Monday, May 29, 2017

GREGG ALLMAN AND HIS LEGACY

I have written several entries when artists have passed away over the years.  Every one of them have been important to me in different ways.  Shaping my philosophy, making me think, while at the same time providing my life with beautiful music that sticks in my mind.  There have been a lot of them but some stand a head over the majority of them.  John Lennon, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen,  Warren Zevon and Ray Charles along with John Coltrane and Johnny Cash.

Gregg Allman with his brother Duane took the old rock/blues sound to a whole different level and different direction.  You can tell if it is an Allman Brothers song or a Gregg Allman song with in the first few notes, the sound was that distinctive.  Duane died after the release of the classic album "Live At The Fillmore East" and Gregg had a huge decision to make.  He decided to keep the band, and its music going.  As more of the country discovered Gregg Allman and the boys there came from the country the definition of a new music genre which they called southern rock.  Southern rock took the basics of rock, blues, jazz and country and melded them into a brand new sound.  More southern rock bands would crop up to follow the Allman Brothers but none ever matched them.

Gregg Allman was an innovator.  He was one of the few acts around that were better live than they were in the studio.  They seemed to step it up a notch when playing for a crowd that were totally drawn into their music.  Gregg Allman played the organ for the most part but it was his arrangement of songs and the voice he put to those arrangements that made him so great. As an example of this was a song written by Jackson Browne called "These Days".  It was a good song by Browne, a rock ballad that seemed to be Browne's best work.  Gregg Allman arranged the song into a heavy sad blues number that with his distinct voice made it a favorite on the play lists at concerts.

There are many good blues singers but the number of great blues singers and blues voices are few and far between.  Gregg Allman was a great blues singer.  He put his very soul into every song he sang and the songs he sang of were of life.  His life.  All of our lives.  He had a way of connecting to those who came to hear him.  I saw Gregg Allman perform but once, and let me tell you, his performance would grab your heart, your soul and you would be mesmerized until the number was finished.  Sometimes you would swear you forgot how to breathe while he was singing his songs.

Gregg Allman passed away this week at the age of 69.  A lot of the greats seem to be dying rather young.  It has been suggested to me that, well, they had lived a life, a hard life filled with drugs and alcohol, abusing their bodies at a young age and sometimes those things catch u to you.  This was certainly the case for Gregg Allman.

Gregg Allman is gone and so the Allman Brothers Band is gone and without the Allman Brothers, there can be no more southern rock.  Gregg Allman so defined the genre that it died with him.  There are plenty of southern rock bands that followed Gregg and Duane, but they are living in the past, not creating anything new.  Gregg Allman was still putting out new music.  Some of it was his and some were long forgotten blues numbers that he touched with his special magic of soul and blues.

Gregg Allman is gone.  His last album he released was last year.  It was a live recording of a performance in Macon, Georgia which was the base for the band for all these years.  With the history of the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman as a solo artist, it seems somehow fitting that his last album would be a live album.

That is the way it should be and the way he should be remembered.  A singer of the people, for the people live, not shacked up in a studio.  It was at those times when he was at his best.

Gregg Allman will always be included at the top of my list as one of the pure greats.

Monday, May 1, 2017

THIRTY SIX MINUTES OF COHEN

Not often do I ask readers to take time to take a post seriously.  This is an exception.  It will take but thirty six minutes of your time and I implore you to listen to this album and read the lyrics as you do.  I don't bring up Leonard Cohen up very often and this will probably the last time I do. The video is the complete album and the words are so real.  The songs on this album talk to me.  I hear the words and can place them in where I find myself in my life most of the time.  All I ask is a short thirty six minutes and focus on the songs and what they are saying.  It is one of the best albums released in the last half century and will give you a window into my mind as well as Cohen's right before he passed away.
Thirty six minutes.  That is all I ask


  


You Want It Darker

If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the help that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

There’s a lover in the story
But the story is still the same
There’s an lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

They’re lining up the prisoners now
The guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle-class and tame
Didn’t know I had permission
To murder and to maim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

Treaty

I seen you change the water into wine
I seen you change it back to water too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you

I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes the bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

They’re dancing in the street – it’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real – and that was me.

I haven’t said a word since you’ve been gone
That any liar couldn’t say as well
I can’t believe the static coming on
You were my ground – my safe and sound
You were my aerial

The fields are crying out – it’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real – and that was me.

I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything

I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes the bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

On The Level

I knew that it was wrong
I didn’t have a doubt
I was dying to get back home
And you were starting out

I said I better hurry on
You said, we have all day
You smiled at me like I was young
It took my breath away

Your crazy fragrance all around
Your secrets all in view
My lost, my lost was saying found
My don’t was saying do

Let’s keep it on the level
When I walked away from you
I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

They ought to give my heart a medal
For letting go of you
When I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

Now I’m living in this temple
Where they tell you what to do
I’m old and I’ve had to settle
On a different point of view

I was fighting with temptation
But I didn’t want to win
A man like me don’t like to see
Temptation caving in

Your crazy fragrance all around
You secrets all in view
My lost, my lost was saying found
My don’t was saying do

Let’s keep it on the level
When I walked away from you
I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

They ought to give my heart a medal
For letting go of you
When I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

Leaving The Table

I’m leaving the table
I’m out of the game
I don’t know the people
In your picture frame

If I ever loved you
It’s a crying shame
If I ever loved you
If I knew your name

You don’t need a lawyer
I’m not making a claim
You can put down your weapon
I’m not taking aim

I don’t need a lover
The wretched beast is tame
I don’t need a lover
So blow out the flame

There’s nobody missing
There is no reward
Little by little
We’re cutting the cord

We’re spending the treasure
That love cannot afford
I know you can feel it
The sweetness restored
I don’t need a reason

For what I became
I’ve got these excuses
They’re old and they’re lame
I don’t need a pardon
There’s no one left to blame

I’m leaving the table
I’m out of the game

If I Didn’t Have Your Love

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived an endless night
And there was nothing left
That you could feel
Well that’s how it would be
What the world would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

If the stars were all unpinned
And a cold and bitter wind
Swallowed up the world
Without a trace
Well that’s where I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I couldn’t lift the veil
And see your face

If no leaves were on the tree
And no water in the sea
And the break of day
Had nothing to reveal
That’s how broken I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived an endless night
And there was nothing left
That you could feel
If the sea were sand alone
And the flowers made of stone
And no one that you hurt
Could ever heal

That’s how broken I would be
What my life would mean to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

Traveling Light

I’m traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright
My fallen star
I’m running late
They’ll close the bar
I used to play
One mean guitar
I guess I’m just
Somebody who
Has given up
On the me and you

I’m not alone
I’ve met a few
Traveling light like
We used to do
Goodnight goodnight
My fallen star

I guess you’re right
You always are
I know you’re right
About the blues
You live some life
You’d never choose
I’m just a fool
A dreamer who
Forgot to dream
Of the me and you

I am not alone
I’ve met a few
Traveling light like
We used to do
 
Traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright
My fallen star
I’m running late
They’ll close the bar
I used to play
One mean guitar
I guess I’m just
Somebody who
Has given up
On the me and you

I’m not alone
I’ve met a few
Traveling light like
We used to do

But if the road
Leads back to you
Must I forget
The things I knew
When I was friends
With one or two
Traveling light like
We used to do

Seemed The Better Way

It seemed the better way
When first I heard him speak
But now it’s much too late
To turn the other cheek

It sounded like the truth
It seemed the better way
It sounded like the truth
But it’s not the truth today

I wonder what it was
I wonder what it meant
At first he touched on love
But then he touched on death

I better hold my tongue
I better take my place
Lift this glass of blood
Try to say the grace

Steer Your Way

Steer your way through the ruins
of the Altar and the Mall
Steer your way through the fables
of Creation and The Fall
Steer your way past the Palaces
that rise above the rot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

Steer your heart past the Truth
you believed in yesterday
Such as Fundamental Goodness
and the Wisdom of the Way
Steer your heart, precious heart,
past the women whom you bought
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

Steer your path through the pain
that is far more real than you
That has smashed the Cosmic Model,
that has blinded every View
And please don’t make me go there,
tho’ there be a God or not
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

They whisper still, the injured stones,
the blunted mountains weep
As he died to make men holy,
let us die to make things cheap
And say the Mea Culpa which
you’ve probably forgot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

Steer your way, O my heart,
tho’ I have no right to ask
To the one who was never
never equal to the task
Who knows he’s been convicted,
who knows he will be shot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

String Reprise/Treaty

[Instrumental except final portion]
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
It’s over now, the water and the wine
We were broken then, but now we’re borderline
And I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

All Songs Copyright 2016 by Old Ideas, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Friday, April 28, 2017

THE ESSENTIAL "LIVE" ALBUMS

Live albums.  Albums that record a band performing live in concert.  Let's face it, most artists are much better in the studio rather than performing on stage.  In the studio, you can correct mistakes, rerecord until it sounds the way you want it to.  You can put multiple tracks over each other called over dubbing and make the sound fuller and more rounded.  It takes a special artist to be able to give a live performance that sounds as good as the sound from the studio, if not better, in front of a live audience.  These are a few live albums that define an artist as being able to do on stage what they accomplish in the studio.

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND - Live At The Fillmore East

The Allman Brothers were more a less a regional group with a huge following in the southern states, particularly in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  Their studio albums had not been well received outside the south and even in the south fans preferred to see them live than listen to the studio takes.  When they went north and decided to cash in on their fans love of their live shows they decided to record it.  The result was an album that was an immediate hit and climbed the charts extremely quickly.  Suddenly the Allman Brothers Band were nationally known and going on tours would find all of their shows sold out.  Eventually they became part of the first wave of artist that were selling out stadiums.  When playing this album sided with their studio albums, it is clear that this was a band made to play live.  The southern blues that would produce songs on the stage that had a lot of improvisation put into the songs that would last well over the usual four to five minutes.  Shortly after the release of this album the groups leader, Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle accident but as the years have gone by, this band is still known as a concert group and they have released more live albums than most any other group in the modern era of rock.
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PETER FRAMPTOM - Frampton Comes Alive

Peter Framptom is a guitar player who is considered one of the better guitarists out there. In his early days in the late sixties he was a member of a band called Humble Pie.  Humble Pie had several great musicians but were only able to garner a small, albeit faithful fan base.  Frampton came to a point where he wanted to do his own sound, his own songs and so Humble Pie disbanded and Peter Frampton set out on a solo career that did not fair much better than Humble Pie had.  The same fans that had followed Humble Pie followed Frampton and so his four solo albums were never really high on the charts, that is until the summer of 1976.  As Framptom was setting out on an US tour, A&M executives noticed how responsive his fans were to his live show.  They decided to try to capture this magic and set up a recording of his shows in San Fransisco that spring.  The result was a live album that broke all sales records for not only a live album but also shattered records for a muti-disc album sales.   The album threw Frampton into the elite of rock and several singles were released from the album, marking an extremely rare practice of live singles, something that had not really been seen before.  The singles showed the same success as the album had shown.  Frampton went back to studio recording after the live album and sales sunk back down clearly defining Peter Frampton as a live act, not a studio act.

LOGGINS AND MESSINA - On Stage

Unlike the previous two artists listed here, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina had a rather large and enthusiastic following.  Kenny Loggins was know for his exemplary songwriting and a large number of his songs had been covered throughout the industry.  When the two teamed up writing songs, hit after hit came from their studio albums.  On the road in concert, they sold out venue after venue although they never entered the stadium rock roster of acts.  When this album was released, it showed how strong they were not only on stage, but as individual musicians.  The album opens up with Kenny Loggins on stage with an acoustic guitar alone, singing some of his wider known songs that he had written and had been covered.  Then in the middle of the last song of Loggins solo part, the band suddenly shows up and joins in to finish off the song.  The real Loggins and Messina act then begins and Jim Messina joins Loggins on the stage to rip through their catalogue of hits that they had accrued over the years.  The result is a clean sounding, very tight band singing songs that were legitimate hits,  The harmonies are fantastic as the two run through the set.  It is an example of how a great studio group can also be a great group on stage.  When it was released it was a surprise to the industry doing much better than expected and still one of my go to live albums.

PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS - Wings Over America

Paul McCartney needs no introduction to my readers.  Nor do the two other members of Wings, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine.  This was recorded in several cities, including Kansas City, during McCartney's first United States tour since the Beatles had split up.  McCartney, of course, had an astonishing number of hits going into this tour and they perform them all.  A couple of Beatles tunes are thrown into the mix, but for the most part this is McCartney and his work.  There was no cutting out some of the songs from the set list making it a huge three album set that once the listener started listening to the opening number "Venus and Mars" made it very difficult to stop listening to until you had reached the end of side six and even then McCartney left the listener wanting more.  McCartney is awesome in a live atmosphere, this is no surprise, and so it is no surprise that this album is as good as a live album can get.  Picking and choosing the best performances of each song from the recordings of individual concerts makes sure that everything hits on target in this album.  The album itself, becomes McCartney's best concert ever.



ERIC CLAPTON - Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert

This is not the best live album ever recorded but it is one of the most important ones.  Eric Clapton had spent years addicted to hard drugs and alcohol.  After a short career that would be the envy of any guitar player in the sixties (John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, The Yardbirds, Blind Faith, Cream, Derek and the Dominos) Clapton had found himself alone and in too bad of shape to even grant himself a job as a studio musician.  With the help of a lot of his friends from the industry, Clapton went in to rehab and cleaned himself up and began to play the guitar again.  After a year or so of being clean, these friends formed a back up band for Clapton and set up a concert at The Rainbow Room in London.  It was to be Clapton's coming back performance taking his place back where he belonged, at the top.  The band was an impressive list of names that the reader may or may not know.  Ronnie Wood, Pete Townsend, Jim Capaldi, Rick Grech, and Stevie Winwood among others.  The concert proved to be a success in getting Clapton back on the road to his music making and made for a pretty good concert album.  The sound quality is not the best, the band is not as tight as one would expect, but still, to hear those three guitars of Clapton, Townsend and Wood all playing together along with the keys of Stevie Winwood, the album brings itself together.  It is the documentation of the comeback of a musical icon, and if this concert had not happened, the music world may have lost out on many many great blues songs that Clapton brought to us.

HERBIE HANCOCK AND CHICK COREA - An Evening With ....

Okay, do I really need to describe this album?  The title alone says all there is to say.  Two of the jazz world's greatest pianists EVER playing in duet together on the same stage at the same time.  They team up together to play some of each others best known works for an hour and a half.  The sound is crystal clear.  The pianos play off of each other in a way that even during the improvisations that jazz demands, the pianos stay tight and together.  This is jazz at it's finest moment in my mind.  Sure there are a lot of live jazz albums out there, most of them are very good but this album..... THIS album is staggering.  I honestly don't know what else to say about it.  It is an album that I stumbled across many many years ago and I have never let it go.  I have shared it with cousins and Uncles and friends.  Any lover of jazz, especially jazz piano, will find this work relaxing and encompassing.  If you ever get a chance to hear this thing .... do it.
JACKSON BROWNE - Running On Empty

This is a different kind of live album.  It opens with a live performance on stage and closes with a live performance on stage, but a lot of the album are live cuts that were recorded on the tour bus and in hotel rooms.  This album gives us Jackson Browne in his purest form.  While the recordings taken from concerts are great, it is the acoustic improvisational Browne riding on a bus or sitting in a hotel room with his band and friends.  It is a relaxed Jackson Browne.  It shows us how much this singer/songwriter loves his music and how much he enjoys it.  It is a simple album.  It is easy to listen to and fun to listen.  Add in the fact that every song on this album is a gem and you got a live album like none other.  I like thinking outside of the box and in putting this album together, Jackson Browne certainly shows us that he is capable of that.  These recordings make up an album that rival Browne's better known studio albums in the must have Jackson Browne category.  A real find and a real pleasure to listen to and enjoy.

FRANK SINATRA - Sinatra At The Sands

This is more than a Frank Sinatra album.  Sinatra is accompanied by Count Basie and his orchestra and the songs are arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones.  It was recorded in 1966 so if you are looking for live versions of "My Way" or "New York, New York" you won't find them here. Instead what you get is Sinatra doing some of his classics like "Fly Me To The Moon" and "My Kind Of Town".  The newest song in this set is probably "It Was a Very Good Year".  The album gives the Count his dues when it includes the Basie classic "One O'clock Jump".  The concert has that feel of being in a small intimate venue where Sinatra feels comfortable talking to the people who had come to see him on this special night.  It sounds as though Sinatra is singing to individual members of the audience at times.  This was also at a time when Sinatra's voice was at its peak.  Strong baritone voice, holding notes out and using his usual ending each word sung completely, as your hear the "t's" at the end of words for example.  Tough to beat Sinatra in studio, but this comes very close to doing so.


JOHNNY CASH - At Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash was never sentenced to prison, but between this album and his San Quentin album, a lot of people thought he did.  In one interview that I heard he said "People are always coming up to me and saying, 'My daddy was in prison with you'" and he laughed.  There is a lot of debate over which of the two albums is better, Folsom or San Quentin.  As far as I am concerned, At Folsom Prison is near, if not at, the top of country live albums.  The album opens up with Cash saying those famous words of his.... "Hello ... I'm Johnny Cash" and as the inmates start to go wild the band starts to playing and never stops.  He does a set that does not fail to prove that he was one great performer.  His wife, June, gets up on stage with him and does a fantastic version of "Jackson".   This doesn't need to be said because i am sure that every Johnny Cash fan has this album in their collection, but if you DON'T have it in your collection..... get it.

AL KOOPER/MIKE BLOOMFIELD - Lost Concert Tapes '68

Ever since I first heard this album I couldn't believe that these tapes were actually lost, but apparently they were recorded and stuck in the vaults at Columbia Records.  Someone should have been fired for that although they were probably retired by the time the tapes were released.  This is not only great live blues with guitar genius Mike Bloomfield with his pal Blood Sweat and Tears founder Al Kooper on the organ, it has a little extra special part to it.  During this concert at the Fillmore East, Bloomfield and Kooper introduce Johnny Winter to the world.  I can not imagine how the people who were lucky enough to be there felt listening to Winter for the first time, but as I listened to Johnny Winter on this album, I was blown away... and at that time I knew most of Johnny Winter's work that would follow this introduction of him to the world of blues.  This record is astounding.  We find both Bloomfield and Kooper at the top of their game.  The songs are great, the band is tight and as I listen to this set I can almost see this concert taking place.  Nothing is better live than a good blues performance and these two definitely deliver.  The couple of songs by Johnny Winter, however, puts it over the top and into the place of one of the best blues albums to come out of the sixties.  The set ends with a great rendition of Donovan's "Season Of The Witch" which would become a staple for Al Kooper as his career progressed.

Well, I listed more than I intended to do, but there are some good live albums out there.  I'll make a secondary list at some point I suppose.  For the most part, live albums have been seen as a lower form of recording than studio albums.  Only real fanatics of a group buy a live album of theirs.  But all of these albums, as well as numerous others, stand on their own merits.  If anything, a live recording when done well, is a lot more impressive than a studio recording.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOODBYE

I have been haunted as of late by Leonard Cohen's last album before he passed away.  Cohen had a special following of fans, some of them didn't even know they were fans.  Cohen's songs were covered by many other artists who got a lot of airplay for their interpretation of his songs.  The most recent group to hit it big thanks to Leonard Cohen was a group called Pentatonix, who recorded Cohen's "Hallelujah" on their Christmas album last year even though the song has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  It is kind of like a group of Christian teens who decided to sing George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" in a Youth for Christ meeting when I was young teenager.  They decided not to do it once they realized that Harrison's "Sweet Lord" was the Hare Krishna, a far cry from their Lord that they thought they were going to praise that night.   See, this is why I always say "LISTEN TO THE LYRICS PEOPLE!".  There are a lot of songs out there that actually have some philosophical meaning if you stop to actually listen to what the writer is trying to say.

Leonard Cohen's songs were like that.  His writing was usually dark and foreboding.  He seemed to always slip in some religious themes in his songs and most of the time his songs wrapped around broken or lost love, lost loved ones and the poor future of our civilization that was to come.  At the same time he was penning these dark lyrics, he was putting them to beautiful melodies.

As Cohen aged into his eighties, he set out to write a set of songs that expressed what he was feeling as he became closer to facing his own death.  The album was titled "You Want It Darker" which was also the title of the first track on the album.  His health was failing as he finished writing the songs and he recorded it a few months before he died leave this earth.  He had to sit in a chair in his apartment, which was transformed into a small sound studio, to record his final verses.  In an interview about the yet to be released album Cohen said "I am ready to die.  I am not afraid".  Cohen held a strong faith in his Jewish heritage and leaned on that faith as death neared.

I have been a Leonard Cohen fan for many years.  His dark sense of humor seemed to match mine and his pessimistic outlook in the human race seemed to mirror mine as well.  His music made an impact on me that for the most part I kept to myself.  Me and Leonard.  His was the one music I really didn't share with others.  If I could write music, I would want it to be like his.  I kept his music so much to myself, that I am not sure even my wife knew who Leonard Cohen was when I informed her in my sadness that he had died.  I spent a couple of evenings with her playing some of Cohen's tunes on YOUTUBE for her.  A few of the songs she recognized from the covers that had been recorded.  It didn't take long for her to come to appreciate the talent that this man had.

"You Want It Darker" is by far his masterpiece.  The songs are honest, spiritual and looks into the dark of night with more clarity than any songwriter I have heard.  This album has a hold on me and I listen to it often.  The words speak to me and I feel like I understand them and therefore understand Cohen.  This album was Leonard Cohen telling the world "goodbye".  I am so glad he took the time to tell us that.

As I listen to these songs my mind wanders back to those who I have loved and have gone before me.  As I age I find this album bring to mind thoughts of not only my own demise, but how many more loved ones am I going to lose before I am gone myself and don't have to face that prospect anymore.

I go back to when my great grandmother Hill died.  I loved her, I really did.  She was a tough lady that had a rough life but she fought her way through all of the setbacks and lived a long good life.  However, and looking back I am not really proud of this, but the main thing I remember about my great grandmother's death is that her funeral was to be in Springfield, Missouri on a day when I had a date with Patty Mason to go to my first school dance, and I had to cancel out.  I look back and I miss her now.  I have a few of her things that I remember from my childhood and find good memories floating through my brain of spending time with her.  I never got to tell her goodbye though and at the time it didn't bother me that I didn't have that chance.  Actually it still does not bother me much to this day.

The last time I saw my grandfather Hill, I knew inside of myself that it would be the last time I saw him.  He was heading down to Alabama to spend time with my Aunt Sue and I knew that he would not be coming back.  That night as I left, I did tell him goodbye.  I gave him a small hug which is not normal for me and maybe he was thinking what that was all about.  He did pass away on that visit to Alabama and even though I was extremely broken by his death, I was able to hold on to the fact that I was able to tell him goodbye.

I love all my Aunts and Uncles from both the fraternal and the maternal side of my family.  I am greatly blessed to have them as part of my life.  My Uncle Melvin was attacked with cancer.  He spent a lot of time in the hospital and I kept up on his condition through reports from my mother.  Uncle Melvin was special, as all my Uncles were.  As I sensed his health worsening I decided to make a visit to him.  After some of the things he did for me, covertly I might add, I felt like I wanted to see him at least one more time.  As I entered the hospital room he was in, my cousins all greeted me very warmly and led me to where my Uncle lay.  He patted his bedside indicating for me to sit and so I did.  He took my hand and told me things were going to be okay.  We talked a bit about things and then I told him I was going to miss him.  He looked me square in the eye, as Hills are taught to do, and told me he would miss me too.  I told him I loved him and as I leaned over to give him a hug he quietly said that he loved me as well.  It was not long after that when he left this world that he loved so much.  I am so glad I decided to make that visit.  Those words from my Uncle helped me to help my grandpa the day of the funeral.

My Uncle Duane was another very special uncle.  Although he had moved away to Nebraska then Colorado and I didn't get to see him much, I have many fond memories of him.  He was one of the most gentle men I ever knew and he had a knack for talking to me and showing me things.  This is one that really hurts that I didn't get to say goodbye to.  I knew he was sick, very sick.  Life kept me from making a trip to Colorado to see him though.  That was the excuse I used anyway.  I was and still am not sure if I could have handled it seeing him before he passed.  I loved him so very much.  When he did die, I beat myself up for not taking time to drive out to Colorado to see him and my aunt and two cousins.  I am still beating myself up for that slip.  Then when I think about it, it would have been extremely rough on me and chances are he wouldn't know who I was anyway, which would make it hurt even more.  Maybe it is best for both of us that I didn't make that trip.  I just am not sure.

My Uncle Dan and Aunt June were also very special.  June was married to Dan's brother, my Uncle Jack.  When Dan got cancer, we made a bond that we would fight this thing together and we did.  I saw him everyday and my wife would spend the night at his house to take care of him.  During this time, my Aunt June was also very ill and it was obvious that she was getting worse.  In spite of that, she traveled with my Uncle Jack from St Louis to Kansas City every other weekend to help take care of Dan.  Every weekend when they headed back to St. Louis, I would give her a hug and tell her goodbye as I did with my Uncle Jack.  But my goodbyes to my Aunt June held a lot more meaning.  I wanted to be sure that she knew I appreciated and loved her and considered myself lucky to have her for an Aunt.  Dan's cancer eventually took him to the point of where I had to take him to the hospice house.  The pain he was in was at a point of being more than I could help him with.  I stayed in hospice with him for a week, never leaving him as I had promised.  Each time I left the room though, I would tell him goodbye and let him know I would be right back.  I was able to whisper an almost silent goodbye the night he died.  At his funeral, as I was leaving his house I made a special effort to be sure and tell my Aunt June goodbye.  There would be no more bi-weekly weekend visits from her now.  I am so glad I did tell her that.

Then there was my sister Carol.  Carol had come up to help me take care of mom and dad during the summer when she was diagnosed with cancer.  She was determined to fight it as hard as she could, if anything just so she could get back to Georgia where her home was and her grandkids.  The two of us, along with my faux sister Karen, decided that we would get her well enough to get back home.  We succeeded.  As she and my sister Elaine left to head back south, I was able to give Carol a huge hug a big I love you and a kiss on her forehead.  We each said we would see each other the next summer when she came back.  She never came back to Kansas City though.  The next spring the cancer returned and raced through Carol's body.  The goodbye I had with Carol was one I would not trade for the world.

Then there is the loved one passing that comes out of the blue, totally out of nowhere.  This happened to me last February when one of my friends died.  Dennis was healthy.  He took care of himself.  He ate right.  He was active.  He also had a damaged heart from a heart attack several years ago.  That heart quit working that day in February.  I had not told him good bye.  I didn't have the chance to.  We had planned on meeting up in Mississippi later on this spring when I was planning to visit Alabama.  I had talked to him the day after his birthday in January.  No goodbye.  We never said goodbye to each other.  It was always "Take it easy, see ya later".  With Den though, there wasn't a later.  He was here one day and the next day, just gone.

I didn't go through all of the goodbyes I said or didn't say.  I use these few as examples of how my mind works when dealing with these situations.

So now for today.  I am 60 now and in what I have come to realize is the "window of death".  It seems like once a person gets pass 60 years old, all bets are off.  My parents moved to Alabama last fall so that my sister could take care of them while I try to take care of my wife.  My brother is in South Dakota, my sister, as mentioned, is in Alabama as well as my Aunt Sue.  My aunt Eva is the closest on the Hill side living in Clinton, Missouri while my Uncle Jack still can't pull himself from St.Louis.  He likes it there for some odd reason.  Aunt Velma is in Colorado while my Aunt Fay is in western Kansas.  My Uncle Jim, well I think he is in Warrensburg, Missouri, not too far away.  I do still have my Aunt Norva and Uncle Dale living here in Kansas City but I do not get out to see them much.

The question that hits me as I listen to Leonard Cohen's last album goes like this.  "Is it better to say be able to say good bye to loved ones or easier not to."  I don't know.  I sincerely just don't know.

It kind of feels like my good byes may be finished no matter what the answer may be.

It is starting to get a little lonely around Kansas City.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I CAN WRITE FICTION, I THINK .....

Eddie woke up in the backseat of his old Chevy.  He was covered in sweat and his hands were shaking.  It was still dark outside and a glance at his wrist revealed that the watch that normally resided there was gone.  Looking around he noticed that he was at a rest stop of some sort off away from a highway.  He crawled out of the car and noticing that there wasn't a building on the lot, walked over to a line of trees to relieve himself.  The sweat continued to bead over his body as he tried to get his bearings as to where he was.  He had no memory of pulling into this rest stop or falling asleep.

He sat on the hood of his car shivering a bit watching the traffic on the highway.  He tried to remember what had happened the previous night.  He knew something had happened, he could feel it inside of himself.  His sleep had been restless with images flashing in his dreams waking him up twice during the night.  He couldn't remember the images.  He was trying, but all he had was a knowledge that the images had popped in his mind and left as fast as they entered.  They were not good images.  Eddie felt ill at ease as he tried to remember his dreams.  He laid back on the hood of the car and closed his eyes and began trying to fill in this dark void in his memory that seemed to cover at least yesterday.

As he lay there he remembered what he thought was Tuesday night when he had driven to a motel with a girl that he had been drinking with.  That girl, what was her name?  He thought it was a strange name at the time. It started with a "C" he was pretty sure.  Candy? No. It was a strange name. Cally? Candell?  Candell... yeah, that was it.  He was pretty sure anyway.  Candell.  He remembered he had seen her hitchhiking as he was driving along the highway from Louisiana east towards Mississippi.  His goal was to get to Alabama and find a small time job for a few weeks to get some cash up then on to Georgia where he planned on settling down in one of the rural areas around Macon.  He had cousins in Macon and Eddie figured they would help him get started there, help him with a job, give him a place to stay until he could afford a small place for himself.

He thought back in time.  It was late Monday night when he had spotted Candell along the highway.  She wasn't no beauty but not too bad either.  Anyway, truth is it wouldn't matter what she looked like, he just wanted some company for a little while, someone to talk to.  When he had pulled over and stopped, Candell had approached the car slowly, peeking inside and looking him over.  He had seen her glance in the backseat before looking at Eddie in the face.  Eddie had asked her where she was heading, he would be happy to give her a lift for a bit.  She was heading to Mobile and so Eddie said he would take her as far as Birmingham if she wanted.  She accepted and slid into the car, hugging the door as Eddie pulled away.
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Detective Mark Edler pulled his car into the motel parking lot.  He noticed four squad cars already there with the officers standing outside the motel room door talking.  They had already taped off a perimeter with yellow streamers and were waiting on him to give the go ahead to start the taking up of evidence.  He walked up to the motel room door and greeted the officers.

"Sir," one of the officers was holding up his hand. "Sir, it is pretty bad in there, just thought you should know."

Edler looked at the officer that he knew as McFay.

"Well, let's go see what we got," Edler said as he motione dfor the other officers to stay outside while he and McFay went into the darkened room.  The curtains were pulled shut and the lights were out so that the only source of light was from the doorway and what filtered through the curtains,

"Body?" Edler asked the officer.

"Well sir, we haven't gone through the room at all.  We just looked at what the manager showed us when we arrived."  With that, McFay pulled out his flashlight and turned it on, pointing it towards the television set.  There on top of the TV was a human head.  It appeared to be a male.  The hair was messed up.  The eyes were opened wide and almost bulging out of the sockets.  The mouth was open in a silent scream as if begging for help.

Edler took the flashlight from McFay and traced a trail of blood from the neck of the head, down the front of the television to a large pool of blood on the floor.  He used the flashlight to look around the pool and noticed a trail of blood lead from the pool off into the bathroom of the small room.

"Are the techs here yet?" he asked McFay who answered in the affirmative.

"Yes sir.  Been here awhile waiting on you."

Edler walked out side and went over to the techs to describe what he had seen and what  they should expect.  Particular interest would be the bathroom of course.  The officers would stay outside unless the techs needed assistance, then an officer could enter to help and leave the room when the chore was complete.  The crime scene technicians began to gather their equipment together and then headed into the room.  There were four techs and when the lead tech turned on the light, all four stood still in shock at the display on the television.

"Bathroom?" the tech asked Edler.

"Ya think?" Edler responded sarcastically.

The two men walked slowly towards the bathroom in the back of the room, being careful  not to step in any of the blood trail or disturb anything else.  Edler turned on the light over the sink area of the bathroom.  The sinks was filled with a red liquid.

"Blood?" Edler asked and the tech slowly nodded his head.

"Probably.  I'll have Johnny take some pictures before we drain it."

The tech yelled for Johnny to come back and take pictures of whatever they found and informed the other techs to get the spare camera and take their own pictures of evidence since Johnny was going to be with him for awhile.

Johnny took pictures of the blood trail on the bathroom floor and the sink of red.  The sink area was spotless, everything seeming to be in place.  Johnny then informed the detective and his boss that he was going to drain the sink now.  He pulled up on the plunger and slowly the water level began to descend.  Suddenly something broke the surface of the water.  Edler looked on as slowly a human hand was revealed sitting in the sink, cut off at the wrist.  Edler began to wonder how many body parts they were going to have to catalogue.  Johnny took pictures of the hand from different angles before Edler and the lead tech turned towards the door that opened into the toilet and shower area of the bathroom.  Edler hesitated just a brief moment before placing his hand on the door knob to open the door.
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Eddie noticed for first time since he had woke up that he had a headache.  It wasn't a bad one, just one of those small ones that pounds with your heartbeat to remind you that it is there.  Sitting up he watched the traffic continue to flow by on the highway.  Cigarette.  He needed a smoke and so he got off the car and went to reach in the front window for his pack.  As he reached in he noticed that the sleeve of his shirt was covered in a dry dark dried up liquid.  He looked at it closely then slowly turned his head to look in the car.  The passenger door and seat had splotches of blood on them as did the drivers side.  He began to shake again as he quickly grabbed the pack of smokes out of the car.

He was shaking so badly that he could not open the pack of cigarettes.  His mind was racing trying to remember.  He had to remember.  At last he got the cigarettes open only to find it empty.  He stopped and leaned against the car trying to think.  It was then he noticed a highway patrol car drive past him down the highway.  He quickly took off his shirt and threw it in the backseat leaving him in a white t-shirt that was still wet with sweat.

Think. Think. Think. he kept telling himself.  Candell.  Where was Candell?  Suddenly a picture flashed through his mind.  It was a picture of a set of eyes, open wide in fright, looking side to side and growing wider by the second.  Eddie put his hands up to his face to try to block out the image.  He remembered those eyes now.  It almost seemed like they were his own, as if he were looking in a mirror.

Eddie leaned against his car and slid to the ground, his knees folding up to his chin. Those eyes were so haunting, so real.  As he sat he remembered walking into the motel room behind Candell.  They had stopped at the motel bar after dinner and both were a little off kilter.  He didn't remember having that much to drink but apparently he did.  Candell seemed to be woozy as well and they had both fallen onto the bed only because their feet could not hold them up anymore.  He was sure that nothing had happened between him and the girl as he seemed to remember falling asleep very quickly.  So why did he have this image of those eyes in his head?

After awhile Eddie stood back up to try to figure out where he was.  He walked down to the highway and looking towards the east saw a Mississippi state highway sign.  Okay, fine, he was in Mississippi. He didn't know exactly where in Mississippi he was, but at least he had a frame of reference.  He walked back to the car and sat on the hood, closing his eyes again to try to get rid of some of that headache.  He had sat for a few minutes when another image came to him.  It was the eyes again, open wide in terror but there was more.  There was the whole face of the person and he could tell it wasn't himself this time.  The mouth was wide open as if screaming then he saw two hands, one on each side of the face carrying what eventually became just a head over to a wall in a room and being set down.  The face was frozen in its silent terror and the hands that carried it looked a lot like his.  He was sure they were his hands.  What had he done?  Was it just a dream?  No, not a dream.  Dreams don't leave blood all over the inside of your car.  It seemed like his memory was coming back quicker.  Suddenly, he didn't want to remember anymore.

Eddie remembered waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of Candell coming into the room.  She had another man with her and she was holding him up on her shoulder as she walked him to the bed.  As he landed on the bed, the other man looked over at Eddie.

"Hey lady, you didn't say anything about anything, you know, like, nah lady I ain't into strange stuff.  I thought you an me were just going to, you know, have a little fun."

"Oh, we'll have some fun." Candell had said before throwing a rope over to Eddie.  "Tie him up good" she had ordered.

For some reason Eddie had felt like he had no choice but to do what Candell told him to and so he tied up the man.  After binding the man, Eddie remembered looking at Candell and seeing a smile creep across her face as she looked at Eddie.

"Now, we are going to have some fun." Candell had told Eddie as she smiled at her prisoner.

Eddie shook his head vigorously to wake himself out of the memory.  What the hell? he thought.  He started walking back and forth around the rest area.  Just walking and thinking.  Walking and not wanting to think.  He wasn't sure he wanted to remember anymore if the memories were real.  He had recognized the man he had tied up as the head that the hands had placed in the room.  It seemed like it was too real not to be a true memory.

He felt tired again suddenly and walked over to a tree and laid down in the shade. As he slept, the dreams returned and his nap was not a peaceful one.
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Edler opened the door to the main bathroom and flipped on the lights.  He instantly turned away from the scene and and held his breath, trying to keep his breakfast from coming up.  He looked at the tech and the photographer, shook his head, then turned to face the scene again.

There was a hand placed as though turning on the water in the sink.  Two feet, cut off at the ankle, stood on a towel on the floor just outside the tub.  The toilet was stuffed with upper and lower arms, disconnected from each other and the legs, cut into four pieces as the arms had been were floating in a tub full of red water.  The walls were splattered with blood along with the ceiling.  Obviously, this was where the crime had taken place.

Edler turned to leave the bathroom and go outside for some fresh air, leaving the tech and photographer to do their job.  As he walked through the room he instructed the techs if to come outside to talk to him about anything they found, at least until he got his head clear and had come to terms with what he was dealing with here.

After processing what he had seen, Edler began the walk to the office of the motel to talk to the manager hoping to find out who had been in the room the night before.  The manager was more than willing to help, excited because nothing like this had ever happened in the county as far as he could remember and here he was, right in the middle of it.  He began to answer Edler's questions before the detective even had a chance to ask them.

"Yes sir, there was two of em.  I got the register right here, now it was about seven last night when they pulled in, let's see ... umm ... a Rick and Wanda White, yes sir, Rick and Wanda White. that's what it says here.  They seemed like a pretty nice couple, her hanging on his arm and such.  I remember they went to the room to put there stuff in there before walking over there to the cafe for dinner I suppose.  They were in there an hour or so, maybe an hour and a half.  I got lots of time to observe what people do around here you know, not a lot else going on.  Anyways, they come out of the cafe and then go back to the room.  Don't know why, but they were there about an hour or so, and then they went to the bar next to the cafe.  They were in the bar for a long time.  The bar don't close until three or three thirty depending on the crowd or how tired old Joe is.  Joe is the bartender, you might want to talk to him maybe but he doesn't have the memory I have.  Anyways, I had to go back to the back room to do some paper work, end of the month you know, I have to turn in reports to the owners in Atlanta every month so that they know the place is still open and doin good business.  Anyways, I am back in the room catching up on the paper work until about, well must have been between two thirty or three and I come out here to check things over, take a look see to be sure everything is in order and such and I looked over there at their room and Mrs. White, well I am assuming she was Mrs. White, not sure if they were married or not, but anyway she is having to help him into the room.  He must have drunk a lot because he could hardly stand and she was carrying him to the room holding him up.  After she got the door shut I figured I should head to bed myself and so I did.  Didn't hear anything more until Nora, Nora is the housekeeper here, well I hear Nora let out such a scream and I looked up and Nora was running over here yelling at me to call you guys.... so I did.  Then I walked over to the room ... tell you what, I saw the TV and that was enough for me, I figured you guys can take care of the rest, so I came back here to wait on you.  Sent Nora home.  She was really shook up and wouldn't be worth a nickel the rest of the day.  I doubt if I could have even gotten her to go into another room to clean it after what she saw in the White's room.  Rick and Wanda White.... yes sir, that was their names.  I haven't seen Mrs. White this morning, she got off to somewhere in that Chevy they were driving... I mention they were driving a Chevy?  Well they were not sure what model or anything, Ford man myself, but it was a Chevy of some sort. ... well I guess that's about it, about all I know...." and he fell silent, staring at Edler as if waiting for a question.

Edler looked at the manager with vacant eyes and shook his head.  He felt like he owed it to the manager to ask at least one question.

Edler sighed and without looking up asked "What color was this Chevy?"

"Blue.  Not dark blue but not powder blue either.  I guess a lighter color of blue.  Maybe a sky blue?  somewhere between dark blue and light blue... you know... blue."

"I don't see a license plate number in the register.  Aren't you suppose to take that information when someone checks in?"

The manager looked around as if he had been caught in a crime himself.  "Well, she said couldn't remember the plate number.  Told em to come back and give it to me later.  I figured it would be okay."

"She?  The guy didn't come in here?"

"Nah," the manager pointed outside the window, "He stayed out to have a smoke while she registered."

"Thanks" Edler said as he turned to walk back to the motel room.  Although he felt like his head was spinning from the rapid fire talk of the manager, he had to hand it to him, he did a good job of observing.

"Found the poor sap's I.D." yelled one of the techs to Edler as he approached.  "Apparently he is a Richard A. White from Wakeeney, Kansas."

"What Kansas?"

"Wakeeney." the tech answered.  "I know, I never heard of it either.  Good thing is that this Wakeeney may be such a small place we won't have too much trouble tracing footprints from there to here."

Edler reached in his car and picked up the radio to tell Marla, the dispatcher at the Highway Patrol Office to put out an all points bulletin on a blue Chevy possibly with Kansas plates on it.  Marla said she would do it right away and he heard her voice come back over the radio putting out the APB for the car.

The crime scene crew had removed all the body parts by now so Edler felt comfortable going into the room.  He walked around slowly looking at everything his eyes landed on and then started going over evidence that the team had collected.  Three sets of prints, one type of blood and various other things.  There weren't any drugs, but the ashtray was filled with cigarette butts.  From the look of the furniture in the room it did not look like a struggle of any kind had taken place.  He found it curious and began to process the knowledge he had in his brain as to what might have happened.  This could be a tough case.
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OKAY .... well I think I wrote enough to show myself that I can write fiction.  I will say this though, it is a bit tougher writing fiction than it is writing non-fiction.  You have to make things up.  I understand you can draw from your personal experiences to write about things that never happened but it is much easier to just write down facts as you understand them to be.  It is easier to tell a story that actually happened to me.  For those who have read my blog over the years, you probably come away thinking a lot of the time that I stretched the facts a bit, almost to the point of actually being fiction.  Guilty.  I realize I do that and I do it intentionally most of the time.  Keeps people wondering how much of what I write is virtual fact.  Writing fiction wears me out.

So to my readers, I gave you a pretty good start so that if you want you can finish it for me.  I admit the head on the television MAY have crossed the line a bit and if I were to actually finish this thing, I would probably take that out.

I started writing this over a month ago.  I haven't touched it in at least two and a half weeks.  So if you have the desire to finish it because you can't stand an unfinished story, be my guest.

Have fun.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

GREAT MUSIC-INSTALLATION ONE

I have been wanting to do something along these lines for a long time now.  I wanted to make a list of songs or albums, but only the very best.  Have you ever tried to make a list of what you consider the top ten albums of all time?  Can't do it.  Everytime I try, I think of music that deserves to be on the list but there isn't room, so I add an honorable mention section, which is usually far larger number than the original ten.  I have tried to pick best twenty five albums.  I get the same result.  The magazine Rolling Stone has managed to do this but when I go over their list of albums or songs, musicians, songwriters, whatever area of music they happen to be listing at the time and I always, without a doubt find an amazing number of songs or albums that should make the list but didn't.  Of course this is according to my own musical tastes, but I am almost positive that if you try to do the same excersize, you will end up with the same feelings that I do.

So I have decided to do my lists in installations so that I can go back and include albums that I left out in earlier installations.  This is the first installation.  Now keep in mind, my mood effects what albums I think are great and it changes from day to day.  This is going to be a list of albums that, as of today, I feel are the greatest ever.  Next month this list will be completely different.   One problem is that the wider your taste in music is, the larger number of items you have to choose from.  I love music.  I love music of almost any kind.  Haven't been able to recognize hip hop or rap as music but that is a problem within my own mind.  I love jazz, pop, classic rock, blues, country, rock-a-billy, blue grass, classical, opera, folk.. almost any kind of music genre is in my mental collection of great music.

So let's start.  I am not even going to attempt to rank these albums because of my thinking I described above.  This is just a list of what I think are great albums.  Today, greatest hits or best of albums are not allowed.  Just studio or maybe live albums.  The main thing is that all of these albums mentioned today or possibly in the future have had an impact on my life in one way or another.

So let's get started:

CAROLE KING "TAPESTRY"
This album is by far considered Carole King's masterpiece and for good reason.  Every song on this album can stand alone by itself.  This thing is so loaded that when King released a two CD set of her career, this whole album was included.  This is the recording that brought us "You've Got A Friend", "It's Too Late", "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)", "So Far Away" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" plus many others.  Easily one of the best recordings ever.

 CHICAGO "CHICAGO V"
This was Chicago's fifth album and the first single disc album.  Their first three albums were double discs and the fourth was a four disc live album.  The thing about this album is that Chicago did not have to stretch things out over two disc as they did previously and so there is not much jazz type filler music on this record like there were on the earlier albums making it more of a rock album then the others.  This was also Terry Kath's last album with the band before dying from a self inflicted gunshot.  Terry Kath was the heart and soul of the band.  Without Terry Kath Chicago was not quite the same.  This album, in my opinion, was Chicago reaching their peak.  Loaded with songs that defines early Chicago.  "Saturday In The Park", "Dialogue Part 1 and Part 2", "A Hit By Varese", "All Is Well" and "Since You've Been Gone" make this album a stand out recording.

BEATLES "ABBEY ROAD"
With the exception of "Yellow Submarine", every Beatles album can be seen as a greatest hits or best of album.  This was the Beatles farewell recording.  At this time John and Paul were writing and working more independently of each other than all the previous years and so we get a good taste of what was to come after the Beatles.  There is Paul mainly writing pop songs and John's style going to the harder and darker side.  John Lennon's major contribution was "Come Together" while Paul gave us "Oh! Darling".  The big surprise here though is George Harrison's contributions.  Two of Harrison's better known songs that are considered legitimate Beatles Classics appear on this record.  I see it as George's coming out party with "Something" and Here Comes The Sun" overshadowing Lennon and McCartney's writing for the first time on a Beatles release.  The album ends with "The End" and rightly so.  For me, this album lets the Beatles go out at their peak as I see as a notch above "Sgt. Pepper's".

NICKY HOPKINS "THE TIN MAN WAS A DREAMER"
Hopkins was a studio musician who you can find credit for on literally hundreds of albums.  One of the most sought after keyboard players Columbia decided to give him a solo shot.  He only did a few albums but this one stands out, not only for Hopkins, but for popular music as well.  Backed by his fellow studio musician peers, this album covers a wide range of styles.  There is the rocker "Banana Anna" to the soft ballad "The Dreamer".  There is the piano instrumental of "Sundown In Mexico" to the rollicking "Pig's Boogie".  While not a very well known album, I wager that anyone who is willing to give it a listen will immediately wish that Hopkins had done more solo recording than his short life allowed him to do.  It is indeed a classic and one that any rock fan should try to hear somewhere.  This album is one of my personal treasures.


MILES DAVIS "KIND OF BLUE"
For many jazz fans, when this album was released it was the album that jazz had been waiting for.  While there are many great jazz albums, none quite reach the level of this one.  With a career full of jazz standards, Miles Davis was able to top them all with this recording.  Davis reached his peak with this one giving us the magnificent "So What".  Davis stretched his style and the direction of jazz with Kind of Blue and the album still stands today as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND "BROTHERS AND SISTERS"
After the death of Duane Allman the band released an album with unreleased recordings of Duane with the band.  "Eat A Peach" had one fourth of the album consisting of new recordings of the band without Duane.  "Brothers And Sisters" was the first complete album by the Allman Brothers Band without Duane.  It was a chance for Dickey Betts to let loose and spread his wings on his guitar without competing with Duane and he truly shows what a gifted guitarist and songwriter he is.  While the early Allman Brothers albums saw Gregg Allman as the principle singer with his own style, "Brothers and Sisters" was different.  Gregg and Dickey divide the album in half, each having a fair share of song writing and singing.  This was Dickey Betts being discovered as his songs "Ramblin' Man", "Jessica" and "Pony Boy" stood side by side to Gregg's "Wasted Words" and "Southbound".  This album marked a new direction for the Allman Brothers Band and the Betts/Allman formula worked great carrying the band to prominence as well as being the face of a new genre of music called southern rock.

SIMON AND GARFUNKEL "BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER
Simon and Garfunkel walked that fine line between folk/pop/ and rock over the course of several albums and did it well.  Every album brought forth hits while leaving some songs out of the spotlight.  They couldn't have left any of the songs on this album out of the spotlight as hard as they tried.  Besides the iconic title song, this album almost seemed like Paul Simon was holding back songs for this, the duos last album together.  This is another of those albums that could be a greatest hits album on it's own.  "Cecelia", "The Boxer", "So Long Frank Lloyd Wright", "The Only Living Boy In New York",  "El Condor Pasa", "Baby Driver" ... this album is basically a masterpiece of masterpieces.  Both would go on to solo careers, but neither would be able to match the greatness of this, their last studio album.

WILLIE NELSON "RED HEADED STRANGER"
While concept albums were fairly familiar to jazz, classical and even rock fans, the country music world had not had very many attempts at the format.  With this album, Willie Nelson brought a country concept album to the top of the charts.  While there is one song that stands out in the set "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" the album tells the story of a man who loses his wife to the boredom of the west.  The majority of the songs are soft, slow, acoustic numbers that flow well from one to the other.  As far as concept albums go, it stands with the best of them, and as a country concept album, stands alone by itself.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN "BORN TO RUN"
This was the album when Springsteen put it all together in one album finally.  Previous albums were good, but had holes in them musically and had failed to get the attention nation wide.  This was the album that brought the Boss out of New Jersey and into the whole of the country.  While not getting to number one, the title song would light the imagination of a whole generation and bring to Springsteen a following that would stay steady and grow as his talent did on albums to follow.  All the songs on this album stand alone and are in their own right a hit.  The album that made Springsteen a national treasure is still if not his best, in the top two or three.

UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI "MARCHING MIZZOU"
Do I even have to explain this one??

Well, it took me three days on and off to compile these albums.  That is how hard it is to actually pick an album as better than another.  Bottom line is that there is a lot of great music out there to be explored.  I am going to revisit this and put out there some more music that is just so good as to not to be ignored.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

THE ONE PERSON I WOULD LOVE TO SPEND A DAY WITH

The one person from history that I would love to be able to spend a single day with.  The person I would like to talk to, find out how they thought, what they thought.  The person I would love to just hear his voice and how he sounded, any accent he might have.  The one person that I would want to learn something new from, who would and could make me think of things a little differently.  The one person I would like to watch performing his trade and watching him work. The one person whose smile I would like to see.

The one person.  Just one day. Just one day so I could write a story of him first hand.  That one special person who effected my life long before I was born.  That one person.....

Belden Howard Clark, Sr.   , my grandfather who I never knew.

Friday, February 10, 2017

DENNIS PURDUSKI

Dennis Purduski.  Where do I start in writing about Den?  Maybe an over view of the man might be in order.  Just a few adjectives.  Super intelligent.  Honest to a fault.  Never put up a front always being just who he was.  Outspoken.  Great sense of humor.  Practical jokester.  Athletic. Caring.  Helpful.  Insightful.  Able to read people and not be taken in.  Adventurous. A true friend that could be counted on.

I met Dennis thirty eight years ago when I started working in the engineering department of  Dit-MCO International.  We were opposites in many ways.  He was an outgoing extrovert while I was a quiet introvert.  He would speak his mind off the top of his head while I would tend to give thought.  He would do things on a whim while I liked to have a plan.  We also had a lot in common.  Our sense of humor was much the same, a little sick and over the top at times, but good.  We could be in a crowd of people and see something and look at each other knowing what the other was thinking. We clicked almost instantaneously.

For thirty eight years he was a true friend.  He gave advice and took advice.  He was part of my family.  He loved my son and my nephew while trying to stay away from kids in general.  He was indeed my son's best friend.

Den excelled at everything he set out to do.  They weren't hobbies, they were loves.  Racing karts, midget dirt track, racing remote cars, flying remote planes and helicopters, to being an aviator.  He excelled at all of these.

I have hundreds of memories of times spent with Dennis.  These memories have been filling my head over the last several hours.  These memories put together the puzzle that was Dennis.  Too many memories to write out here though.

I say "the puzzle that was Dennis" because he was a complicated person.  He had so many sides to his personality but all of them were very real and very honest.  As time went on and our friendship grew closer I would eventually come to the realization that nothing Den did could ever surprise me anymore.  He wasn't perfect, don't get the wrong idea.  He had issues.  He had self doubts at times.  He had a temper that at times he found hard to keep in check.

Dennis coming into my life added so many things to it.  When I was with Den and he decided to do something on a whim, I was forced to go along and experience the adventure along with him.  That was probably the biggest over all thing that Den gave me.  That feeling of having a thought run through your mind, speaking the thought, then following through on the thought.  No planning, no thinking about it or mulling it over .... just think it and do it.

I think that was my biggest loss personally when Den left Kansas City to go south and land in Mississippi.  I lost that push from someone to just go and do something.  We met when we were in our twenties and not a care in the world.  Now, as I turned sixty, I think about something I would like to do, and I ponder it and think about it, and let it go by.  However just because I lost Den physically from Kansas City, I never lost him as a friend.  He kept in constant contact since he moved south.

I really want to share a few memories of this person that was such a big part of my life.

When we met at Dit-MCO and found our desks next to each other, he looked around at the people in front of us and in back of us, turned to me and said "You and me?  We are going to become VERY close friends."  He was right.

He was so happy for me when Brett joined our family.  He came over to the house and I actually have a picture of him holding a one year old kid.  The kid he would later take under his wing as "Uncle Den".

He was always looking to save money wherever he could, especially on food.  We would hit the bar across the street from the office for happy hour every Wednesday night even though neither of us really drank because they would have free appetizers until early evening.  He always ordered an orange juice from the bar so he could stay and eat.  When him and Brett were racing RC Cars in Raytown, Den discovered that the laundromat next door to the race track had a popcorn machine.  Between heats, him and Brett would disappear and then reappear with a couple of bags of popcorn for dinner.

When he found out that Brett's favorite driver, Darrell Waltrip, was going to be racing in the NASCAR truck series in Topeka one weekend,  he showed up on my doorstep at about eight in the morning.  I opened the door and said "What's up?"  His reply was "Can I borrow Brett for a day?" and took Brett, who was about seven at the time, to Topeka to meet his hero and take his picture with DW.

We found ourselves behind on a project once and decided to go in on Saturday to catch up on things.  It was snowing terribly.  We sat in the office for a couple of hours watching it snow then Den said "Let's get out of here." and we left.  We didn't go home though.  We went to the Liberty Memorial and took the elevator to the top during that storm and took some wonderful pics of Union Station.  Then we headed over to "The Scout", the famous Kansas City sculpture of an Indian on a horse over looking the city.  Den climbed up on top of the base of the sculpture, about ten feet I would guess, in that snow and started talking to the Indian, telling him he was looking the wrong way and pointing west towards Kansas.  About that time we saw a police car down on Pershing Road and I heard Den say "uh oh" and he jumped off the sculpture.  We had just gotten in the car and were preparing to pull away when here came the police... slowing down... looking at us... then driving on.

One of the more touching things he did was introduce me to his mom and dad.  His mom was a lovely lady and a nice lady.  Once she got to know me, she would give me a loaf of fresh baked Povatica bread at Christmas every year.

Den tried to get on the local news as often as possible.  We succeeded a couple of times when we would go to the NBA draft or some event such as that.  We had half season tickets to the Kings NBA team when they were here and sat in a section called "The Backcourt Boozers".  It was a rowdy bunch that would make bets on scores, fouls.... whatever they could think of.  At one game, just before half, one of the Kings shot a long jump shot right at the buzzer on the far end of the court.  All during halftime bets were being placed on whether the shot hit the glass or just net, you couldn't really tell from where we were.  As halftime came to an end, Den volunteered to go find out if the ball hit glass or not.  He ran down the side of the court to Cotton Fitzsimmons, who was the head coach at the time.  Den says "Hey Cotton.... did that shot hit glass or just net?"  Cotton looked at him and smiled I am sure he figured Den was from the Boozers... "Net"  Den came back to relay the message to a bunch of happy people and a bunch of disgruntled people.

Den went with me and my family to my sister's place in Alabama for Thanksgiving one year.  Very special time and he fit right in.  That's the kind of person he was though.  He could fit into almost any situation.

I could go on and on with stories about Den and the things we did, the shenanigans we pulled.  You would tire of hearing them though even as special as they are to me.  As a lot of people and friends of mine as well as family got to know Den from being around each other all the time there started to be a pattern. If I were to start telling a story and the word "Den" or "Purduski" came out of my mouth, the listener would automatically get a small smile on their face because they knew that what was about to be disclosed would be good.

Den had a heart attack several years ago.  When I had a heart attack a couple of years later, he was full of optimism and encouragement.  When my wife came down with serious heart problems, Den would call to give her the same encouragement.  He had begun to eat healthier and to excersize everyday.  He kept himself busy with new hobbies and continuing to learn new things.

He was healthy.  In better health than he had been his entire life.

Den passed away from an apparent heart attack last weekend and a very special thirty eight year old relationship came to a screeching halt.

Den changed my life in many ways just by knowing him and I am very grateful for that.  I wrote one of my friends to relay the news that Den had passed on.  The reply back was so very true.  It said "He was one of a kind".

Thank you Dennis for the good times and the memories.  You touched more lives than you could ever imagine and you will be missed by a lot of people.