Greg Lake, one of the founding fathers of progressive rock, has died of cancer at the age of 69. He was the vocalist, bassist & guitarist of Emerson Lake & Palmer, and fronted King Crimson on its 1969 debut album.
Harriet Tubman on the 20 dollar bill is an awesome idea. But I think we should also make a new bill that’s worth $19.99, color it purple, and put Prince on it.
Working in broadcasting, the holidays can be very annoying. You’re assaulted by the same Christmas songs over and over… and when you’re on the air, you can’t turn off the radio. (“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. And please stop it with the Mariah Carey.)
But over the years, I’ve noticed a few that don’t make me want to jab a pen into my brain. It’s a very short list.
First up is my personal favorite, “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Now, there are a few different versions of this one. The single is attributed to Greg Lake, who wrote the tune. An album version is attributed to the group he was in at the time, Emerson Lake and Palmer. And being the faithful son of prog that I am, I am bound by a religious oath to like it.
There are a few versions floating around on YouTube. One is a ridiculously sped-up recording with what passed as a music video in those days. Another is a newer live version of Greg Lake singing in a church with some help from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. But this one is close to the actual album version I love, though for some unknown reason they’ve added a loud choir and orchestra, I’m guessing out of spite.
As far as “classics” are concerned, there’s one of them I never tire of, no matter who’s singing it. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is about as perfect a song as humans can make. There are way too many versions to choose from and I like nearly all of them, but I settled on Frank Sinatra’s because, hey, Sinatra.
And finally, we come to the king of the Christmas pack, a song so iconic and representative of the holiday it’s simply called “The Christmas Song.” And the best version is by, naturally, Nat King Cole.
Oh look, there’s time for one more. Okay, honorable mention goes to The Eagles and “Baby Please Come Home.” I’ve always loved the slightly bluesy, California rock feel.
The world can be a pretty crappy place. But at least there’s this: Music engineered and scientifically verified to appeal to cats.
The cellist behind this has a Kickstarter campaign, and proceeds will go to animal shelters. So it’s for a good cause, too.
Back in June Ronnie and I attended a show at the Wiltern by one of my favorite new artists, the former frontman of the band Porcupine Tree (and many other musical projects), Steven Wilson.
His solo albums are scarily good, and his most recent, Hand. Cannot. Erase., is one of the best albums I’ve heard in the last few years.
One song in particular stood out. “Routine” is written from the point of view of a wife and mother trying to survive an unimaginable tragedy, the loss of her husband and two children.
In the show, Wilson explained how much beauty there is in melancholy, and how he doesn’t “do happy music” because only sad music makes him happy. He related the story of when he sent “Routine” to his manager, his manager replied that it was the most depressing song Wilson had ever written, a fact which made Wilson very happy.
But most affecting was the animated video Wilson had a friend produce to go with the song, to be shown on the big screen during the concert. It was nearly impossible for anyone watching to keep their emotions in check once the point of the song became clear.
Wilson has finally publicly released the video. Here it is. I dare to watch and not get the feels.
By the way, here’s a video taken at the Wiltern show, with Wilson’s introduction.
Once upon a time, music was also art and sculpture.
(Wow, thanks, WordPress, for letting the bloggers who use your service embed Instagram photos. That’s sarcasm, by the way.)
Over the weekend music lost one of the greatest rock bassists of all time, Chris Squire, the co-founder of the world’s preeminent prog band Yes, and the only member to appear on every album. I woke up to the news Saturday morning, and felt like a part of my teenage years had been ripped away.
Squire’s sound was utterly unique, but it wasn’t just his trebly tone, it was the notes he chose, sometimes making you walk away humming the bass line as much as the melody line in a song. One amazing example of Squire’s roundabout way (see what I did there?) of NOT playing the typical bass line is the opening of “Starship Trooper”: It’s a two-chord riff, but Chris doesn’t play two notes, he doesn’t play three, he plays SIX. Count ’em.)
I grew up with Yes. Their music has been an integral part of the majority of my life, and in many ways it helped me survive my home town. While I was always more of a fan of their proggy 70’s output, I didn’t get to see them live in the “Big Generator” tour in the late 80s when the band dipped its toe into pop waters. But I would up seeing them four more times: the “Union” tour in which old and new members shared the stage; the “Talk” tour for an under appreciated Trevor Rabin-era album, and sparsely attended being that it was the height of the grunge explosion in music; their return to “classic” form on their Masterworks tour; and a lovely in-store appearance in 2004 in which I got to actually meet my music heroes.
Chris Squire, while nice and pleasant, seemed a little less happy about meeting fans that evening, but it was still an honor to shake his hand, that hand that was such a genius at finding something other than the typical, usual, monotoned bass lines. (Jon Anderson made a pass at my wife at the time, but that’s another story.)
(Photos: Above: Chris Squire during in-store appearance in Sherman Oaks, CA, 2004. Below: CDs autographed by Yes band members in 2004 and 1997.)