Got The Fever

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Music for Winter

Here in Massachusetts, the forecast is for more snow today and tomorrow. This will turn out to be record breaking I understand. Although the snow seems to fall in piles, it has the propensity, so far, to dissipate from the lawns and streets within a week or so. Such is winter this year.

Let me introduce, or reintroduce as the case might be, two selections that are most appropriate and hardly ever heard given their appropriate dues.

A dreamy, hazy, bass-laden, harmonica breezing slice of harmony that is a wonder of songwriting which has a laid back unpretentious sublime texture. Gentle, soothing and quite transcendent this has a feel that at once has you supple and comfortable in a mellow trance but yet is prone to find you more often than not slowly nodding in time. Superb in its atmospheric intentions, this continues to remind me of the time the snow was lazily descending onto my head while I sat placidly stewing in an outdoor hot tub on New Year’s Eve which was hidden within a small town deep in the Vermont woods. It was a cosmic coming together of time, space and music.

In the winter time
When all the leaves are brown
And the wind blows so chill
And the birds have all flown for the summer
I’m callin’, hear me callin’, hear me callin’

The Winter Song
Punky Meadows as a band member is one of the few trivia facts that come to mind when I think of the band Angel. Part of the LA based troupe that included The Runaways. All things considered (timing, the continually evolving state of music and the then current breed of musicians), Angel was one of the right bands at the right time. They were at once theatrical, glam, metal and ostentatious – always dressed in all white. They were ‘hard’ rock and roll that was easily digestible and if not mega-successful, they at least were what we once called a ‘cult band’.

However, conversely to their image, on this track they managed to create a magical triumph of beauty, enlisting the exquisite madrigal vocals of Seraphim and Cherubim. Intoxicating with its restrained swirl of organ, twelve string guitar and exultant bass, it has been perfectly coalesced and tempered just as the introduction of velvet wraiths join in glorious abandon.

Just as I am often entranced by this track, I am just as often perplexed as to why we do not hear this on the radio at this time of year, especially given the subject matter. But, you know my many opinions on the state of radio by now.

By the fireplace, there's a smile on every face.
The ice begins to cling, listen to the children sing.
Looking outside, the city lights all come alive.
People running all around, they fill the streets with a happy sound.

There's a feeling in the air, feel the spirit everywhere.
Winter winds on heaven and earth.
Hear the Angels join the choir, let them take the music higher.
Through winter days on heaven and earth.

Steve Miller: Wintertime [92]
Book Of Dreams [1977]

Angel: The Winter Song [38]
From: White Hot [1978]

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lonely Christmas

The tone and timbre of this, the Christmas season, has the ability to deflate and isolate just as easily as its original intention is to elevate and inspire.

As we are to remember the holy sanctity derived from the meaning of Christmas, somehow we tend to forget that there are many among us who can not share, or experience, the blessed senses that are so firmly entrenched and associated with Christmas; seeing children in pajamas running down the stairs much too early in anticipation of presents under the tree, smelling the dizzy scents of dripping, succulent meats, warm, hooded pies, sugared root vegetables, chestnut roasting on an open fire, hearing the crunching and tearing of pretty paper and ribbons snapping, tasting a pomegranate champagne toast or feeling the pursed lips of the first morning kiss after the smiling exclamation of Merry Christmas has been expelled.

For some, they merrily proclaim that this is just another day and it’s no big deal for them to spend it alone – they have so much to catch up on. For others, they dismiss any talk about what they’re doing that day with a smile and distracted avoidance. There are those who fill the day with the excuse that they’re picking up an extra shift or two in order to let those with somewhere to go, or something to do, have their time to do so.

I know someone who bought themselves a packaged container of Christmas cookies from the local chain supermarket, their only present, and ate them Christmas morning while sitting in front of their apartment window watching the day slowly slide.

Many are devoid of cheer because loved ones are away from them through either insurmountable traveling, or emotional, distance or through powerfully bleak, and punishing circumstance.

All have no choice but to experience the surrounding revelry unintentionally from afar, but with their heart and soul fitfully and cruelly writhing and entombed within.

Christmas With No One To Love
With a lovely, swirling B3, Charles, better known for his yuletide standard “Please Come Home For Christmas”, ushers in the day with a longing lament for that someone special to be there with him. His longing could literally be for his sweetheart, but in a broader sense could very well be interpreted as the blinding, empty, cold stinging for his children, or the warm, calloused-hand embrace of his father once more, or even for his God to acknowledge him in a moment of diving intervention by sending “tidings of comfort and joy”.

He sings of being alone, even though the paramount importance of being among others is impressed and stamped firmly on this, the day we call Christmas.

Christmas can be a sad affair
When there’s no one to love you and no one to care
Make wonder when this Christmas finds me lonely
Wanting you

Carols being sung by a choir
Candy and toys and a tree near the fire
Makes me blue
When Christmas finds me lonely wanting you

One Parent Christmas
The horror of not being able to provide enough consistently throughout the year is only more unfairly magnified on this one day when there are small ones, caught up in the seasonal frenzy, who need only look around themselves and see what a huge event all their friends make of Christmas. The unenviable burden of forcing ones self to place a mask of happiness and excitability on their face and actions so that others can be happy and excited has to be close to madness when the situation they find themselves in is anything but.

My money is tight, but not so tight as my time
Tried to get it all done, and still have peace of mind

Stretched out a few dollars, check out all the list
I ride all over town trying to find her big gifts
Pick out the tree, put up all the lights
Trying to make Christmas, make it feel merry and bright

I clean the house shiny
Then I cook all the meals
But so very tired, tired and lonely I feel.

It’s so hard making Christmas

In a one-parent home

Charles Brown:
Christmas With No One To Love [102]
From: Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs [1961]

Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women:
One Parent Christmas [47]
From: The Alligator Records Christmas Collection [1992]

Addendum: As can be expected, there continues to be a stunning array of tracks offered from my many online friends that will surely dilate your pupils in amazement! Believe me - not the usual, same ol' droning you'll hear everywhere else. Look on the right hand side of this blog for a complete list of those that continue to influence, and entertain, me.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Holiday Blues

Ah! Just in time to mingle with the mirth, merriment and sentimentality of Christmas come the “Holiday Blues”. Working in the Healthcare field I know all too well how powerfully the blues hit some folks out there in the general population during this peak season of holly jolly bliss.

Those that are down and out in some capacity find that the hardest time to keep nose above the frothy surface is during the holiday season when every newspaper ad, every TV commercial, every store and every window display centers on “the spirit of the holidays”. Every establishment you walk into has piped-in Christmas music and all the radio stations started playing the same Christmas songs over and over even before the last Hershey’s kiss was dropped into the last plastic pumpkin on Halloween night.

Depression – specifically, suicidal type depression, is sometimes thought to be at its zenith this time of year, and it reaps a bountiful harvest of those who cannot withstand the overpowering crush of not possessing the spirit of the season that surrounds and punctures their psyche with daggers of unimaginable guilt, sticky, black sorrow and a feeling of zero gravity helplessness.

Quick facts about suicide: men do it violently, such as with a gun; women do it quietly, such as with pills. In the Healthcare field one saying still remains true – callers never jump, jumpers never call. You know one of them. Maybe you know two of them. Most likely they’ll be the ones who smile and laugh in order to fit in, and have a slightly detached ambiance about them.

Better Off Dead
A last lugubrious lament filled with torment. This is the blaring, hot, painful truth from a man who has come to realize that this is not the time for lies or half-truths. He’s been that route and for once in his life he’s going to come clean of conscience. He berates himself passionately, brutally, mercilessly, and justly so. He also freely gives due where it belongs – much too late.

There is no penance for him here after this, his last confession. He’s come face to face with the stinging, teary-eyed reality that he cannot go back.

More somberly and to the point, he cannot go forward either.

Ah, she gave the most, took the least,
And even have the priest come to our home.
And I cried and prayed and promised,
That I’d leave the stuff alone.

Now I must leave what I can’t face,
I hope she’ll find her key to happy home.
Hey, she’s better off without me!
And I’m better off dead now that she’s gone.

Think I’m Going To Kill Myself
This is a whimsical, capricious, tap dancing on the razors edge flirting with life or death. A honky-tonk banter with the Grim Reaper where built up adolescent angst is convinced that the only rational way left to “I’ll show them” would be to die. A give and take, pro versus con, serious but silly, theatrical show of “do you dare me?” that might come to fruition just to show you that I’m serious. But is there anyone who does know with certainty if he will or if he will not? Does anyone take that bet? Is he bargaining with us, or God to call his bluff?

I'm getting bored.
Being part of mankind.
There's not a lot to do no more.
This race is a waste of time.

People rushing everywhere,
Swarming around like flies.
Think I'll buy a forty-four,
Give them all a surprise!

Think I'm gonna kill myself.
Cause a little suicide.
Stick around for a couple of days.
What a scandal if I died!

Baby - it’s cold outside.

Bill Withers:
Better Off Dead [152]
From: Just As I Am [1971]

Elton John:
Think I’m Going To Kill Myself [92]
From: Honky Chateau [1972]