Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gifford Children's Choir in Racine, Wisconsin presents "A Christmas Trololo"

A brief history - back in March, I wrote about a video performance that appealed to both the Tall Ships (Keith Andrew is a member of that band) and Josh Haley (who used to be one of the ukelele players in the Ffundercats). That performance, which could be found on YouTube and elsewhere, was sung by Soviet-era singer Edward Anatolevich Hill. Although the name of the song is something along the lines of "I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home," it is commonly referred to today as the "Trololo" song. See my March post for more extensive details about the song and the singer.

It turns out Andrew and Haley weren't the only musicians who enjoyed the song. If you scroll down to the comments for my post, you'll see a comment from Jack Senzig, who was trying to find an orchestral score of the song. I wrote about Senzig's search in September. Senzig is with the Gifford Children's Choir at Gifford Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin, and he wanted the orchestral score so that the children's choir could perform the song.

As it turns out, Jack Senzig received responses to his request:

A man named Alexander Kuznetsov from Russia was very helpful in finding a piano vocal score of the piece. Alexander surprised the choir earlier this year by donating a few dollars on our blog. I emailed him a thank-you and asked if he could help find the score. What an amazing world we live in where people who don't know one another are willing to help with out thought of reward! The choir has had many experiences like that in the past 6 months. We are still looking for the orchestral score and for the copyright holder.

Senzig forged ahead, and now you can see the result - "A Christmas Trololo" as performed by the Gifford Children's Choir. Arkady Ostrovsky's song has been married with costumes and children's dancing moves.

Also note the audience participation. As Senzig notes in the Gifford Children's Choir blog, he was very pleased with the result:

What an incredible event! The kids did an amazing job, the audience participation was great, the band played so well, props and solos went as planned. We had three hours to rehearse and record....

Live, this was nothing short of incredible. I think you are going to be treated to an unique entertainment!

However, Senzig's enthusiasm was topped by the comment from one of his readers:

Did everyone remember their lyrics?

So a hearty congratulations to Jack Senzig, Alexander Kutznetov, Donovan Senzig, Jeni Balch, Keri Bieri, The Gifford Children's Choir, members of the Gilmore Middle School Choir, members of the Racine Community Choir, members of the St. Louis Church Choir, students from other schools (Case H.S., Walden III, 21st Century Prepatory School, and Gifford Elementary), Katie McCormick, Angela Janota-Peavler, Ken Norman Kathy Gabbey, Eric Weiss, Russell Skewes, Mike Cobb, Hallie Senzig, Brad Karas, Jeff Eben (the principal!), Santa Claus, Brett Halladay, Lance Peavler, Gary Alvarado, the Gifford PTA, the parents, and Chris Janus.

Now I have to share this with both Keith Andrew and Josh Haley...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What difference does it make? The ease of making some sort of music

One of the wonderful things about music is that it's very easy to create it. Now it's hard to create professional-quality music, but it's very easy to create music in general.

Let me cite an example.

As my friends know, I'll often get in moods in which I listen to a single song over and over. Last weekend, the song in question was "What Difference Does It Make?" by the Smiths. I found a YouTube video of a performance of the song on Top of the Pops, and just listened to the video (embedding disabled by request) again and again.

Then I had to go gas up my car.

So, as I was driving alone to Costco to gas up, you can guess what I was doing in the car.

Yes, I was creating music.

And even though I was facing several handicaps, I was still able to create music.

The first handicap that I faced was that I don't know all of the lyrics to the song "What Difference Does It Make?" In fact, I only know five of the words in the lyrics. (No extra credit if you can guess those five words.) So my vocal performance sounded like this:

What difference does it make?
What difference does it make? Oh oh oh...
Da da da,
Da da da da-da da...

At this point, I encountered the second handicap - I did not have a guitar with me in the car. And even if I had a guitar with me in the car, I was driving and therefore unable to play it. And even if I were parked and had a guitar, my guitar skills are, to put it mildly, deficient. (I can play a C chord, and I could probably pick out the riff to "What Difference Does It Make?" but it would be at a VERY slow speed.

So you can guess what I did next:

Da da da da
Da da-da da da
Da da da da
Da da-da da da...

So, as you can see, it's very easy to create music. And it's even possible to expand on it. When Morrissey sang the chorus, he had a hint of a yodel in it. As a lover of Slim Whitman, I wondered what would happen if that were converted into a full yodel, with an octave jump.

What difference does it ma-AKE...

And obviously I'm not the only one. All sorts of people, with all sorts of musical skills, have a desire to perform a song that they like. In the car on your morning commute, in the shower before your morning commute, or in your cubicle or dorm room with the headphones on, many of us are creating music.

And some people create videos of themselves making music. For example, here's a video of laydjay (Jacqueline Sinclair of All About the Dots on MySpace and Facebook), possibly in someone's apartment, singing the song (unfortunately, without any Slim Whitman touches, although she does some interesting vocals toward the end). I'm not sure who is accompanying her.

Here's a video of a guy who started playing the Smiths' recording of the song, then played along on the lead guitar part.

Here's another video of another guy who did the same thing.

Here's yet another guy who not only videoed himself playing "What Difference Does it Make?" but also played a bunch of other riffs. ("Difference" is about four minutes into the video.) His name's Johnny.

Seriously, this guy Johnny shares some interesting observations about guitar sound and guitar culture. I guess he knows what he's talking about.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Jersey

I was in one of my "Wanted Dead Or Alive" moods one evening and ended up finding this video in which Jon Bon Jovi sings "It's My Life." But Richie isn't playing the guitar on this performance; instead, some guy name Bruce is playing.

That video serves as a reminder that New Jersey produced both Bon Jovi AND Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Oh, and Frank Sinatra also.

But when you're talking about New Jersey music, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 10 other musicians who have been associated with New Jersey.

Count Basie
David Cassidy
George Clinton
Lesley Gore (see my 2008 post)
Wyclef Jean
Les Paul
Eddie Rabbitt
Patti Smith (see my 2003 post)
Gary Wright

Again, there are many more New Jersey musicians listed here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Opposing views - people who think that Eddie Van Halen is the best guitarist ever

There are plenty of very good guitarists out there. For example, I have a high regard for the guitar playing of Martin Gore. I believe that Gore's guitar playing (beginning in the late 1980s) is a perfect complement to Depeche Mode's music.

But I wouldn't call Martin Gore the greatest guitarist ever.

In my view, the three greatest guitarists ever, in alphabetical order, are Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page. In my view, these three made their guitars sing, and were the equivalent of an excellent vocalist in that regard.

I do not include Eddie Van Halen in that rarefied company of guitarists. In fact, I don't rate Van Halen as great, or as good. In my view, the ability to play guitar really really fast does not necessarily indicate good music.

However, there are those who disagree with me. Let's start with 330 guitarists surveyed by Roadie Crew Magazine, who ranked Eddie Van Halen as the second best guitarist of all time. Ahead of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Brian May, Slash, and everyone except for Hendrix.

Of course, any such list is going to have its detractors. Let's look at someone who thinks that Hendrix should not have had the number one spot:

I think Ed should be in the #1 spot. Jimmy droped some jaws but Ed re-invented the guitar.

And another one:

In a century’s time, Edward may very well take over that #1 position. Think about it.

And then there was one person who, while agreeing that Van Halen was only number 2, made his case for Van Halen occupying that position:

There has not been a more exciting guitar player since van halen. Edward is still the king. He is the Michael Jordan of our time on Guitar. Good luck to all the rest who are really cool to listen to…but not nearly as fun and as original as Edward.

But among the thoughtful (and less than thoughtful) comments regarding the greatest guitarist, there were some real groaners. Or some really bad jokers. Take Mark Johnson:

Who the hell is Yngwie Malmsteen? And whys isn’t Elton John on this list?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is music with a purpose good music?

A lot of us live in this dreamworld that music is created by artists and is destined to become artistic.

To quote a songwriter or two, "dream on."

All music is written for a purpose. Perhaps a song is written specifically so that it will hit number one on the charts. Perhaps a song is written because the rent is due next week. Perhaps a song is written because the people in the indie club or the indie radio station will really really like it.

Regardless of why it is written, the song is written to appeal to some audience - if not the millions of people who purchase songs on iTunes or Amazon, then perhaps it's written for the 20 people that will gather at the local bar on Thursday night.

Lennon/McCartney, John/Taupin, Page/Plant, Gore, whoever - in the end, they're all hacks who are writing songs for a purpose.

Of course, there are more overt cases of writing songs for a purpose. For example, you might co-write a song to feed the world. When you write such a song, you want to make sure that it is most effective in achieving its purpose of feeding the world.

But is the song any good? Well, why don't we ask Bob Geldof?

I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It’s Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World.

Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every ****ing Christmas.

Spinner offered this critique:

Most of us have mixed feelings toward deathless charity anthem 'Do They Know it's Christmas?' -- on one hand, it has raised millions for good causes and become something of a yuletide institution, on the other, it features groan-worthy lyrics like "There won't be snow in Africa" and Bono's anguished yelp of "Tonight, thank God it's them, instead of you."

And let's face it, "We Are The World" will probably not be performed in formal live shows in the year 2200. Even when it was being recorded, there were misgivings:

Billy Joel told Rolling Stone in 2005, "Most of us who were there didn't like the song, but nobody would say so. I think Cyndi Lauper leaned over to me and said, 'It sounds like a Pepsi commercial.' And I didn't disagree."

Of course, "We Are The World" also suffered from its being recorded out here, in California. The British recording session for "Do They Know It's Christmas" was laid back, but when Geldof arrived in El-Lay to support the American effort, he noted that Los Angeles was not so casual. Or, to put it more accurately, some people were relaxed about the whole affair, while others were not:

Springsteen flew to L.A. immediately after his Syracuse shows to participate in the recording. Arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport, Bruce rented a Corvette, and drove to the studio, parking in a lot across the street. In a humorous anecdote from his autobiography, Is That It?, Geldof recalled that Kragen at one point walked in and said, "'Bruce Springsteen has just parked his car on the other side of the road and walked across -- by himself -- to the studio. Can you believe it?' I could believe it. 'No, I mean he drove himself, no chauffeur, no limo. Then The Boss walked across himself, no bodyguards, no security.'"

The whole scene was parodied by Billy Crystal, who performed (as Prince) the song "I Am Also The World."

Billy Crystal, Hulk Hogan & Mr. T
Uploaded by mjdwfan. - Sitcom, sketch, and standup comedy videos.

At the end of the day, both songs (and all of the related songs) were Events with a capital E.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Led Zeppelin, "What Is And What Should Never Be"

The reason for my posting this video will become apparent on Monday. But even if you don't care about what I'm going to say on Monday in my Empoprise-BI business blog, you have to admit that this is a good song, with a good Jimmy Page solo.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If @scobleizer were an AM DJ (MySpace and music)

After the Lakers loss on Wednesday night, I started fiddling around with my AM radio. After sunset, I am able to pick up radio stations from multiple locations, including northern California. While moving up and down the radio dial, I ran across a radio station in Half Moon Bay that I had never heard before. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that none of you has heard this station either. Because the deejay's discussion is germane to the Empoprise-MU music blog, I thought I'd reproduce it here.

Yes, this portion of the KRS Evening Show is brought to you by Rackspace. And we're back, and you're here with your evening deejay, Bobby Scoble the Scobleizer!

(SOUND EFFECT from James Earl Jones: "This is THE SCOBLEIZER.")
(SOUND EFFECT: standard AM zoo cowbells and whistles)

Yes, it's your good friend Bobby, the original Valley Boy!

(SOUND EFFECT from a Frank Zappa sound-alike: "Valley Boy, he's a Valley Boy")
(SOUND EFFECT: standard AM zoo cowbells and whistles)

And we're broadcasting and podcasting and videocasting live from Half Moon Bay, counting 'em up, counting 'em down, counting 'em left, counting 'em right, down for the count, up for the count, and did I mention we're counting?

(SOUND EFFECT from an old commercial: "Count Chocula!")
(SOUND EFFECT: standard AM zoo cowbells and whistles)

Now I know that you've been submitting your music requests to the @scobleizer Twitter account -

(SOUND EFFECT from a Gilbert Gottfried sound-alike: "FAIL WHALE!")
(SOUND EFFECT: standard AM zoo cowbells and whistles)

Hey, Patrick, let's stop the wacky AM radio sound effects for just a moment, because I want to talk about something. A lot of people accuse me of only pursuing shiny new things and ignoring anything old. And while I do like to explore new stuff, I also like to check out some things that have been around for a while. No, I'm not going to actively participate in FriendFeed again. But earlier this evening, some of you may have noticed that I began playing around with my MySpace account again. In fact, because MySpace can publish your data stream directly to Facebook, a lot of my Facebook friends saw all of the bands that I just liked on MySpace. Sorry about that, guys.

I figured that since I'll be interviewing MySpace's CEO at LeWeb next week, I should do my homework. And since MySpace has turned itself into a music center, I started listening to Neil Young and friending artists such as The Black Eyed Peas and The Doors.

So I know that you have some requests that you've been tweeting to me, but I'm going to close tonight's radio show with a song from one of my new friends. Here's Neil Young with "Walk With Me." And after this song's done, stay tuned for Techno Louie Louie, the Graymaster!This is Bobby Scoble, the Scobleizer, signing off!

My, my.

Hey, hey.

Incidentally, Scoble's session with MySpace CEO Mike Jones is scheduled for 8 December 2010 at 10:50 am local time.

Waylon Jennings cover versions

In some ways it's ironic that the early 70s "outlaw" country musicians spent a lot of time covering some decidedly non-country songs, but that's exactly what Waylon Jennings was doing.

On Wednesday night I was messing around with YouTube and, and I found two Waylon Jennings cover songs that are highly recommended.

The first one that I found was a Waylon & Willie cover of the Fleetwood Mac song "Gold Dust Woman." (My blip of the song is here.) Perhaps Waylon's version isn't as mysterious as Stevie's original, and the drums aren't featured, but the vocals - especially on the chorus - are equal to if not better than the original. (And it's rare that people can vocally measure up to the "perfect" vocal harmonies of the mid-70s Fleetwood Mac.)

But hearing that song just left me craving another, so I found Waylon's cover of the Steely Dan song "Do It Again." (Here's my blip.) Depending upon your point of view, you could argue that Waylon's vocals here far exceed the original - especially when Waylon growls "Wheels turnin' ROUND and round."

But when looking over the Covers Project page on Waylon Jennings (which doesn't discuss "Gold Dust Woman," by the way, unless it's on a separate Waylon/Willie page or something), I was surprised to learn that one of Waylon's most famous songs, "Amanda," is itself a cover of a Don Williams song. (Here's that blip.)

Always learning...

P.S. If you want to see the songs that I blip, and the YouTube videos that I share, why don't you consider liking the Empoprise-MU Facebook fan page?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Families have parents - what preceded the King Family

As someone in the 1960s said, "I should have known better."

When I was a kid, one of the big TV shows was "My Three Sons." I was familiar with the later color version of the show, rather than the original black and white version. In this version of the show, oldest son Robbie (actually the middle son) was married to a woman named Katie who in real life was Tina Cole, part of a popular singing group called The King Family.

Tina Cole
Tina Cole Pictures

When not running around with Fred MacMurray, the King Family was appearing on their popular TV show, singing ultra-psychedelic versions of Jimi Hendrix and Grateful Dead songs. OK, not exactly.

But I wasn't aware of the earlier history of this family until The Music's Over reshared a 2009 entry on Yvonne King Burch.

Yvonne King Burch was a member of the popular singing group, the King Sisters, who came to prominence during the swing era....

Considering their style of music, I shouldn't be surprised that their history predates the Beatles...and Elvis.

Be sure to read the rest of the Music's Over entry for more about Yvonne King Burch.

As it turns out, Tina Cole was Yvonne King Burch's daughter.