and its handful of variations is always the same. Once you know the simple rules, you can jump in and jam with anyone on a blues song you’ve never heard before. The Blues is like being chained to a radiator.

But it’s a chain that frees us. Through the constraints of the Blues form, incredible heights of improvisation and emotion are made possible. The Blues is about being set free to communicate musically that which can’t be communicated through complex melodies, intricate harmonies or big orchestras. It’s about expressing the pain in our souls, and through its expression, overcoming it. It fits the movie like a glove.

True to its tales of redemption, religion is always just below the surface of the movie, and at times breaks above it. Laz’s preacher friend tells Rae (and I’m doing this from memory, so don’t quote me):

I think people talk too much about heaven. People think heaven is like an all-you-can eat buffet, so they do what they need to on earth so when they die they can eat whatever they want to in heaven. But for me, it’s about the present. When I have no one else to talk to, I talk to God.

Some great homespun theologizing. This movie works on many levels — highly recommended.

September 26, 2007

Lyric of the Week

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 7:46 pm

Grey Street by The Dave Matthews Band. Not an uplifting lyric, to say the least, but then life isn’t always uplifting.

Oh look at how she listens
She says nothing of what she thinks
She just goes stumbling through her memories
Staring out onto Grey St.
And she thinks…hey
How did I come to this
I dreamed myself thousand times around the world
But I can’t get out of this place

There’s an emptiness inside her
And she’d do anything to fill it in
But all the colors mix together
To grey, and it breaks her heart

Oh how she wishes it was different
She prays to God most every night
And though she swears He doesn’t listen
There’s still a hope in her He might
She says I pray
But they fall on deaf ears
Am I supposed to take it on myself
To get out of this place?

There’s a loneliness inside her
And she’d do anything to fill it in
And though it’s red blood bleeding from her now,
It feels like cold blue ice in her heart
When all the colors mix together
It’s grey, and it breaks her heart

There’s a stranger speaks outside her door
Says take what you can from your dreams
Make them as real as anything
It’d take the work out of the courage
But she says “Please
There’s a crazy man that’s creeping outside my door,
I live on the corner of Grey Street
And the end of the world. ”

Oh there’s an emptiness insider her
And she’d do anything to fill it in
And though it’s red blood bleeding from her now
It’s more like cold blue ice in her heart
She feels like kicking out all the windows
And setting fire to this life
She could change everything about her
Using colors bold and bright
But all the colors mix together
To grey
And it breaks her heart…Oh and it breaks her heart
To grey, Yeah…

And here’s the video from the Live at the Gorges DVD:

August 22, 2007

Lyric of the Week

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 9:54 pm

We Shall Overcome, as performed by Bruce Springsteen:

Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Well we’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We’ll walk hand in hand someday

Well we shall live in peace, we shall live in peace
We shall live in peace someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall live in peace someday

Well we are not afraid, we are not afraid
We shall overcome someday
Yeah here in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

And lest you think our cynical post-modern culture has grown beyond such a simple song, read this story about its power and meaning.

July 30, 2007

Lyric of the Week

Filed under: Music — Bob Gifford @ 7:18 pm

Looking for Answers, by Susan Tedeschi.  And it’s not about love lost, or at least not in the superficial sense.

How many times must I sit here and tell you goodbye
How many times must I sit all alone and cry
How many times must I ask mercy on me
How many times must I beg to be free

Well I’m lookin’ for answers, lookin’ for answers that nobody knows
Well I’m lookin’ for answers, lookin’ for answers that nobody knows
Well I’m lookin’ for answers from above not from below lord

How many times must I learn to live
How many times must I learn to love to give
How many times must I get down on my knees to pray
How many times must I pray did you say

Well I’m lookin’ for answers, lookin’ for answers that nobody knows
Well I’m lookin’ for answers, lookin’ for answers that nobody knows
Well I’m lookin’ for answers from above not from below lord

Lord I love you in so many ways
Lord I love you each and every day
Now is the time when I must ask you why
Why must we live and why must we die

Well I’m lookin’ for answers, lookin’ for answers that nobody knows
Well I’m lookin’ for answers, lookin’ for answers that nobody knows
Well I’m lookin’ for answers from above not from below lord

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