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The Inspiring Steve Forbert Memoir, or Another Great Gift From Romeo: Big City Cat

September 11, 2018
bradspurgeon

Big City Cat Cover

Big City Cat Cover

PARIS – I am so relieved to have just finished reading Steve Forbert’s memoir, “Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock.” I am a very slow reader, and I had been glued to it during every off-moment of the past three or four days since I downloaded it into my Kindle – wreaking havoc on the rest of my life. I had been waiting patiently for the book’s release date and the moment that came, I downloaded it and dug in. Were it not for other commitments I would have finished it in a single reading, if possible. As it was, I was forced to put down the Elvis Costello autobiography to read Forbert’s, but I couldn’t kill all of my commitments – work, family and social. So it took a few days. Why all the excitement?

Let me use the Costello book, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,” as a point of departure. Forbert and Costello were born only four months apart in 1954, with Costello being the older of the two. I was born almost exactly three years after Forbert. They were born on different sides of the Atlantic ocean, and both became famous at almost the same time – Costello’s first album, “My Aim is True” was released in July ’77, while Forbert’s first album, “Alive on Arrival” came out in June ’78. I was living off my busking in London’s Marble Arch subways at the time Costello’s album appeared, and I was renting a bed in a crappy hotel in Notting Hill Gate. I remember seeing the posters all over the place for Costello’s album, with the photos of the nerd with the horn-rimmed glasses, and I remember thinking, “Who is this clown?” In time (years, really), Costello would become one of my favorite singer songwriters, and remains so today.

Forbert, for me, was a completely different story. He was one of my early musical influences. But not from his album, it was from having attended open mic nights at Folk City in New York City in 1976 when he was starting out, and I met him there, and talked to him about himself a little as we stood in line outside in the cold, waiting to sign our names to the list for the night’s open mic. He uses the older term “hootenanny,” and writes extensively about this period in his life. It fills in a background for me not only of his life, but of the life I took part in at the time but only briefly, and only barely, and especially of all that I missed by not staying in NYC long enough before returning to Toronto.

Alive on Arrival

Alive on Arrival


At the time, I was very interested in talking to him because, for me at 18, seeing this 21-year-old take to the stage and spread some kind of magic around the room, filling the place with a presence and a sound that I could not identify, I wondered what the hell was going on here? What was happening that the room changed when “Little Stevie Orbit” took to the stage? What orbit did he come in from? I was confused, particularly since I knew that my own efforts on stage as a musician at the time were so poor, and so many of the other musicians taking part in the “hoot” sounded simply human – not from another galaxy or time warp.

So his influence on me was something in his performance that I continued to search for a long while and eventually started to grasp one evening while busking in London in the fall of ’77, the following year, and feeling something about how to use the whole body and express through the body and voice the fire of the emotion burning inside the gut. (It would take me many, many more years, even so, to get to any point where I could be in any way satisfied with a feeling of how to reproduce that thing at will.) So it is that I know exactly what Forbert’s eventual manager, Danny Fields, was referring to when he describes in the book what got him interested in the young Forbert:

“I … loved the intensity of performance — I would say that most of all,” Fields is quoted saying. “I don’t remember words, just remembered he played, he sang and he played and he stomped with his boots, so he was like a one-man band and I liked that.”

That’s a bit of a crude and simple description of the thing Forbert gave off – in addition to the rich, unique rasp of his young voice – but it does indicate it was this “thing” that was being communicated and reaching everyone that listened and saw him perform. There was a genuineness that came through it all, too. And in reading this autobiography, I realize where the genuineness came from: Forbert, who reached international fame in the pop charts in 1979 with “Romeo’s Tune,” is about as genuine as they come. This book is genuine. Unlike so many efforts at propaganda that show business personalities release as memoirs or autobiography, “Big City Cat,” gives several sides of the story.

There is the beautifully told, laid back, easy voice of Forbert – his Mississippi voice comes through – telling the main narrative (in which he frequently talks about his own failings as well as his strong points and successes). But the book also gives space for several of the other people involved in his career, including the aforementioned Fields, who are given what appears to be freedom to talk about the bad side of Forbert as well as the good. (At one point Forbert just fired his whole entourage, without much explanation, including Fields – and it was for good. Oh, and he goes on doing the same with his managers for decades.)

Forbert as “the new Bob Dylan”?

And so, yes, it turns out, the “bad side” is mostly, possibly, bad for Forbert himself, who does not hide that he probably made some mistakes in his career choices that led to his career peaking in the late-70s, early ’80s before he completely disappeared from the pop firmament and never had another hit like Romeo’s Tune. He was one of a long line of singer songwriters who were cursed with the epithet, “the new Bob Dylan.”

“I say to this day that, deep down, Steve Forbert wanted to be the new Bob Dylan and/or the new Elvis Presley,” writes Fields. “And, the cataclysm, you know, was when he woke up and he was not either the new Bob Dylan or the new Elvis Presley. It became apparent after the third album—he was not the new Bob Dylan—and he lashed out.”

But here’s the beauty of the book, in Forbert’s immediate response in the main narrative:

“Any career disappointments I had didn’t center around the cliché of being the “new Bob Dylan.” I never put any credence in that,” Forbert writes. “I knew enough to know that that tag put me in some pretty good company, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, and Loudon Wainwright being three. I’m sure they would agree that what it basically conjured was a talent for poetic storytelling. As far as whatever literal expectations it might set up, it was nothing to be taken seriously. No one new was ever going to be able to bring about the radical changes the real Bob Dylan had brought to songwriting.”

“In my case, my illusions were shattered when I didn’t manage to follow the success of “Romeo’s Tune.” I had been under the impression that I could accomplish pretty much anything I wanted to do. For a while I could. And then, lo and behold, I couldn’t.”

This reminds me exactly – paradoxically – of the quote in Bob Dylan’s memoir, “Chronicles,” where after the producer Daniel Lanois beseeches Dylan to write some new songs like the epic greats he wrote in the 1960s, Dylan responds that he would love to, but that he can no longer do that – that that was another time, place and Dylan. (I am paraphrasing without returning to read the original quote.)

But true to his genuineness, Steve Forbert has continued writing songs, playing music, loving music, being obsessed by music, to this day. And making albums. And touring endlessly, including around Europe and elsewhere. (I saw Forbert solo in a small town in England in 2013.) Here is, finally, a man who – after semi-serious alcohol problems in addition to the career problems – appears to be ultimately at peace with himself and his career.

“By the time “Romeo’s Tune” was a hit I had already surpassed my personal level of comfort with, oddly enough, the very goals I’d set out to achieve,” he writes near the end of the book. “If it’s clear that I am not the type of personality that would ever be at ease with a household name–level of fame, then I should be pretty comfortable these days.”

Beyond Romeo’s Tune: Or the Forbert behind it all

For me, Forbert’s voice, his talent, his “thing” from Folk City suddenly made sense to me in the middle of October 1978 when I had just returned from one of the most painful episodes of my life, living in Iran during the Revolution, and I was taking a black London taxi from the airport back to the apartment where I had been living while in London for most of the previous year. All of a sudden, over the cab radio I heard a song, I think it was “Goin’ Down to Laurel,” and I instantly recognized the voice and the feeling. It was that guy from Folk City from two years earlier.

All of my questions and confusion suddenly got answered and straightened out. He had simply been so fabulous and gifted that he was destined to be heard on the radio. It hit me with all the greater power because I was returning from the hell of the revolution in Teheran to the comfort of the West, and felt life opening up with endless possibilities. Forbert’s voice and performance seemed to fit right in with that sense of an optimistic future.

And as life’s strange synchronicities would have it, the apartment where I was heading was that of Paul Gambaccini, the American BBC radio DJ and pop music writer, which was where I had lived before heading for Iran. Paul was unaware that I was returning – but I still had my key – and so he came home that afternoon to find me sleeping on the couch in the living room. It was a slightly awkward situation for a moment, as he had come home with a couple of people he was going to interview; a guy named Bob Geldof and his girlfriend Paula Yates.

I had no idea who Geldof was – other than Paul telling me he was a singer in a band called the Boomtown Rats -, but when Geldof discovered I had just returned from the revolution in Iran, he was more interested in talking about that than doing the interview with Paul. His probing questions about the life of the people of Iran I would look at in future years as highly significant of his character: The man who eventually became famous and knighted for his charity concerts and philanthropy nearly a decade later to help people in need, was already interested in the needy people of Iran in 1978.

All of that might appear like going off topic, but I don’t think it is: Whatever you do in life, it will be influenced by the character guiding the whole enterprise. The true “you,” that you are, the one that makes the decisions every waking moment. And reading Forbert’s book, I feel I have finally understood what made up this massively talented “one-hit wonder,” who has, in fact, had a lot more to contribute to the musical world than just “Romeo’s Tune.”

And this draws us back around to the Costello book, which as reflected in its title, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,” is a completely different read from a completely different character. Where Forbert’s could be read in a single rollercoaster read (or ride) the Costello book, like his music, is a vast tapestry of stories, memories and impressions in a language that is much more involved than in the Forbert book. I saw an interview with Costello recently on YouTube where he says that the book is meant to be read very slowly (which made me feel immediately better about myself and my slow – but relishing – reading of his book). So I felt no problem dropping it for the Forbert rollercoaster, and I will now pick it up again. Suffice it to say, there could not be a bigger difference in philosophy between the two books – as I think there is in the two lives, and the two musicians’ music….

By the way, in another strange twist of fate, in 1980 when I was back in Toronto and preparing to go to see Forbert in concert after the release of his third album, “Little Stevie Orbit,” I glanced into the window of the record store on the way to the concert and saw suddenly jumping out at me the name of the man who had written the liner notes to the album: Paul Gambaccini! How the hell did that happen?!?! Come to think of it, Paul might well have been the DJ who put the Forbert tune on the radio in London as I was in the cab on the way back.

I highly recommend anyone who does not know Forbert’s music to get listening immediately, and go out and get this book. It’s a great read about the whole pop music world of the last 50 years. Forbert was one of the rare musicians who appeared to be equally at home at Folk City – and other Greenwich Village folk clubs – AND at the rock mecca of CBGB’s, where he opened for the budding band known as Talking Heads and others, including John Cale. (And don’t miss him as the boyfriend in Cyndi Lauper’s video of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun!”)

What a life!

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 12th Installment: Pete and the HoboSapiens, Downtown Merrylegs, Aaron Bowen, Scott Bricklin, Rose Gabriel, Box for Letters and Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

September 20, 2017
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my 12th “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the 11th of which ran in May 2016 – I have seven musicians or groups to talk about, all of which were discovered in the open mics I attended since then. (Although I have known some of them for a few years.)

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

First, as a reminder, the idea behind this regular – but occasional – column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to do without it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – or riding the apartment cycle in front of the TV, which staves off the boredom – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

Pete and the HoboSapiens


Pete and the HoboSapiens – Time and Place

The thing that really gave me the kick in the butt to get my 11th edition of this morning exercise rundown out fast was the reception yesterday of this video to a new project by Pete Cogavin, his new band called: Pete and the HoboSapiens. I just loved this song, “Time and Place,” and sound and video so much that I thought I should get the thing up on my blog along with the other stuff I have been exercising to as quickly as possible. Pete I met in 2010 or 2011 when he was hosting his own evening of music at Shapko in Nice, France. He let me go up on stage to sing a few songs, as he did most people who asked, in his informal open mic at the time. We met the following year too, I believe, and have kept in touch ever since. I loved his voice and music at the time, but it is clearly growing and developing. There is a song-writing skill here, the music is bright and uplifting, it just bounces along, the voice has its distinct Pete Cogavin quality, and there has been some nice effort put into the video. You can also find Pete and the HoboSapiens’ full new CD on Spotify.

The Downtown Merrylegs: Pollen Cloud

Downtown Merrylegs

Downtown Merrylegs

I discovered this Paris-based English band through performing at the Rush Bar open mic, hosted by the genial Charlie Seymour, an Englishman who has spent decades playing music in bars in Paris without us somehow having run into each other until he began hosting that open mic this year! I usually arrived at the open mic too late to hear his opening set – of which I am ashamed – but one day recently when I gave him a copy of my CD, he gave me a copy of his. What a fabulous surprise this CD and band, The Downtown Merrylegs, most of the songs of which Seymour writes and sings. This is British folk rock of a kind I like, but the thing that was extraordinary was when I suddenly realized how close this man’s voice sounds to one of my favorite singing voices of recent years: Wally Page. Page is a little-known Irishman who has, nevertheless, written songs and performed with Christy Moore, the great Irish traditional singer songwriter of Planxty fame. But while Seymour’s voice may be a dead-ringer for Page’s, the stories they tell are entirely their own.

Aaron Bowen and his Wide Sky and other CDs

Wide Sky - Aaron Bowen

Wide Sky – Aaron Bowen

Aaron Bowen has a story to tell in his music, sure, like most singer songwriters. But this San Diego musician who visits Paris regularly, also has a very cool story to tell about his music, the latest which release is “Wide Sky” from More Than Folk Records in Paris. Working in a business in his 20s he suddenly had to sell the business, and found himself deciding to make a life in music. One day, jamming with a friend, he had written a song and wanted the friend or someone to sing it. “Oh, you can try to sing it yourself,” said the friend. Bowen, a fabulous guitar player from a musical family, said to his friend that he could not sing at all. The friend pushed him to try. He sang the song, and out poured the most mellifluous and original voice the friend had heard in a while – and it hit every single note perfectly. Comparisons now often come to the voice of Paul Simon. Whatever. A new singing, songwriting career was born, and Bowen never looked back. I love this CD, Wide Sky, one of two he gave me in recent months, the other being a thing call Spring Demo. But I’ll keep that to myself for the moment! Oh, and by the way, I just wrote that story about his vocals from memory after a night at a Paris open mic many months ago. It is quite possible that I got some details wrong, but that’s the gist of it!!!!

Scott Bricklin, Not Lost at all, on Lost Till Dawn

Scott Bricklin - Lost Till Dawn

Scott Bricklin – Lost Till Dawn

Scott Bricklin is a hugely talented multi-instrumentalist from Philadelphia, who had a previous life on a label somewhere in the U.S. with a band with his brother. Now a permanent Paris expat, he is keeping very busy playing here and around Europe, and has just come out with another album of his cool, laid back folk rock. (At least that’s the way I hear it.) What makes this very homogenous album really interesting for me, and maybe for one or two readers of this blog, is that unlike the last CD of Bricklin that I heard – on which he played basically all the instruments – here on “Lost Till Dawn,” a good most of the CD consists of Bricklin playing along with Félix Beguin and Jeremy Norris. These are the same three performers who played on the first five songs on my CD, “Out of a Jam.” (Beguin also played on two of the other five tracks on my CD.) So it was really cool to hear what other fabulous sounds these guys could make, and it was not a disappointment.

Wrapping Up With Rose Gabriel, Box for Letters and Paolo Alderighi & Stephanie Trick

And so I come to the round up area at the end of this morning exercise report. I’m not rounding up these final CDs because they are in any way lesser in my heart, but because, holy crap, if I don’t get this page out there tonight, who knows how much longer I’ll be sitting on it before I finish it! It has already been so long!

Rose Gabriel

Rose Gabriel

I am not one to love country music, but the songs, stories and vocals of Rose Gabriel’s very personal “Desert Flowers” completely subjugated me. Rose is from Austin, Texas, and I have also seen her a couple of times in Paris. But it was not until I listened to her CD that I really sat back and realized the original voice and stories she had to tell – although the last performance I saw of her at the Rush Bar in Paris was so great that I wasted no time at all listening to the CD she had given me that night!! All about life growing up in Texas, this is very coollll… or rather, hot.

Box for Letters

Box for Letters

I met the lead singer, songwriter, for the Malaysian Band “Box for Letters,” on my last trip to Kuala Lumpur last year, and found a highly original voice and temperament, and another extraordinary story to tell: Here was a man with a promising musical career who suddenly, very young, had a terrible motorcycle accident. Among the multiple injuries were a severely fractured jaw. It seemed his singing and playing career was over. But no. It took him a year or two, but he came back with this beautiful recording – Cerap.

Alderighi and Trick

Alderighi and Trick

Finally, and this is not last as least, Double Trio, is the fabulous live album of Paolo Alderighi and Stephanie Trick, a married couple who are both leading stride piano players. I have written about them several times before on this blog, which is why I am not doing more here now, but this CD (with Marty Eggers on bass and Danny Coots on drums) is a real fabulous demonstration of what this couple can do live in their four-hands act. I had the great pleasure of hearing them in Milan recently, and I can attest to it that this CD is a perfect representation of what they do. Alderighi is from Milan, by the way, and is certainly Italy’s greatest young jazz export, and Trick is from the home of stride piano, St. Louis – where they both spend much of the little time they have when not travelling to put on shows!

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my 12th edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

The Inspirational Example of John McLaughlin, at the New Morning in Paris

March 4, 2017
bradspurgeon

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

PARIS – It was 1973, in Ottawa, and I had recently discovered Jimi Hendrix and was looking for another guitarist of equal genius. Perhaps it had to do with Hendrix being dead, perhaps it was because Hendrix was so good that I could not accept that one man alone have that level of talent. In any case, it was through a neighbour who was a little older than me, who passed on a few records of potential Hendrixes, that I found another guitar genius of a completely different kind. Among those records were Santana, which I liked but did not fall in love with, and this other guitarist with his album of the amazingly strange, almost psychedelic cover; this was no Hendrix, but in his own way, with something stricter, more ordered, and yet chaotically, bizarrely ordered, I discovered John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the album “Birds of Fire.”

Having been raised with jazz – from my father’s vast record collection – and having actually attended concerts by bands called The Duke Ellington Orchestra, or The Count Basie Orchestra, the idea of an “orchestra” that had nothing to do with symphonies was not foreign to me, despite my chest-length hair and hippie sensibilities. In fact, the clearly Eastern sound to the name of the Mahavishnu Orchestra was as intriguing as Hendrix’s hallucinogenic covers.

Then, as soon as I heard the first notes of the first piece – “Birds of Fire” – I knew I would go right out and buy that album. It was probably the only one of those that my friend lent me that I did buy. The Santana was far too soft for me, but while John McLaughlin was not at all like Jimi Hendrix, and could never “replace” the reality – or rather, irreality – that Hendrix offered me, this was clearly one of the coolest guitarists I had ever heard. His style was unmistakably his. The frenetic, manic, super fast playing was a wonder to listen to, but the songs also made up a world of their own to which I felt like some kind of initiate allowed to step in to a world that sounded to me like my own generation’s Bach.
John McLaughlin at New Morning fourth

In a time, now, when all of the heroes of my generation – and in fact, the heroes of all the popular music of the second half of the 20th century – are dying what seems like almost at a daily rate over the last couple of years, that a hero like John McLaughlin, is not just still alive, but playing as if he was still 30, at the age of 75, is not just an incredible gift, it is a wonder and an inspiration. It took me 44 years before I ever got to see McLaughlin in concert, but seeing him Wednesday night in Paris in the intimate New Morning venue, was like being invited into one of the local practice studios neighbouring this legendary music venue, and hearing and seeing this hero of my youth.
John McLaughlin at New Morning seventh

And it was fitting that almost immediately, McLaughlin and his latest band, the 4th Dimension, played “Miles Beyond,” from that very album, “Birds of Fire.” Unlike at so many concerts by heroes of the past, though, I found myself equally mesmerised and carried away by songs that I did not even know of, some of them from the most recent recordings of this amazing guitarist. McLaughlin is a treasure, and if you get a chance to go and see him on his upcoming tour in Europe, or his later tour this year in the U.S., which will be his first there in something like a decade or so, just don’t miss it. And take music lovers from the current generation, since McLaughlin is not just a jazzman, he is a rocker.
drummer scat stuff with John Mclaughlin at new morning eighth

He may have come of age with his jazz rock fusion, but the fabulous thing about McLaughlin is that anyone who studies much about the history of rock music will find that he came out of the same England that produced so many of the rock stars of the 60s, playing at one point with Alexis Koerner’s band, actually giving lessons to Jimmy Page at one point, and performing as a session musician for a vast swathe of other musicians-
John McLaughlin at the New Morning first

And then, of course, he played with Miles Davis and others, including segues into projects like his Band of Doom with Jaco Pastorius.

And then there was John McLaughlin’s Incredible 4th Dimension band

Not only is it worth seeing and hearing him now because he is in more than full control of his instrument at age 75, and still looking like a supercool dude from the rock generation rather than any kind of sit-down old fart bluesman – he stood up for the whole show while playing, and took just one minute break on a stool to take a drink, in a more than 2 hour show – but he also has accompanying him three outstanding musicians who all look like they are enjoying themselves as much as McLaughlin is.
John McLaughlin at the New Morning third

On bass was the fabulous Étienne M’Bappé, originally from Cameroon, who has a bass playing style equally aggressive as McLaughlin’s inimitable guitar playing. M’Bappé is the first bass player I have seen play with gloves, by the way. But his playing is so percussive that I’m not surprised he wants to protect those fingers – I just can’t figure out how he does it!
John McLaughlin at the New Morning again

On drums was Ranjit Barot, and Indian drummer who grew up in the tradition of Indian classical music, but has vast CV playing in numerous styles, and also has scored films, composed, arranges, everything. And he sings fabulously well too, and loved his sort of scat stuff.
John McLaughlin at the New Morning second

And on keyboards, and occasionally also on drums, was the incredible Gary Husband, who to my ears sounded equally as good on drums as on keyboards. Husband has played with Mike Stern, Jack Bruce, Robin Trower, Billy Cobham, Spectrum 40, Level 42, Andy Summers and Quincey Jones, among many others.

Some of the most touching moments of the evening were his pieces that Mclaughlin wrote for moments that clearly filled him with great emotion, like the song he wrote during the bombing of Gaza, or the song for his friend Paco de Lucia. The duelling drum moments between Husband and Barot were also a hugely entertaining bit that gave spectators a little of everything through the night in the intimate room for a band that could fill Paris’s biggest theatres.

Birds of Fire

Birds of Fire


What was really most inspiring about this show, aside from just listening to great music, was to think of a man of 75 playing as if he was 30, no impediments from age. He spoke in French most of the evening, too, by the way, as he lives in Monaco since the late 80s, and he said at one point that he had a broken collarbone on the mend. Having had my collarbone break on three different occasions as a slightly perturbed child, I know just how painful that is. And for a guitarist of 75 to stand up and move around and play with his guitar strapped over his shoulder with an injury like that, there’s nothing to say but that McLaughlin, in addition to everything else, is a real trouper.

Paris Photo Shoot and “Out of a Jam” on all Music Download and Streaming Sites

December 11, 2016
bradspurgeon

Brad Spurgeon by Pierre Nguyen

Brad Spurgeon by Pierre Nguyen

PARIS – At about the same time in the fall, I had a fabulous day in a hot, Indian Summer in Paris in a park and on the Seine River shooting with a photo group that wanted to do photos of musicians, and I released my CD, Out of a Jam, online.  

With the photoshoot, a Paris “meet-up” that I found on Facebook, I jumped at the opportunity and it resulted in some nice photos.  It felt more special with that coinciding with the release of my album, “Out of a Jam,” on all the usual online music sites, a few months after the album came out in CD format. I finally got the photos up on my personal music site, and BradSpurgeonMusic.com in a gallery.

Check out the gallery and check out the album at all the usual suspects: iTunesSpotifyBandcamp, and who knows how many others!

Mad World – around the (mad) world

December 9, 2016
bradspurgeon

The World

The World

PARIS – Regular readers of this blog will know that one of the songs I sing most often on my world travels is the now classic Tears for Fears song, “Mad World.” I really don’t know how this came to be a staple of my open mic stage repertoire. Well, except that I like playing it, everyone seems to know it, and it turns out to be one of the few songs that I feel really comfortable playing impromptu when I’ve got other musicians on stage, none of whom I have ever played with.

With the recent absolutely MAD events around the world – such things as the Donald Trump election, Brexit, Italy, who knows what in France, and goodness knows how many surprises to come in the future – I thought it was a good moment to make a video of as many of the “Mad World” videos that I could find of me playing in open mics and open jam sessions around the world. The idea was to join them all together at the lip, and use as the common thread the recording of “Mad World” that I have on my album, released this year, “Out of Jam.” (Which is available now on all the basic downloading sites, such as iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, and who knows how many others!)

I also decided to let slip into the video the occasional “live” sound from the actual recordings at the open mics, where it seems to fit O.K. without too much disruption.

Needless to say, this compilation of “Mad World” moments from early 2010 up until last month in 2016, is only a small sample of the hundreds of times, and dozens of countries in which I have sung the song solo or in a group, due to the fact that I’m usually not the subject of the videos for this blog, but the recorder of the videos. This video represent some of the few occasions in which someone actually did record me – and I have so many other musicians around the world to thank for the times they played “Mad World” or other songs with me, that it would take too long here – and be too boring – to name them all.

So check out the link above, to my “Mad World – Around the (mad) world.”

A mad idea in a mad world, for a Mad World.

“Out of a Jam” Now Up on Bandcamp – With the Lyrics to the Songs

September 5, 2016
bradspurgeon

Out of a Jam

Out of a Jam

PARIS – Back in Paris after a long train ride from Milan, I’ve finally finished putting up on Bandcamp my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I released this year. This is the first of what I’m planning to be many different releases for the CD on various sites – iTunes, etc. – and I really like this particular site, Bandcamp. Anyway, what is really really cool about the Bandcamp site is that it incited – no pun intended – me to use their feature to put up the lyrics of the songs too. So for the first time, I have put up the music – these are the mastered versions of the songs exactly like on the CD (my SoundCloud versions were not mastered) – as well as the lyrics, and where I feel I have some grasp of the names of the actual chords that I play, I have put up the chords too! So go check out “Out of a Jam” on bradspurgeon.bandcamp.com, if you do not already have a copy of the CD. Well, what the hell, go check it out even if you do!

A Musical Experience in Milan – or Rather, in the Paddock at Monza… Joan Thiele

September 1, 2016
bradspurgeon

Joan ThieleMONZA, Italy – So far so horrible on the level of my open mic experiences in Milan. Followers of this blog will have noticed – or not – that in the last few years I have mostly been playing on Thursday night at a blues jam in a bar/restaurant called Fermento. Well, this year, this very night in fact, that jam don’t exist no more!!!! But I have had a really, really fun and very cool musical experience in Italy in the least expected of places: In the Formula One paddock in Monza, where I do my day job this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix. How so? It gets kind of long and complicated, so I’ll skip that for the moment, but let me just say that the experience was all about a mini-concert given in the motor home of one of the Formula One teams, by an Italian singer-songwriter by the name of Joan Thiele. I’ll try to get the rest of that story down here in as few words as possible, but that won’t be easy….

So it turns out that the Formula One team, called Manor, has as one of its sponsors, the music app called Shazam. And it turns out that Shazam is doing few little mini concerts around the world in conjunction with Formula One. (Does that sound like an alternative to the tiny desk concerts on NPR??!! In a way it is!) And it turns out that they try to use a local musician each time. So, as the PR woman at Manor knew that I was interested in music, she asked me if I had seen they were going to have a mini-motor-home-concert in Monza tonight. As it turned out, a sucker for the image of a microphone, I had indeed noticed this playbill outside the motorhome not three minutes before.
Joan Thiele – Save Me

So I went to the mini motorhome concert and found that, on the top floor of the motorhome – henceforth to be called a hospitality suite – they had set up a beautiful little playing area for the musician. There was a Fender Stratocaster, a ukulele, a couple of amplifiers, a microphone, and a mixing table. I felt envy and desire to go and play. Until I heard the musician, and said, no, I just want to listen to this. Enter Joan Thiele. What a mix of everything: A father who is Swiss, Italian, Canadian, Colombian, and who knows what all else, and Joan’s mother also a mix from one or two of those areas, and Joan having grown up partly in Colombia, but living in Italy now, and having spent two or three years in England, and learning her trade at open mics etc., this woman of – I think – 22 years old, got up with her Strat and used it as a kind of electro-music surrogate, and her voice too. Vocals that reminded me to a degree of Lana del Ray, and a sound that goes in that same direction – that’s my feeling, but there’s much more (in fact, I had a colleague who thought one of the songs reminded him of, “Down on my knees, I’m beggin’ ya…) – I listened quite hypnotised to the five or six songs she played. (Another colleague said she had Brooke Shield’s eyebrows.)
Joan Thiele – Taxi Driver

And I suddenly found myself forgetting I was in the Formula One paddock. As it turned out, I need not forget this: The Formula One paddock is a hugely diverse place. And it also turns out, then, that in that world, another of the reasons that we had Joan Thiele – who is working on her first album, and her A&R person from Universal Music was there with her – is also represented by Trident Management, which is a management and promotions agency that also owns one of the Formula One support race teams in the series known as GP2, the Trident Motorsport team. So it all suddenly fit together, in a way. Trident also represents two very well-know Italian musicians, Eros Ramazzotti and Jovanotti.
Joan Thiele – Hotline Bling

In any case, the other thing that fits together is that this being within the Formula One paddock, I, as a print media man with a print media pass, cannot use the video I made of Joan’s hypnotizing performance. The Formula One promoter sells audio visual rights to the television and radio companies for huge sums of money, and that then means that print media journalists cannot use any audio visual footage – or sound files – that they gather in the paddock, without fear of huge problems.

So my recordings will have to wait for the future. But in the meantime, I’ve decided to cut and paste some of Joan Thiele’s music videos that I find on the web into the blog to show who it was I got to hear and speak to today in the Formula One paddock and feel that from a musical point of view, my trip to Italy, even if it wreaps no musical stage-time for me, will have been fulfilling in another way! A nice discovery. Check her out, Joan Thiele.

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 11th Installment:

May 18, 2016
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my 11th “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the 10th of which ran on 29th December 2015 – I have, fittingly, 11 CDs to talk about, all of which were received from musicians I have met in open mics over the last few months. (Although I have known some of them for a few years.) No, wait, I’m wrong. There is one of them that I received from a friend in England, who is a friend of one of the musicians, and we kind of did a trade of our CDs, mine for theirs. And you could not get two different sounds! Back to that in a second.

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

First, as a reminder, the idea behind this regular – but occasional – column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to do without it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – or riding the apartment cycle in front of the TV, which staves off the boredom – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Haunting Cello Suites from Kirk Brandon, with Sam Sansbury

Cello Suites of Kirk BrandonThis is the one CD that I did not receive directly from the hands of the musician at an open mic, as I have never met Kirk Brandon. Brandon was the leading member of the post punk, new wave band Theatre of Hate, and then the more mainstream, Spear of Destiny. We’re talking early 1980s Britain, with the former group’s Westworld album rising to 17th position in the British charts. He has had a long, varied and sometimes controversial (can it be any other way for a former punk?) career, including playing in the supergroup Dead Men Walking. I was given this CD, Cello Suites, by a friend in England who knows the cello player, Sam Sansbury, who accompanies Brandon’s guitar and vocals, in a very haunting, minimalistic style of music that holds together from the beginning of the album to the end in an original concept of darkness and light. What the hell do I mean by that? Well, with Brandon’s poetic, but also sometimes outrageous lyrics and declamatory style, you sometimes don’t know whether to laugh, cry or fly. In fact, you do a little bit of all of that. And the CD, although it will never be to everyone’s taste, really invited me to want to listen to it again and again to figure out what it all meant. Ultimately, it’s a unique Kirk Brandon voice and world – definitely cool.

Rusty Golden and His Sober Musical Tour de Force

Rusty Golden - Sober

Rusty Golden – Sober

I discovered Rusty Golden in Bahrain of all places. He was playing keyboards and singing as well as accompanying another singer, at a place fittingly called, Big Texas BBQ & Waffle House. And yet the last thing I expected to find was Rusty Golden, an American musician of the illustrious country and gospel family, his father being a member of The Oak Ridge Boys, a Country Music Hall of Fame band the name of which any music lover in the U.S. knows. Even less did I expect to see that Rusty, after a long and illustrious career with disparate bands, and solo efforts since the early 1970s handed me an album that I found spine-tingling bona fide music that I would first call Rusty Golden, then situate somewhere in the folk-rock, country, pop area. In fact, I kept thinking even of The Band. There’s something about Rusty’s deep down-home vocals, and strong emotional grounding. Did I say “grounding?” This CD is all about recovery, thus the name. And while that’s a theme that you might think you could get tired of over the 13 songs of this album, the answer to that is no way. Working with Scott Baggett as producer, and with some great Nashville musicians – including the legendary bass player, David Hood from Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who has played with everyone from Cat Stevens to Paul Simon to Traffic, Boz Scaggs and Etta James, this CD is lyrically, emotionally and musically first rate. I wished I could have spent more time in Bahrain listening to more of his stuff live, and learning stuff….

Greg Sherrod’s Mighty Blues, Soul and Rocknroll

Greg Sherrod Album

Greg Sherrod Album

I met this blues, rock, soul singer on his first night in Paris on a bit of a European tour he was doing. He had found an open mic – Some Girls, on the rue de Lappe – through my blog, and we immediately hit it off, enjoying each other’s company, and sets behind the mic. We also exchanged CDs. When I went home and then played this CD, I found a whole new world, or rather, three worlds: As the album’s title says, it is Blues, it is Soul and it is Rock ‘n’ Roll. The album is set up, in fact, with those three categories covered section by section. And of course there is crossover amongst the sections. Some people might define some of the blues as rock, etc. One thing is sure: Greg Sherrod has his own voice, and his own world. But he works well within the traditions, and the whole production is first class. Too bad I could never see him with his band in his home area of Connecticut, amongst his fans…who, by the way, paid for this CD in a very successful crowdfunding operation. Thank goodness! Thank them!

Yann Destal’s Ethereal Vocals and Sounds

Yann Destal

Yann Destal

I met Yann Destal several years ago at the restaurant of the Bus Palladium venue in Paris, and I was immediately captivated by the purity of his vocals and emotional delivery. He’s also an exceptional multi instrumentalist, and one of the few French singers I have ever heard who seems not to have an accent in his English delivery. I quickly learned that he might be playing in an unassuming way in an interesting, but far from massive venue, but he had in fact as a very young man had a worldwide hit in the year 2000: Lady, from his band called Modjo. Since that time, he has gone on a solo career, releasing most recently the album, “Let me be mine,” which I received from him while we were both performing at an open mic in Paris called Mammalia. The album actually dates from 2013, but it is fabulous, haunting production, with his airy vocals, and lyrics and almost a concept feel to this. And if Yann plays mostly cover songs in places like that open mic, or the restaurant of the Bus Palladium, the album consists of 13 of his songs, plus the very original take on The Beatles song, “Oh! Darling,” which is so original that at first you don’t recognize it – then you go, brilliant!

Wrapping Up With Vincent Lafleur, Velasco, Florian Gasquet, Ant Henson, Claudio Zanetti, Tsipora and DTSQ

And so I come to the round up area at the end of this morning exercise report. I’m not rounding up these final CDs because they are in any way lesser in my heart, but because, holy crap, if I don’t get this page out there tonight, who knows how much longer I’ll be sitting on it before I finish it! It has already been so many months!

Vincent Lafleur

Vincent Lafleur

As I write these words, I’m pretty sure that Vincent Lafleur is directing the music orchestra on his piano at the crazy Soirée Buzz, in Paris. Vincent is an accomplished pianist, and I have known him for a few years now hosting one open mic or another, and doing the music behind the Soirée Buzz. But until he gave me a copy of his new CD – Mr. Lafleur, “Des racines, Et…” – I had no idea that he was writing his own songs too. And most importantly, where he may sing in English during most of the open mics, here he has written songs in his own language: French. What did not surprise me was that they were written – and sung by him – in the medium in which he seems to feel most at home: Soul. And if Van Morrison can do Irish soul, why not Mr. Lafleur doing French soul! Ok, Mr. Soul, thanks for the CD and 13 songs to savour….

DTSQ

DTSQ

When I showed up at the open mic of the Féline bar the other day I was told I had just missed an incredible electro pop band from South Korea called DTSQ. But I went out front of the place and found them talking to some musicians and I joined in, and together we shared stories of the various bars and venues where they play in South Korea, since I had gone and played there annually for about four years. We knew of some of the same places. I then offered them my CD, and they offered me theirs. Electro, yes indeed, and shocking. Rhythmic would be the word above all others. They gave me both their latest 2015 CD as well as their tour CD of live stuff. I loved how the former was full of fabulously produced electro static, hard stuff and then suddenly, the final track was this somewhat primitively recorded song with the accompaniment of what sounds like a crappy acoustic guitar from the back of some bar somewhere. It was done on purpose as a contrast, no doubt, and it worked wonders.

ant henson

ant henson

Ant Henson I met at the open mic at the Noctambules last year that I helped to found and host. He lives in England but came visiting for a while. His CD, “57,” has as its opening song the clever and catchy, “57 Stars,” and that sets the tone for a wonderful collection of 10 songs that Ant told me he had been putting together for years, including something to do with “teenage angst.” Well, the angst was there, but I couldn’t find the “teenage.” It was very catchy CD most of the way through, with the bopping, lively approach that he gets across in his live performances shining through no problem at all.

Now, I said at the beginning of this post that I had 11 CDs, but I think the list grew from when I began to write it, and today when I finished it and post it. I don’t care! I don’t want to count up the number of titles. Suffice it to say that I have four more to talk about, and keep finding myself going into so much detail! So here’s something I’ll try to shorten:

I met Tsipora at the open mic of the Café Jean in Pars, and found her to have a lively, cool voice full of energy and inventiveness. This was clearly confirmed by her CD, “Mes rêves, mes envies,” which again, like Lafleur’s had the lyrics all in French…and was nicely recorded.

Claudio Zaretti’s CD, “Deux Diamants,” let me know what Zanetti was all about after I’ve seen him many times in live performances around Paris, mostly at the old and now defunct “Le Baroc” open mic. Zaretti has crystal clear lyric writing skills, and melodies that place one right in a French tradition that reminds me of people like Michel Delpeche, although I may be totally wrong on that! Zaretti had a small career a few decades ago, and as I understood it, returned fairly recently to music – this is the result – fabulously recorded and produced.

And speaking of French traditions, this CD called “D” by Florian Gasquet, whom I met at the short-lived Zebre Rouge open mic, for me falls right into the tradition of the French chansonnier who focuses so much on the lyrics, story-telling and word painting…. He’s a good guitar player, too. Five songs on this EP, that will take you right into Gasquet’s world.

Velasco

Velasco

And now, it is always necessary to have a case of “last but not least,” right? In fact, I really really enjoyed this CD by Velasco, an Italian who lives in Paris, and whom I have met on several occasions mostly at the Some Girls open mic near the Bastille. But I did also happen to bump into him in the park in the Place Vendome recently as we were both picnicking! In any case, this CD, called, “Just Begun,” did not really surprise me for its excellent vocals, solid rock backing, and very lively, moving four songs. All in English, we have here a guy like Yann Destal, who has no problem singing or writing in the language of Shakespeare….

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my 11th edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

8 Bars, 2 Days, One Week Later in Paris – One Closure, One Opener

January 25, 2016
bradspurgeon

O'Sullivans

O’Sullivans

PARIS – If it were not for the fact that a few things dictate that I keep a record of my Sunday and Tuesday last week, I would let it slide. I was so busy in the intervening time with having received my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I led the blog slide and did not write about those two nights. But both the fact of the CD, and the fact of taking part in one new open mic on the Tuesday, and then discovering that I had also taken part in the last open mic of one particular venue on the Sunday, mean I gotta write a little about it.

I have to just at least acknowledge those two nights, 8 bars, and the end of the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar on Sunday night last week. This was a fairly cool open mic run by Etienne Belin, the host of the absolutely phenomenally cool Coolin’ bar open mic that closed down a while back after the bar was bought up by a big conglomerate. The Rebel open mic was a great place to go on Sunday night’s in Paris, but unfortunately it did not consistently reach the highs of the Coolin, and Etienne has said he has many other projects he needs to focus on – like a CD – so that’s the end of that.
Duet at the Green Linnet

It was fabulous night, that last one – which we did not know was the last – and followed on the 4-bar crawl I was doing: I started out at the lnce-monthly Green Linnet bar open mic right near the Coolin’, where it was calmer than the previous month, but still fun – with Stephen Saxo and Andy Bone’s warm MCing – and then I wandered off for a look at the Ondulatoire Mechanique’s big birthday party for a friend. That was also to feature a new band by some friends, but alas, I was too late for the show, and arrived just as they were packing up.
Duet at the Galway

After the Rebel Bar, I then moved on with some friends to the Galway, where there was a duet playing most of the night. Some nice talk, a Kilkenny, and it was back to home for a day of recuperation.
French trio at the Rebel Bar

The CD arrived on Tuesday, and I HAD to get out to the bars again and start handing out some copies. (More on this blog soon about the CD!!!) I started by checking out the Zebre Rouge open mic, which had turned into a real jam session, and because I needed to do several bars, I opted not to stay. I handed out a few CDs at the Zebre Rouge, then went over to finally try out the nearby Féline bar open mic, which has been running for two or three months now.
Her hopes and expectations at the Green Linnet

This could be one of the best open mics in Paris if it gets the crowds it merits – although with so many other open mics on Tuesday nights in Paris, it is not sure that will happen. The stage is absolutely fabulous, and the management loves music. In fact, the management created this fabulous little stage – complete with a kind of proscenium arch style, spotlights and half decent sound system – because he wants more music, clearly.
Jules at the Rebel Bar

I handed out some CDs there and played a long set of maybe five or six songs. Then I went on to the Pigalle Country Club bar’s open mic, not far from the place Pigalle (!!). That is the place where the photo that adorns the cover and back of my CD was taken. So I had to go there and leave a few copies. It was a very lively night, and I was offered the mic, but I wanted to get going to my final destination, the Café Oz bar open mic next to the place Blanche.
Young one at the Green Linnet

I was too late to make the list, but the Oz was buzzing with musicians and music as usual. Some great acts, and a nice environment, and the usual great presentation of the evening by Brislee Adams….
In their heads at the Pigalle Country Club


First at the Feline Bar open mic

Duet at the Café Oz

Duet at the Feline

Another from duet at the Pigalle Country Club

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 10th Installment: Cotton Field Scarecrows, Leandro Bronze, Shall We, Steve Kessler, Lorin Hart and Jan Sloane

December 29, 2015
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my tenth “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the ninth of which ran on 9th February 2015 – this post is, as it happens, also the 1000th post on my blog since I started it in March 2010. A thousand posts! That might seem like a lot, but all I know is that it works out to being not one post a day, and every day I miss is an opportunity missed in the blogosphere…. Or something like that. And if you think about it, applying the same effort to putting up a post as I would to writing a page a day on a book, and I should be way, way, way above 1000 posts. So I’m not bragging. But it is a nice anniversary to note.

Less nice is the nearly one year that has passed since my last morning exercise music rundown!!! That is pure laziness. Well, no, in fact, the more time that passes, the more CDs, EPs and other musical listenings that I have to choose from, and the more I feel a foreboding about getting it all down! So without further verbiage, here we go.

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers, the idea behind this regular column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines, that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Americana from Malaysia of The Cotton Field Scarecrowes

Cotton Field Scarecrowes

Cotton Field Scarecrowes

During my trip to Kuala Lumpur in March the last thing I expected to find at one of my favorite open mics in Malaysia – or in the world, for that matter – was a Malaysian group that has the Americana feel down to more than a convincing art form. The Cotton Field Scarecrowes (sic), may have a weird spelling for the word scarecrow in the name of their band, but the rest of it is bona fide Americana. Laid back, cool and earthy, deep feeling vocals make this album, “Dancing Hymns And Broken Rhymes” one of my favorite of the year. It is rare that I will listen several times over a long period to a CD from a band I meet in an open mic, but that is the case for this one from The Cotton Field Scarecrowes..

A Duet Made in Heaven, Called, Shall We

Shall We

Shall We

Speaking of open mic connections, one of the cool moments of the end of the year has been discovering a project called “Shall We,” which is a duet composed of Olivier Bernard and Maddie Speed, two people I met in open mics, and whom I introduced to each other at an open mic a few years ago, and who have now created this fabulous duet and released their first Shall We EP on SoundCloud. (And as I write these words Shall We will be making their concert debut in Paris tonight at Le Mecanique Ondulatoire.) Olivier went on to start one of the best open mics in Paris, at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and Maddie went off to complete her studies in England. Somehow they met up again and Olivier moved to Berlin, and now, they have given us this fabulous EP that I can best sum up as having a feel of Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. In fact, when I mentioned that to Olivier, he said they actually do sing the famous “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” In any case, with Olivier’s deep and sandpaper coated voice along with Maddie’s slightly fragile, smooth and gentle voice, the duet is a peaceful, laid back cool listen – with just the edge of vitality that I look for.

Leandro Bronze, the Powerhouse Personality from Brazil

All right, I can see where this post is leading. I’m onto my third open mic related link here. But given that this is the 1000th post on my blog, and most of the posts are related to my open mic adventures, I think it is probably just as well to devote this entire Exercise Music edition to the musicians I have met at the open mics. I mean, I have stacks of compilation CDs from the various music magazines that I had planned to review. I also have some links to music sent to me from PR people eager to get web presence for their clients – but I don’t know them from a hole in the wall, and none of the music has fired me up. So that’s it. I’ve decided this will be a special edition of music from the musicians from open mics that I met this year. As good a way to close out the year – and the 1000th post – as any.

Leandro Bronze

Leandro Bronze

While my now ex-girlfriend was running what was for a very brief period this year no doubt the best open mic in Paris (and perhaps fittingly now no longer exists, since I started it with her), at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle, one of the regular musicians was the boisterous and gentle giant, Leandro Bronze, who had come to Paris from his native Brazil to try his luck in Europe. Leandro, for whom I always had to raise the mic as high as the ceiling, was forever making up in his bright personality for whatever he lacked in the way of English or French. But it was with his onstage presence, his fine guitar playing and warm, boisterous vocals that he really lit up the room – and indeed, the whole Place Pigalle. His self-named EP, available as a CD, is a reflection of all that. Check it out.

Wrapping Up With Jan Sloane, Steve Kessler and Lorin Hart

Aactually, blog posts are supposed to be fairly short, easily digestible things, and I’ve been running on forever here! So I think that I will have to do a quick roundup on the final three performers that I met and whose music I listened to this year on their albums…. Continuing on from the Noctambules open mic mentioned above, another who showed up several times was the British singer songwriter, Jan Sloane. I must admit that it was not until I heard Jan’s CD, Factor 55, that I truly got the gist of Jan’s very typically and specifically British sound and lyrics sense. His music was so highly personal or specific at the open mic, that I was very pleased to finally be able to say, “I get it now!” When I heard his CD and realized where he was coming from.

The first thing that made me turn my head and ears directly toward the stage of the Baroc open mic (hey, wait, that one no longer exists either, and it was the place I introduced Olivier and Maddie a few years ago, oh, and Olivier’s Ptit Bonheur no longer exists… what’s going on?) was when I heard Lorin Hart talking about how she had attended the Woodstock festival of 1969…. That’s a good line for anyone anywhere in the world to announce their presence on stage! But Lorin need not have such a calling card, since her songs, finely crafted and feelingly sung, do the trick. “Love Come Back” is a beautifully crafted album from a woman who has witnessed a hell of a lot of history.

Steve Kessler and Saturday June

Steve Kessler and Saturday June

Last but not least are the two albums from Steve Kessler and the Saturday June Band. I met Steve at the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic – hey, this one is still in existence, and run by Etienne Belin, formerly of the now extinct Coolin open mic! – and I could hear instantly without knowing anything about him that Steve was a true song craftsman, with lots of experience. The Saturday June Band is one of Chicago’s longtime – more than 20 years – local bands that has played all over town, and continues to do so. What I just loved seeing with these CDs is that the one that was released in 2011 “A Better Place,” actually appealed to me more than the one that was released in 2001, just called Saturday June, under the name of Steve Kessler. I love discovering any writers, poets, painters, musicians, filmmakers, anyone at all who does better work 10 years later….

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my tenth edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

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