As far as my writing and blogging are concerned, 2022 was a disaster. I tried to get my blog rolling again with some posts about classic rock albums on the anniversary of their releases. However, once the news came about orders back to the U.S., everything changed. We knew in May that the orders were coming soon. Let the hectic pandemonium begin.
For some perspective, the orders came in June, we arrived in the U.S. on July 22nd,
our cats arrived on November 9th
The United States Air Force has moved us many times, and I must say, this one was poorly executed. Not only in terms of timing, but damaged and lost goods. Phew, it’s all over now. Although I could not partake in NaNoWriMo in 2022 due to the complexities of setting up a new household. I did manage to contact other local authors. Hopefully I’ll be back in the swing of things in the coming year. But I’m not going to set some unrealistic goals.
The Holidays have come and gone quite smoothly. Although there are many projects for me to tackle around the house, I can say with some conviction, that life has settled back into normalcy.
As for 2023, let the chips fall where they may. I will have the time to write, edit and blog, but the question is how much time will I have?
What are your writing/reading/traveling/life plans for 2023?
When I first thought about reading a Romance novel, I shrugged off the idea as quickly as it manifested itself in my mind. Even my choices in film veer away from the Romance genre save but a few. But, some weeks later, I saw promo announcements / Tweets for the release of “Sophie’s Key” by Jodi Jensen. I have known Jodi Jensen to be a friendly and fun person to commune with over the vast distances of cyberspace. Dutifully, I purchased a Kindle copy and here is my spoiler free review.
Characters: The main character is Sophie, as the title would suggest. Through Sophie we get the classic “fish-out-of-water” character. Through which we have some comical and / or embarrassing moments. Along with Jacob and the child Meri, Jodi offers us a main and two strong secondary characters. Together they comprise a sort of trinity of wholesomeness. Of course, as design would have it, we also have an unholy trinity of antagonists.
Plot: The storyline is wonderfully solid and follows a logical progression with some decent surprises. These surprises create fair conflict and do not feel as if they were ‘parachuted’ into the story. Jodi Jensen methodically planted her conflict seeds without a formulaic feeling. No reader should feel the need to second-guess or discover a path of lesser resistance for Sophie or any other character.
Writing: Incredibly neat, clean text. I did not spot any typos or convoluted sentences. Also, there seems to have been keen observance for preventing other amateur slips, like repeated catchphrases, body language or facial expressions used to the point of nausea. Therefore, let us say that both the writing and editing were done with the proverbial fine-toothed comb.
The dialog is professionally written with a natural feel for flow. I am especially grateful for the lack of “info-dumps.” In “Sophie’s Key”, the characters are doing the talking. For example, Jacob is an observer of people and a man of few words. He is somewhat blunt and gets his point across with brevity, and then he reads reactions. Which of course befits and speaks of his background.
Conclusion: After two chapters, one aspect of its appeal became clear. The scant Romance Films I enjoy share elements with Sophie’s Key, first, a magical quality and second, a multi-genre appeal. Think about classic films like “The Bishop’s Wife” or “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”
Is “Sophie’s Key” a romance? A western? A crime thriller? Or A magical Tale? Of course, it is a romance first, but Jodi Jensen weaved all these other elements in, like a great chef combining ingredients. Jodi pulled off this neat trick without her final product looking like a random hodgepodge of disparaging elements.
Do yourself a favor, read “Sophie’s Key” and let me, and Jodi Jensen, know your thoughts.
I have a romantic story to tell. Which, I hope, will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling. Waaaay way back in the late summer of 2009, I proposed to my bride to be. Of course, there was always the possibility of a refusal, so I reached deep inside to my Italian heritage. Which means, inspired by Don Corleone from ‘The Godfather,’ I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse😊. In fact, I think I made an offer that no woman could refuse.
I had written a two-page poem for a proposal, but would that be enough? I needed a proper setting and some way to show off my culinary skills. The ring was still hidden in my luggage.
We planned a day trip to Blenheim Palace in Oxford Shire. Unbeknownst to her, but knownst* to me, she had provided me with the perfect setting for the scene. I put together a champagne picnic basket for the trip. Chicken salad sandwiches, Ham and cheese sandwiches, pasta salad, and other assorted goodies. She thought it was lunch, but I had the brimming confidence that within mere hours we would be celebrating our engagement. Her desire for me to experience the natural majesty of Blenheim Palace provided the right setting.
*Ruth and I are rabid fans of anything by Mel Brooks. ‘Knownst’ is from the opening of “Spaceballs” and a major scene from “History of the World” was filmed at Blenheim Place.
After parking, we strolled through the spacious secret gardens. A vast network of dirt paths, replete with statues, fountains, and a stunning variety of trees, flowers, and shrubs. I suggested she sit on a bench for a photo, but instead, I knelt in front of her and recited a lengthy proposal in iambic pentameter. After reciting the last poetic line, I pulled the ring from my pocket and held it in plain view. This was the moment. Would she accept the offer? She extended her hand with spread fingers. Halleluiah! I slipped diamond ring on her finger.
We “met” playing Lord of the Rings Online. Isn’t it fitting that I presented a ring to her in “The Shire?” After all, Oxford Shire was the influence for Tolkien when he created the Shire as a homeland for his Hobbitses.
Later we basked in each other’s glow on the great lawn as we noshed on the contents of the basket and popped open the champagne. After a long walk over bridges and around a small lake we returned to her home and called our moms.
Besides the incredible music from The Beatles, my other most loved band of all time is YES. I would have to write a book to relate and track the changes in their line up over the years. But “The Yes Album” contains their first major switch. The band replaced guitarist Peter Banks with the legendary Steve Howe. This would also be the final recording session for Tony Kaye until the 1980’s. Their first two albums achieved meager sales, and there was a threat about a loss of their recording contract with Atlantic Records. But “The Yes Album” propelled them into long lasting stardom.
Let’s face it, Yes equals progressive rock at its finest. If the songs “Perpetual Change,” “Starship Trooper” or “Yours Is No Disgrace” do not turn you into a rabid Yes fan…you have my sympathies. Even some of the best legendary albums have a minor track or two that I consider rather bland. However, “The Yes Album” and many Yes albums afterwards are total gems. Every second of every song either soothes or amazes the listener.
Currently as I scan through YouTube, I’ve noticed that there are many new channels about reacting to classic rock. These YouTubers are usually young and are getting suggestions from older peeps like me. I never cease tiring over seeing their reactions to the music of Yes.
Here’s some Yes reaction links for YouTube
vzqk50HD – An odd name for a channel, but he makes some incredible videos with Yes music. This is one of his for “Starship Trooper.”
Popenyco – His reactions are quite honest and heartfelt. He’s done Yes many times. I think his “Starship Trooper” reaction is his only one from The Yes Album
Daily Doug – He’s a classical composer with a lot of insight Here’s his reaction to “And You And I.”
Track 1:Yours Is No Disgrace – An automatic announcement that there’s a new guitarist in town. A somewhat lengthy song of about 10 minutes. I’ve got the feeling this served as a precursor to the epic 18-20 minute songs of later Yes albums.
Track 2: Clap – Here Steve Howe shows off his skills with a country picking solo that makes other guitar players gush with glee. On the original vinyl album this song was recorded live. A later CD release has the studio version as a bonus track. P.S. I’d still like to learn how to play this one.
Track 3: Starship Trooper – Some consider this song the greatest album cut of all time. It is presented in three parts a) Lifeseeker b) Disillusion and c) Würm. Here, Yes is showing off some skills from the spacey sounding Lifeseeker then transitioning into the country Disillusion and then the slow building of Würm. Steve Howe begins Würm with a chord riff and is joined by other instruments one at a time which creates an incredibly full rocking sound.
Track 4: I’ve Seen All Good People – Even older non-Yes fans will know this track. One of the few times the band released a radio play single. Although with Yes being Yes, the song is presented in two parts and was considering a bit too long. Therefore, there was a shorter single version. It also features Steve Howe strumming a Portuguese guitar. I don’t think the instrument was used again until “Wondrous Stories.” In the late ‘70s.
Track 5: A Venture – This is a bouncy song that manages to bestow a pastoral charm and calm upon the listener. In retrospect, I could almost hear some Tolkien Hobbits singing this one in the Green Dragon Pub.
Track 6: Perpetual Change – Like the opening track, here we see Yes coming together in a way that would reflect the forthcoming grandiose songs on later albums. The guitar work is awesome and as usual, the creative bass lines of Chris Squire in locked sync with drummer Bill Bruford. There’s even a polyrhythmic section in or around the middle. Listen to the gentle softness of the music while Jon Anderson sings and the intensity between the lyric stanzas.
O.K. Kids I think I’ve talked this one up enough and have shown my gushing self.
“Songs from the Wood” by Jethro Tull has some incredibly thoughtful lyrics and musical arrangements, which makes it one fantastic album. The songs are multi-faceted in the sense of its musical delivery. Yes, I know that this was the era of the thematic album, which threaded the tracks together both musically and lyrically. There is always some type of celtic / medieval flavor within Jethro Tull’s music. What do I mean by ‘multi-faceted’?
We hear the strings, percussion, flutes, and other instruments creating that signature Jethro Tull sound. However, what if that medieval flavor is delivered via a heavily distorted guitar? Now that’s what I mean by multi-faceted. If one were to have a listen at “Jack in the Green” and compare it to the opening of “Pibroch (Cap in Hand)”, you’ll understand.
A Pibroch is considered an artful piece of music for bagpipes. They are usually played slow with theme variations. The intro for “Pibrock” certainly sounds like something written for a bagpipe, but played on a distorted guitar. Of course, deftly delivered by the magical hands of Martin Barre.
I remember the title track getting its share of airtime on FM radio back in the ‘70s as did “Cup of Wonder” and “The Whistler.” However, for many fans (me included), “Hunting Girl” remains a favorite, as does the aforementioned “Jack in the Green” and “Pibroch.”
“Songs from the Wood” is my second favorite offering from Jethro Tull. Can you gather a guess at number one?
This is one of those albums that put the ‘classic’ in the term Classic Rock. I have made links. Enjoy!
I’d love to say that book II is finished and announce a release date. But no. I’m still in the process of getting this manuscript ready for beta readers. However, I can state that the first five chapters are ready for those readers.
As of today, I’ll start revamping chapters six through ten. The opening of book II is certainly ‘full’ but not to the point of overwhelming the reader. It’s action-packed with a detective type mystery to keep readers immersed and interested.
Despite the word ‘mystery’, remember, The Tales of Tyrennia is first and foremost a fantasy series.
You may have noticed that this blog now has a Classic Rock category and I’ve been making posts concerning the anniversaries of my favorite albums. Chalk it up to a new method to my madness.
P.S. We’ve all been ‘under the weather’ lately and that is the reason why I’m late with posts concerning classic rock releases.
I’ve written two more short stories as well. I’d like to release a small collection of seven shorts, we’ll see which ones will make the cut. As it stands, I’ve got twelve shorts done and I simply do not want to release all of them at once. But, as you know, having a written draft is one thing and being ready for publication is quite another thing.
Storm of Divine Light contained many veiled cinematic references and shout-outs. Guess what? Book II has references to classic rock bands / songs / musicians. Remember, I once made an entire series of posts which listed my favorite films from each decade.
I believe that burying the references can make even a fantasy novel a much more enjoyable read.
What can I say? This pick is one of my favorite albums from anyone at any time. Even my ultimate Dylan lyric quote comes from “Tangled Up in Blue,” the first track on this album.
Upon it’s release, “Blood on the Tracks” received some incredibly mixed reviews (ugh critics). Now, in retrospect, even the meanest critics of this album have since reversed themselves. But this is not the only controversy. Many have examined the lyrics and subject matter and have concluded that this album is autobiographical. Even Dylan’s son has commented that this is his parents having a dialog. However, when asked, Dylan has clearly denied anything personal within this album.
Does it matter?
No! Just sit back and enjoy some incredible songs from the ultimate American bard, Bob Dylan. If anyone ever doubts Dylan’s storytelling ability, point them in the direction of “Blood on the Tracks.”
As album releases go, many rank this one as the weakest offering from The Beatles. However, what is important to note, the reason for this rating is usually the same. It’s only half of an album. Side one is comprised of Beatle songs and side two is classical music by George Martin.
In defense, The Beatles had almost no input on the film ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1968) and the latter soundtrack. They merely fulfilled a contractual obligation for four new songs for the movie. By the time the film was released, they had already embarked on their next studio project “The White Album” (not an official title but dubbed with that name by fans).
In 1999 there was a 30th Anniversary Soundtrack which featured all the Beatle’s music used in the movie. Yes, a much better version. Why wasn’t that done from the beginning?
What about the four new songs?
‘Hey Bulldog’ has John Lennon on lead vocals. A blues-based rocking ditty which seems to signal The Beatles moving away from the psychedelic era and into a blues-based rock, as evidenced by The White Album.
‘Only a Northern Song’ features George Harrison on lead vocals. A verry psychedelic track indeed that fits in well with the film. This one could have been added to the Sgt. Pepper or Revolver albums.
‘All Together Now’ is a Paul McCartney top 40 type ditty. This was the song used for the end credits of Yellow Submarine and featured a short cameo appearance by The Beatles.
‘It’s All Too Much’ has George Harrison on lead again. This is quite a ‘heavy’ track which (to me at least) signals the first rumbling of The Beatles inventing Heavy Metal. Let me explain, this song has one foot in psychedelic mode and the other one in Heavy Metal. There is distinct distortion sprinkled throughout this track.
Don’t be a music hating Blue Meanie – Take a moment and listen
Fifty-three years ago, Led Zeppelin exploded on to the music scene. Yes, I said ‘exploded.’ Funny how I always think about that whenever I look at that first album cover. Of course, the music is quite explosive as well. Later albums were more polished productions and the songwriting somewhat more sophisticated. However, this first gem captures much of their initial energy and their unique sound that captured the attention of rock n’ rollers worldwide and earned their subsequent adulation for decades.
I am a dedicated ‘classic rocker’ and cannot stress harder the necessity to have Led Zeppelin I in your collection. I have it on CD and vinyl (Ooops! Showing my age). Sadly, my vinyl copy (which is framed) is currently in storage.
So, what makes this album special?
I mentioned a unique sound before. Led Zeppelin took Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, and strung them together seamlessly with threads from the Blues. At times, the three different elements are jockeying for position with one of them becoming the dominant element within a song.
The energy is still fresh after all these years. Thanks to songs that are chock full of stinging chords and riffs, and yet, one’s ears do not feel ‘bloated’ from the experience. The self-titled Led Zeppelin (I) must be ranked as one of the most important debut albums of all time.
McCartney III is the latest musical effort from former Beatles member Sir Paul McCartney. This one quietly grew and grew upon me and I did not realize it until I caught myself singing “Kiss of Venus” in the frozen food aisle. Of course, I continued singing despite strange glances from other shoppers.
Is this only Paul’s third album since the Beatles broke up in 1970?
Um…No! When Paul McCartney self-titles an album, it denotes a total solo / indie project. He plays all instruments and has no interference from other musicians or producers. Granted there was some vocals from his wife Linda, on McCartney II.
What is the reason for McCartney III?
Another reviewer on YouTube said it best. The last few from Paul had too much interference from top producers trying to make Paul sound timely and like other current top-selling bands. I think it best to let Paul be Paul, i.e., his timeless self, rather than molding him into the latest trends and fads.
My initial perception
Thoughts of winter permeate through the lyrics. It is possible that Paul, now 78, recognizes that he is in the winter of his life. At times, he seems to be reflecting upon the past or imparting his sage like advice to us “younglings” about life, love, and happiness.
Track 1: Long Tailed Winter Bird: This one is mostly instrumental and features some bouncy acoustic Appalachian-style guitar.
Track 2: Find My Way: A classic McCartney top 40 designed happy little ditty. Almost as if Paul is announcing “finding his way” through his golden years, and the reason for this solo project.
Track 3: Pretty Boys: I am not sure about the point of this one. Other reviewers boldly claim they can live without this tune. It is certainly a “listenable” song, but I do not see how it fits in with the rest.
Track 4: Women and Wives: Here we have elder Paul tickling the ivories while dispensing some advice for the young. Be careful about the choices you make.
Track 5: Lavatory Lil: A bluesy stomper for sure which harkens back to the late Beatles era. An odd tune to be included within this collection due to the subject matter. Paul usually writes happy tunes and never goes negative. However, I (and this is completely subjective) get the distinct impression that this one is about wife #2.
Track 6: Deep Deep Feeling: This is a mellow and somewhat haunting song that one could interpret as unrequited love. But it seems to me that Paul is pining for those who have passed. Could it be Linda? John Lennon? George Harrison? Or all three? There are some sultry moments, and a somber riff comes in to round out the basic mood.
Track 7: Slidin’: This one is by far the ‘heaviest’ song on McCartney III. A roughly three-and-a-half-minute song destined for charting. But it was not released as a single. Color me confused. If you have any doubts about Paul McCartney rocking, thus tune will quiet those doubts.
Track 8: The Kiss of Venus: Here is one of those McCartney special acoustic songs that you cannot help but sing along. This one is calling me to pull my guitar out of the closet and play again.
Track 9: Seize the Day: The theme of Winter encroaches again. Relish the days you are living, because soon they will be a memory. That is the message I am getting from Paul lyrically. But of course, those lyrics are sung with a snappy tune.
Track 10: Deep Down: This one is the most contemporary tunes on this album. Here’s where Paul delivers some R&B
Track 11: When Winter Comes: A pastoral acoustic “ditty” that also bears the winter theme again. There is a reprise of the guitar intro to the opening song, “Long Tailed Winter Bird.”
Here we have an album displaying varied musical genres. Heck, it’s just Sir Paul McCartney on a creative journey with his muse. As much as I enjoy these songs, I cannot help but wonder what they would sound like if his fellow Beatles John, George, and Ringo had some input. I know that is an impossible wish, but a die-hard Beatles fan can dream, can’t I?