Friday, April 30, 2010

Great Expectations

Well I've recovered from the loss of Michael Spenser as much as I expect I can for the foreseeable future. Time to get back into the flow.

I guess I'm going to cement my newly acquired "curmudgeon" status with this post. I never really expected to "win friends and influence people" with this little spasm into the blogsphere, but this should surely keep me true to my tagline - "writing for an audience of one - reaching even fewer".

I just can't get excited about much in the pop music world these days. What is passing for excitement and new directions just falls utterly flat for me. Shakira and Rascal Flatts on American Idol on Wednesday night kinda became my poster children for what's wrong with the industry at this point in time. That the Brazilian diva actually had the temerity to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt provided the non sequitur icing that topped the ironic pop culture cake the show's producers had attempted to bake. Ostensibly celebrating the music of Shania Twain as interpreted by the contestants of the show, the performances of the American Idol hopefuls and the guest "artists" laid bare the irony of how talented she was is as a songwriter and artist, and how utterly insane it seems Robert "Mutt" Lange had to be to divorce her.

Oh, and to the guys in Rascal Flatts - you're not a "real" band if you don't have a permanent drummer. You're just a vocal trio who can maybe play some. Thanks to Gary Le Vox (seriously?!?) for at least appearing to be slightly embarrassed to either be on the show or singing with Shakira or both.

Yet, in spite of the cultural wreckage all about us I am filled with hope and great expectations as I see The Corporate Music Machine (TCMuM) slowly grinding itself into the dust it so richly deserves to be. Radio, the once-proud herald of TCMuM has long ago relinquished its claim to be the voice of "good new stuff". It has fallen to the hosts of late night TV to fill the gap - at least a bit. David Letterman did so for me recently when he debuted John Hiatt's newest tune - Highly recommended BTW! But more and more I'm getting my news from the 'net.

So it is for two new upcoming albums from two established artists. They won't get radio play because - well - radio mostly plays crap. Even the so-called "we play everything" stations (Yes, I talkin' to you JACK FM!) have woefully narrow playlists, and don't venture much away from top-40 hits of yesterday and today. Sheesh guys! There's more to Fleetwood Mac's catalog than six tunes, OK!?!

Hooo....OK, I'm calm enough to get through this (I hope). Meat Loaf and Jimmy Webb both have new albums in the offing and I think they will both be worth your while to check out.

Hang Cool Teddy Bear is Meat Loaf's tenth album. Yes, gentle reader it's been 35 years (!) since he sang "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul (I Really Love That Rock 'n' Roll)" in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its been 33 years since he and the "Mad Genius of Rock", Jim Steinman, brought us Bat Out of Hell. Meat (or should I refer to him as Mr. Loaf?) has been up and down and up and down and mostly up lately. And HCTB could be just the thing to keep it all rolling for the Texas troubadour. The guy is always thinkin' and the single is - well - just what you might (or might not) expect. I'm thinking he could have been one heckuva pulpit-poundin', Bible-thumpin', go-to-town, tent-meetin' preacher. I guess we'll never know - but he still is pretty young. OK - he's 63 this year, but old rockers never die.

Jimmy Webb is the guy who writes the songs that make the whole world sing - forget about Barry Manilow. With immortal gems like "Rhinestone Cowboy", "By the Time I Get To Phoneix", "Up, Up and Away (In My Beautiful Balloon)", "Wichita Lineman", "MacArthur Park" and "Highwayman" plus many, many more produced during a career that started in 1967(!) it is certain you have heard more than one Jimmy Webb song in your life if you listen to music regularly. His latest release, due later this year, is called "Just Across the River" and will showcase a number of his best songs recorded with guest stars as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Billy Joel and Lucinda Williams. Here's the full story.

So there's life and music beyond radio and TCMuM. And I think the best is yet to come. So keep on listening.


Monday, April 05, 2010

In Memorium

Michael Spencer helped me to be a better follower of Jesus Christ. His crown will be great. I will miss him. I quoted him in last Sunday's sermon. Some folks got it. Some didn't. Such is life and ministry. Michael never gave up. So I am encouraged.

The news is here.

Also, please read the tributes and Chaplain Mike's post.