by Louella Nelson This blog reveals a little-known anecdote from my past and highlights a few of my favorite songs and troubadours. Skip this one if you don’t want to drift down the corridors of sound-magic; click urls to hear greatness; or are just too damned busy to STOP–which covers most of us. I understand. I’m doing this. You don’t have to. Thinking of music, it occurs to me that I haven’t written anything about my ex before. Among his many artistic talents, Merrill had a gift for mixing contemporary music, which, back then, was folk, rock, and acid guitar. You know how an artist or writer needs her tools to create art? My ex had his palette and brushes, his Air Mac if you will: an awesome McIntosh sound system, a Teak reel-to-reel, a Rabco turntable. Kick my own butt for giving a lot of it away later, when I was a single mom with limited space. As a family, though, we’d have Sundays. We opened all the doors and blasted the music into the valley below, where we sometimes rode in the sandy washes and switchbacks of the dry Sweetwater River Valley. We’d let the horses loose, those Sundays, and they’d gallop through the acre-plus of avocado, pecan, and macadamia nut trees, crossing the hill in front of the old Spanish manor house we lived in, clattering across the drive, lunging up the west side of the property, and back around. While Merrill cooked breakfast, a Sunday tradition I respect in a man, Stacee and I watched those horses getting in touch with their wild, and the music filled us…Hendrix, the Eagles, the Beatles, Zeppelin, Joplin, Croce, Dylan, Moody Blues, Baez, Pink Floyd, Simon’s “Kodachrome,” Lightfoot’s “Sundown”…. I gotta stop because there are too many legends to list. During my time on Earth, I’ve loved the torch songs of several great female singers, including— Patsy Cline (“Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces”) singing the immortal “Crazy”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na5Y9FxR0lg Miss Brenda Lee’s early rock presence in “I’m Sorry”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuqrd_Hau4c Joan Baez’s “Sweet Sir Galahad”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujfqB1CD6VA
And OMG—truly, readers…KD Lang. In L.A. one year, I heard KD’s concert version of “Down to My Last Cigarette.” None of the studio recordings compare, and still, in my memory, it’s right up there with my favorite arias. One of the most moving vocal artists of our time, KD Lang sings Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and gives his own wonderful, moody concert version a run for its money: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oZN2eTgvVs Recommendation to renew the spirit: Close your eyes and listen. If you’re in a nostalgic, music-craving mood, drift down…. My favorite music moves me deeply. The lyrics—the story—they get me; but the impact of the song’s message can’t be separated from the body-slam of emotional resonance, the tone and texture and depth of the singer’s vocal art, the rhythm, and the notes themselves. Give me full-body-contact with my music. How I play a CD at home hasn’t changed. When my roommate is gone and it’s the middle of the day, I play it on full crank, just the way we played Led Zeppelin on Sunday mornings in the manor house in Bonita. Oh, and, yeah. The guys made an impression, too. Andrea Bocelli’s “Nessen Dorma” from Central Park on a cold, rainy night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iATcerBZvGk I have to add, hearing this number standing 30 feet away from him in the darkened Honda Center in June 2013, with Stacee, was even more spell-binding. Compare Bocelli’s genius to the same piece by Pavarotti; I owe the late-tenor a debt for making me fall in love with this aria. That he owned and loved Arabian horses only adds, for me, richness to the intrigue of his artistic spirit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKAW1YWVihc And–oh, hell, now that we’re on the men singers, I gotta add this favorite. Willy Nelson and the late Ray Charles (remember the watershed album I Can’t Stop Loving You?) make us feel something old and reverent and sad in “Seven Spanish Angels”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8A9Y1Dq_cQ I can’t get enough; the arrangement is brilliant.
We haven’t even gotten into the superb guitarists. Ry Cooder gives us his gritty bluesy ironic “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6efQ_GyQW3o I defy you to remain unmoved. Leo Kottke! Compare his late eighties http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVMYfwrorp4 when I saw him in San Diego on a university stage, to the current http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_nsgBmgqzQ Here is the complexity of the gifted classicist I also saw in a concert in Southern California, before he passed away at age 94, the late Andrés Segovia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vx9fPeaD_Ns Also passed, far too young—and missed—is the rarely-mentioned song-man B.W. Stevenson: “My Maria” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9iJ1sUDF6g Holy cow, shut me up and tell me to go write my book. I am drenched in memories and sound. I have not taken a music appreciation class (yet), and studying the piano for a few weeks in fifth grade back in New Hampshire, before the family moved to yet another town or state, doesn’t qualify me to wax eloquent on composers, lyricists, singers, musical instruments, or anything in the music category. But like all great art, great music does not require a degree for enjoyment, especially when it moves the soul, makes the heart thud, and carries one away to mystical paradise, which is pretty much how I react to the performances linked here. It just requires you to stop and listen. These links and memories are brought to you via the miracle of YouTube, with my gratitude. Special thanks to the copyright holders of this art for keeping it available to the public; to the photographers, videographers, support crews, and producers. My original link to a live performance of Jimi Hendrix’ “Star Spangled Banner” was blocked due to notices to YouTube of copyright infringement. However, I was able to find this performance at the iconic Woodstock Festival of 1969. Enjoy it for as long as it remains available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt3cYpFLJiM It’s appropriate I close with a passionate paean to the word that launched this blog, “Hallelujah,” from the scribe himself in Montreal in 2008—though the London concert was also very fine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=2FpwjQLZTTs Support your artist—buy music! Feel free to comment or share links to your favorites. Apologies for the commercial ads that keep you from greatness for seconds four, three, two….