Rosalia “Motomami” (2022) & Fontaines D.C. “Skinty Fia” (2022)

     After more than a year and a half, we have arrived at the 536th and last album(s) review of my blog journey.  It has been more rewarding than I could possibly imagine, and I will follow up this post with two more posts.  The first will be my parting thoughts on this entire process, and the second will be my personal ballot for Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, even though they didn’t ask me.  However, ubefore all of that, we have some more music to address.

     My original plan was to have yesterday’s blog featuring the top selling album of 2022 be the last entry, but my son asked, and I conceded, to make his album pick the last review of the blog.  His first pick was “Motomami” by Spanish singer Rosalia, and he later amended his pick to add the album “Skinty Fia” by Irish punk band Fontaines D.C.  As always, Zach opens my aperture to music I would never have otherwise listened to, and I remain grateful for his endless list of suggestion and his creative tastes.

     “Motomami” is an exotic record with a very foreign and unusual flavor. I actually struggled to pin down what language I was hearing, and part of that is due to the highly produced and processed sound on some of the songs, as well as the Spanish dialect versus a more Latin sound.  The record reminds me of a blend of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and flamenco.  I didn’t realize it when I was listening to it at the time, but my favorite song “La Fama” features The Weeknd and his contributions in Spanish are flawless.  Other favorites include the quirky tune “Chicken Teriyaki”, the poignant ballad “Hentai”, which is Zach’s favorite, and `I have to acknowledge the song title that is “CUUUUuuuuuute”.  When we were in junior high school, we had a P.E. teacher name Bruce Hall, who we called Bruce Fonzahalli because of his ridiculous over-confidence.  His favorite line when one of us would mouth off was, “Ahhhh Cuuuuuteeee”… drawn out way too long.  I’m glad Rosalia can also appreciate Bruce Fonzahalli. More importantly, I’m grateful for her beautiful voice and this collection of songs she created with her gifts and talents.

     “Skinty Fia” is a much darker and intense sound, not surprising given the origin and genre of the band named Fontaines D.C.  Named for Johnny Fontane, the Vegas singer in The Godfather, with D.C. representing Dublin City, they set the tone intensely with their opening track “In ar gCroithe go deo”.  The music fits perfectly with my vision of the dark and dingy side of industrial northern Europe.  Some  of the tracks, like “How Cold Love Is”, “Bloomsday”, and the closing track, “Nabokov”, are just a bit too far down that hole for me.

     Fortunately, they do diversify their sound, and tracks like their lead single, “Jackie Down The Line”, the title track, and my favorite, “Roman Holiday”, are great listens and I imagine would be phenomenal in a dark club late at night.  “The Couple Across The Way” is a beautiful ray of warmth, featuring lead singer Grian Chatten on accordion.  This band has its roots in the decades-old punk sound of Europe, but brings a unique and modern approach and talented playing to their music.  I look forward to seeing what comes next.

     I didn’t realize when I began how introspective and autobiographical this collection of thoughts, observations and memories would be, but like everything else I own, someday it will all belong to my son, and thus, it stands as the most complete record I can produce of a life lived loving music and celebrating the beauty of the art.  I never could have imagined that my son Zach would not only take an interest in music, but also make it one of his passions in life, even to the point of being a remarkable performer and vocalist in his own right.

     I love you dearly, my son.  You are my greatest accomplishment and I remain immensely proud of you and appreciate your friendship and support and love through life’s ups and downs.  I selected the photo below as it serves as a representation of accomplishment.  For years, we said we would climb that mountain together, after you climbed your own figurative mountains, and we stand here together in 2022, continuing to take on the challenges of life.  Don’t ever give up and don’t ever stop believing in yourself, any of you… and spend your days and nights surrounded by the music you love.  What more could we possibly want?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Ed Sheeran “=” (2021) & Harry Styles “Harry’s House” (2022)

     Starting with Harry Belafonte and “Calypso” in 1956, one of the criteria I have included for my list is the top selling album of every year.  A select number of artists have even seen their album be #1 in sales for two years in a row.  The music has evolved greatly since then, but it is still one of the best reflections of the taste and times of music in America.  For 2022, I can only go with the best-selling album to date, and for good measure and completeness, I listened to the top TWO selling albums so far this year.  The top-seller goes to Ed Sheeran, as he continues his dominant run on the charts and in streaming totals with his album “=”, which was released in late 2021, and the next highest seller is “Harry’s House” by another UK pop sensation, Harry Styles, who got his start singing in the boy-band One Direction.

      There are a lot of similarities on these two records.  Both artists are monster stars in today’s times, and they are major contributors to the songwriting as well as the vocal performances.  Sheeran is three years older than Styles, and has a longer track record, and as such, his song themes tend to lean a bit more on the adult side, both in lyric and sound, but both of these records are immensely listenable pop records.  There isn’t a song on either record that blows me away, but I do have several favorites on each.

     On Sheeran’s album “=”, I like the hit single “Shivers”, the autobiographical “First Times”, “Overpass Graffiti” and “Visiting Hours”, which is reminiscent of “Supermarket Flowers”.  He absolutely understands the art of writing a song that connects with emotions we all face, and love him or not, he is a gifted singer and performer.

     If I had to choose, I would probably pick “Harry’s House” as my preference between the two records, but again, the concept and delivery are similar.  Part of why I chose to listen to this record was the discovery that Monument Mike’s daughter was in the second row at Madison Square Garden watching Mr. Styles the same night we embraced Robert Plant and his legacy at Red Rocks.  Generation to generation, music is a gift and a treasure, and one best enjoyed in a live setting.

     My favorite track on “Harry’s House” is probably “Grapejuice”, which isn’t among the singles (yet) but is a highly catchy pop song.  “Late Night Talking” is another wonderfully crafted pop single, and it is great to hear the gift of musical hooks continuing to live on.  “As It Was” starts off in a similar vein to “Take On Me” by A-ha, and it is a cool and subtly delivered melody.  I’ll add “Keep Driving” to the list, and the rest of the record is similarly crafted with catchy choruses and very smooth production.

     Who knows what music will top the charts next year, ten years from now, or forty years from now?  I hope I’m here to listen to it all, and if I have learned nothing else on this journey, one should never stop shutting off sounds of the present and future.  We all know that person who says, “Today’s music is terrible, I only listen to…”.  There are times in my life when I was that guy… hopefully, never again.

     Only one album (or so) left to go…  what a ride.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss “Raise The Roof” (2021)

     As I mentioned previously, two of my biggest musical influences in life couldn’t think of an appropriate new album to include in my blog, so I told both of them I would pick one in their honor.  Today’s selection includes the vocalist I have listened to more than any other singer in my 55 years, and I have chosen it in honor of my friend Mike, who I have spent more time listening to and sharing music with than any person in my 55 years.  In a great twist of fate and irony, on the day that I started working through this album for the record, Jim, Zach, Monument Mike and I went to see Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at Red Rocks, and they played most of the songs from their new album, “Raising the Roof”.

     The album itself is a continuation of the sound and theme from their 2007 record, “Raising Sand”.  Low-fi, reverberating guitar from T-Bone Burnett sets the tone, and the unique harmonies from Plant and Krauss create a beautifully blended sound.  On certain tracks, they alternate lead and backing harmony, and on others they sing in tandem.  They even alternate between who takes high and who takes low in the blend, and it creates a very unique and alluring glow of sound.

     Among my favorites on the album are “Quattro (World Drifts In)”, which has a lost and lonely sound of sadness to it.  On “The Price of Love”, Krauss takes the lead with another beautifully slow drifter.  Two songs were of particular interest to Monument Mike, and I love them both.  “Trouble With My Lover” is a bluesy tune written by New Orleans legends Allen Toussaint and Leo Nocentelli, and “High and Lonesome” is a more aggressive rocker that harkens back to the “murky past” Mr. Plant referred to at the show.

     “Can’t Let Go”, written by Randy Weeks, is another up-tempo track that served as the encore for the show, and one that has a very infectious chorus.  “You Led Me to the Wrong” opens with a mystic feel that blends bluegrass sounds with the desert exotica that once gave us the epic song “Kashmir”.  If you need evidence that Robert Plant continues to evolve and excel as a performer, even though he has been singing professionally as long as I have been alive, don’t look any further than this track.  Krauss is remarkable on fiddle in this tune; it really is the best of both of them together on record and on stage.

     You can’t see or hear Robert Plant and not look longingly at the catalog of music he created with Led Zeppelin.  On this perfect August night, they gave us rockabilly “Rock and Roll”, a magical mix on “The Battle of Evermore”, and they closed us out with a powerful update of “When the Levee Breaks”.  As much as I still live in the past myself, I respect his ability as an artist, way more so than any of his contemporaries, to look forward and not live and prosper off the music of his youth.

     Mike and I first developed our affinity for Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin when we were friends in junior high school.  Along with Jim and others, we saw him live together in 1983 and 1988, and we revisited the magic again about four years ago.  At that time, he told me it was the best show he had ever seen, and I sure wasn’t going to disagree.  In between, while we savor new and undiscovered music, we always come back to our collective love for Led Zeppelin.  One of my favorite recent memories is devoting 3.5 hours and at least 3.5 beers to a night at his place, embracing a live mix playlist of the best of Led Zep live performances.  We frequently still share new and old passages, and my day is always better when Mike is there with all of us in our lives.

      We missed you the other night, but way more importantly, your friendship and the person you are, the kind and giving person we all want to be more like, is one of the greatest gifts of my life.  I love and miss you Mike, and I look forward to many more miles, many more breakdowns of “Ten Years Gone” or “The Rover”, and more times spent laughing and watching the world around us.

The Charmer

Imagine Dragons “Mercury – Acts 1 & 2” (2021/2022)

     I am frequently reminded why I began this project.  The core purpose was to learn and expose myself to music I would never have listened to otherwise, and today is a shining example of why we should never stop searching for new music.  The albums “Mercury – Act 1 &2” were suggested by my friend Scott, who I have a lot more to say about in a moment, but I have to say, not knowing any of this material, I didn’t know if I would find it interesting.  There are songs I like by Imagine Dragons, especially “Whatever It Takes”, which I think is a great training song, and I have seen them live in concert before.  They have to be just about the only act I can ever recall not playing a single encore, so it was unique, but then so is this band. 

     Much to my surprise, I enjoyed almost this entire album.  There were about ten songs that I really liked, and two that were transformative and instant anthems for me, so I have to rate that as a major success.  I shouldn’t be that surprised, because this is just another thing that my friend Scott does so very well.

     I first met Scott in 3rd grade when I moved to Parker, so I have known him as long as any friend I have.  Scott was the guy we all wanted to be. The best looking, the best athlete, always good in school, he was a no-brainer for “Most Likely to Succeed”.  We didn’t always cross paths growing up, but we were always friends and shared a lot of laughs together through the years.  We were together for one of the most tragic and traumatic days an elementary school student could ever experience on terrible Friday in late May, and we both know what it truly meant to grow up in the open and seemingly limitless life that was our beautiful neighborhood.

     After high school, we chose our separate paths, and we didn’t see each other again until our 30th high school reunion, hosted in Jim’s punk rock bar, no less.  Scott remained everything I always saw in him, but most of all, he has proven since to be one of the most supportive, positive, and encouraging people in life, not only for me, but now for my son as well.  I love the times we get together to try a new brewery and catch up, and when I started this blog, he immediately became one of the dedicated few who encouraged me to keep going.  There were many times when I would hit a slow spot and I pressed on because I knew people like Scott were on my side.

     This all weaves together, as I found two of the tracks to have the same depth and emotional meaning that I get from friendships like I have with Scott.  Before I talk about those, I should also mention these other songs that I really liked: “Enemy (with JID)”, “My Life”, “Wrecked”, “Monday”, “#1”, “Follow You”, “Symphony”, “Sharks”, “Waves”, “Peace of Mind”, “Younger”, and the album closer “They Don’t Know You Like I Do”.  I guess I could have just said the entire two albums, as they released “Act 1” and “Act 2” about 6 months apart, but there were songs that stood out and were worthy of mention.

     One of my favorite things about “Imagine Dragons” is the person that is Dan Reynolds, the lead singer.  He has experienced a lot of battles with mental illness and depression and has taken a very vocal and powerful stance working to destigmatize that battle.  I know this is something most of us can relate to, and it is certainly very personal to me.  Coming from a religious background (Mormon faith), he has also taken an impactful stance on LGBTQ rights, another issue that means a lot to me.

     The two songs that are instant hits for me both speak to the struggles we all face feeling good about ourselves, and the challenges others present for us in this process.  Both are very catchy melodies as well, which seals the deal, but it is their message that makes these songs keepers for me. “It’s OK” and “No Time For Toxic People” are songs you all should give a listen to, especially on a day when it seems like nothing is going right or the world is conspiring against you.  I know someone who had a tough week, and I plan to send her both of these songs as soon as I hit “publish” on today’s blog.

“It’s OK to be not OK, It’s just fine to be out of your mind.  Breathe deep, just a day at a time, cause its ok to be out of your mind.”

     We are all going to have those moments in life that just hurt, but thankfully we have the best gift in the world… family and friends who love us and accept us for who we are, just was we embrace them in our lives.  Scott – Thank you for being one of the best people I know, and I truly appreciate your friendship and encouragement.  Thanks for helping me find meaningful music, and I look forward to many more shared moments together.  We have known each other for almost 50 years… and I’m grateful for every one of them.

Scott – Most Likely to be Awesome

Danny Elfman “Big Mess” & Hans Zimmer “The Art and Soul of Dune” (2021)

     My friend David is one of a kind.  He is one of the most unique people I have ever met, but even more so, he is one of the kindest, most selfless, and genuinely good people I have ever encountered.  I discussed him previously when we listened to Oingo Boingo, and as a fellow blogger and music fan, he is definitely a recurring source of motivation and inspiration on this project.  We met as coworkers in the mid 90’s and we came together with several other friends to form an alliance of runners that continues to limp on (literally) to this day in 2022.  We have logged thousands of miles together over the years, and music is just one of many topics that comes up when he and I, along with others like Dr. Mike, Dwayne, Steve, and past participants like Jim, Mike D., Dave the Sloth, and our runner friends du jour.

     As I asked him for a contribution to the nearing end of my blog, he was the first to suggest two albums, asking me to choose between them.  I decided that for my friend, I certainly could and would invest the time to listen to both albums.  The first taps back into his love for Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo, with Elfman’s second solo album “Big Mess”.  For all of the music Elfman has produced over the years, I’m shocked this is only his second solo album.

     I expected more bouncy 80’s pop and I was caught off-guard by the darkness and intensity of this record.  My first reaction was that it reminded me of Nine Inch Nails, and I wasn’t surprised to learn of some involvement by Trent Reznor in some of the follow-up production on the album.  It may have been a little dark and daunting for me, but if I had to pick out three tracks as favorites, I will go with the opener, “Sorry”, a really intense but enjoyable grind, “Dance With The Lemurs”, which gets me a bit closer to the Oingo Boingo sound I expected, and “Insects”, which actually was a reconfigured Oingo Boingo song that was originally released in 1982.  The new version of “Insects” still had that Nine Inch Nails edge to it, so I went back to the original and was surprised to hear how intense that song was 40 years ago.  Maybe I don’t know Oingo Boingo or Danny Elfman as well as I thought I did…

     His other pick was the recent new score of “Dune” by Hans Zimmer.  This was a hypnotic, trance-like sound of monochromatic sounds and chords that lasted for nearly two hours.  I don’t see myself coming back to this one often, but it did serve as the ideal soundtrack for a grueling run in the summer sun, and I could only think of my friend David as he battles the heat and elements in a much more profound and extended manner than I.  One of the tracks, “Arrakis”, opens with a middle eastern drone, and I am reminded of when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant performed their tribute to the sands of Kashmir with an Egyptian orchestra.

     For the past two summers, interrupted by wildfires, David is working his way down the entire Pacific Crest Trail.  He has already covered all of Washington and Oregon, which is just mindboggling to think about, and is currently just past Lake Tahoe as he works his way towards the last 1,000 miles down to Mexico.  I highly encourage you to subscribe to his daily blog,  His stories are hilarious and adventurous and moving and unforgettable, just like David is.

     The thousands of miles we have logged together have made me a stronger and healthier man, but it is my soul that is truly enriched by David.  He is a church deacon, a master homebrewer, a disc golfer, a home gardener and farm-ranch owner, a deceptively good pool player, a passionate sports fan, and a devoted lover of music (particularly Danny Elfman), family and friends.  I can’t say enough good words about this man, but hopefully this blog and even more so, his blog, will fill in the gaps where I fall short.  I love David and all of my running friends, and I look forward to many more miles, stories, and songs together.

David, Dwayne, me, Pete, & Dr. Mike – How Many More Miles?

Lord Huron “Long Lost” (2021)

     Sometimes people come in and out of our lives for inexplicable reasons.  One of the greatest gifts of my adult life is rekindling my friendship with my friend Mike.  We first met in McCowen Hall in 1985, as two clueless college freshmen trying to figure out life as “adults”.  Within this community, Mike became a part of a bigger pack of friends, most of whom came from one of three high schools in Colorado, Ponderosa, Smoky Hill and Boulder Fairview.  He joined our pack from Lewis Palmer in Monument, and from the get-go it was apparent Mike was one of the kindest, most generous and best individuals I was ever going to meet.  After we all somehow survived and escaped Greeley, we went in our different directions, and even though he remained close with Jim, we really had minimal interaction for 25+ years.  I don’t even know how or why we initially reconnected, but since that time, I am reminded every day why Mike is just about the best person and friend a person could ever hope to have.  When my son moved to Colorado, he was there on Day One with a truck and open arms, and he has continuously been there for both of us through it all.  He has even helped me to expand my circle of friends within his own world, and meeting his friend John, aka JMac, has served as another treasured friend and music lover who is now a part of my world.

     On top of all of his great traits as a person, he also is an avid music fan, with a rabid appetite for new sounds and inspirations.  His choices are provocative, thoughtful, and of the highest quality, and I learn something new from Mike every time we share music.  When I asked him to give me an album from 2021-2022 for this blog, more so than any other, I knew which album I was getting, as he has frequently shared this pick with me as his favorite album of 2021.  I also know him well enough to know that if it comes with that kind of high praise, it will not disappoint. 

     Like many of the artists he leads me to, I had never heard of the indie rock band Lord Huron before his introduction.  Looking at the album cover for “Long Lost”, my first guess was that it was metal, which would not have been an unreasonable assumption coming from Mike.  On the contrary, their sound is remarkably calm and soothing, and the entire album brings me peace, and who couldn’t use more of that in their life?

     After a brief intro track, the first full length song is “Mine Forever”, which is a great representation of their vibe.  The band is led by songwriter and singer Ben Schneider, and they have a very distinct feel that pulls from many influences.  I hear the Byrds, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Chris Isaak, and a multitude of other sounds that collide in this record.  “Love Me Like You Used To” has more of a country feel, and it feels like it would be a fantastic road trip tune.

     Of all the songs, I would rate the title track as my absolute favorite song on this album.  The melody is lush and haunting, and as Schneider’s vocals kick in, I’m transported to an empty cantina somewhere in the southwest desert, lost in the summer sky that never ends.  I love this airy, open sound and it will serve as my most enduring reminder of this musical gift from Mike.

     One more highlight I will call out is “I Lied”, featuring Allison Ponthier on duet vocals.  It is a sad song where two life partners celebrate the end of their relationship, but the world is not without heartache, and nothing captures that sense of loss better than a beautiful song.  The album ends with an instrumental blur of chords that runs a full fourteen minutes, on “Time’s Blur”. Again, it takes me back to the converging digital imagery at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, or a large but empty aquarium, and the sounds take hold of you in the most hypnotic manner.

     Words can’t always express how you feel about someone you love and care about in your life, but thankfully we have music to help us fill in the gaps.  Mike… I’m beyond grateful for your friendship and I look forward to a lifetime ahead of music, new sounds, new destinations, all bound by a common past experience few could possibly understand or believe.

Men In White (And Black)…

The Struts “Strange Days” & The Foo Fighters “Dee Gees – Hail Satin” (2021)

     As you may recall, I left the last few album slots open for 2021 & 2022 releases that didn’t even exist when I started writing this blog.  To be consistent, I included the 2021 best seller (Adele and her record “30”) and another personal favorite of mine and will also include whatever is the best-selling album to date in 2022, but I decided to leave the last few slots to be determined by those closest to me, musically and personally.  Anyone in this group is not only someone I care about a lot, but I also appreciate their love for music and their support and inspiration for this entire project.  I asked each one of them to give an album to include, but it had to be from this current timeframe.  Most of the participants were able to give me a selection, but two of them did not.  I promised both of them that this did not diminish their significance in my blog and my life, and that I would choose on their behalf.

     The first person in this category is my friend Nils.  Nils is a one-of-a-kind person, to say the least.  His physically imposing presence is impressive, but what really stands out when you get to know him is his compassion for others, his pursuit of all things interesting, and his love for music.  We were introduced by a mutual co-worker, Kelly, who connected the dots with our respective tastes in music.  We quickly connected on classic acts like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, and it gave me great joy to realize he was also a fan of my current obsession, The Struts.  This led to many long discussions on the topics of music and life, including a monthly scheduled call we still conduct to this date.

     Nils was an early thought leader for me in this process, as he also does his own writing and recommends music of many genres and tastes, sharing playlists and narratives with a distribution list of friends.  I have learned a lot from his suggestions, and I look forward to digging back in to more of his new music ideas once this blog is complete.  He also teaches a spin class each week, and proudly posts his weekly mix on social media each week for all to enjoy.  I have recently introduced him virtually to my friend Mike, who shares not only common musical interests but the same heightened sense of curiosity, and I look forward to many more years of this conversation and collaboration.

     When I asked Nils for an album to include, his response was “I don’t have an album for you.  I do not listen to whole albums and I frankly can’t speak to any music that has grabbed me enough over 2021-2022.”  I can’t really argue with that, but he must be included, so I told him I would pick one on his behalf.

     I started with one album, and it morphed into two, and both connect me to Nils in different ways.  The first is the album “Strange Days” by The Struts.  I previously discussed this album a bit in an earlier blog when I did not intend to include it here, but here is why I chose it on Nils’ behalf.  One, they are a band we both enjoy.  And beyond that, there are several high-profile features on this album that lead me back to Nils.  First, we have Joe Elliott and Phil Collen from Def Leppard on “I Hate How Much I Want You”, which is one of the best songs on the record.  Nils attempted to see Def Leppard live this summer, but I think somewhere between torrential rain and lightning, Tommy Lee’s phantom drumming with Motley Crue and his man-crush on Bret Michaels, he was halfway down I-66 when Def Leppard took the stage.  It doesn’t matter, it was a great night for him and a great night for rock and roll.

     Tom Morello from “Rage Against the Machine” plays on the album’s best track, which is “Wild Child”, and Albert Collins from The Strokes makes an appearance on “Another Hit of Showmanship”.  In another odd connection to Nils, British pop artist Robbie Williams, who Nils and I have laughed about his ongoing property line debates with Jimmy Page, appears on the title track.  I think Nils even visited this rock star HOA nightmare in person in London, so who better than he to appreciate Robbie and Luke Spiller singing “Strange Days”.

     If I were to call out two more tracks to enjoy, I would highlight “Burn It Down”, which sounds like an excerpt from “Exile on Main Street”, and the sultry and unique closing track “Am I Talking To The Champagne (Or Talking To You)”.  This album was an unusual project for the band; they recorded it in ten days in quarantine during the initial height of the COVID pandemic.  It is a much harder-edged album then their last release, and for those who love guitar rock, you should enjoy the intensity and vibe of this collection.

     As I was searching for any last links between The Struts and Nils, another light bulb turned on in my head.  The Struts have had many high-profile stints as an opening act, and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters has stated they are the best opening act they have ever had.  Yes… that Dave Grohl, the same Dave Grohl that Nils grew up with, watching him play hardcore punk in the Washington D.C./9:30 Club era, well before Kurt Cobain roped him into Nirvana.  With this in mind, I also knew that my list was incomplete without some inclusion of the Foo Fighters, especially in light of the recent loss of Taylor Hawkins.  One of my favorite Foo moments is when they performed “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, and Taylor Hawkins and Luke Spiller from The Struts sang the altering vocal lines of Bowie & Mercury.

     So… with all of that in mind, I went into the discography to see what was recently released by the Foo Fighters, and I was thankfully greeted by their wonderfully absurd “Dee Gees / Hail Satin” project, which is inexplicably five Bee Gees covers (OK, four Bee Gees plus “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb) along with some alternate versions of recent songs they recorded in their more traditional sound.  Grohl is surprisingly on point with his Barry Gibb falsetto, and Taylor is equally capable when he takes over on “Shadow Dancing”.

     I have never been a huge Foo Fighters fan, but I have always been a huge fan of Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins.  They appear to be universally loved by all people across the music industry, and I can’t help but admire their versatility as artists on the drums, guitars, and vocals.  As much as I loved their version of “Under Pressure” with Luke, I think my favorite moment aligns with what Dave called the “greatest night in the band’s life”, when they played Wembley Stadium and performed “Rock and Roll” and “Ramble On” with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, with Hawkins and Grohl each singing a track.  How can you possibly top that?  You can’t.

     It is tragic and sad that Taylor Hawkins is no longer with us.  Dave Grohl and his band are about to perform two tribute concerts in his honor, and not surprisingly, both John Paul Jones and Luke Spiller, among many others, are on the bill.  It is this showing of love, music and friendship that connects all of us, including my dear friend Nils.  Thank you for all you have done to inspire, challenge, and support me, and I look forward to many more years of trading songs back and forth, not to mention going to see The Struts live!

Dumpstaphunk “Where Do We Go From Here” (2021)

     One obvious outcome from this experience is my demonstrated love for music, especially funk music, from New Orleans.  There are many artists who have advanced this genre, and the core of my enthusiasm centers around the Meters and the Neville Brothers, and their common link, Art “Poppa Funk” Neville.  Even though Poppa Funk has moved on to that organ in the sky, thankfully there is a new generation carrying on and expanding the sound he and his brothers and friends created.  Led by his nephew Ivan Neville (son of Aaron), the band Dumpstaphunk is another band I will go out of my way and even travel to see live.  The band also includes Art’s son Ian on guitar, along with Tony Hall and Nick Daniels, both of whom played bass for the Neville Brothers at some point.  One, the Neville bloodline is obviously strong here, and two, any band with two bass players is clearly on a path to dropping some serious funk.

     They have been around in some form for almost twenty years, and one of their best songs ever is the track “Meanwhile”, which came out as a response to the country’s slow and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina.  In 2021, they also released an album that was a response to not only the COVID pandemic, but the explosive social justice movement following the death of George Floyd.  Featuring some great artists on guest appearance, this record is now the foundation of their live show, which is eminently funky and enjoyable.

     The record opens with “United Nations Stomp”, featuring Marcus King on guitar, who has another song recommended by a friend that I truly love, “Homesick”.  “United Nations Stomp” takes their funky recipe and adds in some jamming blues rock to the mix.  Not every song is an all-time favorite, but the good ones are really good.  “Backwash” is an instrumental that takes you back to the earliest days of the Meters, when their entire first album was instrumental funk.  All it takes is the first 45 seconds for you to appreciate how sick the groove is with this band.

     “Let’s Get At It” is one of the songs to feature Ivan Neville on lead vocals.  Those duties rotate between him, Daniels and Hall, but Ivan’s signature smoky voice is the perfect sound for their style.  The title track, which I fell in love with before the album was released, is another highlight.  If I were to nitpick, I wish it was closer to 5 minutes than 8 minutes, as it is the type of song I would love to share with friends as an introduction, but I know not all listeners may be up for the extended jam at the end.

     I really do love most of this album, and another highlight is “Justice 2020”, which features Chali 2na and Trombone Shorty, with whom they are touring with this summer.  It was picked up as an anthem for the movement of social progress that has gained momentum and resistance along the way.  Not only do they make great funk, they deliver it with meaning and substance.

     I have seen this act in many different venues, and I look back at their show last year at the Levitt Pavilion in Denver as one of the best shows I have ever seen.  As their mantra states, you should definitely look to “put it in tha Dumpsta” soon.  These guys can flat-out play.  Check out “Meanwhile” or one of the peaks of this album, or better yet, come with me to see them live, and you will get it… I promise.

Adele “30” (2021)

     As I committed when I began this journey, one of the albums that would be added to the list was the #1 selling album of 2021, which proved to be “30” by Adele.  I can’t say I was jumping for joy at the prospect of another album from Adele, and while again, she is a very talented vocalist and songwriter, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

     In Orlando, there is a radio station that is 107.7, the beacon of Adult Contemporary music for as long as I have lived in Florida.  I can’t even imagine how much airplay the Adele catalog gets there, and this album is no exception.  I hate saying this, but it is like I’m listening to some hybrid of Kenny G, Michael Bolton, and post-modern Bonnie Raitt.  There isn’t a single song on the album that I have any desire to go back and listen to again, although I will give her credit for trying to add a little tempo and variety to the format.

     At it’s best, there are songs like the biggest hit from the album, “Easy On Me”, which is probably as close as I will come to liking one of these tracks.  On the more challenging side, we have a typically depressing Adele song like “My Little Love”, complete with this emotional and overcooked monologue at the end of the song.  I’m sure this makes me sound crass and insensitive, but it just is not that easy or enjoyable to listen to. 

     At the very bottom of the barrel, we have “To Be Loved”, which is truly as abrasive and annoying as just about any Michael Bolton song.  I’m sorry for all of the Adele fans out there, but this song is brutal.

     One more time… she’s an amazing singer.  She’s a gifted songwriter and an incredibly successful artist.  I just don’t find that her music grabs my attention in any way, which is fine for both her and me, as most of the civilized world out there clearly disagrees with me… and I’m OK with that.

Oh He Dead “Oh He Dead” (2019) & “Bottle It Up” (2021)

     There are many different ways to appreciate live music.  Most of the time, we seek out an artist we know and appreciate, and we painstakingly plan (and pay) for their concert.  With time, age, and experience, I have learned there are other factors that can make a night of music magical besides a familiar artist.  For me, those common links usually include the venue and the company I’m with for the night.  Both of those came into play last summer, as my friend Mike and I ventured to one of my favorite music venues, the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. to see a band play we had never heard of before, Oh He Dead.  We didn’t know the style or genre, we just wanted to hit that club and catch some live music, so we bought our tickets and headed downtown.  We streamed a sampling of their songs on the way to the show and were pleasantly surprised by the warmth and vibe of their sound.  As it turned out, it was a phenomenal show and another great memory between friends.  They featured their newly released single “Bottle It Up”, and the rest of the material was mostly from their 2019 self-titled album.

     Another of my friends named Mike once told me, he thought the perfect mix of cover songs in a live show is 1/3rd.  That seems a little high for me, especially when the artist has a deep catalog of original tunes, but even the biggest stars in the world can remake a song in their image and style to create a new experience.  For us, we heard two phenomenal covers that night, both near the end of the set.  The first one caught us way off-guard, and it moved Mike to tears.  As long-time metal fans, the last thing we ever expected to hear that night was Black Sabbath, but Oh He Dead dropped a beautiful and powerful version of “Changes” that absolutely changed the tenor of the night.

      The other cover song was a more natural fit.  If I had to describe the sound of vocalist CJ Johnson, Amy Winehouse would be near the top of the list of influences, and it appears that “Valerie” is the signature set closer for Oh He Dead.  Covering an artist of Winehouse’s stature is a risky move, and it paid off big-time for Johnson and Oh He Dead.  She appears to be a beautiful person on and off stage, and her charisma and energy carried the show from the first light.

     Of their originals, my favorites included “Bottle It Up”, “Do You Ever Wonder”, and “Show Me Love”.  If I had to pick one song from all their music that best represents the mood of that night, I would select “Lonely Sometimes”.  The interchange of Andy Valenti and Alex Salser on guitar, along with John Daise and Adam Ashforth on bass and drums, delivers a remarkably funky groove for CJ to sing across, and you can truly feel how well this music takes on a new life in your favorite club, when the rhythm permeate through you from front to back.

      The moral of the story is hopefully clear here… if you love music like I do, be bold and go out and seek new sounds.  Find your perfect companion, head to your favorite venue, and open your ears and open your mind.  Chances are that a great evening full of memories and new discoveries are just waiting to be found.