The Major saw Widespread Panic on Saturday night. The concert took place at the Park Theater in the Monte Carlo casino. It’s a beautiful arena, perfectly situated next to the T-Mobile Center and the Strip.
For many years, Widespread Panic has been on my radar. I like the Grateful Dead (saw them many times) and WP operates in that same milieu: i.e. the “jam” band. So I finally got around to checking them out.
Here was my impression of the show:
The Positives: Instrumentation, Performance and Atmosphere
In terms of sound, Widespread Panic is great. The instruments have a wonderful tone: great bass, guitars, drums, etc. Long story short, they rock. The volume was loud but not too loud. Everybody was dancing at it was a fun time. Positive energy was dominant throughout the night.
The Negatives: Lyrics and Vocals
Lyrically, the band is average at best. They have no soaring melodies, no catchy hooks, etc. And the singer (John Bell) does not enunciate. When a singer is not proud of his lyrics, then he’s not going to belt them out. That situation applies to John Bell. His vocal tone is also average. It’s ok, but not very unique or compelling.
If you’re looking for a good time, Widespread Panic will get the job done. You’ll find a festive show and you’ll dance the night away. But don’t be surprised if, after the concert, something feels missing. You won’t be whistling their songs or singing their lyrics.
What makes Herbie Hancock a GREAT MAN? Simply put, his music is capturing a universal life essence. We hear the “IT” factor – a musician that’s working in the sticky resin of humanity. Some people call it “funk,” because everything needs a category. But it’s deeper that that. His music is emanating from the epicenter of a great soul.
We’ll need more of this music in the future. Great civilizations are noted for their culture: art, music, architecture, etc. Money is not enough. The nation needs a noble art form…a spiritual force that ripples throughout the country.
I’m voting for Thrust by Herbie Hancock. Simple, creative and a nice representation of his style. Herbie is flying over Machu Picchu in a spaceship, and the console of his machine is a keyboard. He gazes into the distance with a pensive look.
Artwork should be accessible to the masses. It should elevate the human spirit, providing a simple yet powerful message. It’s not about tricking the people with postmodern shapes. Rather, it’s about affirming a universal life essence. The album cover to Thrust meets that lofty requirement.
The music is wonderful also. Herbie was still firmly entrenched in his funk era. Some people prefer his jazz offerings, but the Major has always sided the more commercial side of Herbie Hancock.
Kix Brooks is one of America’s underrated players. Take a listen to his beautiful solo on “Red Dirt Road” (2:25 to 2:38 of the video below). He plays the main lick to the song, along with an juicy extra. We get another nice solo from 3:38 to the coda:
Soloing is more than a guitar string, or musical notation on a page. It indicates a person that’s connected with BEAUTY. A person that sees the guitar as a conduit to the celestial. A person that’s rejected the idea of art as commerce…the degeneracy of viewing music as coin collection.
It doesn’t matter how many notes you play. What’s more important is their melodic quality: the way they elevate the SPIRIT. The young man, quick to the trigger, will frequently applaud the excessive noodler: i.e. the Beavis and Butthead trope. But the more thoughtful player has ascended. He’s ready to paint his name in the sky…to defy the limitations of man.
As Richard Wagner pointed out, music should communicate a universal life essence. The playing of Kix Brooks falls into this category, and we can rightfully view him as a GREAT MAN.
Estas Tonne has, as his name aptly applies, a wonderful tone. His technique is excellent. And moreover, he understands that music is – first and foremost – the passion of the soul. It emanates from the wellspring of the universal life essence. He captures that wonderfully, playing from the inside out.
Note: It doesn’t hurt that he’s a handsome chap in his 20s. But don’t blame him for his good looks…the Major has suffered a similar fate his whole life. To quote the French: “One must suffer to be beautiful.”
Take a ride on the “The Song of the Golden Dragon”:
What makes a piece of music legendary? To quote Richard Wagner, it’s a “universal life essence.” It contains a spirit that saturates the air waves. Great music is a democratic lightning bolt…it reaches into the heart of all men, regardless of their race.
Note: A man can only write a heroic symphony is if he is a hero himself. You cannot separate the GREAT MAN from a GREAT WORK!
By way of example…
Beethoven is beloved in Europe, Asia and Africa. His time and place is irrelevant…for the music is created inside the mind of a genius: a man that worked in a majestic spirit world. In the modern era, we see a similar quality in the music of Elvis Presley or James Brown. The energy is bursting forth in a wave, and people from all walks of life can understand the essence.
To illustrate, I leave you with the “Tristan and Isolde” from Richard Wagner. Note how at 1:35, Wagner describes the relationship between the knight and his maiden. The passionate heights of love are perfectly expressed: we hear two lovers, crashing into the arms of one another. And they are lost in the unfolding waves of bliss…
When you write music, you should do it with lust and passion. The song should evoke the highest sentiments of the spirit. You should be able to sing the glorious melody on the peak of Mount Everest…the wind blowing through your hair.
Do away with the “clever” postmodernism. The rearranging of order for the sake of re-arranging. The charlatans that offer a cerebral type of “music talk.” Reject the latest media dilettante: the plastic artist whose “music” is nothing more than the marching orders of a Frankfurt school.
We’re talking about music here: an elevator to the human soul. It’s no small matter, no trinket that’s placed on your mantle as a nifty collection. It’s the reflection of your greatest emotions.
Music is about a personal revolution; not a social one.
The lofty strings, the majestic horns. Humanity stretching forward to witness the grandeur of the moment. The deepest well of human lust…the highest peak of a man’s passion. The greatness of the human experience, embodied in the floating air waves.
Todd Clayton does a great job on this version of “Sleepwalk”: a classic instrumental tune that conjures up feelings of tranquility, desire and sadness. I remember the first time I heard the song. It transfixed me and I was drawn into its web. The popularity of the song shows that I am not alone in that sentiment.
Enjoy your Saturday, my friends. Remember that God is good…even if the world if often clouded with darkness.
I’ve always been a fan of David Gilmour. When it comes to music, tone is everything. And Gilmour’s tone – both on guitar and vocals – is fantastic. An example of his skill is the solo album, About Face.
In particular, I like “Love on the Air”. Vocally, it has the signature tone of Gilmour: warm and pleasing. And musically, it’s a good example of how to build tension in a song. For example, we get the acoustic guitar first; that’s a good choice, because it’s an effective contrast to the electric guitar that follows. The same theory is applied to the pacing; we get a slower beat in the first part of the song, which makes the latter half more effective when he increases the beats-per-minute.
Faster tones work better when they’re preceded by slower ones. It’s a technique that’s lost on the younger musician; for example, the novice will start a song at a faster pace. He tries to accomplish everything immediately. To use a sexual metaphor, he wants to “blow his load” early on. There’s no foreplay…just an immediate ejaculation. So the chorus is not surprising in any way: all the excitement has already been used up.
Have a listen to the wonderful song…it’s a good piece of writing:
Good voices are a dime a dozen. You can go to a smoky Karaoke bar and listen a good singer, hamming it up to “You Lost That Loving Feeling.” You’ll hear somebody that is in tune, knows the lyrics to a song, and has a pleasing tone.
But let’s be clear—there is a difference between a good singer and a GREAT singer.
A good singer sounds ok in a smoky bar. But a GREAT singer sounds wonderful on a recording. The difference is huge. In the live setting, a voice is amplified and blends into the accompanying instruments. But on a recording, the voice is chiseled down to its fundamental parts—it becomes the resin of the hashish. It’s the steak, alone on a plate without the accompanying vegetables and potatoes.
And it must be different. That’s the key word…DIFFERENT.
Take Ronnie Dunn, for example.
What’s notable about his voice is how unique it is. Nobody sounds quite like him. Sure, he’s hitting all the correct notes and annunciating all the words. But there is something more—his voice in UNIQUE.
America has not given full credit to Ronnie Dunn, but that’s another story (see the lamestream media’s addiction to everything anti-heritage). But musicians know better. When that great voice is singing, we know we are listening to God-given talent. There is only one Ronnie Dunn.
Let’s take a listen to one to my favorite tracks…”A Man This Lonely”: