THERE ARE MANY QUESTIONS IN LIFE – Rich Paschall

Questions 67 & 68

Can this feeling that we have together
Ooh, suddenly exist between
Did this meeting of our minds together
Ooh, happen just today, somewhere?

Can you tell me, please don’t tell me
It really doesn’t matter anyhow

This song was the first single released from the 1969 debut album of Chicago the band, then known as The Chicago Transit Authority. Written by Robert Lamm, it was about a romantic relationship Lamm had from 1967 and 68, hence the title of the song.

The horn arrangement from James Pankow is different from their later efforts. Here they are playing throughout with no rests for the horn players.  It is a rock style like no other at that point in time.

After the band had some success with other singles, the tune was re-released in 1971 with I’m A Man on the “B-side.”

For more on the B-side, see “I’m A Man,” SERENPIPITY (teepee12.com) August 30, 2019.

IT NEVER GETS OLD – Rich Paschall

Chicago in Chicago, by Rich Paschall

The first big concert that I attended in my life was at DePaul University Alumni Hall on May 13, 1971. Three DePaul alumni and two other DePaul music students, along with a Roosevelt University music student and a local musician were making it in the big time and were coming home to play a benefit. The concert ticket prices were a rather high 3.50 and 6.50 US dollars. I am sure I went for the cheaper ticket. I had been to many Blue Demon basketball games in Alumni Hall so I knew there would not be a bad seat.

The Chicago Transit Authority

The band’s first album came out 50 years ago and was the self-titled The Chicago Transit Authority. While on tour the local transit authority actually threatened legal action if they kept the name. Thus the band name was shortened to just Chicago. The first album was doing OK, but did not garner any indivdual hits in the beginning. We didn’t care. We liked what we heard. Then something happened.

While the boys were on the road, their songs were finally making it from the FM album-oriented stations to AM radio. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Beginnings and Questions 67 & 68 climbed the charts. When Chicago the band made it back to Alumni Hall, they were rock stars, “rock with horns,” that is. The student newspaper noted at the time: “The memories are there, as are the photographs and copy, but no camera or pencil could have successfully captured the exchanges of expression between the members of the band and the proud, beaming faces in the front row of Alumni Hall – their parents.

Chicago at Park West 1982

CTA, as we liked to call the album in Chicago, stayed on the Billboard 200 for a record 171 consecutive weeks. It was helped along by the success of the next album just titled “Chicago.” The album that followed in 1971 was “Chicago III.” Singles were making it to the AM radio where we could all hear them without buying the album. There are now 36 albums, the most recent being “Chicago Now,” or Chicago XXXVI.

Chicago at Northerly Island, Chicago

I have seen Chicago in concert about a dozen times over the recent decades. Besides seeing them at the site of my high school and college gym, Alumni Hall (now gone), I also saw them at Poplar Creek (also gone), Soldier Field for a “Saturday in the Park,” Northerly Island, Chicago (more of a pennisula, methinks), Grant Park for “Taste of Chicago,” and several times in recent years at Ravinia Festival just north of Chicago.

Ravinia Festival is reported to be the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States. It began in Ravinia Park in 1905 and now runs from June to about mid September each year. The calendar of events typically contains 120 to 150 events. In addition to the 3400 seat outdoor pavillion, there is the 850 seat Martin Theater used largely for classical works, and the 450 seat Bennett Gordon Hall.

Ravinia Park train stop

The outdoor concerts encompass every type of music from classical to jazz, show tunes to opera, rock to blues. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra finds a summer home there and they perform many outdoor shows. The popular site can fill the Pavillion and put thousands more on the lawn.

The original purpose of Ravinia Park was in support of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad. This stop along the line was meant to provide a variety of amusements just a short distance from the city.   The railroad went bankrupt in 1911 putting the festival in jeopardy. A group of local residents, including prominent Chicago businessmen, purchased the park and secured its future as an entertainment spectacular.

Ravinia Park is spread across 36 acres. Theaters, restaurants, souvenir stops, refreshment stands, a food court and beverage store help to fill the space. The lawn frequently includes a giant screen for all those who can not see the stage. The sound is great everywhere.

Lawn viewing at Ravinia

Unique to this venue is the picnic aspect of the lawn. Not only can you bring in your own lawn chair, but also your own food and drink. People arrive with coolers and picnic baskets. Even low tables to hold your candles, and wine and cheese are allowed. If you forget anything or did not want to carry items in, just run to the store on site.

Picnic in front of the Pavillion

I like to take the Union Pacific North line from the Ravensood stop at Lawrence Avenue, just two stops from downtown Chicago, right to the gate at Ravinia. The entrance is literally steps from the train. On the return, they hold the train until the show is over, including encores, and people have a chance to get to the platform. Don’t be too late or you may have to call an Uber! Of course, you can drive out there. The park has adequate parking if you did not make it to the train on time, or have a lot of picnic gear to bring.

Chicago at Ravinia

Chicago the band is 10 now instead of just 7 they had at the start. There are two pecussionists, not a single drummer as in the beginnings. Replacing the multitalented Terry Kath following his death in 1978 added to their numbers as well. When Jason Scheff (Pete Cetera replacement in 1985) recently left the band, a bass player and singer were added to cover the parts. In fact, many lineup adjustments have been made through the years.

“Rock with horns”

The current line up still provides the same great sound. Remarkably, original trombone player James Pankow and trumpet player Lee Loughnane are as stong as ever. Robert Lamm (from Roosevelt University), the heart and soul of Chicago, still delivers on multiple instruments and lead vocals.

Chicago the band is a major component of the soundtack of my life. Even though it is 50 years on, the music never gets old.

Sources include: “Sweet Home, Chicago,” resources.depaul.edu/newsline, Patricia Chavez, November 16, 2017.

I’M A MAN – THE SONG – Rich Paschall

Who Sang It Better, by Rich Paschall

The British rock band The Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963 and had various success in the mid 1960s. One of their biggest hits was “I’m A Man” written by singer-songwriter and keyboardist for the band, Steve Winwood, and their record producer, Jimmy Miller. The song was released in 1967 and made the top ten in both the U.K. and U.S.

Spencer Davis Group

Winwood is on lead vocals and drives the Hammond organ with a strong beat. It was the last big hit for the group. Winwood and his older brother Muff (Mervyn, actually) left the band shortly after to pursue other interests. Steve formed the band Traffic and Muff joined the record industry as a talent scout and artistic developer.

The band The Chicago Transit Authority, later just “Chicago,” covered the song 50 years ago on their first album we know as CTA. It was not released as a single and found little success in the early going. It was, however, a band favorite in concert.

The Chicago Transit Authority

When Chicago started to earn success and singles were hitting the charts, “I’m A Man” came out as the B-Side to “Questions 67 and 68.” Radio stations were playing both sides of the record. The song even did as well in the U.K. as the original.

Today, Chicago continues to play the song in concert. It is an extended version with a long break in the middle for the percussionists to show off their talents as the other band members literally take a break.

The version below is with the incomparable Terry Kath on guitar and lead vocals for the first verse. The entire Tanglewood 1970 concert from which this cut is taken is available on YouTube — for free.

You might be able to guess my vote for best if you have been following us here.

THE CIRCLE OF MOVIE LIFE – Rich Paschall

The Lion King, a review, Rich Paschall

In the world of the Disney movie magic, what goes around will go around again. This is especially true for the beloved animated classics. You may have noticed this by their calculated re-release program.

Disney has employed what is is known as the Vault program. When they released a movie for video sales, first by VHS and then DVD and BluRay, it was limited in nature. The very fact that it was limited created an instant demand. When it was gone, it was gone forever.  OK, it was not really gone. Every 7 to 10 years they would bring it out of the vault, so to speak, for another limited release. There could be Gold editions, anniversary editions, Platinum editions. There might be interviews and other bonus material included. Each would be different and therefore the Disney fanatic would need the next version of something they already owned.

Original Snow White

Consider Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one of Disney’s oldest and most endearing classics. It was released in 1937 and re-released in 1944. The success of the re-release set the precedent for what would be crafted into the Disney Vault Program. Snow White came around for a visit in theaters again in 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1983, 1987 and 1993. In this time period, something wonderful happened for Mouseland. The VHS player became standard home equipment.

In October 1994 Snow White appeared in homes on VHS. She was also released on the short-lived LaserDisc format. Seven years later it was the Platinum edition on VHS and also on DVD. In 2009 it was the Diamond Edition with two discs on DVD and BluRay. What could be better than a Diamond Edition? The Signature Edition!

The Signature Edition came out on BluRay in 2016. Disney must have felt that they were missing out on a big piece of the audience and released a different Signature Edition on standard DVD in 2017.  In between all of these you can find some foreign language releases for other countries. Is a live version coming soon? What do you think?

Among the many Disney animated classics is The Lion King. The 1994 release is the 11th highest-grossing animated film of all time. What’s number 1? Hang on by your claws for a moment. We’ll get there.

Lion King was released on VHS and laserdisc in 1995 in various editions after its spectacular run in the theaters. Those editions were gone in a few years and into the vault went the King. Before he could come back to the home video market, The Lion King returned to the theater in standard and IMAX release in 2002. The following year saw various editions for VHS and DVD.

In 2011 the King came to life in a 3D theatrical release followed a few weeks later by BluRay release including 3D. The Signature Collection release came out in 2017 on HD Digital, DVD and BluRay. If you thought all bases were covered, think again. The Lion King was so popular, he came out again in 2018 in Ultra HD BluRay and 4K digital download.

You may think you don’t need any of these various Lion King media presentations.  You can stream it on Hulu or Netflix. But the Mouse King has a surprise for you. Disney bought a controlling interest in Hulu and has bought their way out of the Netflix agreement.  Why end the Lion King’s reign in the streaming world? Did you really think the King was going to run away to another land? Just like Simba, the film will return because Disney will soon have their own streaming service, Disney+.

The Lion King also rules over the Broadway stage. He made it there in 1997 and never left, but I digress. We were talking about movies, weren’t we?

This year we received the live action version. OK, it’s live action if you believe those animals are really singing and dancing. Disney has employed CGI (Computered Generated Imagery) to make a realistic looking version of The Lion King. This sort of thing was inevitable. Movies have been using CGI for years. Video games get their realistic look from this remarkable computer wizardry.

The 2019 version of The Lion King is actually an animated remake of the original.  The story is the same. Much of the dialogue is the same. The songs are the same, except they added one more to the mix. Some things are added or lengthened for affect, but you are getting the same story with a new kind of animation.

Simba

The Lion King, Mufasa, from the beginning of the story is the same. Let’s face it, James Earl Jones is so memorable in the role, why get another actor? He is King of the story. All of the other parts have been recast. Some are just as good or at least equal to their 1994 counter parts. Others are not.

Holding up their parts as the Warthog, Pumbaa, and his little friend meerkat, Timon, and Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner. They are the comic relief, which is absolutley needed in light of the darker, more realistic looking, death and fight scenes. While the original performers were great, these guys do quite well.

The villian lion Scar was Jeremy Irons the first time around. This time  it is Chiwetel Ejiofor as the scary one. Ejiofor sounds to me at times like Alan Rickman at his evil best.

Donald Glover does not match Matthew Broderick as Simba. Others fall short of the original all-star cast as well. Critics have not been kind to Beyonce as Nala. We know she is there both to add star power and to sing a song. The part is lengthened to explain exactly how it is Nala found Simba, but the voice work lacks the energy and passion of Moira Kelly as the original.

When you compare the casts, you may wonder why more than James Earl Jones was not retained from the original. In many places they did not do better. The Circle of Life opening is performed by different singers in the two movies, and the 2019 version fails to add the Elton John version to the soundtrack at the end. I think they missed the mark there too.

Still, this is a version worth the time, if only for the stunning visuals. By the way, I promised to mention the number one animated box office hit and here it is: The Lion King 2019.

Sources include: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (video),” disney.fandom.com

 

WHICH ONE IS BEST? – Rich Paschall

MAX hits, by Rich Paschall

If you were here on Sunday seeking intelligent life, you may have read about rising star Max Schneider. If you have been watching national or local television lately or listening to local radio or streaming music services you would have found it hard to miss MAX. He is currently on The Intimate AF Tour with plenty of media stops along the way. He even got a gig one afternoon at the mega rock festival, Lollapalooza.

MAX in Chicago

Sunday we gave you a link to his live performance of the radio hit, Love Me Less, on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. He also performed another song he hopes to climb the charts. It is supposed to reveal the love for his wife. “I knew immediately that this was a special record when I wrote my first verse instantaneously in front of my wife while she was in the room,” MAX said.

You’re beautiful
Something like these acid dreams, acid dreams
You’re something I ain’t used to, girl (no)
I’m gon’ give you everything, everything

Which one of these current songs do you like better? I’ll take the first one, Love Me Less. It might be a little harder to write a good lyric when you are too close to the subject. That’s my vote between the two, but there are a lot of tunes on his YouTube channel.

Just for fun, I will give you a performance by MAX which I like the best among his high-energy, up-tempo efforts:

See also: “MAX Unveils Funky New Tune, ‘Acid Dreams,’ Featuring Felly: Listen,” Billboard.com July 19, 2019.

THE INTIMATE TOUR – Rich Paschall

MAX, A Review, by Rich Paschall

If you are in or near a big city like we are, you may have a number of outdoor stadiums where concerts are performed. We have concerts at Wrigley Field (Cubs) and Soldier Field (Bears). We have concerts in parks including the largest of the music Festivals, Lollapalooza (Grant Park). Outdoor music is a big thing here in the summer and you can catch  every type of music from classical to Hip-Hop, jazz to blues, rock and roll to modern pop.

In concert at the United Center

We also have indoor stadiums with concerts throughout the year. We have the Chicago Stadium (Bulls), UIC Pavillion (University of Illinois at Chicago), Allstate Arena (AHL hockey) and others. You will not lack for big name performers in large venues.

There are also many smaller venues, clubs and bars, that feature musical acts. They may range from places where 100 is a crowd, up to locations of several hundred. Earlier  in the year we caught David Archuleta in his Postcards in the Sky Tour at the City Winery. It is a spot that can have up to 300 for seating at small cocktail tables. The feeling is rather intimate compared to the large venues.

City Winery, performance venue.

This spot would have been too large for Max Schneider’s The Intimate AF Tour. With Sirius XM as a sponsor MAX set out to play 15 big cities and very small venues. Aside from the intimate venue stops, MAX picked up a few other notable gigs along the way.

If you are unfamiliar with MAX, we mentioned him before in our young artists edition of “Christmas Yet To Come.”  At age 27, he may seem like an “overnight success” to some. He has a song on the radio charts and has been nominated as 2019 Best New Pop artist for the iHeartRadio Music Awards. He has also made some television and radio appearances promoting his latest single. It is all falling into place for the energetic performer.

Like many “breakout” performers, he has been at it for a while. He started performing at 3. He got an agent at age 14. He was an understudy on Broadway. He got a few TV acting jobs.One was in 25 episodes of the Nickolodeon show “How to Rock.” He won a part in the 2015 Brian Wilson biopic as the young Van Dyke Parks, an early writing partner of WIlson.

He did a lot of cover videos on You Tube. It is the way a lot of young performers have broken through in the business. His channel now has over 1.6 million subscribers. One of his earliest from 7 years ago is with a group of musicians who are playing their iphone apps instead of instruments.

Fast forward to 2019 and the hard work at acting, dancing and singing are paying off in a big way. By the time MAX hit Chicago on his tour of small bars and clubs, he had a performance lined up one afternoon at Lollapalooza. The 4 day event draws about 400,ooo people. Most show up early for the all day music festival over eight stages and across 115 acres on Chicago’s lakefront.  It’s Woodstock for the 21st Century. Some years we even accomodate with rain and mud.  Fun fact: MAX is from Woodstock, New York.

The day after playing for tens of thousands in Grant Park, MAX played a small bar on the north side of Chicago. Schubas, once a Schlitz brewery, has a small room in the back of the bar that they claim will hold a MAXimum of 165. That’s without any table and chairs, just fans ready to rock.

Schlitz
Schubas

A young rapper opened the show with a brief set. We will spare you the review. MAX followed and kicked things into high gear and left it there through most of the set. The small crowd was pressed up against the stage while a few of us older folks took to the bench that ran along one side wall. From there I could stand on the bench from time to time to get a few pictures over the top of the crowd.

MAX, The Intimate AF Tour

If you have been to concerts lately, you will notice a lot of back lighting, usually in shades of blue. It makes it hard to get good pictures or video. Do you think they do that on purpose? This show saw a lot of light using yellow theater lighting gels. Yellow seems to be the theme for MAX at present.

MAX

Following a few successful days in the Windy City, MAX was off to a musical performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Along with some other TV and radio spots lately MAX’s overnight success seems complete. Will he be the headliner instead of the opener some day soon? That of course is hard to say as show business is fickle. One thing we know, having seen MAX here before, he has paid his dues and is bringing the talent.

SNOOPY AS A ROLE MODEL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I read a unique article in the Washington Post by a writer talking about something from her childhood that inspired her to be a writer as an adult. Her name is Ann Patchett and her title names the motivating force in her career choice. The article is called, “Snoopy taught me how to be a writer.”

That’s right – the Snoopy from Charles Schultz’s beloved comic “Peanuts”. The perpetual loser, Charlie Brown’s dog. Ann says she read Peanut compilation books, as I did, in her formative summers and was smitten by Snoopy. She says that she was a nerdy, uncool kid who saw Snoopy as the essence of cool. He even raised the totally uncool status of his ‘person’, Charlie Brown, just by being so quintessentially cool himself.

Snoopy was confident enough to let himself become totally absorbed in his fantasies – WWI Flying Ace, Soldier in the French Foreign Legion, figure skater, tennis star, astronaut, and so on. He brought everyone else along with him in his fantasies to the point that they too heard the imaginary bullets flying by and the roar of the imaginary crowds.

Most important, Snoopy was a writer. He let his imagination run wild here too and then he sat down on the top of his doghouse and typed. He sat at his typewriter and plinked the keys to form hackneyed and repetitive paragraphs that he knew needed ‘editing’.

He had confidence and sent his manuscripts out to editors. He got lots of rejections, like all writers, yet he kept on trying. The best thing about Snoopy was that even when he failed and his doghouse was riddled with bullets, he lost in sports or his manuscripts were rejected again, he was still cool.

His superpower was that he remained cool in failure as well as in success.

Snoopy at his typewriter

Anne says that Snoopy taught her how to survive the publishing process; to deal with rejections and then get over them; to ignore bad reviews and move on. Snoopy turned out to be her perfect career mentor and he also led her into a life with dogs who enriched and fulfilled her. She says she always assumed that her dogs have an active inner life and are always cooler than she is.

I was never inspired to write. I just always did and so did my parents. My school required creative writing and analytical writing as well as research papers from the third grade on. My high school papers are indistinguishable from my college ones.

My father published seven books and numerous articles in the field of psychiatry and anthropology, many before I was born. He spent every summer locked in his study, writing, Every day he would present his writing to my mother who would edit it and encourage rewrites when needed. There was a lot of heated discussion about content, organization and writing style throughout my childhood.

My father in his fifties

When I was around fifteen, I joined my mother and we became my father’s editing team. As he got older, his writing often rambled and went off-topic and it was our job to keep him focused. We often had to outline material for him and even rewrite sections ourselves when he resisted our ‘advice’ and insisted on his now more stream of consciousness style. That may work for fiction, but not for an academic treatise.

Writing has always been a part of my life. I went through a period of anxiety and insecurity in my own writing when I was in high school and my mother did for me what she did for my father. She helped me figure out what I wanted to say and the most effective and persuasive way to say it. She taught me how to organize my thoughts and present my ideas cleanly and clearly.

Me at seventeen

When I started writing short audio theater plays with my husband, I had to learn how to write dialogue, which is a totally different kind of writing. I was used to writing analytical prose, which is not the way people talk. Dialogue has to sound like someone is actually speaking, not reading aloud from a non-fiction book.

So my writing evolved and expanded to encompass a new format for me. It is amazing and gratifying to hear actors bring your words to life. It’s even more awesome to hear audiences reacting to your words by laughing and applauding.

Title page of one of our scripts

I loved Snoopy too growing up, but I identified more with Linus and Charlie Brown than with the fearless, adventuresome Snoopy. I can imagine that if Snoopy ever wrote short plays, he would picture the adulation of audiences and bask in their approval. I’ve had that experience, so in a way, I’ve had my ‘Snoopy moment.’

Even a nerd like me can feel cool. But never as cool as Snoopy.