Edward Van Halen

Featured

Edward Van Halen died this week from throat cancer.

His journey from Netherlands to Pasadena, California enabled him to prosper in a culture that became the LA heavy metal scene.

The first Van Halen record features real photos of each member during a gig at the famous Whiskey–A–Go–Go on the Sunset strip.

In 1978 Punk and Disco were exploding in popularity.

With its opening power chords the VH album was a fresh audio blast of serious but joyful rock.

Runnin’ with the Devil, the guitar solo Eruption, and the rest would change music forever.

The members of this group were great looking too. Eddie’s brother Alex, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth would rise to become the model for all the rock music to come flooding into the hearts and minds of young people all over the world.

Now called Hair Metal, the bands that bought Van Halen’s records are legion.

Eddie was an ingenious player. He could not read music but was able to play spot on by watching other musicians.

There were wonderful collaborations with Michael Jackson on the smash hit Beat It and his appearance on Brian May’s first solo effort Starfleet Project.

1984 is one of my favorite albums of all time. Featuring hits Jump, Hot For Teacher, Panama, and I’ll Wait. They were MTV’s most played act that year.

The changes to Sammy Hagar then Gary Cherone of Extreme yielded 8 years in which they released several #1 records including 5150, OU812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Kiss were the band that VH opened for on their first national tour. Both bands would headline Britain’s Monsters of Rock festival.

Eddie Van Halen’s music still makes me feel great. I believe it’s timeless.

Although I only saw him in concert on their 2007 Tour, he went shirtless and played like the headliner he had always been.

The rockers of the 1980’s made their mark. Many of the bands from that era are still here recording and performing. Do not take them for granted.

Van Halen music is hard, heavy, melodic, harmonious, and the definition of great rock n roll.

I will miss Eddie Van Halen. He was such a huge presence in my life. Happy Trails…

.

Bon Jovi/ 2020

Featured

Originally set for release on May 15, 2020 was a completed album with a breadth and depth of songwriting, titled for a challenging and pivotal election year.


Bon Jovi’s 2020 released through Island Records.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Along with all of America, Jon found himself unexpectedly experiencing a world-altering coronavirus pandemic, followed quickly by the staggering events of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing national movement for racial equality.

He knew there was even more to say about 2020. Writing from a home studio, two new songs were born: “American Reckoning” and “Do What You Can” encompass these events and made the album a complete body of work.  

Well known for his extensive philanthropic work, Jon spent the initial quarantine days and weeks with his wife Dorothea helping feed those in need at their JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, NJ. 

Later, the couple opened a Food Bank on the East End of Long Island to meet the food demands of the in-need population there. 

I had the privilege of meeting Jon Bon Jovi by chance at The Armory Art show in New York city.

I expressed my thanks to him for all of the good works. Also how much I was looking forward to his new album.

Not knowing the tour and album would be postponed made me think about all we as a people are facing together.

Without further ado, 2020 is a musical salve for a genuinely pivotal year. These 10 songs bristle with equal doses of joy and despair.

Addressing the pandemic, mass shootings and racial justice the music remains on a remarkably even keel throughout.

Bon Jovi has crafted a meaningful record that enables its listener to reflect on all that has happened to us while looking forward to the future.

Track List:

Limitless (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)

Do What You Can (Jon Bon Jovi)

American Reckoning (Jon Bon Jovi)

Beautiful Drug (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)

Story of Love (Jon Bon Jovi)

Let It Rain (Jon Bon Jovi)

Lower the Flag (Jon Bon Jovi)

Blood in the Water (Jon Bon Jovi)

Brothers in Arms (Jon Bon Jovi)

Unbroken (Jon Bon Jovi)

Tonight iHeart Radio will broadcast a special album launch for 2020. The band will play select songs from the new album plus Bon Jovi classics.

ELW Photography #5

Featured

July 31, 2020

I was just thinking how we were told back in January to write out the full 2-0-2-0 when dating important docs. Who knew that it would be almost exclusively applied to receiving unemployment benefits.

My Dear Readers: Updates from New York City. July ends. USA continues to deny the impact of Covid—19 despite the largest recorded drop in its economy in history!

If you reside outside of North America you may have heard about how poor our safety net is here. This is showing up now during this unprecedented crisis.

I only glance at the headlines each morning. It takes until late in the day to realize how much more our country has slid in the eyes of the world.

New York City has sport once again with its expensive corporate stadiums empty. Overpaid athletes are playing with piped in crowd noise.

Several athletes in baseball are now sick. Games are getting postponed. I think baseball should cancel the season.

No Broadway/ Off—Broadway theater. No museums. No movie theaters. Broadway and Hollywood had both reached their commercial summit. I do not believe this will happen again.

If we have cinemas the interior of those spaces will have to be reinvented along with Broadway and Off—Broadway theaters.

Personally, my fear is that America will be vunerable like never before to a new authoritarian reality. Already the President floated the proto-fascist notion of delaying the Fall Election. This never happened in America before this con man took office.

People are waking to see how much damage has been inflicted upon regular people over decades of blindly adding police to streets. This has resulted in the brutality seen in recent days.

The people were empowered to fend off the awful notions of power hungry office holders. Our struggle for greater Democracy will continue.

With such heavy issues hovering over us I refuse to conform to the reactionary nature of certain friends and family. I just read “Twilight Of Democracy” by the historian Anne Applegate, seen below in the picture, argues strongly for Democratic ideals. She is hopeful Americans will reject the anti—democratic platform of Donald Trump.

Highly Recommended to everyone who cares about Democracy.

My photography is an outlet to express what I see daily to counter the ugly forces at play in today’s world.

Despite it all I am having a lovely Summer. What else can I do? November will be chilly. And by then our biggest Election will be upon us.

Museums

5th Avenue from E. 86th Street to E. 103rd is called Museum Mile. There are several along this route on the East Side. The Museum of the City of New York, The MET, The Guggenheim and The Jewish Museum are my favourites. I took pictures of their facades over the past three months. Devoid of crowds. A silence. Mourning? Will they come back as strong as before the shutdown?

The Museum of the City of New York, The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and The Jewsih Museum are seen below:

Candids

Another component of taking images on walks are the people you see in moments. So distracted are these strangers that I could not resist capturing them in time. What follows are the first results of my observations.

August Arrives Tomorrow

Major League Baseball attempted to start a shortened season but finds itself in a bind now that the Miami Marlins team is ill with Covid—19. Then the Phillies were struck then the St. Louis Cardinals.

All of the hot spot states are only beginning to require masks and think about shutting down again.

The Republican party is making this crisis a partisan issue; their leader floats proto—fascist ideas daily.

Here in New York City while we have settled into our Phase 4 lives a new month starts tomorrow!

What will it bring? Will we learn?

Until next week Dear Readers!

Stay in good health.

Wear a mask.

Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways —An American Classic

Featured

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The 39th Studio Album from Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan and 42nd overall is a collection inspired by the best of Walt Whitman and William Blake. 77 minutes. Double CD/Digital Streaming.

Juke Joints Sing The Songs Of Self

“Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.

Walt Whitman

“I Contain Multitudes” opens the record with a reference to another epic poet whose work, “Song Of Myself”, celebrates every living creature on the planet. The title of this track is a Whitman quote. The ‘I’ is used here inclusively. Evoking the value in all living things.

The songs speaks to the experience of life. Loving and hating in equal measure. Composing, painting, eating, drinking, and our bodies as vessels that contain a universe.

I love Mr. Dylan’s end to this track. You can accept this line as just playing recordings of the classical giants or perhaps it is an expression that his final chapter maybe spent composing classical pieces:

“I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes…”

The cover image for this record is important. Presented in a cinematic letter-box format, anonymous couples are dancing. They are people of color. A solitary figure is hunched over the juke trying to decide what to play or in anguish over lost love or any number of reasons you could imagine.

For the first time Bob Dylan’s name does not appear on the cover! We listeners are to focus only on the image of a juke joint interior. The name of the record seems to pop-up from the floor in vivid technicolor. The color scheme applied is simply the best ever used in his catalog of 42 records.

Once again he is creating a mythic eden seeded in the past but brought into our present. A secret place where people of color went to actually express their humanity. The Queer folk also went to these type of places to do the same. Evoking Whitman’s celebration of humanity and non-humanity alike within the dark spaces of the juke joint where all can be free together.

American Folklore’s Rough and Rowdy Ways

His choice of title reference classic folk music by way of Jimmie Rodgers. The adjectives of Rough and Rowdy are masculine in nature. Playful but potentially dangerous like people themselves. A Dylanesque wink to the underlying violence packed within the culture. Dylan loves to use folklore and tall tales for referents to his lyrics. This album is more than worthy of his best works. His mystique is intact; here now his innermost troubles are laid bare.

False Prophet

A 10 stanza poem that could have been a part of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” In the sixth stanza he invokes the ‘I’ in repetition:

I searched the world over, for the holy grail, I sing songs of love, I sing songs of betrayal. Don’t care what I drink, I don’t care what I eat, I climb the mountain of swords On my bare feet.”

Mr. Dylan is baring his soul like never before throughout this record. In the verse quoted above you here his artistic declaration of mission. He once again invokes his religious beliefs too. Willing to climb a mountain of swords in bare feet is a form of stigmata.

“My Own Version Of You”

Expressing his heart’s desire to create his own Frankenstein—like creature in his image to be able to assign it the qualities he feels are required to balance the world. The lyrics here are macabre yet have a restless play about them:

I’ll take the Scarface Pacino and The Godfather Brando
Mix it up in a tank and get a robot commando

Using fictional toughs from the 1970s in ‘The Godfather’ and 1980s in ‘Scarface’ as his character ingredients expresses the raw masculine imagination at work. A modern American ethos is applied here.

Dylan appeals to Julius Caesar, St. Peter, Mr. Freud, and Mr. Marx. As usual for the Ancients to connect to the Moderns as the basis for a new brain. Politics, Religion, and Philosophy—these are the areas of human endeavor forever swirling around in Mr. Dylan’s grey matter too.

“I wanna bring someone to life, turn back the years
Do it with laughter and do it with tears

The strongest desire of all seems to be the return of older values and ideas. The masks of comedy and tragedy must always balance the equation of reality and fiction.

“I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You

The love poem of the album is addressed to an unknown woman (or perhaps every listener). A nice ballad delivered pretty straight and dry. In contrast to all of the other songs here this track stands out as the least grim.

“I’m giving myself to you, I am
From Salt Lake City to Birmingham
From East L.A. to San Antone
I don’t think I can bear to live my life alone

Mr. Dylan has had two marriages that produced 2 grown sons. His declaration here becomes clear. He wants to give up his lonely wandering.

“Black Rider”

A 5 verse poem that reinforces letting go of youthful recklessness. The doppelganger of violent intent is warned to release its grip or be hacked to pieces. The song is the simplest one here.

“Goodbye Jimmy Reed”

A 6 verse poem expressing Mr. Dylan’s goodbye to the blues. Mr. Reed is the most influential bluesman who passed back in 1976. He is the connective blood and tissue to Mr. Dylan’s other friends, Elvis and The Rolling Stones who covered Mr. Reed’s songs.

Mother of Muses”

A poetic prayer expressed with a selfish desire to have the top muse all to himself.

Mother of Muses, wherever you are
I’ve already outlived my life by far

In seeming desperation he lays his soul out for her to see. That life has now gone on too long. He needs her injection of spirit. Perhaps to fill the void if he lets go of his former life.

“Crossing The Rubicon”

Reinforcing his connection with the Ancients via Julius Caesar again, here to express a dedication to a new and risky course. This is a 9 verse poem that Dylanologists will love parsing among themselves. The densest work in this collection. Great poetic phrasing with just the right dose of abstraction.

“Key West (Pirate Philosopher)”

4 Verses of philosophy; 4 choruses describe Key West. This is the second longest track here. It serves as Prelude to Disc 2’s opus, “Murder Most Foul”.

In such simple verse Mr. Dylan crystallizes his ways. Key West is flat land where he can keep his feet planted firmly and listen closely to a pirate radio signal for inspiration and peace.

My favorite lines make up Chorus 4:

“Key West is the place to be
If you’re looking for immortality
Key West is paradise divine
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line”

Throughout his years writing songs Bob Dylan embraces places real and imagined as Eden–like. Key West is now his present flashpoint in life. It represents his cohorts: Ginsberg, Corso, and Kerouac; his greatest influencers: Louis, Jimmy, and Buddy.

This song closes out Disc 1. Key West is defined by Dylan as a tonic for life. The epic track on Disc 2 acts as counterpoint to the divine.

Murder Most Foul” is a nation’s fall from grace as well as an individual’s reckoning.

Due to the length and depths of that track I gave an entire blog entry over to it.

Click here for my analysis of the 17 minute track: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/evan-s-gate.com/1542

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bob Dylan is that rare artist who continues to be inspired by the myriad roads travelled and the places he has seen. At once worldly and still forever in deep love with his own country, he is able to imbue his work with just the right amount of ambiguity and self—worth. He has become a true Renaissance man. I am a grateful listener.

A United Front

Featured

The gate continues to connect our current crisis to ideas expressed in the popular culture.

Perhaps the one franchise that gives me comfort in these trying times is Star Trek.

The late creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry.

I started watching the original series when it was first syndicated in the early 1970’s.

At that time the show returned on Saturday mornings with animation. Series regulars also returned to voice their characters.

Today I often think of the original stories as a way into thinking about our present situation.

The starship Enterprise had over 400 passengers. The sick bay had 6 beds.

It was mentioned on many episodes how humanity overcame inequality, war, poverty, and illness.

The sick bay onboard the Enterprise.

As a nation we are still reaching for the stars. Before Covid-19 NASA was talking about Mars.

Around the world there are never ending wars, poverty, and sickness. How can we ever hope to reach distant galaxies when our own is in such disarray?

This is what makes the Star Trek Universe so appealing and comforting. It presents a future in which all of humanity are exploring deep space as a United group.

Any perceived threats are met on a United front as an assault against Earth.

The mythos of the series competed against the realities of the 1960’s. Vietnam, civil rights, and political corruption were raging.

By decade’s end NBC canceled Star Trek after 3 seasons and just 79 episodes.

Viewers campaigned to save the show. Known as Trekkies, fans were devoted enough to get the animated series and a convention at the Statler-Waldorf hotel in Manhattan.

It’s important to note that the term Trekkie became stigmatized by those who felt Star Trek was too altruistic for it’s own good. Most of the fans today use the term Trekker instead.

The franchise now stands at 7 TV series, 13 feature films, and the animated series. Over 700 hours of viewing available on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and CBS All Access.

Discovery and Picard are the current series. I have not seen them since I don’t subscribe to CBS All Access.

I am returning to the original series and all of its sequels and films.

Of all the episodes “The Naked Time” stands out for today. The crew becomes infected with a virus.

Most notably the ship’s helmsman Mr. Sulu runs amok with fever as a barechested swashbuckler.

Mr. Sulu crazy with fever is a fan favorite episode.

Every time the ship’s crew faced illness Dr.McCoy would complain that vaccines take time. His many retorts have become part of the long list of famous lines from the series.

By the end of an episode you knew an answer would be found. We cannot ever be so lucky in reality.

But, Star Trek makes you feel better about humanity’s prospects for survival.

The Vulcans are a race of half-human people ruled by logic. Mr. Spock represents them as chief Science Officer. His most famous line is “Live Long and Prosper”.

As a signifier of how positive the affect the series has had on its viewers 1 in 3 Americans are fans.

Around the world millions more are dedicated to its ideals of possibilities and respect for all cultures.

Left-Right: Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), and Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (Deforest Kelly). Star Trek The Motion Picture (Paramount 1979)

The United front of science fiction must still be an aim for humanity. The United Federation of Planets may still be fiction but we at least have a United Nations in reality.

I am a Trekkie. After a long break from it I have come back to Star Trek. Now there are many episodes to explore and favorite films to enjoy all over again.

Future blogs of The Gate will discuss Star Trek’s philosophy as well.

Please keep in mind this statement at the end of the first Star Trek feature film in 1979—The Human Adventure is Just Beginning…

Western Stars/Bruce Springsteen

Western Stars is the 19th solo album by Bruce Springsteen.
Produced by Ron Aniello on Columbia Records.
13 Songs; 50 minutes

A wayfarin’ hitch-hiker takes a journey back out to big sky country to reflect on a life gone past. Along the way we learn he was a B-movie Stuntman whose proudest moment was a scene with screen icon John Wayne.

Painting a deceptively simple picture of creeping isolation, lost love, and futile attempts to outrun a road that has to end, Mr. Springsteen has composed a romantic yet melancholy tribute to the American ideals of the West.

Remembering good times at a local cafe where the work is left behind; ‘Monday is a million miles away’. Forgetting the mounting sadness of lost opportunity because the western stars are out tonight.

The thematic thread woven through are light and dark; sunrise and sundown; the sun and the moon.

Evoking this vision are understated orchestrations that support the vocals in even tempo. At times the sweeping beauty of the notes will fill you with longing.

This is because our western star is waiting for his lost love to return. He knows this is a fool’s errand. “Tuscon Train”, “Stones”, and “There Goes My Miracle” are songs of tortured romance literally gone south.

The album’s centerpiece track, “Drive Fast” (The Stuntman), shows a physically broken man whose wounds are his only companion. The steel rod in his leg walks him home each night.

The last song on the album is “Moonlight Motel”. A memory of lost lovers enjoying an afternoon delight in a derelict place. The physical structures have gone to seed while their love blossoms. A place once made for nighttime pleasures becomes the sight of a self-made Eden.

Quite a beautiful album that is able to relate this tale of loss and loneliness without making its listener feel too sad. The melodies are uplifting; the vocals are empathetic.

In the daylight chasing wild horses, running for countless miles is enough to outrun the impending gloom. There is a deep abiding respect for this rugged place by the man at the center of it all—The Boss.

In lieu of a tour for this record, Bruce Springsteen makes his directorial debut on October 25, 2019 with “Western Stars”.

The film is a performance of the album with orchestra before an audience. An album, “Western Stars” Film Version will be released. It’s the same track list as the studio LP except for the addition of “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.

“Sundown” is the first single released from the film version album. The new versions seem to have even more developed orchestration.

Western Stars opens in theaters on October 25, 2019. The concert film premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival.

E Street Stardom/Solo Magic

For decades now Bruce Springsteen has piece by piece constructed a music career that continues to inspire longtime listeners and attract newcomers.

He has enjoyed commercial success but did not count only on selling his music but by creating a persona that was larger than his self but true to who he is offstage.

After listening to “Western Stars” over and over digitally I found my own take. His E Street albums are the rockstar track built with hits like “The River”, “Born To Run”, and “Born In The USA”.

The solo albums have been allowed by an audience that deeply appreciates his hard work in not just entertaining them but making them think too. This is the internal track of non rock Lp’s that delve into Americana, Folk, and Protest music.

His catalog is like a puzzle with thousands of pieces. For years I was distracted enough not to see what he was doing. Building his following slowly in bars/clubs on the Jersey Shore then reaching a zenith with sold out stadiums. He never relies on just hit singles. He becomes by word of mouth a legendary presence. His audience bestows the nickname, The Boss, to signify to them what he represents in the music world.

The solo work allows Bruce to work on music that he knows will not sell stadiums nor spend weeks at the top of the chart. It’s material he hopes will alternately take listeners down musical byways that cannot fit into the mainstream rock frame of the E Street Band.

I feel there are few solo artists doing such consistently fine work as Mr. Springsteen. Bob Dylan comes to mind. The Boss seeks long term attachment with his audience. He gets it because of the trust built upon decades of great work both rocking and reflective.

I hope the puzzle is not near completion.

Bruce Springsteen is performing at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 5th. A benefit for Stand-Up For Heroes.