Thursday, April 28, 2022

Music to Get Lost In: A Brief Introduction to Jam Bands


What's a jam band?


I like all kinds of music: blues, rock, psychedelic, R&B, jazz and ocassionally even folk/bluegrass and their offshoots. And I especially like long, well-developed performances that I can get lost in -- the kind of music that musicians love playing as they engage a melody and soar side by side like the Blue Angels in tight formation and then diverge into solo musical loops and barrel rolls, eventually converging back at the melody where they started. This kind of musical aerobatics is the domain of the jam band. 

In introducing its comprehensive and always-growing list of jam bands, Wikipedia summarizes:  "Jam band performances often feature extended musical improvisation ('jams') over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that cross genre boundaries."  

Elsewhere, Wikipedia traces jam band origins: "The jam-band musical style spawned from the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s. The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band became notable for their live improvisational jams and regular touring schedules, which continued into the 1990s." Wikipedia also identifies the "stylistic origins" of jam bands to include:  jazz, folk, country, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion, blues, rock, and Southern rock. In fact, many jam band tracks (songs) seem to slide effortlessly among several of these musical genres within the same piece. 

(Rather not read my wise & wonderful background info? Then scroll down & start listening.)

What's so great about jam band music?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Book Review -- "Flashing Back: Coming of Age in the American 1960s"

Amazon Listing for Flashing Back: Coming of Age in the American 1960s

[Note: As a baby boomer and a survivor of the 1960s, I found this to be one of the most powerful and authentic books I've ever read. Below is my heartfelt review & recommendation. - Mike G.]

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

"The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seams..." - from King Crimson's "Epitaph," 1969

The 1960s were a swirling maelstrom of assassinated heroes, civil rights and racial strife, and the draft turning young men too young to vote (or even needing to shave every day) into cannon fodder, compelling them to kill and die in an unpopular war for reasons still unfathomable. The walls on which our prophets wrote cracked and crumbled as we discovered our institutions victimizing us rather than serving us. An entire generation called “bullshit” on the whole thing. Finding ourselves groping along an uncharted path, we tried to figure out what was going on and how we could survive. We got high. We protested and raised hell in the streets, and at our family dinner tables. Our new, over-amplified music blasted our ideals at deafening levels, a unifying force too loud to ignore. We hit the road partying, leaving the draft, the war, and Ward Cleaver’s America in our rear-view mirror. This disaffected population demographic coalesced into a counterculture of alienated youth with long hair, weird clothes, and loud music: the hippie-freaks. It was indeed a long, strange trip. It was also a passionate trip, a trip motivated by a genuine search for justice, freedom, truth, spirit, and personal authenticity. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Become an armchair expatriate with these 55 video series that'll take you out of the U.S. & around the world!

These video series shown above will take you on regular trips to South Africa, Australia, England, Greek island of Corfu and India!

Armchair Expats


My wife and I have spent nearly every evening for the past decade or so as armchair expatriates, leaving America behind and spending hours in other parts of the English-speaking world. We travel by video streaming services to cities, villages and rural areas of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada and pretty much anywhere that English speaking folks have established themselves. We leave behind the bulletproof vests, serial killers, SWAT teams, predator-driven, high-intensity thrillers and cheesy "reality" shows that make up a typical evening of American television. 

Our Viewing Criteria


We have this test question for any new TV series: "Would we want to have dinner with these characters?" If so, we watch a few episodes and ask another question: "Do I feel better after spending time in this series?" As long as we can answer both of these questions in the affirmative, we keep watching the series. But if the episodes start going dark, nasty or generally emulating the "edgy" dreck served up by most American media we instantly drop them and move on.

Looking back over our nightly travels "abroad," we see that the series we spend the most time with share many of these qualities: 
• There are no commercials or ads breaking up the flow (at least there are none after each episode begins).
• The characters are generally good people with reasonably good intentions.
• The characters are pursuing laudable goals and encountering plausible obstacles that they eventually overcome.
• There is little or no violence or gore.
• There is beautiful scenery.
• Our characters are not constantly battling a life-threatening evil or slogging through a dark, dystopian world.
When the series is over we feel better, rather than worse, at having spent time with these characters. In particular, we don't feel ashamed or voyeuristic at having been sucked into something that was mostly negative or merely sensationalistic.

Our Recommended Series


Below is a list of 55 fictional series we have seen and recommend, categorized by the part of the world to which they will take you. The majority of these are from two low-cost sources: Acorn TV ($5.99/month) and PBS Passport ($5/month). A few are from Hulu and Netflix