2019 Music And Books

This has been a strong year for metal.

Tool and Rammstein both returned after prolonged absences to deliver some of their original metal.

Reading is a commercial free pleasure that always offers too many worthy titles.

The long-awaited follow up to “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “The Testaments ” by Margaret Atwood brought an end to the dystopian saga.

Stephen King’s “The Institute” provided plenty suspense while Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” examined the disparities of our penal system.

Here I briefly remind my kind readers to pick up a good read for a sharp mind.

Music first. In no particular order these are my favorites for 2019.

Top L-R: Tool and Opeth.
Bottom L-R: Candlemass, Rammstein, and Dragonforce

Rammstein/ Untitled the German steel unleashed their seventh studio effort this year. A minimal art image on the cover of an unstruck match allows for infinite interpretation.

Like previous records in the band’s arsenal they convey their messages in masterfully crafted bursts of metal blended with synth and industrial sounds.

I had to listen more than once to appreciate the sonic aptitude of the music involved here.

Despite the fact that all their songs are in German as a metalhead you come to realize it’s the most amazing synergy with this genre.

Tool/ Fear Inoculum had a lot riding on it’s success or failure. After 13 years the band delivered their most assured set.

Complete with epic length songs, interludes, and fantastic artwork it brought fans new and old into their fold.

Opeth/ In Cauda Venenum is an earthly delight from the doom metal stalwarts.

A funeral trip that engages a sense of hope beyond the grave. This is a band that remains focused from first riff to last outro growl. A true opus.

Dragonforce/ Extreme Power Metal I feel energized when I listen to the galeforce delivery here. Infused with great keyboards and tasty metal licks with thick choruses you too will hail our bright future.

Bright and colorful with brilliant musicianship, this album testifies to the kinetic energy inherent in power metal. It’s like Styx on steroids!

Candlemass/ The Door To Doom Death metal has had a strong year. This veteran group released quite a slab.

A tight set that runs 48 minutes. ‘Splendor Demon Majesty’ opens with a grand salute to the dark lord.

The record builds on all the classic instrumentation of Black Sabbath. A 1970s groove permeates. And this is a great result.

In fact, Sabbath founder Tony Iommi is featured on track 3—‘Astorolus-The Great,Octopus ‘. Sludgy and deep riffs abound.

Doomy choral backing vocals add to the impact. You will want to open this door many, many times!

Notable authors provided a feast for readers in 2019. Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Delia Owens, Dean Kuipers, and Elizabeth Gilbert made my cut.

Where The Crawdads Sing/Delia Owens has now been near or at the top of The New York Times bestseller list for over 60 weeks!

It deserves this honor. A great story of survival against all odds. A young girl’s family abandons her in the marsh.

She will grow up alone in their beach shack. And along the way she gets accused of murder.

Teaching herself to become self sufficient she teaches her would be enemies in the art of love and forgiveness.

City of Girls/ Elizabeth Gilbert is a story set in 1930’s and 1940’s New York City. A young woman drops out of an elite college.

Sent to live with her eccentric aunt in the city who runs a playhouse.

A friend recommended this novel. If you love theater you must check it out!

The Nickel Boys/ Colson Whitehead a story of two boys incarceration in a reform school in Florida. Unknown to out of state authorities the systemic horrors of Jim Crow are alive and well.

The Deer Camp/Dean Kuipers a memoir of growing up in rural Michigan.

How a boy grows up to become an activist in New York only to discover that his estranged father needs him for his own life. His family’s survival depends on it.

A great exploration of healthy masculine ideals.

The Institute/Stephen King Young Luke Ellis is abducted, his parents are killed, and that is just the start of his new life as a subject of the mysterious lab he is now a part.

King keeps the suspense gripping and the facts that cometo light illuminate our current horrifying climate of espionage and black site operations.

The Testaments/ Margaret Atwood the conclusion of the dystopian tale of women’s demotion back into handmaids.

Gilead’s secrets are about to be leaked globally. A runaway becomes the symbol of a final reckoning that will reduce this cruel social to rubble.

Colorado/Neil Young & Crazy Horse/ Review

Neil Young’s 38th album, “Colorado”, released on October 25, 2019.

This is the first studio offering from Crazy Horse since 2012’s “Psychedelic Pill”.

The sounds you get these days are often produced so meticulously it’s miraculous there are any musicians left with real soul.

Crazy Horse have soul in spades. This latest offering is about climate change.

More to the point it’s a raw jammy statement of love for the planet; a pro-immigration, pluralistic mission from perhaps rock’s last angry man.

Crazy Horse are:

Neil Young (guitars, vocals, piano, vibes, harmonica), Nils Lofgren (guitars, vocals, pump organ), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), and Billy Talbot (bass, vocals). They recorded Colorado mostly live in studio in the titular state. Neil Young produced the album with John Hanlon.

Recording a Crazy Horse album in Colorado.
  • 01 Think of Me
  • 02 She Showed Me Love
  • 03 Olden Days
  • 04 Help Me Lose My Mind
  • 05 Green Is Blue
  • 06 Shut It Down
  • 07 Milky Way
  • 08 Eternity
  • 09 Rainbow of Colors
  • 10 I Do

While none of these new compositions will strike a novice listener as anything hip or catchy they are not meant to be commercial.

These are brilliant musicians laying down jams that are recorded well.

In each piece is expressed wishes, hopes, and dreams of a world that cares about the eternal.

“She Showed Me Love” is an epic jam of 13:36 mins secs in duration.

On vinyl this album is a 3 record set. There is a 7 inch single of ‘Milky Way’ included.

Mr. Young wanted to make an album of lasting value; high quality playback was key.

The musicianship on display here is superlative. “Milky Way” is the first single; “Rainbow Of Colors” will be the second.

Frustration over the lack of universal understanding of the epic problems we face with a climate in decline is resolved in the scorching anger of “Shut It Down”.

The song’s second verse:

Have to shut the whole system down
All around the planet
There’s a blindness that just can’t see
Have to shut the whole system down
They’re all wearing climate change
As cool as they can be

The arrangements are not heavy handed. The delivery is what longtime listeners of this band would expect. A slow churn of political dissent that threatens to boil over.

By the record’s end you want more. In reality you must do your part so there can be more. An eternity of more.

Mr. Young has been recording since 1969. Now in his 50th year as a recording artist he shows no sign of slowing down; not giving in to an apathetic status quo.

He cares deeply for the songs he creates as an artist. His contributions to groups like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are untouchable rock milestones.

Sometimes his solo works have been difficult to translate on first listen. Regardless, you must listen with a close ear, expecting to not get all the meaning within right away.

This album has those qualities. If you do the work you will get the picture. Much more transparent than some of his other works with insightful poetic lyrics in every song.

“Milky Way” is a poem. Universal themes of lost love, longing for connection, and cockeyed optimism are long held hallmarks of musical art. This track embodies all of it.

The repeating verse:

I was sailing in the Milky Way
Losing track of memories
That weren’t that day
Right by her side
As the stars flew by I did collide
With memory but somehow

I survived
And became free

A transient moment in time. Getting lost in the daze of lost/recalled memories and somehow able to move forward stronger.

As the lead single I felt strongly this track represented what the album as a whole says of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s work.

When a legendary artist releases new music there is a huge weight attached—memory of past glory.

“Colorado” just plainly states that we cannot collide with our past because we risk negating the present; become blind to our future.

According to SPIN magazine there will not be a concert tour this Fall to support the new record. Mr. Young is finishing up editing 15 films!

https://www.spin.com/2019/08/neil-young-crazy-horse-no-tour-15-films/

A companion documentary, Mountaintop Sessions, will be released soon, directed by C.K. Vollick.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse will play Winnipeg in February 2020. More dates to follow.