Friday, April 20, 2018

Buffalo 40 – "Restless Minds" (2018)

Lovely smiles, full of grace
I’m amazed . . . I’m amazed

The previous 2 or 3 lines featured part one of my two-part interview with Rich McPhee, the frontman for Buffalo 40, a Washington, DC-area group whose website says its influences include classic rock, funk, blues, and modern rock.   Click here if you missed it.

Here’s part two of my interview with Rich.

*     *     *     *     *

2 or 3 lines:  I understand that one of the other members of Buffalo 40 is a very old friend of yours.

Rich McPhee:  That’s right.  I’ve known Adam Morrell since we were small children.  The biggest joy I get from being in Buffalo 40 is having a friend of 27 years that I grew up playing baseball and basketball with in the band with me.  Neither of us played music at all when we were kids but now we’re down here, writing music and playing together.

2 or 3 lines: When Buffalo 40 performs live, do you do mostly originals or mostly covers?

Rich:  I’d say we’re about 50-50 originals and covers.

2 or 3 lines:  I know you do a lot of covers of classic rock songs.

Rich:  We do a lot of sixties and seventies stuff, but also more contemporary pop and rock covers.

2 or 3 lines:  Who are some of the more contemporary artists whose songs you cover?

Rich:  Our last live show, we did a bunch of Chris Stapleton stuff.  We also did a couple of soulful, swingy tunes by Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats, and “Wish I Knew You” by the Revivalists.

[Note: If you know anything about country music, you know that Chris Stapleton is a hugely successful country singer-songwriter.  Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats are known for their old-school-style soul and R&B songs, while the Revivalists are a roots-rock group from New Orleans.]

At a Buffalo 40 performance
2 or 3 lines:  No Justin Timberlake or Taylor Swift covers?

Rich:  [Laughs.]  No, although we did a cover of “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd, which is a super pop song.  But we rocked it up – added a classic-rock-style guitar solo to it, which was awesome!

2 or 3 lines:  I’m sure a lot of the audience at your live shows are there to see Buffalo 40, but the rest probably don’t know anything about you.  They just came out to eat and drink and have a good time.

Rich:  That’s right.  You suck them in with the familiar pop stuff – you use the covers to bookend originals that have a somewhat similar feel.  We do originals that are country, bluesy, funky, fast, slow . . . we run the whole gamut, so we can play any cover and follow up with an original song that fits with it.

*     *     *     *     *

Later this month, Buffalo 40 will be releasing a five-song EP.  It will include “Restless Minds,” which is a very different kind of song than “Troublin’ on My Mind,” the catchy, honky-tonky Buffalo 40 song that was featured in the previous 2 or 3 lines.  

“Restless Minds” reminds me a little of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.”  Sit back, put your feet up, and give “Restless Minds” a listen – I guarantee you that your blood pressure will head south.

Here's Buffalo 40's music video for “Restless Minds” – you bulldog fans out there are really going to love it:

Click here and you’ll be taken to Buffalo 40’s Reverbnation page, where you can purchase “Restless Minds” and other Buffalo 40 songs.

For those of you who live in the Washington, DC area, Buffalo 40 will be appearing live at the Boundary Stone at 9:00 PM on Saturday, April 28.  (The Boundary Stone is located at 116 Rhode Island Ave., NW, in Washington – just a stone’s throw north of the US Capitol.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Buffalo 40 – "Troublin' On My Mind" (2018)

Rolling ’round the town
Tryin’ to find myself a warm bed

Rich McPhee is the frontman for Buffalo 40, a Washington, DC-area group whose website says its influences include classic rock, funk, blues, and modern rock.  

I met Rich a few weeks ago at a local brewery.  I was sitting at the bar and minding my own business, when Rich  picked up a guitar and started singing a series of songs by artists whose LPs my college classmates and I played almost to death back in the early 1970s.

Rich McPhee performing solo
 at Saints Row Brewing
I’m talking Neil Young, and the Rolling Stones, and Van Morrison, and the Allman Brothers, and Delaney & Bonnie (and friends), and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and America.  (Don’t sleep on “Sister Golden Hair,” boys and girls!)

When Rich finished his set, I sat down with him and interviewed him for 2 or 3 lines.   Here’s part one of that interview.

*     *     *     *     *

2 or 3 lines:  Rich, you look like you’re about 30 years old.

Rich McPhee:  You’re close.

2 or 3 lines:  So what are you doing playing classic rock songs that were recorded before you were born?

Rich:  I love classic rock because that’s what my parents played constantly when I was growing up.  One of my earliest memories is listening to an Eagles album on a Walkman when I was just seven.

Buffalo 40
2 or 3 lines:  And you grew up where?

Rich:  In New Hampshire.

2 or 3 lines:  Were your parents musicians, or just music fans?

Rich:  My father was a pretty good guitarist.  He was one of those life-of-the-party types who always pulled out his guitar when he and my mother partied with their friends.

2 or 3 lines:  When did you start playing the guitar?

Rich:  Not until I was in college.  I sang in my middle school chorus but I didn’t play an instrument when I was a kid.  I was a jock, not a musician – I loved baseball and basketball.

2 or 3 lines:  Where did you go to college?

Rich:  I was a sports management major at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

[Note: Springfield College is where a Canadian graduate student named James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891.]

Rich McPhee cuts loose in the recording studio
2 or 3 lines:  Your father must have been happy when you came home and could play the guitar.   

Rich:  He was.  I remember the first song he taught me – Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.”

2 or 3 lines:  Which is one of the songs you played here tonight.

Rich:  It’s still one of my favorites.  After my father taught it to me, I played it so often that he lost it one day and yelled at me to “Learn a new song!”

2 or 3 lines: I don’t know much about guitars, but I have readers who will want me to ask you what kind of guitar you play.

Rich:  Tonight I played a Guild acoustic guitar.  When I play with Buffalo 40, I’ll play acoustic occasionally, but most of the time I play an electric – right now, that’s a Fender American Stratocaster with noiseless frets.  I go through guitars and amps like nobody’s business, but I like the setup I’ve got now – I use a Vox AC10, which is pretty lightweight compared to a lot of the amplifiers out there.  

[Note:  Vox tube amplifiers were used by most of the great British Invasion bands.  The original Vox AC10 was discontinued in 1965, but a modern version of this classic amplifier is now available.]

2 or 3 lines:  Any special tuning?

Rich :  I pretty much use straight tuning – no drop D or open G or anything like that.  

Part two of my interview with Rich McPhee will appear in the next 2 or 3 lines.

*     *     *     *     *

Buffalo 40 will be releasing a five-song EP later this month.  It will include today’s featured song, “Troublin’ On My Mind,” which is my personal favorite among the Buffalo 40 songs I’ve heard.  It’s a smartly arranged and well-executed song that I think would hold its own against almost any million-selling country hit that’s on the radio today: 

Click here and you’ll be taken to Buffalo 40’s Reverbnation page, where you can purchase “Troublin’ On My Mind” and other Buffalo 40 songs.

For those of you who live in the Washington, DC area, Buffalo 40 will be appearing live at the Boundary Stone at 9:00 PM on Saturday, April 28.  (The Boundary Stone is located at 116 Rhode Island Ave., NW, in Washington – just a stone’s throw north of the US Capitol.)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kamasi Washington – "Final Thought" (2015)

When the first episode of season seven of Homeland begins, ex-CIA intelligence officer Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) is running as fast as she can on a treadmill as some very intense jazz blasts on the soundtrack.

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison
Carrie is bipolar, you see, and recent events have driven her to the brink of a hypomanic episode.

The camera moves in tighter and tighter on her face as the tenor sax blows louder and faster:

Run, Carrie, run!

*     *     *     *     *

“Final Thought” was released in 2015 on Kamasi Washington’s critically acclaimed debut studio album, Epic.  

It was an inspired choice for the scene of Carrie running on the treadmill.  Carrie has a brilliant and insightful mind, but her bipolar disorder causes that mind to come unmoored on occasion.

Kamasi Washington
The best thing about “Final Thought” is that it sounds like Washington is on the verge of losing control at times, but he never does.  I don’t listen to modern jazz very often, but this is pretty good music – pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Here’s “Final Thought," which starts off slowly but quickly builds:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

R.E.M. – "Stand" (1989)

Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before

I’ve believed for years that older people are smarter than younger people.  A recent poll by YouGovUS proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am right.

That poll asked 8215 Americans a very simple question: “Do you believe that the world is round or flat?”

Believe it or not, only 66% of millennials aged 18 to 24 answered “I have always believed that the world is round.”  While only 4% responded “I have always believed the world is flat,” another 9% said “I always thought the world was round, but more recently I am having doubts.”  And 16% chose “Not sure.”

By comparison, 76% of those aged 25 to 34, 82% of those aged 35 to 44, 85% of those aged 45 to 54, and 94% of those aged 55 and over responded “I have always believed the world is round.”  

In other words, the older you get, the smarter you are.

*     *     *     *     *

I find it absolutely dumbfounding that only two-thirds of young adults are sure that the earth is round.

What’s the explanation for this remarkable finding?  Is it the result of bad public school education?  Is it due to overindulgence in drugs and alcohol?

Is it because certain celebrities who are popular among millennials – including musician Father John Misty, rapper B.o.B., and NBA star Kyrie Irving – believe that the earth is flat?

(Last year, B.o.B. created a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising enough money to fund a private space exploration program that would prove once and for all that the earth is flat.  His goal was $1 million, but so far he has raised only $6893.  Millennials may be dumb, but they’re not that dumb.)

*     *     *     *     *

If the YouGovUS “flat earth” poll’s results aren’t enough to persuade you that millennials are dopes, maybe the “Screenholder Shower Curtain” will convince you.

The “Screenholder Shower Curtain” is a clear plastic shower curtain with pockets that allow you to use your smart phone or tablet while you’re in the shower.

Simply slip your phone or tablet into one of the 17 pockets on the outside of the curtain – some are horizontal and some are vertical, and they are positioned to accommodate both short and tall users.  The plastic is fully conductive, so you can interact with your devices while you’re in the shower – respond to e-mails and texts, watch videos, or even take selfies if you dare:

Obviously this product was designed for millennials.  (Anthony Weiner is also a potential customer, of course.)  

The possibility of accidentally posting a selfie of one’s naked, wet, wrinkled body is so horrific to people of my age that we’re not about to let one of these shower curtains anywhere near our bathrooms.  

*     *     *     *     *

I’m not sure that Michael Stipe and the other members of R.E.M. are flat-earthers, but the lyrics to their 1989 hit, “Stand” – which guitarist Peter Buck described as “the stupidest song we’ve ever written” – aren’t inconsistent with such a belief.

And the group’s “Man on the Moon” seems to suggest that NASA faked the moon landings. 

Just sayin’.

Here’s “Stand”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:    

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bee Gees – "Lonely Days" (1970)

Lonely days
Lonely nights

Loneliness is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.  One British expert has said that loneliness is more harmful to one’s health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

According to a recent report, nine million British adults – some 14% of the population – are often or always lonely.  

*     *     *     *     *

The British government isn’t ignoring the U.K.’s loneliness epidemic, as this attention-getting headline from the New York Times demonstrates:

U.K. Appoints a
Minister for Loneliness

I don’t mean to split hairs, but that headline is a bit misleading.

What actually happened is that British Prime Minister Theresa May assigned the Right Honorable Tracey Crouch, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, to lead a government working group that has been tasked with establishing the scale and consequences of loneliness in the U.K. and establish policies to deal with the problem.

It seems odd to me that the British government’s war on loneliness is being waged by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, whose main policy areas are arts and culture, broadcasting, gambling and horse racing, libraries, museums and galleries, sport, telecommunications, and tourism.   I would think loneliness would come under the purview of the Department of Health and Social Care, but what do I know?

*     *     *     *     *

I’m not sure why Ms. Crouch in particular was assigned to lead the British government’s efforts to beat loneliness.  Her official biography describes her as a “keen sports enthusiast” and a FA-qualified soccer coach.  That’s all well and good, but doesn’t indicate that she is qualified to deal with loneliness. 

The Right Honorable Tracey Crouch
In addition to heading up the anti-loneliness initiative, Crouch’s primary areas of responsibility include sport, gambling, horse racing, and the National Lottery.  Perhaps the Times headline should have read as follows:

U.K. Appoints a Minister for Sport, Gambling, Horse Racing, the National Lottery, and Loneliness

Ms. Crouch’s boss, the Right Honorable Matt Hancock, is also quite the sporting type.  From his biography:

He is the first [member of Parliament] in modern times to win a horse race, having raced to victory at the Newmarket July Course in August 2012.  He is an avid cricketer and plays for the Lords & Commons Cricket team.  Matthew once played the most northerly game of cricket on record, and succumbed to frostbite en route to the Pole.  He retains all his fingers.

The Right Honorable Matt Hancock
“He retains all his fingers.”  So do I – and hopefully you do as well – but does that really qualify one to oversee efforts to overcome loneliness?

*     *     *     *     *

Henry David Thoreau didn’t see loneliness as a big problem.  When it came to being alone, Thoreau couldn’t get enough: 

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.  To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  I love to be alone.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

I agree with Thoreau.  I’ve got 99 problems, but loneliness ain’t one.

*     *     *     *     *

Barry Gibb claims that he wrote “Lonely Days” in ten minutes.  

Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees
The song (which was released in 1970) was the group’s biggest U.S. hit to date, climbing all the way to the #3 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  

It’s a very Abbey Road-ish song.  (Side two, of course.)

Here’s “Lonely Days”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, April 6, 2018

Original Cast of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (feat. Victor Brox) – "This Jesus Must Die" (1970)

One thing I'll say for him
Jesus is cool

Yes, he is – as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, proved for once and for all.  

The original Jesus Christ Superstar album was released the month I started college:

Some Christians thought it was blasphemous, but my friends and I didn’t pay much attention to the theological niceties.  For us, it was just a really good album – it provided more food for thought than most albums of that era, but what we cared about most was the music.  

*     *     *     *     *

Last Sunday, NBC broadcast a live concert presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar in a theatre in Brooklyn.  

Pop stars John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alice Cooper were crowd-pleasing choices to play Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and King Herod, respectively.  But it was Broadway veteran Brandon Victor Dixon who stole the show as Judas.

Brandon Victor Dixon
Reviews of the presentation were generally favorable.  For example, the New York Times called the telecast a “conceptual and artistic triumph” that was “genuinely thrilling.”

*     *     *     *     *

I was all-in for Jesus Christ Superstar from the opening number.  But there was only one significant problem with the production: THERE WERE TOO DAMN MANY COMMERCIALS!

As I recall, the first commercial break came at about 20 minutes into the show.  The subsequent breaks were more frequent – it seemed like NBC couldn’t stand to go more than two or three songs without showing commercials.

All those commercials absolutely killed the dramatic momentum of the show.  The experience was completely different from watching live theatre.

Sara Bareilles and John Legend 
I wish NBC would have treated Jesus Christ Superstar like a Broadway musical.  They could have shown the first act without interruption, had a commercial-filled intermission, and then gone through the second act without interruption.

I suppose that the chances of a television network doing that instead of shoehorning as many ads as possible into the broadcast are approximately zero.  (By “approximately zero,” I really mean “exactly zero.”)

Which is a shame.  I can only imagine how intense and powerful this production might have been without all the commercial breaks.

*     *     *     *     *

I guess I could have DVR’ed the broadcast – or, rather, I guess I could have asked my son to DVR the broadcast on the basement TV (where our DVR is) and then watched the show down there a night or two later.

But it was a live presentation, and I wanted to see it as it happened.  (I don’t DVR the SuperBowl and watch it on Monday just so I can skip the commercials.)

Thanks for being a buzzkill, NBC!

*     *     *     *     *

I said there was only one significant problem with the broadcast – the excessive number of commercial breaks – but there was actually one other problem.

Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper’s much-ballyhooed portrayal of King Herod was just awful.  Oddly, the problem with Alice’s performance of “King Herod’s Song” – a piece of musical slapstick that’s intended to give the audience a little comic relief before all the whipping and crucifixion nastiness gets going – wasn’t that it was too over the top, but that it wasn’t over the top enough.  You need whoever plays Herod to ham it up big time, but it seemed like Cooper (who just turned 70 years old) didn’t have the energy to do his song justice.

The audience nonetheless went ga-ga over good ol’ Alice.  And when it came time for curtain calls, there was Alice – who was on stage for one three-minute song – taking bows with Legend, Bareilles, and Dixon, who were more or less omnipresent during the performance.

*     *     *     *     *

The lines from “This Jesus Must Die” that are quoted above are sung by Caiaphas, one of the Jewish high priests who plotted to kill Jesus.  We don’t know a lot about Caiaphas, but I’m pretty sure he never said, “Jesus is cool.”

Victor Brox sang the role of Caiaphas on the original 1970 recording of Jesus Christ Superstar, which was the best-selling album of 1971.  (It outsold even Carole King’s Tapestry).   Brox is a white British blues singer who has performed or recorded with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and many others.

Here’s “This Jesus Must Die”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Animals – "Cheating" (1966)

I know you’ve been

Since I retired last year, I’ve been trying new things.

For example, when I woke up with the flu last Friday, I did something I’d never done before: I installed myself on the sofa and binge-watched an entire season of a television show in a single day.

It would have been too much to get through an entire season of a dramatic show with hour-long episodes in just one day – especially when I kept nodding off – so I binge-watched the first season of Master of None, a Netflix comedy series with half-hour-long episodes.

*     *     *     *     *

Master of None stars Indian-American comedian Aziz Ansari as Dev Shah, an aspiring thirty-something actor who lives in an apartment in New York City and hangs out with an eccentric but lovable group of single friends.  (If you think that the show sounds like Seinfeld and Friends and Girls and Louie and numerous other old and new sitcoms, you’re right.)

The critics went absolutely ga-ga over Master of None.  The show is very funny at times but not so funny at other times.  In fact, it’s downright annoying at times.  

When I say Master of None is downright annoying at times, I really mean Aziz Ansari is downright annoying at times.  

*     *     *     *     *

The Master of None episode titled “The Other Man” was by far the most interesting episode from the show’s first season.  First one thing, it starred Claire Danes.  For another, it starred Claire Danes.

Claire Danes
In “The Other Man,” Danes plays a well-known restaurant reviewer named Nina who starts talking to Dev at a party so she can avoid talking to some other guy.  One thing leads to another, and pretty soon Dev and Nina are back at her gorgeous Manhattan apartment, ready to get busy.

But they don’t get busy.  That’s because Dev notices a photograph of Nina with a handsome guy on a table near the sofa where they are making out.  She claims the guy is her brother, but Dev is suspicious – when he points out that she’s wearing a wedding dress in the photo, she fesses up and admits she is, in fact, married to the guy.  As a result, Dev decides not to have sex with Nina.

*     *     *     *     *

The plot of “The Other Man” strained credulity.  We’re talking CLAIRE DANES here, boys and girls.  We’re supposed to believe that Dev would turned this woman down just because she’s married?  (Not a chance, dude.)

Danes and Ansari – in your dreams, dude
There was another problem as well.  I didn’t believe for a minute that the Claire Danes character would have been interested in the Aziz Ansari character.  Ansari is short and not particularly attractive, and his character is goofy and immature.  

*     *     *     *     *

Not surprisingly, Dev begins to have second thoughts about his decision as soon as he leaves Nina’s  apartment.  

One of his friends – a lesbian who is much more of a sexual predator than the straight male characters in the show – tells him there was no reason for him to feel guilty about sleeping with Nina just because she’s married.  After all, she’s the one who’s cheating.  (Dev’s not only unmarried, but doesn’t even have a girlfriend).  Also, she and her husband don’t have children – in her view, sleeping with someone else’s wife isn’t a big deal, but sleeping with someone else’s mom is.  

Dev eventually comes around to his lesbian friend’s point of view, but only after he sees the husband acting like an entitled assh*le at a neighborhood ice cream shop.  Because the husband is a pr*ck, it’s OK to mess with him.  So Dev pays a booty call on Nina.

Claire Danes in “Homeland”
The script then jumps the shark.  Dev and Nina get caught by her husband.  He flips his lid, but so does she – the hubby has a little somethin’ somethin’ going on the side as well, and Nina calls him on his infidelity when she gets caught in the act.  

A month later Dev runs into the couple and learns that his getting caught with Nina by her husband has saved their marriage.  The incident caused the two to face their infidelity issues head on and work through them.  Now they are the happiest they’ve been since they were newlyweds.

In other words, Dev helped save a couple’s marriage by having sex with the wife.  (Really?)

*     *     *     *     *

What’s the coolest thing about being the creator and the star of a successful TV series?  You have the ability to cast CLAIRE DANES on the show as a character who has the hots for your character.

I guarantee you that when Ansari cast Danes for the Nina role, he fantasized that Danes might be attracted to him and that something would happen between them off-camera.  (I’m sure he knew it was a long shot – probably an extremely long shot – but dum spiro, spero as they say in South Carolina.

And I also guarantee you that he wrote the episode the way he did in hopes of making a favorable impression on her.  First, his character turns her down when he finds out she is married – how noble is that!  Second, when Dev does have sex with Nina after all, that leads to Nina and her husband rekindling the spark of love that made them get married in the first place.  In other words, Dev’s getting caught having sex with a married woman saved her marriage.  

(Hey, it was worth a shot)
If you don’t think that Ansari was hoping against hope that his script would make Danes consider the possibility that having sex with him off camera would be a good thing for her real-life marriage, you don’t understand how the male mind works.

*     *     *     *     *

“Cheating” – which was written by Eric Burton and Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler – was the B-side to the group’s 1966 hit, “Don’t Bring Me Down.”  Both songs were released on the Animals’ fourth American album, Animalization. 

Here’s “Cheating,” which plays during the closing credits of “The Other Man”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: