Right Place, Right Time

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Abrams; 379Pages; Now available

This memoir is truly inspiring. A kid from Long Island develops (pun intended) a keen interest in photography at the age of 5. His mother has her own darkroom.

After leaving college over and over decides to pursue his real passion—creating images with his camera.

I think he made the right decision. You learn when reading this story how much of life is just being in the right place at the right time.

Over the past 60 years he has chronicled rock’s most significant artists. Beginning at the 1965 Newport folk festival when Bob Dylan plugged in with an electric guitar for the first time to the birth of disco, punk, and new wave, his best stories are collected here.

You will truly feel as if you are with him during all the late nights, problems with deadlines, and hangovers.

Bob Gruen became close friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Ike and Tina Turner.

He spent a lot of time showing the world the day to day lives of these extraordinary people. He de-glamorizes the biz. You see the tough times these folks lived through to get their art in the hands of listeners across the globe.

At the drop of a hat Bob Gruen flew to London, Germany, France, Japan or wherever needed to lend support.

In the moment he captured many moments that still resonate today.

Led Zep in front of the Enterprise Starship aircraft; John Lennon in his New York city tee-shirt; The Clash on the observation deck at 30 Rock; Ike and Tina Turner doing just about anything.

Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali. Dali created the first ever hologram of Alice.

This book is the perfect gift for the music fan in your life. He photographed Queen before they were famous. KISS in 1978 on the 14th St subway platform which had phone booths!

A magical journey peopled by lots of fascinating figures including:

Elton John, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, The Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Who, Runaways, and on and on.

Bob Gruen reminds his reader of the authenticity of New York city’s great power to help re-invent those who seek a new life.

Filled with black and white photos and full color of many moments that shaped his long-term success you get a deeply affecting impression of what it truly takes to become a fine artist.

One of my favorite early moments was when he took photos of models. A young college student came to the studio. Years later he found out that would be model became movie actress Karen Allen who appeared in “Animal House” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Today, Bob Gruen photography is a thriving business. The countless hours of painstaking work along with the warp speed social life required to achieve it are worthwhile.

I strongly recommend you get a copy of this account.

Album Cover Art In Our Digital Age

Since the 1960s the covers of long-playing records have undergone many changes.

Before the Beatles and Stones most records were just simple photographic images of the band leaders or crooners of the period.

During the 1960s when the counter-culture movement arrived albums underwent a major alteration.

The new artists had album covers that were more than just their mugs in close-up.

Before I continue let me be clear about what the cover of a record means to me.

I think covers are a canvas to be used to draw in would be listeners. It does not have to be literal or easy to understand.

After decades of releases before the internet we have thousands of covers to gawk at in pleasure and disgust.

The images can excite, enlighten, and become stand alone pieces of art.

In some cases they can also offend certain sensibilities.

The Beatles’ infamous butcher cover was censored by their record company upon release.

Capitol records pulled this album from circulation after distributors complained the cover image was revolting. If you can find this album with the offending picture it’s worth a lot today.

Guns N Roses biggest seller, “Appetite For Destruction” had its cover banned.

It featured a cartoon image of a flower girl being raped by a robot.

Guns N Rose’s original art got banned by their label. The cross and skull art is the cover now.

The aforementioned covers became highly valued on the market for collectors.

Their rarity increased the value of original prints. Digital representation of album art will never be valuable.

Many classic (old) rock groups hired artists to paint, photograph, and collage their cover art.

Roger Dean, Derek Riggs, and the firm Hipgnosis are good examples of why artists commission painters, graphic designers and illustrators.

The progressive rock group Yes compiled a catalog of music along with covers by Roger Dean.

His dreamscapes were colorful, fantastic, and surreal. This fit well with Yes’ music.

Fragile by Yes features the above art by Roger Dean to promote a greener planet.

Derek Riggs painted the first 8 Iron Maiden album covers.

His art became instantly part of the band’s image.

Each cover features the mascot Eddie, a decaying corpse reanimated back to life.

The art collective Hipgnosis was hired by British art rock icons Pink Floyd.

The indelible photographic elements are imprinted on the memory of any classic rock fan forever.

Their cover images include a cow for Atom Mother, a flying pig for Animals, and a prism for Dark Side of the Moon.

The records pictured above included extras you cannot enjoy digitally.

Styx and Pink Floyd had posters within their sleeves.

One more artist I want to mention is Michael Doret a designer, lettering artist, and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California.

He has created logos, album covers, magazine covers, and art for various brands in media, advertising, and sports.

The illustration he created for Kiss in 1978 was so eye catching the band worked with him again in the 21st Century!

Rock N Roll Over by Kiss was the last album in which all four original members performed. Ace Frehley had no writing credit.

Sonic Boom was released in 2009. The art is sort of a follow up to its 1970s predecessor.

On vinyl the album was issued with vinyl platters in six different colors.

The Rock N Roll Over album was reissued in 2015, complete with a sheet of full color stickers replicating the cover art.

The art is the original size meant for public view when it’s on a physical item.

Digital cannot transmit how vivid these covers actually appear.

Many albums have gatefold sleeves. This means they open up to show a two panel artwork.

Queen used an image by scifi illustrator Frank Kelly for News of the World in 1977. A two panel gatefold is featured.

Today album frames are sold as a means to display album cover art.

There are many examples of art for record covers. I have covered a few of my favorites for this article.

Keep in mind none of this art looks great in digital form. In physical presence you must stop and stare.

Record albums are cherished items. The extra goodies inside like posters are really cool too.

To be fair, digital music files can show the art. It’s tiny and trapped under the glass of your smart device.

MP3 files can become corrupted. I have had to stop my PC many times due to bad playback.

Records force you to take better care of your music.

It is much more of an experience to play an album on a turntable. You value it more. And the art is for keeps!

Jimmy Eat World “Surviving”/ Review

I may have come late to this band since they have been around since 1993 with their share of career ups and downs, but it’s a sheer pleasure to hear something this fresh.

Their 10th studio album is called “Surviving”. A emo/punk/alt wink at all the folks who may have doubted their ability to stick it out.

A consistent sound that falls somewhere between R.E.M. and Green Day; remaining authentic alt rocker outsiders.

Jimmy Eat World:

  • Jim Adkins – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals (1993–present)
  • Zach Lind – drums, percussion, programming (1993–present)
  • Tom Linton – rhythm guitar, backing and lead vocals (1993–present)
  • Rick Burch – bass, backing vocals (1995–present)

This record has a fresh quality that would surprise any listener aware that it’s a tenth album.

Each song bristles with energy. You don’t have to be a fan of this kind of music to enjoy the sounds on this album.

Track List:

1.“Surviving”3:04
2.“Criminal Energy”3:11
3.“Delivery”3:13
4.“555”3:41
5.“One Mil”3:07
6.“All the Way (Stay)”4:05
7.“Diamond”3:13
8.“Love Never”2:54
9.“Recommit”3:50
10.“Congratulations”6:11
36:29

The self-assured title opener crackles with endless riffs. “Criminal Energy” drives with melody that are a mix of pop and punk.

“Delivery” is a pretty percussive piece of balladry. “555” is an ominous synth shift into another mode. This track is modern rock. Real catchy with just a great hook. The vocals shine brightly here.

A basic acoustic arrangement is looped into “One Mil”, a love song with pop punk sensibility, that asks how chances at love are missed. A propulsive beat keeps threading itself throughout.

“All The Way (Stay)” opens with strumming and drumming that is captivating. A pleading message to a mate.

The vocals are varied enough to keep you listening with engagement. There is an unexpected sax solo with back-up vocals too.

Like all the tracks contained here there are quick witted breaks in the riffs.

“Diamond” opens in similar fashion with power riffs. A song about aspirations. The quality of the singing is especially ripe on this track. Slow and sure is the best path in life.

“Love Never” is just a great power pop song. The lead guitars are super here.

“Recommit” has the slowest build up. It’s worth the patience. About the different levels of love/commitment.

The set ends with the epic, “Congratulations”, a completely propulsive song with lead and backing vocals that have a mix of angelic yet foreboding mystery around them.

The band pulls out all the stops with synth, percussive beats that accent the chords well. Symphonic quality with a pop/punk delivery.

This album would make a nice addition to any audio library.

Bad Religion/Age Of Unreason

The 17th studio album is “Age Of Unreason”.
With singles like “Chaos From Within” & “Do The Paranoid Style” this record engages our culture’s climate with songs that confront our inner turmoil.


Bad Religion, a band formed in 1980 in the midst of Southern California’s punk rock movement, has put forth a humanist view in the ever increasing hostile climate of organized religion, politics, and our greedy anti-intellectual establishment.

Punk rock is perhaps the best truth-teller music has to offer. I will talk about my other favorites of this genre in future blogs.

For now I want to discuss the new album from Bad Religion. 14 tracks brimming with melody, harmony, and brilliant dissent.

Going against the grain is at the heart of punk music. It can enlighten us, shake us, and bring energy into the deepening void of apathy and ignorance that engulfs most of our world.

After decades of listening to groups that are apolitical or have no critical point of view I decided to seek out more thoughtful groups. I found Bad Religion with their new record, “Age Of Unreason”.

The songs were inspired by America’s revival of nativism. The current attempts at governing are weakening our best intentions towards a more democratic society.

Below is the line-up that recorded this new record.

Current members

One of the qualities I love in punk is the ability to communicate directly with its audience. There are 14 tracks that clock in at 33 minutes. During the late 20th century the punks knew that attention spans were falling. They never faltered in the chords that made rock roll.

The band has a logo that shows a cross with a slash of prohibition through it. Greg Graffin explained: “we don’t like to subscribe to dogmatic ways of life and dogmatic views on life and that religion, in general, is founded in dogma and in restriction of ideas, restriction of thought and it’s these things that I feel are bad about religion, it’s also very bad about nationalistic views, it’s very bad … it’s something that mankind, as a group, is not going to benefit from; it’s only something that mankind will … it’s something mankind will … I’m sorry, it’s something that will instill violence, and it will instill fighting, and it will instill non-cooperation of different groups of humans.”

Chaos From Within opens with a quick tempo that reminds us that our current state results from the constant churning of madness within our body politic. The chorus goes like this:

Threat is urgent, existential
With patience wearing thin
But the danger’s elemental
It’s chaos from within

In this mad country our cockeyed optimism is always on display. The track “My Sanity” is a plea to hold on to this misguided belief system. At song’s end the following is declared: Sometimes there’s no sane reason for optimism.

Oh my sanity, my sanity
I’ve nothing to lose, so please let me be
My life is a song, a short melody
Harmonizing with reality
I’ve got it real bad, there’s no remedy
My world picture is exemplary
I won’t let you go, what else can there be
You’re all I have, my dear sanity

Do The Paranoid Style smartly mocks disposable dance crazes that have reinforced our march towards ignorance over reason. Make up your own truth without a care.

Hey kids on the right and left
Do you feel dispossessed
If you’re on the left or right
I feel your pain tonight
So shake off reality
It’s easy as you please
Soon everyone is dancing
Con-spir-a-tor-i-a-lly

It’s the paranoid style in American politics
Casey Jones you better watch your apocalypse
All kinds of wild interpretation
Are open to the paranoid imagination

Do The Paranoid Style is the catchiest track here. Then a galloping melody kicks in with ‘The Approach’. A reminder that despite the nonsense people are fed via social media we are still approaching the end. Be optimistic if you wish. The seeming rush to our destruction is ongoing.

There’s a moral and intellectual vacuum and you’re right to be lookin’ askance
Philosophically moribund, revolution hasn’t a chance

As the light fades, the shadows dance in silhouette .

Then a beautiful respite in “Lose Your Head”. A real punk statement of not going off the deep end because of our stupid system. My favorite lyric is: There’s an accident waiting to happen at all times anyway
And maybe we’d all benefit from some epistemic humility .

Without this humility how will any of us be remembered? The sixth track, “End Of History” asks the most of us. Are we really okay with letting maniacs lead us to our demise?

Halcyon days are not a thing
Nostalgia is no excuse for stupidity
I don’t believe in golden ages
Or presidents that put kids in cages
America awaits on bended knee
Can’t you see

Sweet children, Locke’s burden
Why did mother draw the curtains
Free will is your dilemma, (what will the dust remember)
Tell me where do you really want to be?
At the end of history?

At the midpoint we receive the title track. The song pleads with us that many cannot see the country’s heart is bleeding because of the man who brought back tyranny.

The mass is unrepentant in this age of unreason. The environment is being poisoned. Dogmatic systems are promoting over population, consumerism, and waste.

I feel strongly this record is one of the finest of 2019. A remarkable dissent in a culture that retreats from empathy.

The second half has good tracks. I will not go deep into them like I did with the first 7 tracks. Listeners should have their own thoughts about this work.

What follows is a brief description of the second half of the record:

  
'The Candidate' denounces our current clown.  He is a fraud.  A Pied Piper type demanding that you (rats like you) should follow his populist tune.   Nothing but a conjurer of violence and despair. Yet still promises to make all your worries disappear. 

"Faces of Grief" is a short, sweet punk riff about the dangerous tribalism religion bestows upon all.

"Old Regime" shreds with protest fury. The track reminds us that today's aristocracy is just the old non-democratic regime with a different name.

"Big Black Dog" is one of my favorite songs. Calling out the President as a traitor in chief. The song is groove driven.

"Downfall" has a new wave thread that allows the hook to take hold of the listener. The lyrics describe a society that has turned away from science in favor of dogma. The wave that is surely to come will destroy us.

"Since Now" poses that we are living in the upside down. Our new bizarre reality is that everything we thought was true is being ripped apart. The punkish answer is to say since when... Structured as a list of grievances sure to wake up the apathetic hordes.

The closing track is "What Tomorrow Brings". A note of hopeful finality to the proceedings, more than sociological or technological, it's what tomorrow brings. The changes we need are what may come.

Punk is protest. Punk is relevant. Punk is open. The form embraces the misfit in all of us. Please give this record a listen. You may just find you are not alone in the crucible of our current mad state.