Listen here for a wide-ranging 38-minute radio interview with me by Alastair Gordon, author of Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Â‘60s (2008, Rizzoli), in which he featured illustrations from my books Living on the Earth and Being of the Sun, which I co-wrote with Ramon Sender. Alastair Gordon also interviewed Ramon Sender for this radio series, which was part of Art Basel Miami Beach 2008; you can listen to his interview on the same page. You can pick up a copy of AlastairÂ’s wonderful book here.
December 12, 2008
“Floozy Tune,” the opening cut of my blues/jazz CD, What Living’s All About, has garnered a runner-up position in yet a THIRD songwriting contest, this time as a Finalist in the 100% Music Songwriting Contest.
In summer 2008, “Floozy Tune” received Honorable Mention (7th place) in the World division (which includes jazz), in the Indie International Songwriting Contest. Here’s their profile page on me.
August 5, 2008
Today “Floozy Tune,” the opening cut on my 3rd CD, What Living’s All About, has placed in yet a SECOND international songwriting contest, as Honorable Mention (7th place) in the World division (which includes jazz), in the Indie International Songwriting Contest. Here’s their profile page on me.
The first award for “Floozy Tune” was in the Top 20 Finalists in the Jazz Division of the Unisong International Songwriting Contest, in 2007.
I’m so happy. I got my fifth consecutive positive review of What Living’s All About, this time in Blues Revue (“The World’s Blues Magazine”) January 2008 issue, written by Tom Hyslop in the “Blues Bites” section. I just posted it on the What Living’s All About review page.
You can get your own copy of What Living’s All About from CD Baby, on iTunes, or from this site (I’ll sign it for you). You can download free the one cut no reviewer has been able to ignore, America the Blues, here.
7/9/2007 4:38:10 PM
Congratulations, you have been selected as a Top 20 Finalist in the Jazz Category of the 11th Annual Unisong International Song contest. Results are at http://www.unisong.com/Winners11.aspx.
This year featured the highest overall quality of songs, lyrics, and writers ever submitted by far, with the most diverse and varied entries from a multitude of countries representing every continent on Earth except Antarctica (and songwriting penguins out there).
The judging therefore was extremely competitive and to be singled out anywhere in the top 15% of all songs submitted was no easy feat.
NOTE: "Floozy Tune" is the opening track of What Living’s All About: Jazz, Blues, and Other Moist Situations.
Here’s a free download of my matriotic anthem, America the Blues, the second cut from my most recent CD, What Living’s All About, featuring avant-garde guitar legend Nels Cline as the roar of the industrial-military complex (and Ron Grant, Jody Ashworth, and me as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra).
Happy Interdependence Day, to all people, animals, plants, planets, stars, universes and microbes.
And while we’re on the subjects of patriotism, democracy, and the government of the United States of America, please listen to and read Keith Olbermann’s call for the resignation of Bush and Cheney.
In thinking about my year-end list, it occurred to me that there’s something on it that you folks may not have heard but would be quite interested in. And in hopes of getting it onto more year end’s than just mine…
Alicia Bay Laurel is best known for her 1971 handwritten and drawn commune guide “Living on the Earth” (later picked up by Random House, and an international bestseller). Alicia became a friend and mentor when I was 15, and I’ve returned the favor by helping to build her website, http://www.aliciabaylaurel.com, and teaching her how to blog.
Her new album, “What Living’s All About” (available from CDBaby and her own site) includes an astonishingly powerful protest tune, “America The Blues,” featuring wild guitar work by Nels Cline and Alicia sounding more like the Queen of the Punks than the Queen of the Hippies. I made her promise to make it available for free, because this song needs to be heard. Please give it a spin if you’re inclined, and think of it when listing your singles for your year end list.
Alicia says: “This is a song about speaking truth to power—not only to despots, but to our own collective power. The operative lyric here is VOTE. If everyone who could vote actually did vote, we could elect representatives who would work with us to reverse the vast environmental, public health, diplomatic, and human rights problems we earth-dwellers face, and make this a sustainable, joyful world for all who live in it, now and in the future.”
More about the song:
Tonight at Yukotopia, we blissed out to four acts, including mine. Doing the What Living’s All About show two nights in a row freed me to take new risks, especially with my choreography. I am having the time of my life.
In an ultimate act of courtesy, the club posted signs requesting that patrons not smoke until after I had finished my set. I didn’t ask for this; it’s a perk from Sandy Rothman’s residence, since he requested this on the nights he played.
First up: Catch and Release, a very large group (nine people this time, but Yuko says the personnel varies from show to show, as the group has an open policy about friends sitting in. Yes, that’s a digiridoo player on the left.) The overriding feeling was Family; the woman singing up front also works at Yukotopia tending bar, and her parents play in the group. They played trance music, that is to say, mostly, instead of songs, they improvised over one and two chord drones, although they also performed the Grateful Dead classic “Uncle John’s Band.”
I was next. With a sizeable contingent of the audience comprised of the members of the other three bands, the support, if possible, was even more enthusiastic than the night before. God bless the deadheads of Tokyo; they do enjoy their musicians, and the musicians appreciate each other’s work.
After me came Strange Taste, which, like me, is a singer/songwriter driven act whose songs sizzle with political outrage, humor, sex and love. Wonderful blues, reggae, singing, instrumental solos. Good fun, altogether.
Last up was Pineapple Tom, another large trance band (seven players), but this group is all about focus and sophistication, with lots of cleverly arranged musical figures, at the same time as an almost free jazz quality to the improvisation. I say “almost” because the rhythm section churned forth danceable beats, of which the audience took advantage. Good free jazz will blow your brains, but only a modern dance troupe would dance to it.
On both nights some of the deadheads brought their kids, who danced, played, and generally enjoyed themselves in the night bar scene. These two kids danced plenty, and the baby came up to me and held my hand and laughed. Yuko and Roku have three kids, and I could tell they enjoy having little ones in the club. I sure did.
Tonight and tomorrow I perform at Yukotopia. I’m singing and playing guitar to a CD of ten of the twelve cuts from What Living’s All About, minus my voice and guitar tracks, prepared for me by Scott Fraser at the time he mixed and mastered the CD last spring.
What’s different about the What Living’s All About show from the shows I created for my first two CDs is that I perform them standing up, and on some of the songs I don’t play guitar. That leaves a space for a new performance realm for me: dance. I don’t leap about, but I definitely use my whole body and face to convey the song.
The first act onstage: Here’s to Theres, a bluegrass/rock/folk band celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, and no wonder; each player astounds with virtuosity. Aki, the vocalist, has loads of personality and energy.
I played second, and the third and final act was Sandy Rothman’s Anniversary Band, with Ken and Tak on vocals and guitars. Sandy invited up violinist from Here’s to Theres. Everyone fell into bliss listening to the string and vocal harmonies cascading from these prodigious players.
Mike Miller, brother of Tim Miller, who chaired the Communal Studies Conference, and his wife Val, live in Tokyo, where they write for Reuters News Service. At Tm’s recommendation, they atttended my show at Yukotopia. Sweet people! Val’s a folkie multi-instrumentalist, and Sandy’s band reminded her of old times when she played in a band of like mind.
The afterhours crowd at Yukotopia.
Back cover/tray card of What Living’s All About with list of the songs
Taxi, a service I recently joined that sells music to record, film and TV producers, offers their songwriter members paid critiques of the songs from anonymous big time music business professionals. Taxi says they hide the names of their music biz consultants because there have been death threats! Somehow I don’t think of songwriters as a particularly violent group, but, hey, all groups, including spiritual teachers, include a small percentage of assholes. I sent in the ten original songs from What Living’s All About, and got some comments from four of these unnamed (but numbered) industry powerhouses, which I will share with you here. A fifth listener (#211) identifies the overall style of the CD as Jazz Cabaret, a type of music that is recently having a resurgence in New York City.
Floozy Tune: Very cool song – really good performance – I like the imagery and the approach. Vocal has a lot of feel and there seems to be a sense of knowing in the delivery – not just reading a lyric off the page. At times it has sort of a Billie Holiday-esque tease-y thing that is very fun. Music arrangement feels quite authentic and very well done – very strong playing, but mostly a real good sense of what would work for a track like this – professional. Overall, it has the feel of a jazz standard with sort of a more contemporary look at the situation than would probably be found in an older song – pretty cool. (#53)
America the Blues: Hard to place a definitive pitchable stylistic label on this one. Well played and arranged. Placement would necessitate a sympathetic political setting. Perhaps a film? (#53)
Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues: The title is really cool – pretty much tells the whole story right there. Nice blend of classic jazz pop and a more or less contemporary point of view. Strong vocal delivery. Good structural elements – the form is cool and natural for the vibe of the song – the musical arrangement is good – dobro guitar and more acoustic instrumentation gives it the vibe of an era. The imagery is sharp and well-defined – the continuity is really good – imagery that only someone who knows the subject could describe (“bee pollen candy” indeed). Film or TV might be a viable place to find a situational place where the blend of influences would be part of the narrative for instance. Very cool imagery and fun to listen to. (#53)
Zero Gravity: Moody jazz noir, with saxophone and vocal lines in counterpoint. Languid and hypnotic; a slow burn, as it is. The wide interval in the first line raises interest immediately. The octave lift at the end of the chorus also maintains tension and drama that the sax solo sustains. Verse two is very picturesque and vivid. The image of the corsage being tossed into the “museum fountain” and the unusual word play of “limousine muse” are probably the strongest imagery in the lyrics: very well done and unusual. (#238)
Doctor Sun and Nurse Water: You have a very interesting sense of lyricism as demonstrated through this song, Alicia. I can’t recall having ever heard this combination of words before, and that’s a plus for the song. Personalizing the central images of nature and relating them to healing results in an upbeat and positive message that the power of the gospel arrangement brings to the forefront. The authenticity of the overall presentation is impressive: the use of the gospel choir, in particular, really adds an intensity that raises the bar considerably. “You give me rhythm and take away my blues” is a nice piece of word play as well that reformulates the conventions of the music it reflects and spins it into another positive cycle of hope and renewal. (#238)
What Living’s All About: A nice homage to the Peggy Lee-era song stylists of the fifties – you could perform this one stretched out in a single spotlight across the top of a white grand piano in a slinky gown. The jazz diva persona is inseparable from the song and supports the overall gestalt and vision that certainly illuminates a singular sense of artistry. From the downbeat, the listener is propelled directly into the center of the vibe; setting the mood is something you do extremely well in this song (as well as the other two songs reviewed with this submission.) The motion of the second verse is palpable: the electricity is well demonstrated and described in the litany of lyrical lines. The final verse is equally compelling with the images of “hips will roll the rhythms of mountains” a particular earthy delight. (#238)
Sometimes It Takes a Long Time: The track has a nice late 60’s/early 70’s folk/blues/singer songwriter vibe. The playing is impressive in that regard; great piano and cool vintage feel in the rhythm section. The gospel vocalist sounds excellent; that’s a good arrangement touch, btw. I like the way her part builds up at the end. The lyric paints in broad anthemic strokes, as if it’s summing up something that’s been going on, as if it’s the finale of a multi-part piece of some type. (#53)
Best of the Rest of You: This track sounds excellent. The slide guitar playing is tremendous, and the rhythm section sounds right on time for the style. The vocal sounds good and the lyric is fun. As a potential cover, perhaps this could be pitchable to artists in the vein of Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux. Since the track itself sounds so good, I advise considering potential soundtrack pitches that specify material in this vein. (#53)
It’s Not Fair: Good song crafting, fluid feel, and some creative choices. Sounds like you have a good time with this one… “her topography, choreography”…echoes of Cole Porter in your sensibility, laid back and sophisticated approach. Melody, chord progressions, and walking bass line establish the groove and support kind of a jazz/hipster vocal delivery. The verse melody works with the lyric. This tune is in the genre of trad jazz to smooth jazz radio, cabaret, lounge. Appeal of the ensemble arrangement and phrasing draws from artists like Peggy Lee to Diana Krall. (#27)
Love, Understanding and Peace: These are very moving melodies; feel very natural and flowing. It’s adult contemporary from another era, bordering almost on gospel, at times, with a hint of a jazz feel. However, overall, this song reminds me of a lot of contemporary songs I’ve heard in church. This is a story of…redemption perhaps? I can’t quite tell if you’re singing to/about Jesus or about a relationship with a man – or both. The first sense I have of this song is it’s classic and retro, expecially considering your vocal approach, the spoken word portion and the musical arrangement. (#111)
ABL notes: #111 appears to be a specialist in Christian pop. #238 writes like a poet. #53 is from from a generation that uses “cool” as its superlative. I am honored!