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Archive for November, 2011

Drummers …

This might be the reason we don’t play with a drummer very often …

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Quote of the Weekend

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

Kurt Vonnegut

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I have long been a fan of ‘prog rock’ (progressive rock). For me, it probably started with Procol Harum in the late 60s. I am still intrigued by the mixing of classical elements with rock. We had a collection of 78 rpm records when I was growing up and I learned a lot of classical music from those old recordings. I think it is something about the drama and musicianship of classical playing that combined with rock makes for a very imaginative combination.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer have been a favourite since their first album and I have followed their path ever since. I was able to finally see them live when the reformed in the late 90s. In the 80s, they had split up and did various projects including one group called Emerson, Lake and Powell – the Powell being drummer Cozy Powell. They did one album in the mid-80s which I thought was pretty good. There was one single off the album called “Touch and Go” that was a highlight.

While I really liked the song, there was something about the main theme that haunted me. I knew the theme but I could not for the life of me remember where I had heard it before. Now, I think it is pretty cool to quote other music in a piece and while I could usually identify the source, this one was a mystery. It probably took about 10 years before the synapses in my brain put two and two together. I am sure it is the middle theme from Ralph Vaughan Williams “Fantasia on Greensleeves”. The fantasia is amazing piece of music in its own right … it took Emerson to fit it into an entirely different context and make it work. Love it …

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Not only did we get our winter storm last week, now the temperature has gone into the tank. This morning. our puppy decided that 5 in the morning is a good time to go to the little girl’s room. This means a trek for both of us to the back door since I no longer want to open the french doors in the master bedroom. I caught a look at our outdoor thermometer while she was out doing her business (which, surprisingly took no time at all). It was -26.9°C. The normal minimum temperature for the City Centre Airport in November is -8.2°C, so we are a wee bit colder. Wind chills yesterday were in the -30 range – this is not fun. However the forecast is for +8 by Tuesday. No wonder the kids in my earth sciences lab have a hard time with this sort of thing.

I've had enough of this!

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It’s Here

First Snow on the Garden

We woke up this morning with the first snow of the season on the ground. According to the records, this is the latest we have gone without having a snowfall. The previous latest first snow was November 6. I recall when I first moved here to Edmonton, the statistic was that 9 of 10 Halloweens would have snow on the ground – and for that 1 out of 10 with no snow, it would be here in the following week. The Farmer’s Almanac says a cold winter … at least we were able to delay the snow for a bit.

Time to break out the brushes, scrapers and shovels 😦

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In the Studio

Don, Jim and I (aka the Magpies) entered a new phase in our musical adventures this week as we finally went into a studio to properly record our songs. We have a number of recordings made using a Zoom recorder, either in the middle of the room or in front of the stage, but we needed something properly recorded to let people get a sense of what we play.

My oldest son likens Edmonton to “the biggest small town in the world”. Through some connections we met a fellow that has built a recording studio in his garage. We had chatted with him a couple of times about doing some recording and finally decided to make the plunge. Rick’s studio is not huge, but it doesn’t need to be in these digital days. The last time I was in a studio, the 48-track board itself would have filled half of Rick’s space. Now with most everything on the computer, the physical setup is much less imposing than in the analog days.

Don and Jim getting ready to lay down the scratch track

The process was a little different from my previous experience. We laid down what Rick called a ‘scratch track’ which was essentially all of us around a mike playing the song. The scratch track is just to give us something to reference when we record the separate tracks. To start, because it was Jim’s song, he went into the ‘booth’ to record the main acoustic guitar track. Jim did the heavy lifting this evening as he then had to record the main vocals.  I went in after Jim to lay down the backing vocal track. And 3½ hours later, we had half the song done. Tomorrow’s task will be to add the rest of the instruments – bass, mandolin and keyboards – to the mix. And then the final mix down and we will have our first recording.

Jim banished to the "booth"

Now we just have to figure out what our name is! 😦

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Hey … if that title doesn’t grab you, nothing will.

Last weekend, my oldest son took me to see Roger Daltrey perform the Who’s Tommy. It was a great experience made even better by sitting in the third row on the floor. I really enjoyed myself and the time spent with my son. Daltrey, at 67, is still something to see. His voice is not what it was once was, but as he explained, he has had two operations on his throat in the last two years.

The stage at Rexall for Tommy

The first part of the concert was Tommy – played straight through. It was brilliant. No, it wasn’t the Who but the musicians were solid and having Daltrey and Pete’s brother, Simon on stage made it wonderful. Simon Townsend doesn’t have the same voice as Pete but there are elements of Pete that you can hear in Simon. And really, I wasn’t expecting the Who in all their glory – but what I got, I was more than happy with.

There was no break and the second part of the concert was old Who songs, some from Roger’s solo career and a Johnny Cash medley! A full set list can be found here.

Roger Daltrey

And, as an added bonus, the concert was recorded at the front of house and available for download 48 hours after the concert. This is really smart marketing. I don’t know of many groups that don’t record the music at the sound booth so why not make it available. For $15.95, I now have the entire concert to enjoy whenever I want. I have always found I never really remember the “music” from a concert – it is usually something like the jerk in front who spilled his beer or the screw ups on stage, but now having the music is a real treat. When we saw the Who in 2006, they marketed both a DVD as well as a CD – that is inspired thinking.

Simon Townsend and Jon Button

So where does the forbidden stuff come in? Of all the Who albums, Tommy is in the top 2 – hard really to pick just one. When it was first released, I got my album copy with all the neat stuff like a poster and lyric book. But there is another reason why Tommy is dear to my heart.

When I was in Grade 12, I started going out with a girl named Christine. The forbidden aspect was she was in Grade 13! You didn’t do stuff like that in those days. I remember she even took some flak from her classmates for going out with me. She was pretty, smart, musical and artistic. We went to movies, art galleries and saw quite a few concerts together. In the summer, one of our favourite places was the Toronto Island. We would pack some food (and some wine) and spend the day walking around the quieter parts of the island. I had been working part-time and had finally saved up to buy one of my first major purchases – a good portable radio.

Downtown as seen from Toronto Island

So one warm Saturday afternoon, Chris and I headed to the island for a picnic. The Island was always a great place to go when it was hot and humid. We found a spot on the inner harbour that pleasure boats tied up to and had a power source at the dock. There were no boats around so we spread out and I used the power to run the radio. It was one of those moments you really didn’t want to end. Chris, besides being very smart and pretty, was really good company – it seemed like we could talk about anything. We were enjoying everything about the setting when CHUM-FM started to play Tommy – and they didn’t stop. They played it from beginning to end with no breaks and we enjoyed every moment of it. So not only does Tommy mean the music of my youth, it brings back that summer afternoon where there were no cares in the world and the company of someone special.

Christine playing the guitar

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