Friday, 27 March 2015

3 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Music Lessons

Whether you are using a book, video, a real live human, or online lessons, keep these pointers in mind in order to get the most out our your studies.

1. Complete and master each section before moving on to the next: As you work through your studies make sure you have each new technique or idea conquered before moving on to the next. Lessons are planned to build upon each other and trying to rush through without fully understanding one will just lead to frustration and wasted efforts.

2. Study as if you were in school. Do some homework every night. If all you have is 15 minutes then use those 15 minutes. If you don’t have time to read/watch and apply then do the application of your last lesson or drills such as scales and chords. Reading/watching and not having the opportunity to apply immediately will usually mean you have to relearn your lesson. Take notes. Especially if you’re watching a video or working with a human. Also don’t be afraid to write all over your workbooks and sheet music.

3. Apply what you’ve learned: Play for others. Your church, your family, that spare piano sitting in your favorite department store (ask first). Nothing drives a music lesson home better than a recital. It will also magnify what you need to work on.

These tips work whether your a child or an adult. Learning to play an instrument is a wonderful activity.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

3 Steps to Playing Comfortably for a Crowd

Most people are not comfortable performing in front people. When I say of performing, such as an instrument, or singing, or acting, I mean more than just knowing how to do well at your chosen craft, I mean doing it well and in front of people. It’s the “in front of people” part that gets us every time. How many of us sing like a bird in the shower but then when people are watching we can’t carry a note. Here are three steps to start you on the road to comfort (never complete) when called on to shine.

1. Don’t neglect to practice. Whether you sing or play an instrument practice is the key to being relaxed. The more familiar you are with what you are performing, the less anxiety you will have about messing up.

2. Don’t back up. Piano teaches pass this on all the time. If you mess up in the middle, or any place in your piece, don’t back up and repeat the offending passage. Keep going. Chances are your audience didn’t even notice.

3. Try not to be critical of your technical skill. Focus more on your overall performance. How does it sound as a whole? If you’re a pianist and you worry during your piece about your fingering then you’re ignoring the song and how it sounds. Worry about technicalities when you practice. Which should be often.

With time playing in front of and for other people will come much easier. You'll be a natural. So use every opportunity to show your stuff!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

A Conversation With Frank Mcgee Author Of A Song For The World: The Amazing Story Of The Colwell Brothers And Herb Allen: Musical Diplomats

Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of, is excited have as his guest Frank McGee, author of  A Song for the World: The Amazing Story of the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen: Musical Diplomats.

Frank has built a distinguished career as a writer and journalist over half a century. In the tumultuous 1960s he covered stories as far a field as Brazil, Indonesia, and Viet Nam. As managing editor of Pace magazine, a contemporary of Life, Look, and Holiday, he worked with thought leaders from around the world.


Will you share a little bit about A Song for the World: The Amazing Story of the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen: Musical Diplomats with us?


Glad to Norm.  This is a book about the power of music. It tells the story of four musicians, The Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen.  The Colwells were already country and western instrumental and singing stars in their teens, on TV and national radio in the Tex Williams shows that originated at Knott’s Berry Farm, the first theme park in America. They were the youngest group under contract with a major label, Columbia Records. 

Herb Allen of Seattle, a true music prodigy, conducted the Seattle Baby Orchestra at age four.  He was a xylophone maestro performing weekly on radio from age five to sixteen, a student of classical piano scheduled to enter Oberlin School of Music, and in high school, conductor of his own dance band, “Herbie Allen and his Orchestra.”

In their teens these four musicians made a choice that startled everyone who knew them: they committed their lives to public service.  The remarkable story of how this happened, and what their decisions led to, is told in the book. 

Here’s a quick rundown:  The Colwells went on to perform in 37 languages and dialects, including songs written with locals in the scores of countries they visited.  They sang in African villages, the Diet of Japan, and Carnegie Hall.  They worked for a full year in the Congo as the country gained independence, lived through revolution and invasion, and made 400 broadcasts on Radio Congo (there’s a quite dramatic chapter, if I may be permitted to say so, about that tumultuous year).  They walked through Indian villages with Gandhi’s disciple Vinoba Bhave seeking land for landless peasants. 

The Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen began collaborating from their first meeting in Switzerland in 1953.  In 1965 they were the musical founders of Up with People, and a decade later literally invented the modern Super Bowl Halftime Show format during America’s Bicentennial Year, 1976.  They performed in three more Super Bowl shows, more times than anyone else on record.  That’s how many people came to know of them: through television audiences of 90 million at those games.  In 1978, at the end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, their Up with People cast was the first performing company to visit China.  And in 1988, before the Berlin Wall came down, the first in the Soviet Union, where they returned three more times.  There’s lots to tell.


What motivated you to write your book and whom do you think will benefit from reading it?  What are your hopes for this book?


The seed was planted in 2003.  At a gathering of longtime friends a prosecuting attorney from California told us about terrible things youth in her city were facing.  “There ought to be a book about what the Colwells and Herb have done,” she declared. That resonated instantly with all of us. We knew the adventures of these amazing musicians were not only history making but topical.  Of course I only realized after the research just how profound the story was, an intensely relevant story of courage, and doing something of value with your life. 

Who will benefit from reading the book?  I think what a great English headmaster said in 1862 would answer that: “Music is the only thing which all nations, all ages, all ranks, and both sexes do equally well.  It is sooner or later the great world bond.”  Music has the power to connect people whether they’re musicians or not.  Some read the book as an adventure story, not a Harry Potter sort of one of course, but a story from real life that also intrigues the imagination. 

Here are my hopes for the book.  The Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen have been called musical diplomats. Doors have opened to them wherever they’ve gone, because they’ve gone to listen and to learn, to appreciate instead of compare.  That sort of diplomacy is needed in the polarized environment of our times.  Many NGOs operate on that basis. But if official diplomacy also did, think what a giant step that would be toward building a better world.  That’s why I hope to see this book utilized by schools and universities that train public servants and candidates for Foreign Service.


Can you explain some of your research techniques, and how you found sources for your book?


With this book I was really lucky.  The families of these guys kept the letters and photos they’d received from their globetrotting sons.  Among hundreds of letters were the personal stories of the struggles they’d faced operating for years in crisis areas around the world, of the sheer grit and sacrifice involved.  Then when it got out that a book was in the works, people from other countries began sending photos and documents they’d squirreled away about some historic event.  I received emails, letters, photos, publications, and record albums from across the world, Zurich to Anchorage, London to Cape Town, Hollywood to Helsinki.  And of course the color of the story and much of the dialogue developed through hours of interviews with the artists, and with music industry people with whom they’ve worked. 


What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?


I’ll mention just a couple.  The first challenge shouldn’t have existed: biographers should portray their subjects with complete objectivity; I was a journalist long before I put on the hat of “author” and well aware of that.  As the story unfolded though, with its unparalled global connections, and I became increasingly impacted by the lives and work of these four musicians, I needed to be certain that I let the story speak for itself.  They’ve never made claims, and neither should I.    

The other challenge turned into a very great plus.  Initially I wanted the book to include story-telling pictures throughout, as we had unearthed great photography from around the world.  But an important New York publishing company we were in contract negotiations with made it a condition that they would control the design and format, much to my unhappiness. That contract was not finalized, fortunately, and Many Roads Publishing in Santa Barbara, California produced a picture-rich design and format that greatly enhances the effectiveness of the book.


What's the most difficult thing for you about being a writer and journalist?


Well, you’ve probably heard the old saying: “There comes a time in the life of every decision when it’s got to be made.” I translate that to mean that if you’re a writer and journalist you need deadlines. I’ve never relished them, something to do with my temperament I suppose, but it’s obvious that until there’s a deadline, nothing happens.

But deadlines are insignificant compared to the satisfaction, intense at times, of creating something that you know has significance and value.  I’m very lucky to be in this profession. I became a photographer in Brazil, moved on to creating magazine photo essays, and then to editing, writing, and publishing. 


Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?


I definitely feel writers owe something to readers. Some books have been hinges on which doors of enlightenment have opened. Whatever we read remains forever in the mental landscape of our lives. Whether the contribution grows or withers is up to each individual, but putting it there in the first place is a considerable responsibility, I would say.


As a follow up, what does it mean to tell the truth? And what does it mean to tell stories in a work of non-fiction?


What a great question, Norm!  A wise family friend once told us of an exchange she’d had with her professor at Vassar College. Apparently she had submitted a paper in which she’d stated some opinion as fact.  So her professor asked her, “And what else is also true?” The topic of truth has filled countless volumes and will fill countless more.  What is truth to one might seem lies to another. But if writers portray what they sincerely believe, we should regard their writing as ethical, even if we are diametrically opposed to what they’re saying. Sounds like we’re describing the religious and political divides of the world here, doesn’t it?

About stories, I think they can make non-fiction immensely readable. My wife Helen, who was an English major, has insisted for years that history should be taught through literature; it would be better absorbed and understood.  Currently we’ve been reading historical novels, and I’ve become intrigued with things I never thought I’d care about, as I tended to fall asleep in history class. In A Song for the World, I’ve been fortunate, as there was a wealth of first person information in the letters retained and in the interviews. 


In the past few years or so have you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books? Are there any emerging trends developing?


Many changes, Norm, and all of them contributing to the accessibility of information. Conventional publishing channels still run the Olympic games for writers, but the initial selection process can overlook significant manuscripts.  A friend recently sent me an article that appeared in The Guardian. It seems that a writer, puzzled by continuing rejections of his masterpiece, submitted to eight major publishers the first chapters, with surnames and locations only slightly modified, of several Jane Austin novels. He received seven rejections, with standard not the type of book for us explanation and keep writing and good luck best wishes. Only one responder mentioned the plagiarism, which he seemed to find amusing.   

I think writers, now as always, need to catch the attention and spark the enthusiasm of someone who will carry the writer’s banner, and will wave it where it can be seen.  You’ve heard the axiom: “You can promote anyone but yourself.” But the writer may have to work to find that third person, whether enthusiast, agent, or publisher. 

Publishers have long probed distribution channels and are expert at exploiting book clubs, bestseller lists, teacher assignments, library recommendations and more.  Of course now the apparently limitless possibilities of the digital world are changing everything from bottom to top.


What do you think of the new Internet market for writers?


Well just look at us, Norm.  Here we are having this conversation online!  Our kids think it’s perfectly natural, and it is today, but I grew up before you could say something like that, and I still find it pretty amazing. Someone might read your interview tomorrow in Berlin, or Bangkok, or Budapest.  Of course A Song for the World is all about that, isn’t it? Connecting


Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered and what is next for Frank McGee?


Most of all I hope a lot of people will read the book, because what these musicians have done offers real hope for the future. There’s an engaging glimpse of the story at, and the book can be purchased there.

We’re in the midst of a book tour now and there is information about that on the website.  Special appearances by the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen in connection with the tour have caused a buzz in cities across the country.

Next for me is a novel I was working on and set aside to write A Song for the World. I’ll be expecting a bidding war for the publishing rights for that, of course. Many thanks for inviting me today, Norm.

Friday, 20 March 2015

3 Critical Truths About P2P File Sharing Networks

If you're confused about file sharing networks,  and the hazards involved, you're not alone.

Many people looking for for free downloading networks online have unanswered questions about p2p sites and RIAA lawsuit risks.  So here are crucial facts and important information you need to know about p2p file sharing sites - before using them!

- File Sharing Download Truth #1:  File sharing networks are extremely controversial.

Although file sharing applications have been ruled legal in a court of law, controversy lies in the fact that file sharing software can be used illegally. How? Anytime a user of a p2p software program downloads or shares copy-righted material they are breaking the law.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is on an active campaign to track down and sue file sharers who are breaking copy right infringement laws. And in more recent developments, the RIAA has sent letters to p2p networks demanding them to "immediately cease-and-desist from enabling and inducing the infringement of RIAA member sound recordings."

The RIAA is very serious about finding and suing people who are breaking copy-right infringement laws. It's strongly advised to take the lawsuit risks very seriously yourself BEFORE using a free file sharing download site.

- File Sharing Download Truth #2:  The only way to get 100% legal music is with the "legitimately licensed" music sites.

It's true. Legitimately licensed sites are Internet-based services that provide downloads of music legally licensed from established record labels and the artists themselves.

This combined partnership between the music industry and the legal music sites, (like Napster, iTunes & Emusic) guarantees you 100% legal music downloads.  In comparison, when using p2p file sharing software it's almost (if not completely) impossible to stay legal while using the file sharing program. Why?

Legal file sharing is only possible by following and complying with ALL relevant copyright laws. This means that when using a file sharing application, in order to stay legal, you must never publicly share, reproduce or distribute copy-righted material - ever!

Therefore, the only way to stay safe and avoid being targeted by the RIAA is by researching the copyright laws for each and every song BEFORE you download and/or publicly share the song online.   Besides the fact that this research would be extremely time-consuming, it's also virtually impossible to do successfully.

- File Sharing Download Truth #3:  File sharing networks can threaten your online privacy and security.

Although many file sharing applications are free, they make money by adding "adware" into the p2p software program.

Adware is software that works by large media companies offering shareware developers banner ads to put in their products. In return, the media companies provide the software developers a portion of the revenue generated from the banner sales.

And when done properly, adware is considered win-win. You'll get the file sharing software download for free, and the software developer will still get income for their product

However, many file sharing networks also include potentially dangerous spying programs into their software programs as a way to make more money. "Spyware" is a generic term describing any software that secretly sneaks around in the back-round of your computer (usually without your permission or knowledge) gathering information and performing activities hidden to you.

Spyware is a big risk to your online security and privacy, and can cause serious damage to your computer by exposing you to dangerous viruses, worms, malware and online hackers.  Don't get me wrong, making money online is not a bad thing. However, many file sharing download programs fail to disclose critical information and lawsuit risks about the use of their sharing software programs.

To Sum Up:

It's extremely important that you get all the facts about file sharing networks, including the risks involved, before using a any p2p program.

By learning all you can about how p2p file sharing download networks work, you'll be able to make an informed decision about which music download solution is right for you. And remember, there are many quality legal music sites available for you to choose from that offer cheap music downloads.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

‘Things Just Ain’t the Same’: Hip-Hop’s Reconstruction of the Gangster Rap Identity

Gangster rap, or hardcore rap, is generally considered a sub genre of the larger category of rap music, which itself is a subcategory of hip-hop. Gangster rap is differentiable from other rap music in that it makes use of images of urban life associated with crime (Haugen, 2). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica definition of gangster rap, the top four images associated with the genre are violence, drugs, materialism and sexual promiscuity.

Gangster Rappers as Defining the Hip-Hop Social Group
As the hip-hop movement has gained recognition throughout the United States, it has established itself as one of the fastest growing social groups anywhere. In the late 1990s immediately following the murders of both Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, two nationally known gangster rappers, a propaganda campaign escalated against rap music and the hip-hop culture (Slaughter). Although gangster rap only represented a small percentage of the hip-hop culture at the time, all hip-hop and rap music was instantly stereotyped negatively as being “gangter-like”. Why? Well, this gangster version of hip-hop was the highest selling and most recognized form of hip-hop music among the majority class. And many critics have determined that this is because America is in love with sex, drugs and violence (Whaley).

Hip-Hop’s Rejection of Inferior Social Group Status
Henri Tajfel, a social psychologist who developed a theory of inter-group relations and social change, argues that members of a social group deemed inferior by a majority class can either accept or reject their inferior position in society. If a group refuses to accept its inferior position in society as just, it will attempt as a group to change things (Coates, 8-9). A large number of hip-hop artists have used their musical lyrics to reject the inferior social status placed upon them by the majority class.

The Reconstruction of the Gangster Identity
I have found that hip-hop artists use lyrics, both musical and poetic, to redefine the negatives characteristics given to their culture by the majority class, and in the process, reconstruct the gangster identity. By examining these hip-hop and gangster rap lyrics as text, I will show ways in which the lyrics attempt to reconstruct the stereotyped gangster rap identity by examining different views of violence, drugs, materialism and sexual promiscuity. In the end, one tends to wonder: Who exactly are the real gangsters?

That the hip-hop culture represents gangster-like violence is perhaps the biggest disputed claim amongst hip-hop artists. In order to disprove this claim, many hip-hop artists have pointed to the violence that exists within the majority social group, and how it leads to violence all over the world.
In “Violence”, 2 Pac demonstrates his belief that violence was prevalent long before gangster rap existed:

I told em fight back, attack on society
If this is violence, then violent's what I gotta be
If you investigate you'll find out where it's comin’ from
Look through our history, America's the violent one

Here, the poet points to American society as “the violent one” and that he has to be violent in order to “fight back.”

In “Who Knew”, Eminem showed a similar viewpoint by expressing his belief that violence is a common occurrence in American society, yet not challenged in genres outside of the urban environment:

So who's bringin’ the guns in this country? 
I couldn't sneak a plastic pellet gun through customs over in London
And last week, I seen a Schwarzaneggar movie
Where he's shootin’ all sorts of these bad guys with an Uzi

Here, the poet questions the existence of violence in a country that allows firearms and violent movies.

In “Casualties of War”, Rakim blames the United States government, specifically its Head of State, as the group causing the violence in society with their war-like ways:

I'ma get back to New York in one piece
But I'm bent in the sand that is hot as the city streets
Sky lights up like fireworks blind me
Bullets, whistlin’ over my head remind me...
President Bush said attack
Flashback to Nam, I might not make it back

In this text, the poet refers to our country’s decision to go to war as an example of the violence that exists amongst the majority social class.

In “The Watcher”, Dr. Dre redefines the negative characteristic of violence by pointing to the police force as the source of violence, and therefore, referring to them as “gangster-like”:
Things just ain't the same for gangstas
Cops is anxious to put people in handcuffs
They wanna hang us, see us dead or enslave us
Keep us trapped in the same place we raised in
Then they wonder why we act so outrageous
Run around stressed out and pull out gauges
Cause everytime you let the animal out cages
It's dangerous, to people who look like strangers

Here, the poet accuses the majority class of keeping them “trapped in the same place we raised in” and that the perceived violence is only due to the introduction of “people who look like strangers.”

These are examples of how hip-hop artists redefine the image of violence by showing how it exists or was created within the majority social group.

Another common disputed stereotype of hip-hop artists is their use and distribution of illegal drugs. In attempts to redefine this negative characteristic, many hip-hop artists have pointed at the majority social group as the facilitator of drug abuse.

In “Justify My Thug”, Jay-Z speaks directly to members of government, raising questions about who has made the availability and use of these drugs possible:

Mr. President, there's drugs in our residence
Tell me what you want me to do, come break bread with us
Mr. Governor, I swear there's a cover up
Every other corner there's a liquor store - what is up?

In this example, the poet inquires as to why there is a liquor store in “every other corner” of his community.

In “I Want to Talk to You”, Nas uses the same approach to challenge the notion of drug distribution by asking his representatives what they would do in his situation:

Why y'all made it so hard, damn
People gotta go create their own job
Mr. Mayo,r imagine if this was your backyard
Mr. Governo,r imagine if it was your kids that starved
Imagine your kids gotta sling crack to survive

Here, the poet claims that the distribution of drugs is not only an effect of the poverty that exists in his environment, but also a means of survival.

In “Manifesto”, Talib Kweli actually accuses the government of being the body which allows drugs into the country:

Like the C.I.A. be bringin’ in crack cocaine bailin’ out of planes
With the George Bush connections, I push Reflection
Like I'm sellin’ izm, like a dealer buildin’ the system
Supply and the demand it's all capitalism
People don't sell crack cause they like to see blacks smoke
People sell crack cause they broke

In this example, the poet accuses the C.I.A. of flying drugs into the country, and again reiterates the point that it is a means of survival due to the “supply and demand” of a capitalist society.

In “Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster”, the Geto Boys fully redefine the negative characteristic of drug distribution by accusing the President of being a drug dealer, and therefore, a gangster:

And now, a word from the President!
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
Getting’ voted into the White House
Everything lookin’ good to the people of the world
But the Mafia family is my boss
So every now and then I owe a favor gettin' down
Like lettin' a big drug shipment through
And send 'em to the poor community
So we can bust you know who

These examples show how hip-hop artists redefine the image of being drug dealers and users by again pointing to the majority class as the creator of the drug problem in this country.   

Hip-hop music is also seen by the majority class as a genre dominated by materialism. Again, artists point back to the majority class in an attempt to redefine this negative characteristic.

In “Respiration”, Black Star points to all the wealth surrounding urban areas, and how it absorbs the lower class in materialism, making them want parts of that wealth:

Where mercenaries is paid to trade hot stock tips
For profits, thirsty criminals take pockets
Hard knuckles on the second hands of workin’ class watches
Skyscrapers is colossus, the cost of living
Is preposterous, stay alive, you play or die, no options

Here, the poet talks about various materialistic aspects of the majority class, and how the lower class must “play or die” to “stay alive.”

In “All Falls Down”, Kanye West actually blames this materialism on American society:

It seems we living the American dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings

In this example, the poet blames the “American dream” for materialism, saying it causes people to “do the ugliest things” for “riches and diamond rings.”

In “Los Angeles Times”, Xzibit also blames this materialism on the majority class, claiming that is what the youth are taught coming up in urban environments:

Welcome to L.A.
Where you can see the whole city burning
Cause the cops got Uzis and the dealers keep serving
And your kids ain't learning it, except this
Sex power and wealth, forget everything else

Here, the poet expresses his belief that certain aspects of materialism, including “power and wealth” are taught to children through occurrences in society.

These are examples how hip-hop artists redefine the negative characteristic of being materialistic by showing examples of how this materialism is prevalent in the majority class, and often created within that class.

And the final debated stereotype of the hip-hop social class is that they are sexually promiscuous, often leading to disrespectful treatment towards women. The poets also attempt to redefine this stereotype by blaming the core of the problem on society.

In “Pussy Galore”, the Roots claim that the country’s obsession with sex is pushed by sexually-driven marketing campaigns:

Lookin' out the limo window up at the billboards
200 miles, she was the only thing I saw
Promotin' everything, from the liquor to the nicotine
Cell phones, anti-histamines, chicken wings
You gotta show a little skin to get them listening
For real yo, the world is a sex machine

In this example, the poet retells a personal experience in which he saw sex advertisements as “promotin’ everything.” And in order to “get them listening”, he claims, “you gotta show a little skin.”

In “Get By”, Talib Kweli blames this sexual obsession on what we view on television:

The TV got us reachin’ for stars
Not the ones between Venus and Mars,
The ones that be readin’ for parts
Some people get breast enhancements and penis enlargers

Here, the poet expresses his belief that television creates a misconception of what people should be sexually, and that contributes to the promiscuity that is being blamed on the hip-hop movement.

Hip-hop artists have used their lyrics and poetry to influence the rejection and reconstruction of the gangster identity that plagues their social class. This is accomplished through the redefining of negative characteristics assigned by the majority class. In most cases, these redefinitions include pointing to the majority class as the real holders of these negative characteristics. The redefining of these “gangster-like” images through hip-hop lyrics helps to reconstruct the gangster identity by questioning “gangster-like” behaviors and which social class actually has these behaviors. So the question presented is: Who exactly are the gangsters?

Works Cited / Discography
2 Pac. 2Pacalypse Now. Jive Records, 1991.
Black Star. Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star. Rawkus Records, 1998.
Coates, Jennifer. Women, Men and Language. Longman Publishing, New York: 1993.
Dr. Dre. The Chronic 2001. Interscope Records, 1999.
Eminem. The Marshall Mathers LP. Interscope Records, 2000.
Geto Boys. Uncut Dope LP. Interscope Records, 1999.
Haugen, Jason. “‘Unladylike Divas’: Language, Gender and Female Gangster Rappers.” Popular Music and Society: December, 2003.
Jay Z. The Black Album. Def Jam, 2003.
Kanye West. College Dropout. Roc-A-Fella Records, 2004.
Nas. I Am. Sony Records, 1999.
Rakim. Don’t Sweat the Technique. MCA Records, 1992.
Rawkus Records. Lyricist Lounge Volume 1. Priority Records, 1999.
Slaughter, Peter. “Attack on Rap Music.” Barutiwa Weekly News. June 14, 1997.
Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek. Train of Thought. Rawkus Records, 2000.
Talib Kweli. Quality. Rawkus Records, 2003.
The Roots. Phrenology. MCA Records, 2002.
Whaley, Angela. “Hip Hop is Not for Sale.” Colorado State University’s Talking Back: Volume 3, Issue 1.
Xzibit. 40 Days and 40 Nights. Loud Records, 1998.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Blue Groups In Music History

I recently had an email question posed to me from my site that asked me what I thought was the most successful “Blue Group?” (I have narrowed it down to the word "blue" in the beginning of the band name)

I can only say with such an eclectic list of choices that you would have to narrow it down to what type of music is being played by the group, how you define success and of course, personal preference.

If you are looking for a hard-rock group, you have several selections, including Blue Cheer, a 60's group that some refer to as one of the first heavy metal bands.  Their hit, a remake of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” spent ten weeks on the American Billboard Top 40, peaking at number 14 in 1968.  Even with numerous personnel changes, San Francisco’s Blue Cheer was able to release several breakthrough and influential albums.

However, if you are looking for commercial success and longevity, one could argue that Blue Oyster Cult, another hard-rock/heavy metal band could top that list.  In 1972, with their self named debut album, Blue Oyster Cult combined the elements of hard-rock and intense touring to pave the way for their upcoming success.  In 1976, they broke through to the mainstream arena and FM radio with the album “Agents Of Fortune” that included their biggest hit, the classic and infectious “Don’t Fear The Reaper.”  Blue Oyster Cult proved that they were more than a one-hit wonder with more than fourteen albums to their credit.

Furthermore, if you a looking for one of the top “blues” blue albums, there are several in that realm.  The Blues Brothers (formed by Saturday Night Live alumni’s Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi) rode the success of an SNL skit and with many superstar musicians scored several top 40 hits including “Soul Man.”  Blues Traveler, with singer/harmonica virtuoso John Popper are known as a “blues jam Band” with strong improvisional skills and their top hit “Run-Around,” one of the biggest singles in 1995.

The Blues Project, a group formed in 1965 by guitarist Danny Kalb and Steve Katz, was one of the first “underground” groups in the US, mixing rock/blues/pop and folk; they compiled a couple of eclectic and revolutionary albums in the mid 60's.

But if you are looking for the definitive blues album by a blues band, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers (with Eric Clapton) provide the perfect example of a blues and boogie combination extraordinarily played by the astonishing Clapton.

The psychedelic music genre is well represented with the Bronx-based Blues Magoos who charted in 1967 with “(We Ain’t Got) Nothing Yet.”  Throughout their short career they rode the psychedelic era horse and played a mixture of infectious rock and roll and unrelenting garage rock.

A largely unknown blue band “Blue Things” was able to mix their Byrdesque folk and energetic pop rock to become a regional success in the Midwest and Texas.  Despite a national record contract with RCA, they remain one of the better examples of the mid 60's music era that you probably never heard of.

A group from Toronto, Canada named Blue Rodeo has drawn comparisons to the Beatles/Dylan with smooth harmonies and rootsy folk rock, they are certainly worth a listen if you like alternative country rock.

Other blue groups include Blue Nile, formed in 1981 in Glasgow, Scotland, were highly praised for their dreamy-pop sound.  The Blue Ridge Rangers gets a mention merely because of the iconic John Fogerty, who released an album under that name (even though, technically the group was just Fogerty playing all the instruments), that although was not a huge commercial success, proved he belonged as one of the top performers in rock and roll.

“Ride Captain Ride” was a top 40 hit in 1972 for Blues Image, a rock group that featured Mike Pinera (who later joined Iron Butterfly).  Blue Magic, an R & B vocal group from Philadelphia scored two top ten hits in 1974.  Additionally, a group named Blue Haze, a reggae group from England secured a top 40 hit in 1972 with the song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”

Now, I may not have completely answered the email question, I think that is up to personal preference and taste.  But I will give you an opinion of the worst song by a blue group.  That distinction belongs to Blue Swede and the remake of the song “Hooked On A Feeling,” a hit in 1974, complete with the sickening and dreaded “OOGA Chacka” lyric added to the song.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Fine Piano Music Box Is A Work Of Art

Music boxes have always come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small enough to fit in your hand, while others are designed to hold jewelry, and still others are large enough to stand alone like a piece of furniture. Wood, metal, glass, and stone; jewelry boxes are familiar to all of us. Equally familiar is the musical jewelry box. In fact, it is almost rare to see one without the other. A piano music box is another variation on that theme, and what a unique and intriguing variation it is!

A piano music box is exactly that; a music box shaped like a piano. But its appeal extends well beyond its familiar shape and the songs it plays. Some piano music boxes are simple enough; the least expensive models are often just a standard music box inside a case that resembles a piano. And like many other music boxes, they often have room to hold trinkets and jewelry. But it is the expensive, hand crafted models that are so unique and interesting, they have to be seen to be believed.

Often imported from Europe, a hand crafted piano music box is a work of art. Hand carved, hand-painted, and inlaid with rare stones, piano music boxes can often cost hundreds of dollars or more. The lids of these miniature grand pianos lift and reveal the musical movement, which is the heart of the musical instrument, just like a real baby grand. The musical movement on a piano music box is just as impressive as the case in which it sits.

A high quality piano music box can be custom ordered with a musical movement that fits your needs. A basic musical movement might be capable of playing eighteen notes, and that would allow a piano music box that is outfitted with that movement to play simple songs that are short in duration. As you progress in price in sophistication, the musical possibilities become greater and greater. The most expensive musical movements are capable of up to one-hundred and forty-four notes. This allows a piano music box to play intricate songs that last much longer than the more basic movements allow. Naturally, the list of available songs becomes quite long when your piano music box is outfitted with the finest musical movements

A piano music box is something that is sure to bring joy to its owner, and it is equally likely to be passed down as a family heirloom. Its ultimate appeal lies in the fact that it is so much like its full sized counterpart. Its beautiful woodwork and beautiful sound make a piano music box more than just a music box; it is a work of art.