A MOTHER’S WALTZ: A COLLABORATION OF SWO8 & SERENDIPITY

Mother’s Day is May 10th

 April 23, 2015 by swo8

FROM swo8: Mother’s Day is May 10th and the great American author and photographer (blush), Marilyn Armstrong and I have worked on another collaboration. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The first couple in the video are my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother died in childbirth leaving 3 babies and a husband.

When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised. The aunt is the lady sitting by the fire-place. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavours to under take in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


FROM Serendipity: It has arrived. The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago … but of course, it is brand new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8 … with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong. Memories in music for all mothers everywhere.


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BRIAN WILSON, NO PIER PRESSURE

Young Voices and The Old Master, Rich Paschall

On the new Brian Wilson “solo album,” as most seem to be calling it, Brian is only going solo on four of the 16 tracks,  When you consider that he is backed by a chorus of singers on those, then you may think he has more of a “Beach Boys” album than a solo affair.  The author of most of the Beach Boys hits, however, can not call it a Beach Boys album.  He doesn’t own the name.

The first guest performer has a song that was not well received by most critics.  “Runaway Dancer,” featuring Sebu (part of the duo Capital Cities), is nothing like the other tracks.  It has a heavy dance beat that screams “pop record.” Yes, it is laden with Wilson vocal work.  Wilson’s own voice can clearly be heard throughout.  Perhaps the new direction can be attributed to the work of Sebu Simonian off-site.  Wilson’s demo was titled “Talk of the Town,” when it was sent to Sebu, who recorded his vocals at another studio.  Sebu is also credited with “Additional production,” which could mean a lot of things.  If critics wanted just another Beach Boys tune, they didn’t get it.

“On the Island” brings an almost Bosa Nova beat and some sun and sand to the album.  The song features the work of “She and Him,” which would be Zooey Deschanel on vocals and M. Ward on electric guitar.  Deschanel’s vocal is perfect for the tune about being “lost in this island nation.”

One track is given over to an instrumental, well sort of anyway.  A mellow piece of jazz shows up as the fifth track of the deluxe album.  The very sounds suggest sunset over “Half Moon Bay.”  The work features Mark Isham on horn, but the Wilson touch is there too.  Voices are blended throughout to create harmonies  giving this a soft and warm feeling.  It is a break from the other type of soft harmonies Wilson has layered throughout the album.

In case you think I loved every bit of this album, I must confess to be mystified by the song “Our Special Love.”  The track may have been the one slated to go to Frank Ocean. Wilson cancelled him out, explaining that Ocean wanted to rap his performance.  If you think a driving dance tune was not well received by hard-core Beach Boys fans, just imagine a rap tune.  Peter Hollens, a You Tube generation performer if ever there was one, shows up instead.  Little of Hollens can be heard on the track as Wilson takes the lead on the chorus and the over produced harmonies just about drown out much of Hollens work.  I am not even convinced the verses fit well with the chorus.  The music, uncharacteristic of a Wilson song, does not blend as you come to expect.

On the other hand, the light-hearted “Guess You Had To Be There,” featuring Kacey Musgraves on the verses with Wilson leading the Chorus is a perfect mix. The happy sounding tune is not as layered or over produced.  A banjo mixed into the song  seems to go with Musgraves work and one wonders if that is indeed her touch.  The lyric could easily be commentary by Wilson on the ending of the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary tour.  Anyway, it all seems to fit.

The most energetic and contemporary sounding track features Nate Ruess of Fun.  Just like he does with the work in his own group, Ruess energizes “Saturday Night” and turns in a spirited performance.  Given author and composer credit along with Wilson and Joe Bennett, Ruess has a contribution that may well turn up on the radio stations this spring.  You will have to catch the live performance on PBS Soundstage or a tease of it in the trailer we put up yesterday.  Here is the audio:

The final track of the album, “The Last Song,” was originally scheduled to go to Lana Del Ray.  When the list of songs finally came out, her name was not to be found.  At first, Wilson told interviewers that Del Ray had cancelled them, but it turns out that she actually recorded the vocal last year.  It was ultimately decided that the nostalgic piece about looking back on a career seemed to suit Brian Wilson much more that Lana Del Ray.  Is it the swan song of the music master?  Perhaps it is, but Wilson never seems to run out of tunes.

Don’t be sad
There was a time and place for
what we had

If there was just another chance
for me to sing to you…

WITHOUT PEER

Brian Wilson’s No Pier Pressure, Rich Paschall

When the Beach Boys finally got back together in 2012 for a 50th Anniversary Tour, Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the sound, agreed to sign on.  Wilson had been a nervous performer over the years, and there were many years he could not perform.  His mental health history not only is well documented, but it will be played out soon on-screen in the biopic, Love and Mercy.  After decades away from the often feuding Beach Boys, Wilson was ready to go.

To start the anniversary year, Brian Wilson produced and arranged a brand new Beach Boys album, as well as having written most of the songs.  In true Beach Boys’ form, it was steeped in harmonies of the voices that had blended so well over the decades. Fans still revere their work for the unique sound.  The genius behind the Beach Boys had done it again.

Although Wilson did not originally want to perform many shows for an anniversary tour, he finally agreed to 50 shows for the 50th year.  The tour went so well, shows continued to be added.  There was talk of yet another Beach Boys album in the future and by the time the “boys” got to their 75th show in London, Wilson, who was usually cloistered in a studio, was willing to continue. True to the Beach Boys history, the tour ended on a sour note.

Mike Love, front man, lead singer on most of the hits, and owner of the name Beach Boys, fired Wilson, Al Jardine and most of his crew.  The mastermind of the tour was stunned.  For his part Love claimed he did not fire Wilson but had other commitments.  The other commitment was to tour with a stripped down show and a crew of replacement Beach Boys.  Yes, he booked his own tour even as the highly acclaimed, Wilson engineered, production was on the road.  Love, by the way, is Wilson’s cousin and a founding member of the Beach Boys along with Al Jardine.

The backlash was immediate.  Fans were outraged.  Love took to the LA Times to pen a letter claiming he would never fire Wilson.  He pleaded innocent.  Wilson fired back with his own letter: “What’s confusing is that by Mike not wanting or letting Al, David [Marks] and me tour with the band, it sort of feels like we’re being fired.”  David Marks is an original member of the Beach Boys and a neighbor to the Wilson Brothers and Love as they grew up.

The new album, That’s Why God Made The Radio, grew in popularity as the 50th Anniversary tour rolled on. “What’s a bummer to Al and me is that we have numerous offers to continue, so why wouldn’t we want to? We all poured our hearts and souls into that album and the fans rewarded us by giving us a Number Three debut on the Billboard charts and selling out our shows. We were all blown away by the response,” Wilson was reported in Rolling Stone as having written.

Wilson continued to perform over the next two years in a limited amount of shows.  Al Jardine and sometimes David Marks came along for the ride.  It is hard to say whether Love and his version of the Beach Boys or Wilson and Friends were more popular.

So was the idea of a new album dead?  Was Wilson near the end of a long and successful ride?  Was he ready to fade away while Love kept singing songs from the 1960’s.  The answer was delivered loud and clear.  Wilson is about to make 2015 one of the biggest years of his career.

Wilson went back to the studio and created a new album.  Perhaps it would have been one for the Beach Boys, but there are former Beach Boys and longtime Wilson musicians on hand to give it that Wilson arranged, Beach Boys sound. The album debuted this month to strong reviews.  It is filled with songs you would expect from Wilson, along with a few surprises.

Wilson clearly could not take the lead on all of these songs, so there are plenty of artists on hand to share the parts.  Lead vocal credits are given to Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, one-time Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, country singer Kacey Musgraves, You Tube star Peter Hollens, Zooey Deschanel (She & Him), Sebu Simonian (Capital Cities) and Nate Ruess (Fun.)  Some of them also get a song writing credit and/or contribute background vocals.  David Marks contributed guitar work to two of the songs that featured Al Jardine.

A blast from the past comes from a new song, Sail Away, featuring the lead of Chaplin and Jardine.  It is reminiscent of Sloop John B and Sail On, Sailor and will evoke past Beach Boys hits.

Much of the new album is featured on a PBS Soundstage special, Brian Wilson & Friends.  There are also some other Wilson hits to thrill the live audience.  For some insights to other songs here’s the official Soundstage trailer:

Tomorrow: New Voices energize No Pier Pressure
Read more on the Mike Love, Brian Wilson letters: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/brian-wilson-to-mike-love-it-sort-of-feels-like-we-re-being-fired-20121009#ixzz3XWsts54u
Follow us: @rollingstone on TwitterRollingStone on Facebook

SHARING MY WORLD AGAIN

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #15

Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?

Both. Organized, insofar as I put stuff on the same shelves all the time. But, I’m not the only one using the fridge. Some people, who shall remain nameless, don’t worry about object placement. Worse, leftovers tend to get shoved to the back where they grow legs and try to escape. Ew!

Have you ever been a participant in a parade? What did you do?

Garry and I were in the Shriners Rodeo. Twice. On horseback. We had to gallop around the ring and not fall off.

ADJ150-RodeoGarMarHorseback

I’ve been a parade onlooker a few times, twice by accident.

How do you stand out from the crowd?

I don’t. I’m short, plump, white-haired and slow-moving. I’m invisible.

72-Marilyn-Photog_14

If you are asking the question in a metaphysical sense, you get a slightly different answer. I have some talent for photography and writing. I’m smart, but not as smart as I used to be. I think a lot of my brain cells got tired and died. Or maybe the drugs of my youth finally caught up with me. It was fun while it lasted.

Je ne regrette rien.

How many bones, if any, have you broken?

I broke a toe jumping into a pool with my toes pointed when I was 13. Or maybe 14.

Shortly thereafter, I grew a benign but large tumor on my right tibia, so they removed a small section and replaced it with a plastic pin.

I lost several pieces of my spine when I was 19. Spinal fusion and laminectomy of L-3-4-5.  Last year, they cracked my sternum to replace the mitral valve, cut down the overgrown muscle in my left ventricle, do a bypass, insert a pacemaker, and drain my lungs.

My chest has not healed. I can hear it grinding when I move. I’m told it will heal eventually. I hope so. It’s icky. When I press gently on my chest, I can feel the bones shift. TMI?

SHARING MY WORLD – WEEK 14, 2015

Share Your World – 2015 Week #14

What type of music relaxes you the most or do you prefer silence?

I love music, but I need to listen to it. If I am not paying attention, and it’s playing in the background, it’s noise. Either I am fully engaged or I want silence.

When I do listen, it’s usually classical music, probably because that was where my love of music began. When Garry and I are traveling, we listen to folk, or country, even older music from the forties or fifties. We are nothing if not eclectic.

I cannot listen to music and drive alone. I find music more distracting than words. Tell me I’m not the only one.

Show us a two of your favorites photographs? Explain why they are your favorite. If you are not a photographer, think of a two favorite scenes in your life and tell us about them.

72-Snowy River-032015_31

It was a terrible winter. I took this picture at the end of March. By the calendar, spring was well underway. No one told the river; it was partly frozen. The snow was piled so high I had to go to the road and shoot down. The snow was higher than I am tall.

Manchaug Falls, August 2011

These two pictures were taken less than a mile from home. They remind me that New England is amazing, filled with extraordinary natural beauty even when we are buried under 10 feet of snow.

dogs with bishop and gar

As for this last picture, I love the look on Garry’s face. I love that Bishop photobombed the picture. I love that everyone looks happy.

What is your favorite tradition? (family tradition, church tradition, whatever)

Garry and I watch seasonal movies. For Christmas, we watch “Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We view “The Ten Commandments” at Easter/Passover. There are others. Movies are a language we share. They have memories and meanings that are special to us. Personal memories not shared by anyone else.

If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 18 what advice would you give yourself? Or if you are younger than 25 what words of wisdom would you like to tell yourself at age 50?

I’ve gotten to a point where it makes more sense to figure out what I would tell myself at age 50. In which case, I’d tell myself to get better medical care. To take the time to go to Boston and be seen by experts. To not take the word of local doctors with dubious credentials. I probably wouldn’t listen to myself. I never do.

LAYING DOWN THE MUSICAL LAW

Tom Joseph Law music, by Rich Paschall

There is no shortage of musicians on You Tube and other social media platforms who wish to become famous.  Some are actually rather good and just hoping to be noticed among a sea of musicians who are covering songs and offering their own work.  How do you get recognition?  How do you produce quality videos to post among the millions of videos already in cyberspace?  How do you stand out among the crowd?

Tom Law has been working steadily for years to become the next “over night sensation.”  Since joining You Tube in 2010, the British singer-songwriter has posted covers and collaborations, original songs and one man band videos.  Yes, Tom has 14 videos where he is playing all the instruments.  You may watch and be suitably impressed at this talent.

From photo shoot in Bath, England

From photo shoot in Bath, England

At age 25, Tom’s persistence, talent and good looks have brought him almost 79 thousand You Tube subscribers and over 3 and a half million views.  It is respectable for sure but there’s a higher level to achieve and that is his aim.

In order to raise some additional money to make quality videos, Tom has found Patreon.  It is a social media site aimed at bringing patrons together with their favorite artists.  This allows people to pledge gifts large and small for each project and the artist has the option of offering rewards, like free downloads of music.  Tom also offers some patrons the opportunity to “hangout” online for a private chat.  On a recent hangout, I got the opportunity to sit in.

A small group of supporters of Tom’s cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”, eight I think, assembled last Saturday for the opportunity to talk with their favorite artist.  Tom’s video was one of those one man band videos, where he is singing and playing all the parts.  It certainly moves away from the more up tempo pop-like tunes I like, but it is a good choice for Tom, especially given the radio play of Hozier’s song with the driving refrain that sticks in your head.

Not being part of this particular group, I was pleased Tom gave me the chance to join the call.  I thought I would just hang out and listen and perhaps learn a few things.  However, the group seemed rather reserved and did not have much to say.  Perhaps they have had other hang-outs with Tom and asked a lot of the obvious questions already.  When Tom mentioned that he felt like he was doing all the talking, I decided to jump in.

The group may have been there to talk about “Take Me To Church,” but I had just seen Tom’s most recent cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” so it was fresh in my mind.  I decided to go there instead.  First I mentioned that Tom seemed to be apologizing in social media, even before the video appeared, about the “F” word in the song.  He was afraid some might not like it but felt it could not be eliminated.  Usually I find the use offensive, but in the context of Sheeran’s song, it obviously fits and is nothing sensational.  Tom thought of covering the sound over, but these sort of tricks just highlight a missing word we all know is there.

Next I wanted to know how does he put the pieces together when he is the lead singer, all the background singers and all the musicians.  It takes a great deal of patience as well as technical know-how to get this together.  If you watched the video, you may also wonder, “How does he do it?”

Without giving away secrets, as if I understood it all anyway, Tom starts with the main track, that is, the lead vocal.  From there he can add in the other instruments and background Toms until he gets all their parts down.  Yes, there is a lot of harmony going on.

Then, of course, Tom has to film all those Toms.  In order to be in time with the music, you can see the background singers are listening for their parts in the headphones.  When this is all done, I wanted to know how he syncs all this up so the timing is just right.  I thought the background crew would be rather tough, but Tom did not seem to think it was as difficult as some of the rest of the project.

“OK, Tom, how long did the whole process take?”  Tom thought about all the pieces of recording and filming and editing and finally decided it took about seven days and a LOT of hours to give us a video of three minutes and 47 seconds.  If you think Tom can make money off these things, there is little chance, since the song belongs to someone else.  However, it might give him the recognition to do other things.

He does have some of his own songs that you should give a chance. In fact, here’s the song “Give It a Chance” from an EP, Build From Zero.

After the song you will see a link below the video on You Tube that will lead you to a free album of covers by Tom.  Download it from Tom’s website.  If you are a social media junkie, subscribe to Tom’s You Tube and go to his “about” page and find links to all of Tom’s sites so you can stalk him around the internet and know what is coming next.  Give it a chance.

MUSIC – CEE’S BLACK AND WHITE CHALLENGE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Music – People, instruments, sheet music, audio devices

As it happens, I have a few things. I stayed with instruments, mainly because I like these three pictures best. But I have choirs, bands, singers, orchestras … and a pile of sheet music. Just in case this challenge comes up again, I’m ready!

My mountain dulcimer

My mountain dulcimer

Cellos at the Boston Pops BW

Basses at the Boston Pops

My music. Look carefully. You'll see my 10-year-old handwriting

My music. Look carefully. You’ll see my 10-year-old handwriting

Native American drum at powow

Native American drum at powwow