Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Bruce Henry Brings Music and More to Oldenburg House and the Community of Carlton

“Bruce is definitely one of the best artists in education out there today.” ​​
--Randy Jennings, Director of Compas Arts Education

Bruce Henry, Cookin' @ the O. Matt Mobley on bass.
Earlier this year jazz singer Bruce Henry brought his vocal and performance talent to the Carlton Room for a weekend of Cookin' at the O. Next week he will be returning to not only perform, but to offer his talent as an educator. That is, during his November trip to the Northland he will, in addition to performing, because conducting workshops at UMD and high schools in Hermantown, Duluth (Denfeld) and Barnum.

When Bruce was here in June it was quite apparent that he was a polished performer. I didn't know of his 25 years of performance experience, including jazz vocalist, composer, bandleader, live event production. And I was even less aware of his 30 years of teaching experience -- including K-12, college, adults and seniors -- teaching vocal performance as well as workshops on the Evolution of African American Music.

Bruce Henry's curriculum provides insights into the impact of African music on contemporary music.
Growing up in Chicago he began to study the music he was singing and hearing in the churches, both the manner in which it was sung as well as the improvisations. As he studied this music in greater detail he learned that "the music of my ancestors has roots in the musical practices of Africans."

He goes on to say, "Over the last 400 years, the music of these proud people has evolved into many forms like jazz, soul, hip-hop, gospel and military music just to name a few. When you listen to Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Mahalia Jackson, Celine Dion, John Legend, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Common, Ray Charles, T. Pain, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Christina Aguilera you experience many elements of African music."

The end result of all this research, a by-product of his passion, is a course which he has titled The Evolution of African American Music (A Comprehensive Journey through Time and Culture).

The Evolution of African American Music from Africa to Hip Hop deepens our understanding of music in relation to history and culture as well as broadening our understanding of the relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts. 

* * * *
Next week Bruce Henry will be at the Oldenburg House in Carlton for Magnolia Salon on Thursday, Nov. 8 and the following two evenings of Cookin' @ the O in the Carlton Room.

Reservations can be found at the Oldenburg House website:

T Rex Generations: A Brief Review

If Halloween is a holiday for children (and adults who want to remain children forever), I'm pretty sure dinosaurs fall into a similar category. Nothing stimulates the imagination in a child's mind like the dinosaur section of a natural history museum. I remember well the visits we took to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when I was a boy. And later, when my own children were growing, visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York was equally exhilarating.

For Christmas, when we were kids, my father would plop a Sears Catalog onto our laps and suggest the pages we might want to look at for our Santa lists. One year, it was the set of molded plastic dinosaurs that conquered my mind. I can still visualize the Tyrannosaurus Rex from that set. He was the color of cobalt and had that striking stance that probably terrified the prehistoric world.

We'd read about the dinosaurs in books and learned the names: triceratops, brontosaurus, ankylosaurus, and all the other strange creatures of that era. 

This built-in fascination with dinosaurs is undoubtedly what made the film Jurassic Park such a success. Special effects and a great storyline didn't hurt any, either. Spielberg knew how to touch a nerve by putting the children in such danger when all havoc broke loose.

* * * *

Last week I acquired a copy of T. Rex Generations, a graphic novel by author/illustrator Ted Rechlin. As an artist he began drawing professionally at age 19 for DC Comics. What a great opportunity for any young artist, to learn the ropes as regards the practical mechanics of story telling in imagery. He has now been working freelance for more than a decade, contributing work to museums, zoos and several publishing companies. His special interest seems to be natural history, hence T Rex Generations.

The storyline follows a family of Tyrannosaurus Rexes who live in Hell Creek, Montana, 66 million years ago during the late Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era. Ma and pa T Rex, Cobalt and Sierra, have just hatched four baby T Rexes. It's a story of survival in a very dangerous world where one wrong move could turn a little one into another creature's dinner or result in a cracked skull.

Ankylosaurus carries a club on his tail.
Rechlin knows how to make the little ones lovable and the parents caring, but his approach is also to deliver an accurate impression of the life of dinosaurs. It's a graphic novel where the details are embedded into the fabric of the story, not intrusive. The illustrations are lush, and the action dramatic. His other books include a book on sharks and another on the end of the ice age.

The little ones meet a Triceratops. Be careful, kids. 
This book is published by Rexroth Studios and is available on Amazon. As the story ends, we see that two of the little ones, Nova and Orion, will be stars of the next generation of T Rexes in this series.

EdNote: I am not part of the Amazon Affiliate program and receive no remuneration if you purchase this book. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Can We Talk About Beauty for a Minute? 10 Pieces of Classical Music That Can Lift You Higher

Photo courtesy John Heino Photography
"Where words fail, music speaks." --Hans Christian Anderson

Beauty. It transports us. It inspires us. 
It takes our breath away... when we let it.
It captures us... when we yield to it.

Harry Haller in Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf was a troubled man who felt himself a misfit, ill-suited for the world of everyday, regular people. The one place where he felt a deliverance from this discomfort was at the concert hall where he found himself lifted, by beauty, beyond the cares of this world. Music served as a form of salvation.

I've known the feeling, the power of music. Like Harry Haller, the sweet strains of anguished beauty have also transported me, at times, enabled me to forget the cares of this world.

For this reason I offer you here some of the music I've found comforting, soul-soothing, uplifting, nourishing. The links will take you to YouTube videos that you may enjoy as time permits in this harried age in which we live.

* * * *

1. Air on the G-String, Johannes Bach
This YouTube video has had over 50 million views, a tribute to the enduring legacy of Johannes Bach. This is not my favorite version, however. The version that most transports me is a solo piano version played by Henry Wiens. His CD Quiet Classics can be found on CD Baby. Hear a brief sample here.

2. Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28, No. 4, by Chopin
When I heard this piece of music in the film Five Easy Pieces it spoke to me, as did all things Chopin. French novelist George Sand once wrote that she considered the beauty of Chopin's music to be evidence that there was a God. I took two and a half years of piano lessons and learned a number of simplified versions of his music when I was young. When I saw the film again in the 90s I bought the sheet music and worked at learning it. The chord progressions are marvelous, the lingering pace that makes you ache... words fail again.

3. On Earth As It Is In Heaven, by Ennio Morricone
This is a live performance of the Theme from The Mission. It elevates me like almost nothing else.

4. Adagio opus 11, by Samuel Barber
This piece of music served as a thread that wove its way through Oliver Stone's tragic Platoon. It is also effective in the very sad story of John Merrick, the Elephant Man (Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt). A powerful film about what it means to be human.

5. Clarinet Concerto In A Major K 622 Adagio, by Mozart
It is remarkable how much this young man achieved in the course of such a short life. How did he do it?

6. Ballade No. 1 in G minor, by Chopin

7. Sonata for Piano No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, Pathetique, Adagio, by Beethoven

8. Elvira Madigan, by Mozart

9. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, Second Movement

10. Erik Satie's Once Upon A Time In Paris
This opens with such poignant lilting delicacy... How was it conceived? It moistens eyes and causes one bow the head.

* * * *

Related Links
Healing the Hurting Through Music
Quiet Heart Music

Meantime life goes on all around you. Listen to the music.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Recent Readings and a Pew Research Study About Who Does Not Read Books in America

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."
--Ray Bradbury.

This past week I read an article on Medium about reading books and how women are reading more than men now. Not only that, but that more women are enrolled in college than men, which at one time was heavily skewed toward males.

I intended this post to be a list of my recent readings with summaries of the books I'd read, but then I decided instead to begin by drawing attention to some findings from a Pew Research study on who doesn't read books in America. Since there are many studies showing a correlation between reading,  education and wealth generation (or career empowerment), it seems that a primary aim of good parenting should go beyond making sure kids have food, shelter and a safe place to live, but should very definitely include reading, writing and 'rithmetic as basic foundation stones for a successful life, just as it was in grandma's day.  (Good social skills can be added here, too.)

All that to say, here were a few numbers from the Pew study. And again, the interesting feature here is not "who" is reading, but who is not reading.

24% of Americans have not read a book in whole or in part in the past year. In other words, reading books doesn't appear to enter their minds as something having value.

They assessed reading habits by age, income, gender, level of education attained and race. In most cases there were few surprises. More men have not read a book (25%) than women (22%), fewer whites have not read a book as compared to blacks and Hispanics. People in the lowest income bracket (under 30K/year) are three times more likely to not have read a book the previous year.

When compared to a 2016 study regarding libraries, "the same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library." Sad.

* * * *
My apologies if it sounds like I was ranting. No doubt if you've gotten this far you are a reader, so I'd best move on.

My reading list is always longer than my available ti
me, which is probably the challenge for all avid readers and lovers of books. Here are a handful of books I've completed recently, followed by a few others that I am in the process of reading.

The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace
Paul Thomas Chamberlin
I read the HarperCollins audio version of this book, which was so powerful I bought the hardback and am reading it again. The audiobook is read by Grover GardnerWhile reading it I kept feeling like this was the saddest book I'd ever read. My reason for this was two-fold. First, it is heartbreaking how the superpowers (Soviet Union, China, USA) are playing this global power game but the people in power moving armaments and making decisions seem unharmed by any of it while literally millions of innocent civilians are being killed, wounded, displaced. The litany of horrors committed during this "time of peace" after the last world war is mind-boggling. Second, the degree to which our own country (U.S.) was complicit in generating all this human suffering just makes one ashamed.

I strongly recommend the book because it is the first and best book that I've seen or know of that connects on the dots regarding the miscellaneous and seemingly unrelated conflicts in various parts of the world during the Cold War.

We Die Alone
David Howarth
This is another audiobook I read. (See my review of the Untold Story of the History of Talking Books) The story was originally published in 1955. It is literally an amazing story of survival in the most harrowing Arctic circumstances. It is the story of Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian who ends up in Britain to return as part of the resistance. A boat with 12 men come into the fjords on a mission, but are thwarted by the Nazis. All are captured or killed except Baalsrud, whose toe is shot off. He escapes, and must now survive.

All that (above) occurs in the very beginning of the story The rest is one challenge after another including frostbitten feet, and an assortment of other complications The writing is totally compelling. One reason I wanted to read this is that I also have a compelling survival/escape novella that I have written about a young man with a withered leg who escapes from Estonia as the Red Army is heading West at the end of WW2. 10% of the population of Estonia fled in a single wave, whic should tell you something about life under Stalin from 1940-42. If I can tell Ralph's story (Uprooted) half as well as David Howarth tells Jan Baalsrud's, then I will be happy.

Don't Quit Your Day Job
Michael Fedo
The full title is Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Adventures of a Midlist Author.  s a memoir recounting the five-decade writing career of Michael Fedo, whose books have not attained best-seller status, despite receiving mostly favorable reviews in publications such as The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Library Journal, among others. What follows here are a few excerpts from my review of the book on Amazon.

The book is essentially an overview of Mr. Fedo’s life as a writer, but it’s written in such a way as to provide good lessons all along the way. Each story has a purpose and though it is a book for writers, it would be useful for many other careers in the creative arts.

His first chapter, Authorities and Experts May Be Wrong, is a lesson I learned myself and have written about more than once. “Who Are Your Experts?” is something everyone has to address at various points in a career. We are shaped by those whom we listen to, and sometimes we don’t have enough experience to recognize the difference between good and bad advice.

Though primarily a book for writers, each chapters contains lessons for writers, I think others might enjoy reading about his life in the writing biz. He writes in an easy-going style that would make this book worth reading the most valuable one being to make sure you can pay your bills before you launch into the deep. It's a memoir designed to be both entertaining and instructive.

Read my blog post about his writing workshop and the reading he gave from this book.

The Year of Less
Cait Flanders
Amazon version has livelier cover.
The full title is actually, The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.
It's a short book with a promising title, related to several other book I've read about simplifying one's life and reducing clutter. Unfortunately, I didn't care that much for the reader. (The author.) She's a blogger whose primary theme seems to be her self. The book essentially documents her efforts to live on less and the lessons she learns along the way. One reviewer on Amazon (who liked the book) wrote, "This book isn't about minimalism or decluttering (although it will inspire you to pursue those goals!), it's about living with less, consuming less, and ultimately needing less." Another wrote, "To the uninitiated: trust your instinct to "buy less" and pass on this." I almost quit the book two or three times, but plowed through anyways.

My biggest problem was that I was unable to relate to a person who "buys things" to make herself feel better while racking up massive credit card debt. By shopping to make oneself happy, I am referring to replacing all the furniture in the living room, clothes, etc to the tune of $30,000. There were a few good insights early on and I thought there would be more. As a blogger she has built a following who apparently enjoys her transparency and candor. For the wider public, it should have been an article in a magazine.

I have a number books in mid-stream. Some I will write about in the future, one I already wrote about but need to finish.

The Unexpected Gambler
Robert Asiel
This book and the next are about guys who learned how to win by cheating, as in power or dice games. Asiel went to Las Vegas as a 17-year-old and became a poker dealer at a casino at which time he learned that the casinos were also crooked. (EdNote: It's my understanding that things have changed because the odds already favor the casinos and they do not have to cheat to rake in the dough.) Asiel subtitled his book, A History of Casinos Cheating the Public and One Gambler's Revenge. It sounds like a self-rationalization to me, but most of us spend a lifetime justifying one form of bad behavior or another.

Robert Asiel went to Vegas in the 60s, while the casinos were still mob run. Later in life he was all over the country and did a lot of cruise ship hustling as gambling opened up everywhere. In the end he was wanted by the FBI, but not before he'd lived a life of adventure. Like Fast Jack (below) he did finally get nailed and spent time in the pen. The book will likely surprise you at the games people play.

Fast Jack: The Last Hustler
John Farrell
One of the more interesting places to hear good stories is from the cab drivers in Las Vegas. On my first trip the Las Vegas our cabby told about how far downhill Vegas had gone since the corporates took over and the mob no longer ran the casinos. We asked for an explanation and he said in the old days you lose all your money at the gaming tables and the casino would put you up for the night and pay for your ticket to get home. "Not any more," he said You lose all your money and the send you packing.

Fast Jack was born in 1937 so he came of age in the Fifties. He learned all the tricks of the hustler's trade and then took them to another level. As a card and dice mechanic is also learned the risks involved, including being beat up, shot at and doing time. He wrote his memoir because the world has changed. In the old days most gambling was a private matter. The hustlers knew where the action was. Nowadays, casinos, riverboats and cruise ships are everywhere.
At age 80, Jack's dice moves are still astonishing. Here's a video with no special effects showing off some Fast Jack dice mechanics.
Here's a podcast of Fast Jack being interviewed on Maria Konnikova's show Grift.

An End to Upside Down Thinking
Mark Gober
The subtitle of this book is Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life.  Gober's book is essentially an assault on the arrogant assumptions of science, specifically as it pertains to materialism. The notion that consciousness could evolve from matter did not make sense and he began to explore this problem in greater detail. He learned that this area of science is one of the biggest stumbling blocks and is still not yet resolved.

Though I'd not finished the book yet, I wrote a review earlier this month and interviewed the author afterward.

* * * *

Aren't books amazing? There are so many varieties of books, and so many stories still to be told.

What have you been reading lately? I hope it's good.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A New Cable Network Devoted to Advertising: The Ad Channel! Whatcha Think?

Can someone explain to me how an ad like this
is a form of manipulation?
Every once in a while, and again this weekend, I come across an article written by someone with a visceral hatred for advertising. In this case, the writer begins by stating that all advertising is manipulation.

Manipulation: the action of manipulating someone in a clever or unscrupulous way.
Manipulate: control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously.

(Disclaimer: my career in advertising spanned more than 30 years.)

One line from the Adbusters Manifesto reads,  "To fight the mental takeover of an ever-present ad industry..."

Is the advertising industry trying to take over our minds? O.K., yes, advertisers do have an agenda that has to do with your mind. Or rather, businesses have an agenda, by means of their advertising  and that is this. When you think of going out to eat, a restaurant wants THEIR NAME branded on your brain. That is, they want the top of mind position in your thoughts. When you get hungry and don't feel like making a meal, they want you to think of them as a favorable alternative. Same goes for when you need to pick up something from the hardware store, or choose a bank, or buy a car. Businesses do want their stores or products to be something that "comes to mind" as a solution to your perceived problem or need. Will you be drinking beer in front of a football game today? Budweiser wants to you "think Bud."

This top of mind awareness has to come from somewhere. That's why restaurants and other businesses have "Grand Openings." It creates an occasion to get the name out there. so people know the business exists. To make the opening grand they need to get the word out, which is achieved in a variety of ways using the media. Ads, radio spots, television spots, if possible some coverage in the newspapers, all serving as a kind of invitation to the party.

People who do a lot of interstate travel have no doubt had the experience of being hungry and wondering where they will stop to eat. I've found billboards, hated by many, to be quite useful in these situations. "Next Cracker Barrel: 21 miles." Why is this such a problem? Does Cracker Barrel manipulate people into stopping? Those billboards just let people know that there's a Cracker Barrel up ahead and the memory of your last experience, if it was good, will do the rest.

* * * *
It may be time to start thinking about Xmas Shopping.
Let's narrow our scope to television advertising. I found this David Ignatius op-ed piece quite telling. It's cut out from a yellowed, aged newspaper and regrettably I'm not sure how aged, but I'm guessing mid-90s. He begins with this:

"New evidence (as if we ever needed more) that business has taken over the American mind: Surfing the channels in these dog days of summer, it's hard not to conclude that the advertisements on TV are better than the programs."

I don't believe he's the only person to make this observation. That's why instead of blocking ads, why not block the shows? In fact, what if we create a new Cable Network called The Advertising Channel.

I've already begun outlining the programming.
1. Beer Commercials, with whole episodes devoted to different brands. The opening week would be a full hour devoted to Budweiser Super Bowl commercials. Who wouldn't want to watch this?
2. Oldies Hour, featuring television commercials from the 40s and 50s.
3. 60s and 70s commercials.
4. 80s and 90s commercials
5. Car Commercials. It could be used in schools to teach the history of the automobile.
6. Banned Commercials. Commercials that went a little too far.
7. European Beer Commercials.
8. European Oldies Hour.
9. European Commercials Banned in the USA.
10. A program about the ad agencies that made the commercials. Week One: The Marlboro Man.
11. One of the programs could feature a host, seated by a fireside, looking spiff, who introduces commercials one at a time, telling details about the making of it, the duration of the spot, etc. One week could be about famous people who starred in TV commercials. Orson Welles, for example.
12. Movie Trailers. We can show current, recent and past trailers. This program could also have some kind of talking heads who provide stats on how effective the trailers were at filling seats on opening weekend. Maybe that show could be called Box Office. Or maybe you've got a better name, I'm open.
13. Maybe a show in which teams compete to come up with the best commercial for a new product. People who lose get fired. (Oh, was that already done?)
14. What about a show in which people are selected to get an inside look at how commercials are made on Madison Avenue. Modern, not nostalgic. "Making Commercials With The Stars."
15. How about a show devoted to advertising before there was television? It could be a history of print advertising from 1900 to the Present.
16. "Scandals" might make an entertaining segment. I am referring to advertising related scandals, not the Jimmy Swaggert kind.  Here are a few, and there are plenty more.
17 And finally, perhaps a curated program called The Clown Show in which we feature political ads from the past. 60 years of political advertising from local to national. There's a whole dumpster full of these stored somewhere, I am sure.

* * * *
I mentioned my idea to a friend. "What about this? A cable channel that only airs commercials."

My friend replied, "I'd get the buttered popcorn out for that one."

He went on to say, "Half the time the commercials are better than the show you're watching. They have higher production values."

* * * *
While researching for this blog post I learned that the Networks are aware of the problem of too many commercials. Here are some sample headlines I came across, the content self-explanatory:

--TV networks shed ad time as consumers skip commercials

--Even TV networks agree there are too many commercials - Marketplace

--Heavy Commercial Loads Are Killing Basic Cable 10/18/2017

--TV's Ad Apocalypse Is Coming - The Atlantic

Would this idea work as a new cable channel? I dunno. It was fun noodling the idea of it. Probably too much risk involved for all the work required to pull it off.

* * * *


This has to do with online advertising, and specifically Facebook. Did you know you can turn off ads that appear on your Facebook page? Or at least restrict them somewhat. Here are your written instructions.

1. Open your Facebook page and click “settings,” and then “ads.”

2. Click on the “ads based on my use of websites and apps” setting and press the “choose setting” button and select “off.”

3. Enjoy.

* * * *

Follow me on Twitter. @ennyman3 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Lives Touched and Energized: Dylan, Blood, Tracks, Metsa--Part 3

Dateline: Tuesday, October 23 (Part 3)
This is a third a final segment of notes and observations as a guest on the set of Paul Metsa's Wall of Power show this week featuring Bob Dylan's superbly rendered Blood On The Tracks album in the mid-70s. The occasion for this show is the release next week of Bootleg #14: More Blood, More Tracks.

When I say "guest" and I am referring to a bystander role in the peanut gallery. This is just a mop up post of a few additional details and the close of the recording session which will air in three successive weeks beginning tonight on the Metro Cable Network--Channel 6 in Minneapolis.

You can catch Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

* * * *
Taking notes, chatting with Gregg Inhofer
Photo: Rubin Latz.
The musicians who were part of this event all came from different places. Gregg Inhofer and Billy Peterson were playing extremely complicated jazz-rock fusion at the time. Gregg was playing Weather Report, Chick Corea, John Mclaughlin.

Gregg, who was the keyboards here, stated that the ideal outcome is for everyone to feel, “What a great session.” Not, “What a crummy session but wasn’t that organ player great.”

Paul Metsa asked about the bond between the musicians since then. Peter Ostroushko agreed it was something special. Billy Peterson said, “We had never played together before that session. It goes unsung what David Zimmerman had done.”

Inhofer repeated what had been stated already, that serendipity is what made it happen, a simple twist of fate.

Metsa then admitted that he initially did not like the album Blood On The Tracks, a sheepish revelation that he saved till later in the afternoon. He had been so enamored still by Dylan’s “wild mercury sound” on Blonde On Blonde that he failed to appreciate this for what it was. He eventually came around to appreciate what he calls the “mild mercury sound” of Blood On The Tracks.

Someone then noted that, "Trust is what brought these guys together, a Minnesota thing and a great Minnesota moment."

Veteran bass player Billy Peterson (L) with Jon Bream.
Photo courtesy Rubin Latz
Strib music critic Jon Bream said, “For me, it’s my favorite [Dylan album]. Maybe because of these stories, and because it’s his most personal one, a breakup album. It’s a Minnesota album,” he said, adding that it could be called “Blood on the Range, on the Twin Cities, on Minnesota.”

Metsa’s enthusiasm was evident as he stated that Dylan “is an example of Anything’s Possible.”

Kevin Odegard pointed out that it was Paul Metsa who brought them all back together. They began keeping BOTT alive since 2001. There was a concert at 1st Avenue in which it seemed “First Avenue became a spaceship that went around the universe and back” when they played "Tangled Up In Blue."

Back row: Sonny Earl, Kevin Odegard, Billy Peterson
Front row: Gary Lopac, Paul Metsa, Stan Kipper, Gregg Inhofer.

Phil Harder: Ready on the Set.
This, naturally, became a perfect lead in to a resurrection performance of the now classic story in song, "Tangled Up In Blue." But what you'll see on television will be nothing like what actually happened in one respect. There were 12 or 14 microphones to place and seven musicians each singing the various verses. So the mics were set out front, sound checks following, and then mics moved to the rear and overhead and beneath in a variety configurations so as to enable each vocalist and each instrument to be heard and appreciated in a performance that can be only described as heartfelt.

* * * *

Something I've noticed over many years of writing about Duluth Dylan Fest and reading concert reviews on is that seemingly everybody has a "Bob Moment" in which a Dylan song or lyric or album spoke to them in a special way and hooked them in. I've never been in a fraternity, but there's a fraternal sense amongst the faithful, like a family bond.

Matt Steichen, caretaker of Heaven's Door.
Photo credit: Nelson French.
Naturally for myself it was nice to meet more "members of the family" last Tuesday. By mid-morning I was getting to know Mark Odegard, a vet who returned from Viet Nam in 1967 during San Francisco's Summer of Love, perhaps impetus for the song "Summer of Love" on Kevin Odegard's Artifacts CD.

Another member of the clan whom I met Tuesday was Matt Steichen, a writer and Dylan fan who shared some really great Dylan-related stories. On his 18th birthday, 17 years ago, he was in the front row for a concert and "Bob high-fived me," Matt said. How cool is that? Well, it gets better. He actually met his wife at a Dylan show. They now have four kids, ages 9, 7, 4 and 2. Last year when Dylan performed at the Excel Energy Center he brought his son Levi to his first concert and the kid knew almost every song. Obviously some people know how to raise children.

The Pioneer Press did a nice feature on the Steichens which I'm sure you will enjoy: "Without Bob Dylan this Lakeview family might not exist."

Here are a few additional photos from the day.

Paul Metsa, Billy Peterson, Gregg Inhofer
Kevin Odegard, Nelson French, Marc Percansky
EdNote: Nelson French has just notified me that Heaven's Door 
is now on the shelves of Hibbing liquor stores. One more reason 
to visit the town where Dylan grew up.

Meantime life goes on all around you. Engage it.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Paul Metsa's Wall of Power Featuring Dylan's BOTT Studio Musicians from Sound 80 (Part 2)

Dateline: Tuesday, October 23 (Part 2)
One of the images from the Deluxe set
of Bootleg 14: More Blood, More Tracks.
Tuesday was a fairly dramatic historical moment. The six Minnesota musicians who contributed to Bob Dylan's 1975 double Platinum Blood on the Tracks were gathered together to celebrate the release of Bootleg 14: More Blood, More Tracks. (Technically, four were present and two joined the filming of Paul Metsa's Wall of Power show by means of technology.)

Yesterday I wrote about getting set up, and a little background on the significance of this particular Bootleg Set for the Minnesota musicians. Mr. Metsa was producing several upcoming half hour shows, so there were numerous intros and outros along the way. What follows are my notes from what I believe was the second segment onward, though anything can happen in the editing booth. Anyone looking for sound bytes and new revelations would have loved being a fly on the wall Tuesday. For background, here is a link to yesterday's blog recap.

* * * *

The guests were seated in a line that arced forward on the right side of the set. Paul Metsa sat to the left facing a group that was spread in this order: Kevin Odegard, Gregg Inhofer, Peter Ostroushko, Billy Peterson and Jon Bream on the far end.

This segment opened with Metsa introducing the cast, beginning with Kevin O who kicked it off with, “It was a cold dark night. I was watching Kojak & the phone rang. It was David Zimmerman." And so it began.

Of the musicians, KO stated, "We came from different places… and were glued together.”

They acknowledged the role Steve Berkowitz and Jeff Slate in putting this bootleg together.

Continuing with introductions, of Gregg Inhofer, Metsa stated, “He’s the bees knees.” Peter O's achievements were noted. Of Billy P: “He’s the #1 bass player in the Twin Cities for 40 years. I saw him first with Leo Kottke.” Of Jon Bream: One of the most astute music critics.

Bream replied, “With this project, the musicians receive the validation and recognition they have long deserved for their contribution to this, Dylan’s greatest album.”

Metsa stated that the Bootleg, More Blood More Tracks is a cleaned up version of those original sessions but without the reverb. “It’s incredible. And we’ve been given the O.K. to play it as much as we want.”

Jeff Slate wrote the liner notes. Steve Addabbo did the mix.

The day before (Monday) the new version was played in the studio and I was told that Kevin O, Billy and the cameramen were in tears. This later came out on the show and the men made no pretension of macho-ness.

Chris Weber Skyping in on the monitor behind Paul M.
After some dialogue there was a brief break and then a segment with Chris Weber who was Skyped in from California.

In 1974 Chris had a guitar shop called The Podium. Kevin O called Chris because Dylan was looking for a Martin guitar of a specific vintage, a 1937 00-42. Chris cited the line “take what you can gather from coincidence.”… He happened to have one but the guitar was in his possession on consignment and he couldn’t sell it, so he said, “I go with it.” As a result Chris arrived, guitar in tow, because he couldn’t let the guitar go without him.

When he arrived there was a lot happening in the studio, but there was a small vocal booth the size of two phone booths. Dylan nudged him and said, “Let’s go in there.” It was this very small space with two chairs. Dylan then asked him to play something he himself had written so Bob could hear what the guitar sounded like. He played something he call “A” Rag. Then Chris was asked to sing something he’d written, and he sang, “Come Home With Me.”

Bob asked him to play something, which he did. He then asked if Chris wrote songs and when he played a second, Bob replied, “That’s a nice song. Maybe Linda Ronstadt should do that.”

Chris is thinking, “Go ahead, Bob. Make the call.”

Next, Bob taught Chris the chords for “Idiot Wind.”

As a result of these serendipitous events, Chris became the 12-string we hear on "Tangled Up In Blue" and ended up playing on all the songs except "Lily Rosemary & the Jack of Hearts."

Paul asked, “How does it feel to now see your name on the record?”

Chris replied, “That’s a thrill. We contributed a lot to an album that gave his career a boost, an acoustic album that went back to his roots."

Peter O’s story was similarly intriguing.
“I was sick that day. Pneumonia,” he said. He had been in bed the entire week. “I was tired of being and bed so I drove to The Podium. Someone said, “Have you seen Chris Weber?” Chris told Peter the story and then said, “They asked me to come back tonight.” Peter O said, “You tell Bob that if he needs a banjo or a mandolin player give me a call.”

Later he was playing pinball at this place he hung out at all the time, and he got a call there after they tried his home. This was the pre-cell phone era. “Get your instruments and get down here,” he was told. "The miracle was that Jim know where to call me."

For Peter O it was the first recording session. He had never been played in a recording studio in his life.

When he arrived Bob said, “What do you got?”

Jim said, “I’ve got a banjo.”

Peter said, “I’ve got a mandolin and a violin.”

Bob said, “Oh, let’s do this song with a mandolin.”

They kept playing it until they found a key that fit his voice.

After recording Peter O went home and went to bed. When he woke the next morning his fever had broken and he called Jim. “You wouldn’t believe the dream I had last night. I dreamt I was in a recording session with Bob Dylan and you were there, too. We did five takes."

Bill Berg, an experienced drummer, tapped in by telephone. His background including work with Cat Stevens & Leo Kottke. Billy P and Bill B performed all kinds of stuff, all over the map.

Metsa: "How did Bill get roped in to play drums on Blood on the Tracks?"

Bill, who hails from Hibbing, had played with Dylan's brother David Zimmerman in a jazz trio. He stated that at one time he saw Buddy Rich at Hibbing High School and “it almost made me quit.”

Growing up he never ran in the same circles as Bob, he explained. There was a music store in Hibbing that he went to, Jeff Crippen Music Store, and he had this old cymbal from the basement with a crack in it that was used on "Idiot Wind."

Bill Berg said he was in a rock band in the 60s, no jazz stuff yet. Used to play in Battles of the Bands at the Duluth Armory. (EdNote: Paul Metsa’s band won in 1974.) Berg was initially a drummer with Billy Peterson as they got into progressive fusion music. They played at the Poodle Club on Hennepin Avenue together in 1973 before it burned. When he got the call he was in the middle of moving to California. His car was already packed. Everything was in his car, all his equipment and possessions.

When he arrived at Sound 80, he walked into the studio ready to go. "It was surreal. Bob was standing in the door wearing a leather jacket. I was told it would be one song," but tit went so well it ended up being five songs.

Gregg on keyboards, Billy with his stand up bass.
"We were sidemen," he said. While sharing he mentioned that Leo Kottke played loud, whereupon Jon Bream noted that Kottke was deaf in one ear, having been a Navy man. His hearing in one ear had been damaged by loud guns.

Billy P noted that it was end of December and very cold that night. Warming up before starting meant literally giving the instruments time to get warm inside.

Another observation he made was that Bob doesn’t ever small talk. The whole session, though, was a fabulous group effort.

The first song Billy B played was "Idiot Wind." He locked in on the tempo pretty early. "When you first put your headphones on and hear Dylan’s lyrics coming through…" He never finished but everyone could complete the thought. It was breathtaking.

Billy P: I was always comfortable with Bill (Berg). In those days nearly every bar was live music. We played every kind of music at night, recording commercials by day. All genres, that was our job.

Bill B. was capable of playing all kinds of music at the highest level. We knew how to showcase an artist. Bill & Bill were a Twin Cities version of the Wrecking Crew.

Metsa welcomes us back to interview Jon Bream.
Bream is a Minneapolis Star Tribune critic who is clearly a Dylan fan, having authored Dylan: Disc By Disc, an overview of his first 36 studio albums. Bream knew Kevin Odegard from way back then, calling KO “a great self-promoter.” After the session with Dylan, Odegard called Bream the next morning. Bream called KO “the singing brakeman” because like many musicians they maintained a day job, his being a brakeman for the railroad.

Like many writers, critics and journalists, Bream received a pre-release copy of the album and went straight over to Kevin’s to listen to it. To KO’s surprise Dylan had used five of the songs they recorded in the two Sound 80 sessions.

Kevin said his mom thought “it was the greatest thing David Zimmerman had done for me.

* * * *
One of two performers who participated on all five songs recorded was Gregg Inhofer. (Bill Berg was the other.) Inhofer played with Billy Peterson in a band called Natural Life. When Kevin called Inhofer the deal went down like this: “Can you come Friday to the studio. I can’t tell you who it is.” It was all “hush, hush.”

Billy described the one rather famous moment like this: After Bob played “Tangled Up In Blue” the first time, he asked KO’s opinion. Kevin, trying not to offend, gave a soft response. “It’s passable. Let’s try moving it up to A.”

Bob’s response was a long pause. Kevin said, “I sweat right through my clothes.” He was on pins and needles. But Dylan took the suggestion. They did that first take and when finished there was a very strong silence as everyone recognized they had done something incredible.

This segment ended with Paul Metsa noting that Jon Bream had been writing about his own work since 1984, a gesture of gratitude.

* * * *
Courtesy Marc Percansky.
There were a number of others present who will get more digital ink tomorrow but worth noting here before closing. Marc Percansky's cheerful managing of many smaller details so that Paul could focus on the bigger objectives was no doubt appreciated. Marc brought a partially consumed bottle from Bob Dylan's new Heaven's Door whiskey line, which was generously passed around to the principles later in the session. Nelson French took care to make sure there was a little left in the bottle for a toast at the end. (Nelson has about eight bottles of Heaven's Door up near Silver Bay. In the event that you are unable to find a bottle in your own home town, the North Shore of Lake Superior is a beautiful part of the world. Stop in and tell him you're lost... and then ask, "Oh, do you know where I can find Heaven's Door.)

It didn't take long for documentarian Rubin Latz to create an album on Facebook. Andy Watson of ANDVD Media held the reigns on the TV production, and Mark Odegard--whose website is worth checking out, and who is no relation to Kevin--is the one who provided the insight about Kevin' last name meaning "empty farm" in Norwegian. Matt Steichen and Sonny Earl will be part of this story in Part 3.

(L to R) Billy P, Gregg, KO, Paul Metsa, and Peter O.

Related Links
NPR Shares 10 Selections and an Overview of More Blood More Tracks 
Rubin Latz Pulls Back the Curtain at MCN6
The much loved Peter Ostroushko suffered a stroke followed by a heart attack this past year. He has been in rehab ever since. A Go Fund Me campaign has been set up for Peter and his wife Marge which can be found here at 
Here is Peter O & Better Angels in his last live performance
Schedule for Wall of Power on Metro Cable Network 6.


Inside the Studio: Still More Blood and Tracks as Paul Metsa's Wall of Power Features MN Music Luminaries

Dateline: Tuesday, October 23
While half the country has its eyes looking forward to what will happen at next Tuesday's Mid-Term Elections, a small segment of the population is looking past the election to the release of yet another set in the Bootleg Series on November 2. More Blood, More Tracks is Bootleg 14 and this time around it's outtakes from an album which some have called Dylan's best, Blood on the Tracks.

The significance of this moment in time has not been lost on Minnesota Dylan and music fans. Five of the album's ten songs were recorded at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis, but the local musicians who performed with Dylan in two late December sessions were never, by a twist of fate, credited on the album for the roles they played.

For this reason, Bootleg #14 is a vindication of sorts.

Star Trib photographer Renee Jones Schneider took photos for the paper.
"Yes, a Dylan fan." Photo shoot first, then filming.
In response to next week's release, Paul Metsa untangled some strings in order to pull together the original team that recorded this epic album 44 years ago. Production took place in a studio at Metro Cable Network Channel 6, which will be re-assembled for several upcoming editions of his Wall of Power program, the first to be aired Saturday October 27 at 8:00 and 11:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Having had the privilege to be present, I took copious notes and photos which I also plan to share in the next days leading up to the BOTT release. Paul Metsa invited each of the players to tell their stories live, and everyone associated with the filming that took place, and everyone watching from the peanut gallery, seemed riveted in place as they listened. The four musicians present included Billy Peterson, Gregg Inhofer, Peter Ostroushko and Kevin Odegard. Bill Berg and Chris Weber were piped in via Skype and telephone.

Kevin O (left) signs a CD for Paul Metsa.
In addition to the players, Minneapolis Star Trib critic Jon Bream, who is also embedded in this story, was present for his take on the way things unfolded.

Listening to the stories and watching the interactions provided many new revelatory moments for everyone who was present. For example, I was unaware that Peter Ostrousho, who became a household name for his decades-long role on Prairie Home Companion, had never recorded in a studio until that evening in 1974 with what could be called a Minnesota version of the Wrecking Crew.

The five songs featuring the Minnesota crew were Tangled Up In Blue, A Simple Twist of Fate, Idiot Wind, Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, and If You See Her, Say Hello.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Bob Dylan had recorded this album three months previous in New York. For whatever reasons, Dylan must have had mixed feelings about the results because in December he decided to take another stab at recording a couple of the songs. By means of his brother David, a select group of Minnesota players got tapped for what amounted to two sessions. The album covers had already been printed (200,000 or 500,000 depending on what source you pull from) and the Minnesota players were not credited.

Wikipedia: The album reached  No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts and  No.  4 on the UK Albums Chart. The single "Tangled Up in Blue" peaked at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The album remains one of Dylan's best-selling studio releases, with a double-platinum U.S. certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In 2015, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In some ways the project appears to be a replay of Bob's Blonde On Blonde re-take in which he didn't feel wholly satisfied with what he was hearing after the New York Sessions then either, choosing to give it another try in Nashville. On that occasion he was famously seeking that "wild mercury sound." On this occasion the acoustic album seems to have captured a "mild mercury sound" that was instantly recognized as a gem.

From what I hear CBS will also be airing a clip this Saturday at 10, a nod to the historic nature of this release which is also getting a lot of attention in the local media.

The studio was a beehive of activity from mid-morning till evening rush hour, not only with the "stars" but also a host of technicians, family, friends and folks like myself who were present to document the event. A big shout out to Marc Percansky for all the behind the scenes legwork, Rubin Latz for his help as "Backup Capture Man" and everyone else whose names are too numerous to list.

EdNote: I once read a story about Hunter Thompson when he was covering the Kentucky Derby as a journalist for Esquire. Thompson had passed deadline and the magazine was waiting to go to press. He had plenty of notes but there was nothing coherently assembled yet. The editor said, "Just send your notes, we'll use them as is." And that is what I am going to do here the next couple days. I have 3000 words of notes and lots of photos. The aim is to give you an idea of what a special moment this was. Like Mr. Metsa, I will break it into pieces for a couple episodes. 

(L to R) Billy Peterson, Gregg Inhofer, Kevin Odegard, Peter Ostroushko
Trivia: Odegard means “empty farm” in Norwegian.

“All the better guitar players in the room hate my guts because they didn’t get in the room.”—Kevin Odegard ... "Lonnie Knight was out of town. He should have gotten on that gig."

* * * *
Discussion with Gregg Inhofer
Gregg Inhofer on keyboards, with Billy P
The Rhythm Section
¾ German 1/8 French 1/8 Irish
“I was working for Kevin, Billy Peterson and Bill Berg (drummer)
They needed a studio keyboard player. First impression: “Cool”
He (Dylan) had my respect. I wasn’t a fan. I was studying jazz/rock fusion. Dylan’s tunes were technically simple. “I wasn’t a fan like the other guys.”

I ask about not being mentioned on liner notes
“I take my own 50% responsibility. I should’ve called David (Zimmerman). I was naïve about business and didn’t follow up.”

(about being on the album) “Serendipity. Right place at the right time.”

“All roads lead to now. It is what it is. I had to let it go a number of times.”

* * * *
Photo shoot was first, then filming.
Staging took a lot of time
“Paul will do intros…"

Mic check
Jon Bream imitates Dylan

The show begins
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome…”

Lights, cameras, action. The show is underway.
(L to r) Metsa, Odegard, Inhofer, Ostroushko, Peterson, Bream

Related Links
A Brief Review of Jon Bream's Dylan: Disc By Disc 
Billy Peterson, Cookin' @ the O
Kevin Odegard's Artifacts Seasoned with Blood On The Tracks, Sweat and Tears
Minneapolis Sessions appear on DISC 6 Tracks #4-8


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