Saturday, May 29, 2010

Update - Cartersville Songwriters Exchange's New Venue

Here are the details I promised to post regarding CSE's new meeting place, courtesy of Chris Hereth. I assume the meeting time will still be 7:30 PM. It looks as though the day of future meetings will be Wednesday. From Chris's post on the CSE Facebook page:

Okay folks, it's official! The Cartersville Songwriters Exchange has a new home! Starting on June 9th, the weekly CSE meetings will take place at The City Loft in downtown Cartersville! The Loft's owner, Bob Smith, has been gracious enough to not only let us use The Loft for the CSE meetings, but also a lot of other... cool stuff that we're working on for CSE members. (Details are soon to follow.)

And don't forget to check out Bob's restaurant, The City Cellar (which is downstairs from The Loft - appropriately enough), and enjoy some of the best food in Cartersville! Their website is http://site.thecitycellar.com/. Please check them and out and tell them we sent you!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Eagles v Creedence Clearwater Revival - Songwriters Match Up #6

This week our songwriters challenge pits The Eagles against Creedence Clearwater Revival. I think I was influenced by The Big Lebowski in coming up with this match up. Will I heed The Dude's advice and pick CCR over The Eagles? It's hard to say at this point, but I will try to make a reasonable analysis. Two great bands American rock bands....

Lyrics

John Fogerty was the primary songwriter of Creedence Clearwater Revival and he wrote the vast majority of the groups hits. Fogerty proved to be a machine, churning out hit after hit over the course of the band's aproximately five years together, writing such great songs as Proud Mary, Green River, Down on the Corner and Who'll Stop the Rain. Most of the Eagles hits were written by Don Henley and Glenn Fry with Joe Walsh occasionally contributing here as well. The lyrics of the songs such as Hotel California are tribute to the band's ability to write memorable and evocative lyrics. Both bands were capable of writing songs that provided political or social commentary – John Fogerty's Bad Moon Rising (supposedly about the re-election of Richard Nixon), Fortunate Son and Green River (songs with obvious reference to the war in Vietnam) were some of the era's best. Don Henley's Last Resort is a powerful indictment of the relentless destruction of nature at the hands of greedy developers. I think there is more poetry in the best of The Eagles songs – and for this reason I think that I should award this category to The Eagles. Ten points, The Eagles.

Composition

The Eagles sound was originally mellower with more bluegrass influence and over time became harder and less country. CCR wrote many great songs that were easy for garage bands to cover because they were so simple and straightforward. The Eagles were more ambitious overall, eventually making use of orchestral arrangements on the album Hotel California. There is a greater variety of instruments in The Eagle's work including mandolin and banjo in some of the earlier material. Ten points for The Eagles.

Originality

CCR had an original sound that is difficult to categorize – it has been called swamp rock. It was sometimes assumed the group was from Louisiana (actually it was formed in California) because of songs like Born on the Bayou. The Eagles country rock sound had it's roots in the California music scene at the time. In fact most of the original incarnation of the band were performing as Linda Ronstadt band while she was on tour. The fusion of bluegrass, country and rock that was part of The Eagles early sound was unique at the time. It's close, but I'm giving Five points here to The Eagles.

Influence

The Eagles were among the vanguards of country rock and among the most successful. You could reasonably argue that Neil Young and The Flying Burrito Brothers among other bands were at least as important to the birth of the country rock genre, but I believe that because The Eagles garnered such extensive radio play during the seventies on both rock and country radio stations, they probably influenced more of the current crop of country rock artists. Five more points for The Eagles.


Durability

CCRs straightforward, passionate rock continues to inspire new generations of rock and roll musicians. There are so many great songs here and I believe that it stands the test of time better. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather still listen to CCR because although it is old, for some reason it is not so heavily tied to any particular decade as The Eagles are to the seventies. Five points CCR.

Conclusion – The Eagles win this weeks songwriters match up 30 to 5
. But I'd still still rather listen to CCR if me and The Dude were road tripping.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cartersville Songwriter's Exchange - New Venue in the Works

According to a conversation I had with Randy, a restaurant owner in Cartersville has agreed to let us start having our meetings in an upstairs room during off hours. From what I understand, he may be interested in having us perform there as well, if we can draw enough customers. This is a very vague post, and I apologize for that - I should have more details in the near future. I am hoping that it isn't a week night, but even if it is, I will still do what I can to make the trip from Smyrna to Cartersville to attend. I am glad there is still support out there for people to help musicians who wish to perform their own material - I hope we can get enough music down to put on a decent show. In other news I have a new song that I am working on dedicated to my old employer "They Sold Me Down the River". The good thing about songwriting is that it is a great way to deal with life hardships. Short post this time, cheers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Doors v Lou Reed - Songwriters Match Up #5

This week it's The Doors versus Lou Reed in our songwriter match up - who will come out on top?

As I think about these two bands, I can't help but remember from Oliver Stones movie The Doors in which Jim Morrison and company are at a party where Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground are performing. It was implied that The Doors were ambassadors of the psychedelic, consciousness expanding spirit of the west where as The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol embodied nihilistic decline and heroin induced escapism. I am a great fan of both bands. The Doors and Lou Reed pushed boundaries of rock music, and the music they made was uncompromising, especially in Lou Reed's case. Lou Reed was brutally honest and unafraid of exploring controversial topics including fetish, drug addiction, electric shock therapy (his parents subjected him to this as a teenager) and trans-sexuality - not your typical fair and certainly not subjects with wide commercial appeal. Lou Reed wrote songs of this nature from more of an observational standpoint rather than a judgmental one. Jim Morrison was the visionary front man and primary lyricist of The Doors. His lyrics reveal his fascination with psychic dislocation, chaos and shamanistic ecstasy - he considered himself to be more Dionysian than Apollonian. Robby Krieger was the primary author of some of the groups best songs including Light My Fire, Lover Her Madly, Touch Me and Love Me Two Times. The Doors were a pretty cohesive songwriting unit and many of their songs credit the group rather than one member as the author.

Lyrics

Jim Morrison wrote some of the most surreal lyrics in rock music. Songs such as People Are Strange are brilliant in their concise and poetic expression. Sometimes though he was prone to muddled non sequiturs that seem more like filler than substance. Lou Reed's lyrics are grittier, more narrative and are more intense expressions of emotional states. Such a tough decision to make here, but I think Reed is more cohesive and because of this I am awarding this category to Lou Reed with reservations - especially when I think of some of Morrison's best lyrics like "Women seem wicked when you're unwanted, streets will haunt you alone when your down". The verdict - 10 points for Lou Reed.

Composition

The musical backbone of The Doors - keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger formed a very adept musical core for the band. They excelled at free form improvisation in concert, and were well served by their well-rounded musical chops, able to play classical, jazz, blues and rock. Lou Reed was arguably at his best when he was part of the Velvet Underground and collaborating with John Cale, who was also a classically trained musician (as Reed was) and who was influenced by avante-garde musicians such as John Cage. John Cale pushed the bands sound into noisier, more experimental territory. However, sound I believe is different than composition - I am going with The Doors since they were so adept and making each instrument work so well as part of an ensemble and for the greater complexity of their arrangements in general. The Doors win this, 10 points.

Influence

This one is not much of a contest - I have to go with Lou Reed. As part of The Velvet Underground, it is said that he was instrumental in the formation of alternative rock and punk - the use of noise and volume, the sometimes abrasive quality of the music, and the subject matter of the songs inspired scores of rock fans to form their own bands. 5 points for Lou Reed.

Originality

Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground where part of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable - they would perform at his events and movie projectors would play film on them as they performed. Lou Reed's seventies album Transformer helped pioneer Glam Rock. Metal Machine Music was one of the most outrageous records ever made for better or worse (it is all noise pretty much). The Doors theatrical bent on songs such as The End was a bold exploration of what a rock concert could be and Morrison's uninhibited antics live are legendary. I feel like flipping a coin here - maybe I'll go with Lou Reed because who would have dreamed such an unphotogenic Jewish kid from New York singing songs about transvestites and drug addicts would become a rock star? 5 points Lou Reed.

Durability

I'm going with Lou Reed here as well mainly because the strenghth of that first album with The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground and Nico. Heroin is timeless. The Doors seem to be more of a product of their time, and perhaps because of the continuous airplay of their more commercially friendly songs such as Light My Fire and LA Woman on classic rock stations, the material sounds increasingly dated. Lou Reed has written a lot more songs, and because so much of it is so non-commercial and unique, it is harder to grow tired of it. 5 points Lou Reed.

So there you have it. This weeks winner is Lou Reed over The Doors, 25 to 10.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My First Music Video - A Song About Facebook

Well, this week I took the plunge and bought myself a camcorder - the Sony Bloggie. It cost less than $200 and can record in high definition. With Kathy's help I shot my first music video to promote one of my songs. I may be jumping the gun here because I really need to create a YouTube channel and a website with a shopping cart where people can purchase music (after I have better quality MP3's made).

I don't have any real video editing software. Windows Movie Maker was unable to import the mpegs as they were recorded by the camcorder. First I converted them to WMV's but after I edited my project in Windows Movie Maker it kept failing when I tried to export my finished project. I ended up compositing it in Flash and exporting as an .avi and then re-importing the movie into Movie Maker and exporting as an MP4 for the web. I reduced the sized and quality to make sure it could handle the export, so now I have a very amateurish video - (I lip synced to a pre-recorded sound track) but at least it is more interesting than just setting up a tripod getting everything in one shot.

The video has been posted to YouTube. I am toying with branding myself so I chose the name "Davey Bryans", derived from my real name. Is it a dumb name? Or is it too much like a porn star name?

Anyway the video is below and your feedback is appreciated.


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Animals v The Kinks – Songwriters Match Up #4

This week's match up is between two more great British bands, The Kinks and The Animals. Both bands formed in the 60's. Ray Davies was the primary lyricist of The Kinks and his songs were known for their observations on English culture, humor and word play. The Animals were basically a blues band that became more and more psychedelic nature over the course of the band's career. Until the mid sixties, The Animals did not write much of their material, either covering blues hits by American artists, drawing upon folk for material such as The House of the Rising Sun, or else recording material written by Brill Building songwriters recruited by the groups producer at the time, Mickie Most. By 1965 ended, the group switched to Decca Records and producer Tom Wilson, who gave them more artistic freedom to write their own material.

Lyrics – The Kinks

Ray Davies has written some of the best Rock lyrics out there – he is particularly adept at satire and social commentary. The Animals had their share of unforgettable songs, but many of the best of them had been written by others including Don't Bring Me Down and We Gotta Get Out of This Place. 10 points for the Kinks

Composition – The Animals

This was a very close call but I'm giving this to The Animals primarily because of later works such as Sky Pilot and Spill the Wine. With these songs, The Animals proved that they were capable of progressing beyond the usual blues and folk covers and become an innovative force in the realm of psychedelic rock. 10 points for The Animals.

Influence – The Kinks

The Kinks have been called one of the most influential bands of the British Invasion. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website states that "Ray Davies is almost indisputably rock's most literate, witty and insightful songwriter." They were instrumental in the development of hard rock and heavy metal music with songs such as You Really Got Me helping to inspire and influence bands such as The Clash, The Ramones and Van Halen. Musicologist Joe Harrington noted that “the Kinks did a lot to help turn rock 'n' roll (Jerry Lee Lewis) into rock (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, the Stooges)." 5 points for the Kinks.

Originality – The Kinks

The Kinks fusion of dance hall music, blues, folk, country, hard rock as well as Ray Davies' distinctive lyrics and songwriting are all reasons that the band has developed such a devoted cult following. 5 points for The Kinks.

Durability – The Kinks

The Kinks continued to put out occasional hits into the eighties and nineties and have a larger body of work that doesn't make the band sound as dated as The Animals. 5 points for The Kinks

Conclusion – The Kinks are this week's winner 25 to 10.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Want Free Guitar Lessons? Try YouTube

I am a self-taught guitarist - I learned to play by ear and by learning the chords to lots of songs so that I developed a sense for structure and and color. But it is hard to continue to grow sometimes by just trying to learn new chords and doodling around - you find it hard to break out of the same old patterns - and when the same old chord combinations in your musical toolbox no longer can inspire you when you sit down to write a song.

Lately I have been searching YouTube for terms like "rock chord progressions" or "rock guitar riffs". You can find a lot of good videos, many done by professionals who slow it down enough for you to follow while they explain how to play a certain riff or strum pattern. I recently wrote a new song I was kind of pleased with after checking out a few of these videos and getting inspired by learning new progressions. This was actually a happy song, a welcome change from the mood of songs that I usually write. I played it at the Cartersville Song Exchange for the first time last Saturday and my fellow songwriters there liked it, so that felt good.

I plan to continue looking for useful videos on YouTube to learn new techniques and riffs. You have to love the internet! There has never been a better time to learn guitar with all of the free resources that you can now access.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pink Floyd v Led Zeppelin Songwriter Match Up #3

This week's songwriter match up pits two seminal British rock bands against one another. The songs of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are mainstays on almost any classic rock station. Of the two, I would say that Pink Floyd was the more avant-garde for their time, focusing heavily on psychedelic lightshows and elaborate stages that were part of their performances. Pink Floyd also put out more concept albums and was less about writing hit singles than Led Zeppelin (although Zeppelin was also album oriented). Led Zeppelin for its part was one of the major inspirations behind the birth of the heavy metal rock band. The musical contrasts of light and heavy were also explored in a way that influenced many other bands. Note how popular heavy rock bands had names that reflect this - Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge, etc.. Page was a fan of Pentangle and Joni Mitchell, and a acoustic sections are often incorporated into some of Led Zeppelin's biggest hits that start relatively quietly with fingerpicking contrasted by a subsequent hard rock electric sound later in the same song.

Lyrics - Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd has put out so many great songs with compelling and sometimes disturbing lyrics. Explorations of madness, alienation, euphoria all come to mind. Between Syd Barrett and the songwriting team of Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the talent was certainly there. Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant was the primary lyricist of the band. Plant's lyrics definitely work well with the music and vocal stylings and for the most part I'd rate him a good lyricist. But then there are some lyrics like this one: "I saw a lion he was standing alone with a tadpole in a jar" (from Dancing Days). 10 points for Pink Floyd.

Composition - Led Zeppelin

John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page were well rounded, experienced studio musicians comfortable with playing and arranging complex compositions. While perhaps the dominant influence in Led Zeppelins music is blues rock, there is also folk, funk, jazz, eastern influences and even some ska. Both bands have had orchestras providing full symphonic treatments of their music, perhaps the most notable example was Led Zeppelins Kashmir as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I'm giving this one to Led Zeppelin. 10 points.

Influence - Led Zeppelin

I can't think of another band that made so many 70's teens aspire to become rock gods and drive their parents crazy by cranking up their electric guitars or hammering away on the drums like John Bonham than Led Zeppelin. And Led Zeppelin's sound was so influential to 70's bands like Aerosmith and Rush that both started by covering Led Zeppelin. 5 more points awarded to Led Zeppelin.

Originality - Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd's fusion of science fiction, philosophy and psychodrama plus the exploration of themes such as madness and alienation make their work unforgettable. So many great concept albums - Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall and Animals. Pink Floyd is a legendary band fully deserving of taking the prize in this category. 5 more points for Pink Floyd.

Durability - Led Zeppelin

I have to go with Led Zeppelin. It is a very close call, but I could imagine future generations that were not as drug-oriented as those that were young in the decade when these two groups were in their heyday choosing Led Zeppelin over Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd tends to be perhaps a little tiring at times because it is too brooding. The quality of the music of both bands ensure that they have the durability to win fans for decades to come, but if I have to award a winner here it would have to be Led Zeppelin. 5 Points.

Conclusion - Led Zeppelin comes out ahead 20 to 15.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

David Bowie v. Elton John Songwriter Match Up #2

This week's match up pits two of rock music's most unconventional stars against each other to determine who is the best songwriter.


David Bowie, born David Robert Jones, was perhaps the most influential "glam rocker" as the androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust and later The Thin White Duke.


Elton John's outrageous stage costumes and exuberant uninhibited concerts wowed his fans and he became one of musics most successful artists. The single "Candle in the Wind" (the version written after the death of Diana) has sold over 37 million copies, and according to Wikipedia, is the best selling single of all time.


Both of these artists had their heyday in the 1970's, the golden age of album oriented rock.


Lyrics - Elton John / Bernie Taupin
To clarify, Bernie Taupin wrote or co-wrote the lyrics of many of Elton John's greatest hits, including "Candle in the Wind". David Bowie's lyrics always work well for his brand of rock and who doesn't love the weirdness of "Ziggy Stardust" or the sci-fi influenced "Major Tom"? But all in all, Elton John's lyrics have more of an emotional depth and a compelling narrative quality. Ten points for Elton John.


Composition - Elton John
Both Bowie and Elton John were innovative composers, but Elton John comes out on top. Listen to "Funeral for a Friend" or his version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Elton John's works are often more ambitious and more classical, sometimes employing full orchestral arrangements. Ten more points for Elton John.


Influence - David Bowie
David Bowie was the essence of what 70's rock stars aspired to be - exotic, charismatic, enigmatic. He played a part in shaping the music of Joy Division, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and I'm sure many others that I don't have the time to research. He collaborated with greats such as John Lennon and Brian Eno. And the sound of Mike Ronson and crew in the Spiders from Mars band as well as his dabblings with electronica and funk all contributed heavily to the evolution of rock music. Five ponts for David Bowie.


Originality - David Bowie
I'm giving this the "The Man Who Fell to Earth", David Bowie. I think Elton John's song "Bennie and the Jets" lyrics sound as though they could have been about "The Spiders from Mars" (not saying that they were written about them, just the imagery the lyrics create). He was more instrumental in the establisment of 1970's "Glam Rock". He also became a flim star and incorporated some of the cinematic themes into his work. James Brown's 1976 single "Hot" (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)" borrowed the main riff from "Fame" by David Bowie (I just found this out - I assumed at first that Bowie had stolen that riff from James Brown). Five points David Bowie.


Durability - David Bowie
This is a tough call, but I believe that David Bowie continued to innovate longer than Elton John. Just about all of Elton John's best songs are from the 70's and his later work often tended to be rather forgettable. While also more dominant in the 70's, David Bowie put out more interesting music in the 80's and 90's. Five points David Bowie.


So in conclusion, based upon the criteria I have established, Elton John wins 20 to 15. Personally I am more of a Bowie fan, but since this contest is focused on just one aspect of quality, songwriting, I have to give the nod to Elton John.
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