Monday, June 25, 2018

SMILE.Always by Lola Reum (Written by my 10 year old daughter)

Captured, Modified,  Sent out Again.
The process repeats. Over and over.
All in a circle. Over and over.
Until a night they couldn't find it.
The circle turned itself into a mess of scribbles.
Chasing the Creation.
Over and over.
Again añd again.
Tracks left , over and over.
The cycle repeats, Kill, Eat, Run Again.
A loose experiment running the streets.
Over and over. The cycle repeats.

Caged, Tortured, Sent again.
The doctor leaves a wide smile on it's face.
The signature Black, Yellow, Grey colors
circling its body.
Hypnotic eyes swirling, in and out, in and out.
He does this again, to each subject.
They wander around its creator.
Circling him.
Each smile shows his objective.
Swirling eyes, each looking at him.
Laughter can be heard.
Scarred paws.
Scarred souls.
Each following his every command.

Lola Lynn Reum

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Refreshing and Tasteful Symphonic Beach Boys Album by Peter Reum

Well, my initial reaction to the news that there would be another album of Beach Boys tunes with orchestral accompaniment was a sarcastic snort followed by Taps and the presentation of the flag to the family. It seemed that yet another odious cd would enter my collection because...well...because it is an orchestral Beach Boys cd, dammit!

Some of you may recall that in the mid Sixties,  Capitol released two Hollyridge Strings compilations of Beach Boy tunes. The first one focused on the 1962 to 1964 tunes, and the second collected mid Sixties tunes.
The Hollyridge Strings Play The Beach Boys Songbook Volume 2

Murry Wilson's 1967 Capitol lp brought fans
to hysterical laughter.  His bragging about his songwriting  led to the hilarious conclusion that whatever talent the musical wizard gave Brian, Carl, and Dennis was a double portion because the Wiz skipped Murry and gave his portion to the Boys instead. The one highlight of the album is called Italia. Alan Jardine wrote Italia, and the instrumental was produced by Brian.

Murry Wilson
Written by Alan Jardine
Produced by Brian Wilson

In the early part of the first decade of this new century, Bruce Johnston  supervised  the recording of the first symphonic album of Beach Boys music since a Gary Usher interpretation of Beach Boys music that was recorded in an orchestral format. Both albums are a significant improvement over the Hollyridge Strings. The Usher album is particularly sensitive to the songs Brian Wilson wrote.

Gary Usher-Fall Breaks and Back to Winter/
Good Vibrations

As the Seventies went on, The Beach Boys productions responsibility shifted from Carl Wilson back to Brian Wilson, with a transition to a more rocking sound. After the success of 15 Big Ones, Beach Boys Love You, while a critical success, was a sales stiff. 

After Beach Boys Love You, the Beach Boys signed what was possibly a sweet deal with CBS Records. The group, jealously angry at Dennis Wilson's solo album sales success, played a show at the CBS Convention. The group nearly broke up after a free concert in New York City. As the group was at loose ends, Brian filed for divorce, his health beginning to decline. Michael Love's corporation agreed to produce some solo work by Love, including a Ron Altbach arrangement of Beach Boys songs, complete with strings. The Beach Boys Suite. The arrangement by Altbach is compelling. The Suite is completely intrumental. Like some other pieces, It begins with the stately
California Girls introduction, and continues for 30+ minutes.

Things were quiet for several  years.  In 1998, a Beach Boys set of songs arranged in a classical style album format was cut with Bruce Johnston's assistance. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the same orchestra that cut the 2018 album recently
released, put together this album as a cd with a mixture of assembled songs as short suites, isolated tunes arranged in orchestral
arrangements, and rearrangements of well known Beach Boys' songs. 

Bruce's involvement in the album appears to be as a consultant to the orchestra regarding the repertoire of music recorded for the album. Bruce, of course, is a veteran producer and arranger of music for a variety of artists. His best recorded work is with the Beach Boys, in tunes like Disney Girls, Endless Harmony, and Dierdre. Both Michael Love and Bruce Johnston were involved in giving major input for the orchestral repertoire on this album. Reviews at the time of the album's release were generally positive. Personally, I rank this album's quality as the best RELEASED
cd up to 1998. The album is not as good as the Ron Altbach arranged Beach Boys Suite. As mentioned above in this article, The Beach Boys Suite is best found in a veteran Beach Boys collector's cassette stash.

Bruce Johnston and Michael Love
discuss 2003 cd with Royal 
Philharmonic Orchestra

This first collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was the best widely marketed symphonic album of Beach Boys music up to 2003. Although Ron Altbach's Beach Boys Suite was superior, it was a very limited edition.

For the next 15 years, Mike and Bruce's traveling band played Beach Boys music while elsewhere, Brian Wilson and his band played Brian Wilson composed music, mainly from the Beach Boys' repertoire 
along with music from Brian's solo albums.
It appeared to this writer that the two touring units had some overlap of tunes, with the difference being that The Beach Boys with Michael and Bruce tended to mix hits with deep cuts from Beach Boys albums.

Brian and his touring band focused on songs Brian had composed for the Beach Boys and his solo albums. Brian's band was given to playing Brian's music with close attention to accurately replicating  Brian's productions from the versions on the original albums. Both units had their fans. Fans attracted by the Beach Boys' hits tended to go to Michael's shows. Hard core Brianistas who loved that band's ability to play the music Brian composed as he produced it in the Beach Boys' heyday. 

After roughly 14 years of producing several compilations, two boxed sets, and the 2012 studio and live albums, it became less likely each year that there would be an album of new material, or an imaginative reissue of old tunes. Capitol instead presented with a completely new approach for the 
future, utilizing the idea of approaching the Beach Boys with the goal of recording
the orchestra with the original Brian Wilson tracks, giving the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the opportunity to act as an an ambassador to listeners who have not heard the sounds of classical and pop music in such a well loved group as the Beach Boys.

The music on this cd is composed by Brian Wilson with several lyricists such as Michael Love, Roger Christian, Gary Usher, Van Dyke Parks, and the great Tony Asher.
The only exceptions to these credits are Kokomo, the group's late Eighties hit, and Bruce's Disney Girls from the Surfs Up album.

On some the interview segments put together for the album's publicity campaign, the surviving members of the group are genuinely pleased by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's respectful treatment of the original recordings, which, due to Brian's care and attention to detail, sound as fresh as they did when cut 50 years ago. All surviving Sixties Beach Boys are enthusiastic about the manner in which the Royal  Philharmonic Orchestra added
their varied sounds and instrumentation.

Perhaps the project's managers say it best. In the cd's booklet opening remarks, "We were both brought up on the summer sounds of the happy feel good vibrations of the greatest harmony group of our time. To delve deep into the original  recordings and discover the in-depth genius of the vocal and original sounds that the group created, then add our special symphonic sounds to these classic songs has been a real honor and an absolute joy to behold." The men who oversaw the Orchestra's additions to the original master recordings,  Don Reedman and Nick Patrick, took special care to augment the songs' existing production, instead of overpowering the sounds of Brian Wilson's original productions. 

Other than a brief introduction to the album, entitled "California Suite," the songs chosen by Reedman and Patrick are the original masters as produced by Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Bruce Johnston. As if to challenge the notion that orchestras
should never record true flatout rock and roll songs, the use of the instruments to fill in open spaces in Fun Fun Fun and to lightly add power to the original track, making it sound more powerful than ever brings new energy to an already classic Brian Wilson and Michael Love tune.

Some of Brian Wilson and Tony Asher's Pet Sounds songs are similarly treated with the attention to where Royal Philharmonic's sounds would enhance the instrumental colors of the tunes. My favorite Pet Sounds tune, Here Today, uses brass and strings to add turbulence to what must be the tune that illustrates the uncertainty and inner turmoil that new love creates. Wouldn't It Be Nice and God Only Knows are made more dramatic by the strings the Orchestra
adds to both songs. In a similar manner, Heroes and Villains and Good Vibrations grow even more radical in sound production from the  touches the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra adds. 

There are a few tunes that probably would not be on my list for Orchestral augmemtation, such as Darlin' and Disney Girls. The care that the Orchestra exercised
in not trampling the original masters' integrity can be said to be the essential modesty of the project's co-directors.

Perhaps the most telling of the assessments made by critics and followers of Beach Boys music is made by the creator/arranger/ producer of the original recordings, Brian Wilson. Brian often describes the music he and the band made as being "filled with love." While it is impossible to discern what Brian exactly means by "full of love," my best guess is that he is speaking of the group's efforts to make the closest to perfect recordings possible to make every time the group went into the studio. If it is possible, the essential respect  shown by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for how Beach Boy records sound, and their care to only augment those master recordings' sound and not damage the integrity of Brian's productions makes this project the most satisfying of all the orchestral recordings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys ever made.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Anthony Bourdain - We Lost a Citizen of the World Today by Peter Reum

Sometimes the news brings information that just makes my soul hurt. It is often information that is terrible because it is so surprising and heartbreaking at the same time. This morning brought the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. It immediately felt simultaneously as if I had been tased and hit in the solar plexus.

So many tributes have poured in all day. Presidents Obama and Trump finally agreed on something--their respect and admiration for Anthony Bourdain. People from all walks of life and many countries and professions expressed their deep sorrow and the positive impact he had upon people around the world. He brought people together. People who are entertainers, chefs, scientists, national presidents, physicians, gastronomes, and working people around the globe offered tributes, adulation, and respect. But the people who watched his CNN show, if they are like me, respected his honesty, candor, storytelling, and respect for ordinary world citizens.

When Anthony Bourdain spoke about people and issues he cared about, he was always listened to, even by people who disagreed with him. His recent advocacy for the ceasing of sexual blackmail and harassment by men around the world was a major independent source of validation of the injurious emotional and spiritual fallout from use of power to obtain sexual favor. One of the reasons his message brought gravity to the issue is because Anthony Bourdain was someone who did his utmost to be genuine in his encounters with people from all walks of life. He showed as much respect for shepherds who roasted pig for him in an outdoor spit as he did for five star restaurant chefs. He was just as likely to eat at a food stand as a high class eatery.

Suicide is the most uncomfortable type of death in the world today. It carries a stigma that most likely originates from the strong taboos the act of self-destruction historically had in certain religions and cultures. The forbidden status that suicide carries is probably due to the stigma that it is a form of death closely correlated with mental illness. On top of that, believers in certain religions teach that a Supreme Creator is the author of time of death because life is sacred.

For Anthony Bourdain, his decision to die was an action so personal, so private, that it surprised the entire world. Loss and grief is an emotional, completely personal reaction to an action that is so unexpected, so upsetting, that for most human beings, it shocks us to our foundations. We try so hard to not think about our eventual mortality that a suicide that is completely a surprise generates deep conflicting emotions that are not rationally resolvable. Lifelong grief remains with the people who loved and respected the individual whose suicide so deeply affected them.

I did not know Anthony Bourdain except through the wonderful work he did on CNN. I learned to trust his esteem for the unifying bond that breaking bread together offers. I learned that differences between cultures can be understood by the sharing in the universal human experience of sharing a meal. I learned that immersion into another country's culture is the only true experience that brings a glimmer of understanding how a citizen from a different part of the world lives. For all of those realizations, Mr. Bourdain, I hold your life in the highest esteem, and thank for the blessings of understanding you gave me.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum
All Rights Reserved