The 5 stages of Diva

10377446_901256493223849_1551022810240025973_n

The 5 stages of Diva, evident from booking my “Al-Vis and Friends” show:

1) “Al-Vis I would love to play at your showcase, pls check out my stuff. Thanks!”
2) “Al-Vis thanks so much for having me at your showcase and for all you do!”
3) from Al-Vis: “Hi _____ would you like to perform at my showcase, featured act? We pay! The old gang would love to see you!”
response: “Sorry Al-Vis I’m a little busy, but let me get back to you…”
4)from Al-Vis: “Hi _____ would you like to perform at my showcase, featured act? We pay! The old gang would love to see you!”
response: “(tumbleweeds…)”
5) “Hey Al-Vis, long time! Would love to play at your showcase some time!”

Just Around The Corner-A Prophesy Fulfilled

During the month of January dozens of acts will perform in multiple venues in and around the Asbury Park area.

This is the annual Light Of Day event, for a great cause. Newspapers will report on what a great event it is- people will come from all over to attend.

Acts are chomping at the bit to perform at great rooms like the Stone Pony, Wonder Bar, McCloone’s.

I have a question though.

Whom out of all of these involved in this event gets paid and makes money?

– Security/extra police
– The venue owners
– The venue staff
– The liquor distributors
– The food distributors
– The periodicals that run ads
– Sound men and other stage staff
– The electricians and construction workers who built and maintain the venues
– The city of Asbury Park, through parking fees and taxes
– Utilities such as gas, electric
– Local hotels and motels
– Taxis and Uber drivers

The answer of course is all of them. In most, if not all, cases, full price.

Now who doesn’t get paid (for the most part, excluding any stipends to headliners or national acts)?

– The musicians

“When redevelopment comes, you musicians better be prepared. The powers that be certainly will be. They will be out to take all they can get, and that means from YOU.

If we don’t organize now, and have some way of fighting back, its all going to be about the takers, and all of you will be the taken. These people know how to make money and they’ll do it any way they can, so you better be ready to make sure you are properly compensated.”

– Margaret Potter, President- Society Of Associated Performers 1992

Guitarists????

Jeff Beck in a couple of short years with the Yardbirds and his first few solo albums- Jimmy Page on the first Led Zep album, Hendrix on Are You Experienced? Clapton on everything up to Derek and the Dominos, Duane Allman before his 27th birthday, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, Chet Atkins.

Here is my question. To you guitarists.

What contributions have ANY of you made to the art form that is innovative and new? That people have latched onto and said “Hey I never heard anything like this before!”

And that is my problem with today’s guitarists, especially on a local level. True, I am not of their caliber but I have always tried to be creative, musical and put my heart and soul into it.

Too many of you don’t even do that. You sit there and fluff scales, or just repeat licks we’ve hear a million times. And do it almost robotic-ally, not a hint of passion.

Listen to my solo on “Don’t Stop The Dreamin'” by Big Danny.

Listen to my lead work on my CD Road Construction:

My work with Andrew James Hughes:

You can also hear me on my YouTube channel Alvis1515.

I’m deliberately trying to be creative- and deliberately trying to pull your string, to move you. But again this is not about me. I’m asking YOU.

I’m not trying to build myself by posting this- I am seriously posing this question as someone who loves GREAT guitar playing.

And don’t point me to some fusion player who confuses musical diarrhea with great skill. Steve Cropper uses pretty much the same half dozen notes on his solo on Otis Redding’s “Rock Me” over and over and its a fine solo:

I’ve heard blues harp players, sax players, keyboard players, drummers even who blew me away with their creativity and passion.

Almost never do I hear any of this from guitar players. Very few and far between.

So with such inspiration as I’ve outlined above- what gives?

Al-Vis’ Ten Favorite Rock Bands Of All Time

YMMV (Your mileage may vary).

Note- This list is NOT:

What I consider the greatest Rock Bands
My favorite Country bands
My favorite Jazz bands
My favorite artists

They are my top ten favorite Rock bands, which means they are closely associated with Rock. And they are the bands I have liked listening to the most.

Read on to know who and why and feel free to post your own.

And yes this is pretty much in order.

1) The Rolling Stones. Beatles vs Stones, sorry Stones win with me. The Beatles don’t even make my list though I agree they may the most influential of all bands, even to the Stones.

I just find the Stones (esp early to mid) more compelling and more entertaining.

2) The Yardbirds. Besides being nearly as influential as the Beatles (including incubating three of the guitarists who defined Rock guitar), they were just a fun, energetic band. I find nearly all of their songs entertaining and I could never stop being fascinated by them since I first purchased “Featuring Performances By” all those years ago on vinyl (which I still have).

3) Cream. Probably the most influential band personally. Great songwriting, pioneering production by Pappalardi, and of course the great musicianship of Clapton, Bruce and Baker.

I was lucky enough to attend their 2005 reunion show at MSG and though at times it was clear they were just going thru the motions (you can see and hear these shows online and judge for yourselves) it was just amazing to hear them live, sounding uncannily like they did 35 years earlier.

4) Procol Harum. Another band I just can’t stop listening to. All of their songs are great and each LP has a different flavor. Their first, a Whiter Shade Of Pale is colored by the dark lead guitar of a young Robin Trower. Shine On Brightly has a bit of everything and some of their best lyrics. A Salty Dog now has gorgeous strings and other interesting textures. Home has the great Whiskey Train and Whaling Stories. Broken Barricades has Trowers best work ever, on such songs as “Simple Sister”. Live With The Edmonton Orchestra shows what a real rock band (not some quasi artsi rock band) should sound like alongside a full orchestra, as BJ Wilson’s drums ferocity and David Ball’s guitar work come “shining thru”. A breakthrough effort.

And on and on- so much to say about this great band but I’ll sum it up by asserting that they are best band to combine symphonic European Classical with soulful rock very very successfully.

5) Steppenwolf. When I was 12 I had just gotten out of the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia. I asked for only two things for Christmas that year: Best Of Cream and Steppenwolf 2. When I got out of the hospital after Christmas and found them waiting for my I was beyond ecstatic- one of the happiest days of my life.

Joachim Fritz Krauledat escaped East Germany as a young tyke with his family to Canada, where he formed Sparrow, later moving to LA. After getting a record deal the band changed its name to Steppenwolf and rode to fame on the basis of the iconic “Born To Be Wild”.

Steppenwolf released a string of great LPs over the next few years and sold millions of singles off of each, including Rock Me, Screaming Night Hog, Move Over, The Pusher (which made its way onto the Easy Rider soundtrack, along with Born To Be Wild). And of course “Magic Carpet Ride” which is the reason I wanted the 2nd LP.

Besides featuring the great writing of John Kay (which he changed his name to), Steppenwolf also had the great Leslie organist Goldie McJohn, and drummer Jerry Edmonton, brother of Born To Be Wild writer Mars Bonfire AKA Dennis Edmonton.

After the band’s initial breakup Kay went on to record some great solo LPs, before eventually bringing the band back with new members (due to a contractual dispute with some of the original members).

But it was those early years that defined Steppenwolf and neither I nor the rock world can ever forget the great songs and music they brought into it.

6) The Allman Brothers Band. I had the honor of playing a warm up spot for Gregg Allman at the Stone Pony many years ago when I was in JP Gotrock. Our drummer Vini Lopez had performed with the Allman Brothers when he was with Springsteen the decade before. but Greg was so out of out (either tranquilized or whatever) that he wasn’t able to communicate anything back.

By then Gregg had split with Cher and had not yet made his great comeback in the late 80s. His show was very laid back, and I can honestly say WE rocked the Pony much better than he did that night, though that had more to do with him.

But when the Allmans arrived on the scene it was another game changer. In 1969 they released two killer albums combining the best of southern soul, blues, and modal Jazz into what became known as “Southern Rock”.

In fact, they were so influential that the spurred on a movement, from Wet Willie to Black Oak Arkansas, to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And years later with the rise of modern country music their influence is stronger than ever- the country field is loaded with bands who owe allegiance to the Allmans and what they started. Listen any rock-oriented country song, from Carrie Underwood to Miranda Lambert to Brad Paisley and Zack Brown, and you’re hearing what the Allman Brothers started.

7) Black Sabbath. In this day and age I know its impossible to imagine, but when the first chord of “Paranoid” came on the radio back in 1970, to many of us it was like NOTHING we had ever heard.

Sure hard rock had been around a couple of years before this- The Who, Hendrix, Blue Cheer. But Black Sabbath’s heaviness was just SO THICK! Heavy metal thunder at its best and it still moves millions of people around the world 45 years later.

8) Booker T and The MGs. Really known as an R&B band but they are on this list because they rock like the best of them. The basically created Southern Soul, and Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr, Donald Duck Dunn and Booker T. each wrote the book on how to play simply and soulfully. In the process they have influenced everyone from Elton John to the Stones, to today’s neo-soul stylists, to TV show bands such as the SNL Orchestra and The Roots.

Simply put, without them musicians would never had learned the combination of soulfulness and tastefulness that a great, tight, funky R&B influenced rock band needs.

I could listen to all their songs for hours- my favorites are Green Onions and Time Is Tight.

To all learning musicians take note- whether its keys, guitar, bass or drums listen to this band. They wrote the primer for all great, tight music to come.

9) Dramarama. I have to include this band. So many great songs. They are master song writers and each one is a classic. John Easedale one of rock’s greatest singers is perfect for their material, which is so infectious. A local NJ band who made good, no who made great!!!

10) The Band. I would put them higher up on the list but the problem with them is their uneven output. Yes many of their songs are some of the greatest ever but some of their music after the first few albums falls a bit flat,

Not matter- they definitely learned the lessons from Booker T and The MGs and are perhaps the tightest band in the history of rock. Again with some of the greatest songs.

My favorite are “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Makes No Difference”, with a hear-wrenching vocal by Rick Danko, and “Tears Of Rage” which I still sing at some of my shows.

——————————–

The also rans:

OK before you get your tits in a pinch please remember these are only ten bands, my short list. Of Rock Bands, not Artists.

some bands that would make the longer list:

1) The Beatles. Of course, I just never listen to them as much as the others though I consider “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to be at the top of my list of favorite songs- just perfectly written and performed.

2) Led Zep. And of course I am a huge Zep fan, but what holds me back from having them as one of my top ten is their blatant plagiarism, and the hype around them when they were around. They seemed to use their position as a license to bully and bluster as no band before had done (with no small thanks to their manager Peter Grant, by all accounts one of the most despicable sleazeballs in the history of rock).

Their albums are uneven (though at their best, especially the first, second and Houses Of the Holy they near perfection) and their live performances were over the top indulgent, with inane patter by Plant and sometimes sloppy playing by Page.

But they were just about as great as everyone thought they were, even with those flaws, so I would considering them one of the greats.

3) The Who. Again, uneven output, though “The Who Sell Out” is one of my faves. And they are arguably THE GREATEST LIVE BAND EVER. If you don’t believe me watch the 9/11 tribute benefit from 2001, or even the Stones, “Rock and Roll Circus”, with their vicious rendering of ‘A Quick One’- possibly the greatest example of rock ever created for TV.

4) Neil Young with Crazy Horse. Yes his work with this band has been panned but I love and never ever, except maybe with Dylan and The Band, was a songwriter so perfectly paired with a backup band. Their stuff is downright otherworldly when they are at their best, which is almost always. And yes I am one of the biggest Neil Young fans around.

5) Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. To Bruce’s followers I get it. A towering great performer onstage, and his “Wild and The Innocent” featuring the aforementione Vini Lopez I consider one of the top 5 LPs of all time.

Just not as big a fan of his other work, some of which I am crazy about and some of which not so crazy. And I have seen him so many times locally that I don’t have too much of an appetite to even see him live.

I’ve been in the same room with him dozens of times and never introduced myself. Performed with several musicians from his bands. And he’s even seen me perform a few times.

Here in the Asbury Park area he is a God. But to my he’s just a great rock act and the band a great rock band with some stuff I like and some stuff I don’t like as much.

6) Band with females. Hey this isn’t my fault. Most female singers front their own bands so as such they go on another list, that of the singer-songwriter. Unless someone can point out a rock band with a female singer other than maybe a few grunge rockers such as The Breeders or Jefferson Airplane, who just aren’t on my list (and yes I like lots of their stuff) you can’t blame me for leaving any out.

7) Jimi Hendrix. Of course he us up there with Beck and Clapton, whom I also don’t put on this list. Again this is a list of bands- Hendrix needs a spot on the top ten great instrumentalists, thats all.

8) Lynyrd Skynyrd A great band with some great songs, just not ahead of the Allman Brothers is all.

9) What no Jazz Rock? In general I despise Jazz Rock. Except for the first two Chicago and first three Blood Sweat and Tears LPs and a few isolated exceptions just not a fan.

10) Rod Stewart, The Byrds, The Eagles, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Counting Crows etc – all great bands. I like a lot of their stuff and the Eagles live LP is great. Just didn’t make the cut. And I sing “Rain King:” to this day. Counting Crows are the other great band to come out of the 90s.

Again what are your thoughts? Have I offended anyone, or validated anyone’s views? Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for spending time with me here on my blog!

The “Evils” of Liberalism

Since the death of the moderate wing of the GOP, its sole political platform (besides the neocons trying to rush us into wars) has been liberal-bashing. The word “liberal” has been used as an epithet over and over again, as if it’s some nefarious force designed to destroy America from the inside.

In truth, its the words of these politicians that have been dividing us. Most of us want the same things for ourselves, for our families and for our country. Continue reading

Twenty Five Favorite Films

A colorful Hollywood sign celebrates the new millenium on Dec. 31, 1999.

Not the greatest films ever made necessarily- the ones I enjoy watching the most.

All talkies, I will do a separate list for silents later.

And not in order.

What are some of you faves? Leave a comment!
1) A four-way tie for the Coen Bros: No Country For Old Me, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou. Sorry too hard to pick one!

“I’ll show YOU the life of the mind!” Mad Mutt

Continue reading

Grey Gardens

In the early 1970s the Maysles Bros were already famous for their “Cinema Verite” classics ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’.

While researching for a project they were about to do about the Bouvier family they came across a situation far more compelling.

Little Edie and Big Edie were direct relatives of the Bouviers, celebrated socialites of the 1930s who hung out with the Kennedy’s and the Broadway crowd, as they live in palatial surroundings.

The father’s fortune gone, they moved into the family home in Long Island, and as little Edie says “things sort of fell apart after Labor Day”

What actually happened next was to be the focus of the Maysles Bros documentary “Grey Gardens”, Widely considered one of the greatest documentaries of all time, it has become a cultural icon, a defining moment of the latter 20th Century and filmmaking in general.

You can’t just watch “Grey Gardens”- you are thrown up against a wall by it. The intial jolt of these 2 lost souls, so lovingly and non-judgementally filmed, never lets up. It will change you in the way all great art usually does.

The two Edies, one bedridden and the other hyper energetically mugging for the cameras, are so heart-wrenchingly real you can feel their sorrow and their joy- and ultimately their insanity as they fail to come to terms with the desperateness of their situation.

As vermin and feral cats defecate all over the mansion, and holes in the wall become bigger over time, we see two very sad yet two very much alive people, who are dealing with the situation the only way they know how.

Never having had to fend for themselves, they descend into a mutual state of hopeless decay- exactly like the mansion they live in does.

The documentary was made into a musical in 2007 and is also an HBO movie with career-defining performances by Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. The movie goes into much more background about their fall from grace, the reasons for their state in the documentary, and also their fate after the documentary was released.

I urge anyone who hasn’t to at least try to view it- I think you might not be able to turn away until the end and even then….

The full documentary is available on YouTube, this is a clip collection.

Throwing Stones

The Nazis were Christians
Oklahoma City Bomber was a Christian
KKK admits only Christians
Southern slave owners were Christians
Jim Crow laws were implemented by Christians
Blacks were lynched by Christians
American Indians murdered and their land taken by Christians
Charles Manson was a Christian
The early Christian Church tortured non-believers to death
Cortes, who pretty much annihilated the Aztecs and then Incans, wiping them off the face of the earth, Was a Christian.
Westboro Baptist Church- Christian

And I am a proud Christian – brought up in the Methodist Church.

But don’t let your hate get in the way of facts.

10645199_10152432775963432_8360290450695988913_n

Ask just about any historian they will contend that Christianity has been used to justify more bloodshed and oppression than all other religions combined, if you include the torture and mayhem that went on during the early periods, and from the Inquisition to the Witch Trials all the way into the slavery and Jim Crow eras.

Thats not a judgement or an opinion, its accepted fact.

So to single out Islam and give Christianity a free pass is  extremely ethnocentric– the point is, you can’t single out Islam- yes it has been used horribly to justify atrocity, slaughter etc but so has Christianity and so many other religions.