Friday, May 31, 2019

A Window Above: Come Sail Away

Title: "Come Sail Away"
Writer: Dennis DeYoung
Original Release: July 7, 1977
Band: Styx
Album: The Grand Illusion

Dennis DeYoung wrote "Come Sail Away" while depressed about the fact that Styx's previous two albums had sold below expectations.  This "song of hope" alludes to the book of Ezekiel 1:1-28 (read here).  To me, there's no question that it's the band's best song and one of the masterpieces of prog rock.  I have fond memories of air guitaring this one with middle school students. 

"Come Sail Away" has had several notable television cameos.  My favorites:

South Park - It's the sincerity that sells it:

Freaks and Geeks:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Squid Mixes: Limeade

This is the exact same recipe as this one from Kester Thompson's Mocktails but with limes instead of lemons.  For those wondering, it took 6.5 limes to produce a cup of juice: my wife's exact guess.  The result is very satisfying.

There is something about a lime that feels like an extra special treat in comparison to a lemon.  Both are lovely but limes have an extra zing.  I especially appreciate the tartness of both and limes, with a lower sugar content, have just that little bit more.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Window Above: Chan Chan

Song: "Chan Chan"
Writer and Original Performer: Compay Segundo
Original Release: 1996
Album: Antologia

The Buena Vista Social Club isn't a band exactly, at least not one that plays all together at the same time.  It's more of a collective, an organization of musicians with a common mission to revive the styles of pre-revolutionary Cuba.  Established in 1996 by World Circuit, a world music record label, the group produced an eponymous album that was an enormous worldwide success, both commercially and critically.  This was followed by a short concert tour to Amsterdam and New York and a well-received documentary.  For the first time in decades, Cuba was cool.

"Chan Chan" is the first track on the Buena Vista Social Club album.  Compay Segundo said that songs, including this one, came to him in dreams.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Squid Mixes: Bacardi Special

The drink is very pink.  Two teaspoons of grenadine will do that.

A Bacardi Special combines white rum (Bacardi, of course), gin, fresh lime juice, grenadine and a lemon or lime garnish.  I chose lime.  I got my recipe from How's Your Drink? by Eric Felten.  The flavor balance was really nice.  The rum, lime and grenadine each have a voice.  I do wonder if one could make do without the gin - a taste test for sometime.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Window Above: Birdland

Song: "Birdland"
Writer: Joe Zawinul
Original Release: April 19, 1977
Band: Weather Report
Album: Heavy Weather

Another jazz fusion tune from my high school jazz band career and here is Joe Zawinul again.  After his stint with Cannonball Adderley (see here), Zawinul worked with Miles Davis, contributing to some of the latter's most innovative studio albums - In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew - as both writer and keyboardist.  There, he poached Davis's sax player Wayne Shorter with whom he founded the band Weather Report.  That act reached its zenith upon attaining the services of Jaco Pastorius, one of the most brilliant, mercurial and self-destructive electric bass players who has ever lived.

"Birdland" was Weather Report's biggest hit, a classic of 1970s jazz.  The song is a tribute to the New York jazz club of the same name and, of course, Charlie "Bird" Parker, for whom the club was named.  Birdland was where Zawinul hung out for years, seeing Louis Armstrong and Count Basie among many others.  It's also where he met his wife.

The song has won three Grammys.  Manhattan Transfer did it first, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks.  Quincy Jones won two for his arrangement on his 1989 album, Back on the Block.

Manhattan Transfer:

Quincy Jones:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

On the Coffee Table: The Shadow Hero

Title: The Shadow Hero
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Sonny Liew
Image result for shadow hero
via Amazon
American Yang and Malaysian Liew created The Shadow Hero as an homage to the Green Turtle, a Golden Age comic book superhero.  The Green Turtle was an unusual hero for that or any era in that his alias was Asian-American.  Yang provides an origin story for the character, one that digs deep into the seedy underworld of a fictional American Chinatown.

The story's a lot of fun and the artwork engaging.  Liew's work reminds me of Rob Guillory's Chew illustrations.  Guillory is the younger artist so, if anything, the influence probably went the other way.  The volume includes historical information about the 1940s series as well as a nine-page, reprinted original story.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

On the Coffee Table: The Looking Glass War

Title: The Looking Glass War
Author: John le Carré
Image result for looking glass war
via Amazon
John le Carré was highly disappointed in the public reaction to his masterpiece, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (review here).  While he had intended the book as a demystification of the espionage game, readers, especially in Britain, saw only glamor.  In reaction, he left no doubts in his follow up novel.   

The Looking Glass War reveals a world of incompetence, petty rivalries and unwarranted nostalgia. A fictional military intelligence office referred to as "the Department" gets wind of a possible Soviet missile build up in East Germany.  The book follows their clumsy efforts to confirm the information. 

Interestingly, very little of the text is devoted to the mission itself.  The heft of the material is spent on the training of the eventual agent, a Polish immigrant named Leiser, himself an intelligence veteran of the War.  This part of the story is, in fact, quite interesting as the man is coached in hand-to-hand combat, radio operation, cover maintenance and so forth.  He's not very good at any of it and we also eventually learn many of the methods he's being taught are already obsolete.   But one develops sympathy for him nonetheless, especially as his attachment to Avery, his young, inexperienced and naive handler, develops.  The relationship becomes quite affectionate by the end, leading one to wonder... Le Carré never lets that narrative thread go quite that far.

Our old friend George Smiley plays a supporting role.  His own outfit, "The Circus," has a patronizing and undermining attitude towards the Department.  But Smiley, for his own part, has great sympathy for our bumblers and manages to preserve the respect of the reader just in time for his next story...  The Karla Trilogy, beginning with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Squid Mixes: Roy Rogers

I grew up believing a Roy Rogers was simply a Shirley Temple served to a boy.  That's what the waitresses at Danny's Spaghetti House in Silver Spring, Maryland used to tell me.  Now I know they were just trying to protect my young masculine ego.  They're two different drinks.  A Shirley Temple combines ginger ale and grenadine whereas a Roy Rogers swaps the ginger ale for cola.  I got my recipe from Mocktails by Kester Thompson.  Don't know if you can quite see it in the photo but there's a cherry garnish in there, too.

Naturally, the drink is named for the King of the Cowboys:
Image result for roy rogers
So, why the droids?  Well, you see, I made them for my daughter and me for our Star Wars binge on the last day of our spring break.  The movies were her idea.  The Roys were mine.

The drink is fine.  The flavors don't combine as nicely as ginger ale and grenadine.  One tastes a little fruitiness but the cola overwhelms.  You don't get the color effect either.  Maybe more grenadine would have made more of a difference but not sure it's really worth it. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Window Above: You've Really Got a Hold on Me

Song: "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"
Writer: Smokey Robinson
Original Release: November 9, 1962
Band: The Miracles

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me" is yet another timeless classic that started life as the B-side of a single.  The A-side was "Happy Landing."  No, I'd never heard of it either.  I knew the Beatles cover first as it was the third track on their Second Album, one of the records in my parents' cabinet.  Robinson's inspiration came from Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me."  The Miracles' version peaked at #8 on the pop charts.

The Beatles:

Smokey on Sesame Street:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Squid Mixes: Brandy Sling

The verdict on this one was swift: too sweet.  That was kind of what I expected going in and I knew from the first sip.  As with the other slings we've tried from David Wondrich's Imbibe, it's a simple combination of the base liquor, sugar, water and ice.  Really, the last thing brandy needs is more sugar.  Brandy on the rocks would have been just fine.

Oh well.  This is why we experiment.

Friday, May 3, 2019

A Window Above: Spain

Song: "Spain"
Writer: Chick Corea
Original Release: January 1973
Band: Return to Forever
Album: Light as a Feather

"Spain" is a jazz fusion composition by Chick Corea.  I first learned it in high school jazz band.  The original was nominated for two Grammys.  30 years later, Corea won a Grammy for an arrangement for piano sextet and orchestra.  The piece is a genuine jazz standard.  All of the clips featured below are awesome - genius level musicians at work.  I realize there's over an hour's worth of music attached to this post but I promise, it's all worth it.

Flamenco, from Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin:

Bluegrass, from Bela Fleck & The Flecktones:

Stevie Wonder.  Ever wonder if the guy can still play the harmonica?  Oh my!:

Al Jarreau, lyrics by Joaquín Rodrigo:

Jake Shimabukuro, ukelele:

Arrangement for Piano Sextet and Orchestra, First Movement:

Second Movement:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?