Geeky Bob

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

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MonthList

Transcribing It's the Right Time by Mitch Malloy and Van Halen

Every month or two I decide to transcribe a song; it's a weird hobby, but it's a lot more challenging than Sudoku. Anyway, today's song was "It's the Right Time," which is the only song by Van Halen with Mitch Malloy on vocals. (See https://youtu.be/NBXjQ8FASug for the original song.)

My transcription is pretty faithful to the original - the only artistic license that I took was to add an ending since the original recording fades out.

While I have usually liked EVH's grooves, this song had some particularly interesting parts to it: the main hook for the verses is a four-measure progression, wherein EVH hits the opening chord for each of the first two measures an eighth note before the beat, and he hits the opening chord for the third and fourth measures on the downbeat; this creates a cool groove with a heightened tension, because your ear usually wants to hear the chords hit on the downbeat. When EVH gets to the bridge, he changes accents all over the place; so sometimes he sounds on the beat, while at other times he sounds like he's playing in a different time signature. As a whole, all of EVH's inventiveness on this song results in a really fun piece to listen to; it sometimes sounds like it's not quite right, but in the best possible way.


Note: Mitch Malloy was probably Van Halen's shortest-term vocalist; Van Halen hired him right before the Gary Cherone debacle, although Mitch eventually declined the gig due to a mix-up regarding David Lee Roth. (See https://youtu.be/dxF4WRORQ9s for Mitch's story.)

Nevertheless, back in the 1990s, it seemed like Van Halen was going through a different vocalist every other month. It became kind of a running joke, so Eddie and Alex Van Halen posed for the following milk advertisement:

Van Halen Milk Ad

The text in the advertisement reads:

"Of all the lead singers we've had, most never got enough calcium. Typical. But not for Alex and me. Because every time we change singers, we have an extra glass of milk. That way we're sure to get more than the recommended three glasses a day. As you can see, sometimes all at once."

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Jun 11 2018, 23:14 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Brian Culbertson Makes Me Want To Hurl

A good friend of mine shared the following video of Brian Culbertson and his band playing a medley of jazz pieces, Back in the Day and So Good; my friend introduced the video as an example of "a band hitting on all cylinders."

I really like jazz, so despite never having heard of Brian Culbertson before, I watched with anticipation. However, I was sorely disappointed, and I responded that I totally loved the band, but I thought that Culbertson was overly tiresome. I really wished that Culbertson hadn't shown up to the gig, which is a really bad thing since it's his band and his gig... and I closed out my comment by stating that this was just my $.02 on the subject.

Someone else accused my observations of being overly jaded, to which I replied that my critique wasn't meant to be a jaded response; I sincerely watched the video 'cause I love jazz, but just as sincerely I felt robbed. The video starts out with Culbertson jumping around his band members like a Jack Russell Terrier, then Culbertson starts acting like he's calling the shots for a band that is obviously so well-rehearsed that they could play their parts in their sleep. (I haven't seen that level of self-aggrandizing pomposity since Yanni fell from grace.)

When Culbertson's piano melody finally comes in around 0:30, it's actually kind of a let-down; it's a poppy, pseudo-jazz hook, but Culbertson's faux attachment to his own amazingness during the first 2:30 of the video literally made me laugh out loud. When the band changes piece to "So Good," Culbertson's piano melody steps it up a notch; it's a much better hook, but Culbertson continues his useless, Yanni-style directing motions. I laughed out loud a second time when Culbertson pulled off his pouty stance and walked away from the piano around 4:15. (Seriously? What purpose did that serve?)

Around 4:25 we finally get to Culbertson's piano solo, which for an entire minute is nothing but smacking the black keys of the piano, which is an old trick used by less-talented pianists; play a song in Db and stick to the black keys and you'll be playing a Db pentatonic scale, which means that you'll never hit a wrong note or a sour note. Seriously - anyone could have played the first minute of his solo; regardless of whether they can actually play keyboards. At around 5:30 Culbertson finally wanders off the black keys, but that's only for a descending line during the last few seconds of his solo, after which he assumes his "menacing look" and struts over to the bass player, where he acts like he's getting in the bass player's face - for no @#$% discernible reason other than being a schmuck. (The bass player has some cool, funky chops, though.)

Around 6:35 I was surprised to see Culbertson switch to the trombone, and as one of my friends pointed out - Culbertson pulls off a pretty good solo for about a minute. However, by this point I was already so annoyed by the previous 6½ minutes of Culbertson's frenetic prancing about that it overshadowed his single-best moment to shine. After Culbertson's solo, the sax player does a great job of eclipsing Culbertson's preceding solo, but that doesn't stop Culbertson from raining on his parade by uselessly gesticulating in the sax player's face for a half-minute or so. After that useless escapade, Culbertson switches back to the trombone for the remainder of the song.

I made a comparison to Yanni earlier, and there are several reasons why Culbertson really reminds me of him; Yanni was one of the most self-absorbed SOBs on the planet, but he managed to surround himself with awesome musicians who made him look and sound great. Yanni's orchestra over-rehearsed everything; there was no improvisation when playing live - every 'solo' was purposefully-written and memorized, yet Yanni still felt the need to gesture like he was some sort of gifted conductor, even though his orchestra could have played with blindfolds. Or as one concert reviewer stated, "Yanni's orchestra was amazing; the only that that could have made them better would have been for Yanni not to have shown up." In many ways, Culbertson seems like a Yanni reincarnation in a different genre; his band is amazingly-skilled, and they're incredibly tight, but Culbertson's arm-waving, prancing, conducting, strutting, and posturing ruined it for me.


FYI - for an example of my Yanni comparison, watch the following video; you'll see a lot of the reasons why Culbertson's mannerisms reminded me of Yanni, except that Yanni doesn't play any solos to save himself from looking like a useless appendage.

By the way, the great irony of Yanni's flowery statements in the above video about how his musicians "bring great beauty, strength and color to his music" and how they "breathe life to his notes," is that the piece they play in the video isn't even Yanni's!!! It's actually a traditional American fiddle piece called The Old Grey Cat; one of Yanni's musicians introduced it to the orchestra, so Yanni slapped a different name on it, (World Dance), and started claiming that it was his. What a tool.

Posted: May 30 2018, 13:34 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Happy Pi Day!!!

In honor of "Pi Day" (3/14), here are the first 256 digits of Pi set to music... (which was achieved by taking the numbers in Pi and overlaying them on a C major scale).

At first I thought about overlaying the digits on a pentatonic scale to create a little more harmony, but it turns out that it wasn't necessary. (Of course, the bass line and drum parts add a lot, too.)

I also thought about doing something with a pentatonic scale, but as I said earlier it didn't appear to need it. I also thought using about some sort of timing extraction from the numbers in Pi instead of using 8th notes, but most of my experiments started to sound far too random and chaotic.

FWIW - I also did a version in 7/8 time, just 'cause... you know... RUSH.

Posted: Mar 14 2018, 07:15 by Bob | Comments (0)
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When Pianists Talk While Playing

Here is my truthful rendition of what piano players think they sound like when they attempt to talk while playing the piano, versus what they actually sound like to everyone else around them. Winking smile

Note that the preceding video is by-product of the author's sarcastic nature and created for entertainment purposes only. Time signatures, tempos, keys, chords and embellishments are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a facetious manner. Any resemblance to pianists, living, dead, or undead, or actual music is purely coincidental.

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Feb 20 2018, 17:26 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Richard Wayne Mullins - 1955 to 1997

It was on this day 20 years ago that Rich Mullins was killed in a car accident on his way to a benefit concert in Kansas. At the time of his death, Rich was only moderately popular and had never won any awards - not even for his internationally-famous worship songs which are still sung in churches throughout the world.

i-still-miss-rich-mullins

The exact cause of the crash which took Rich's life is still unknown, although you can read the details about the crash online. That being said, I will never forget how I learned about Rich's untimely death. My daughter and I were driving through the empty deserts of west Texas on our way home to Dallas after attending a youth conference in Tucson, AZ. I had been channel surfing on the radio and trying to find something to listen to, which was rather difficult since we were out in the middle of nowhere. I discovered a radio station which was playing a song by Rich Mullins, whom I had always admired, and I remarked to my daughter that we needed to see Rich in concert whenever he came through Dallas.

After the song had ended, an announcer came on the radio and delivered the news that Rich Mullins had just been killed in a car accident. My daughter and I were both stunned, and for some reason I found myself crying a lot over the next several hours as we continued our drive home to Dallas. (This has always been a mystery about myself for which I have yet to find an acceptable answer: why was I so upset about someone whom I had never met? It has been 20 years, and I think that part of my emotional makeup will remain unsolved, but to be honest - I'm not too worried about it.)

Nevertheless, I often wonder where Rich's career might have gone if he had not passed away at the young age of 41. He tended to be openly blunt about sin and judgmentalism within the church, which is one reason why he was largely overlooked and often ostracized by the "Contemporary Christian Music" industry until after his death, (when the establishment was suddenly forced to deal with the reality of their hypocrisy). With that in mind, if Rich were alive today, he would probably still be living in veritable obscurity in a hogan on the Navajo reservation in northern New Mexico, where Rich was working as a music teacher in self-imposed destitution after taking a voluntary vow of poverty.

If nothing else, Rich Mullins was certainly unique; I still miss him and his music.

Posted: Sep 19 2017, 03:00 by bob | Comments (0)
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Is Syndicated Christian Music the World's Most Boring Genre?

I used to live in the Dallas Forth Worth area, which helps form the lower band of the Bible Belt. While we were there, my wife and I were fortunate to have a wealth of local Christian radio stations and concerts to choose from. It didn't matter which subgenre you preferred: pop, rock, gospel, praise, etc.; there was always a radio station for you to listen to.

However, after moving away from that region, we have been forced to suffer through the following syndicated options:

All three of these syndicated radio stations continually spew never-ending streams of utterly forgettable music. The playlists for these stations often consist of unimaginative and trite originals, or generic attempts at copying secular music genres (yet falling several years behind what is current).

One of the most-common problems the Christian music genres face is endemic to Christian music in general, and this is the constant insistence that "the lyrics are more important than musicianship." This mindset is, of course, a ridiculous proposal. Not only does it completely ignore Psalm 33:3, but it means that the bulk of Christian music cannot be taken seriously; because if the people who are creating Christian music cannot take their craft seriously, then no one else will.

That being said, the Christian music industry is just that - an industry. And like it's secular counterparts, the Christian music industry attempts to crank out hit after hit in an effort to prolong their revenue stream. Let me be clear: I am a capitalist at heart, and I have no problems in principle with anyone who chooses to make their living by sustaining a successful product line. However, those responsible for producing Christian music fail to realize that by turning out an endless torrent of pedestrian drivel, they are putting themselves out of business. I guarantee that fewer and fewer people are buying Christian music because - to put it bluntly - most of it is crap.

While the Christian music industry is afflicted with serious problems with regard to a general lack of musical inspiration, a willing accomplice to Christian music's crimes against itself are the syndicated radio stations who continue to cycle through hideously short playlists of repetitive melodies and prosaic, middle-school rhymes. I ask anyone who listens to Christian music to answer these questions honestly:

  • How many times per hour does someone really need to hear Chris Tomlin?
  • Couldn't the lyrics to "Good, Good Father" have been written a heck of a lot better? (Yes they could, yes they could, yes they could.)

In closing, there are thousands of wonderful Christian musicians around the globe, but chances are good that you'll probably never hear them. The people at the helm for charting the course of the Christian music industry are not interested in talented musicians; they are far too preoccupied with trying to produce next year's crop of bland and predictable "hit makers." In a like manner, if you tune into any of the syndicated radio stations that I listed above, then you'll have to endure hours of songs from Chris Tomlin, Matthew West, tobyMac, and something from MercyMe or Casting Crowns, (who are secretly the same band anyway... yes they are, yes they are, yes they are).


UPDATE: The following comedy video from John Crist perfectly illustrates a lot of what's wrong with contemporary Christian music these days:

HOW IT'S MADE: Christian Music
https://youtu.be/bwwhkKPEieE

Posted: Sep 10 2017, 10:27 by Bob | Comments (0)
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I Love Neil Zaza...

I had this melody line stuck in my head all day... and if you have to have a song lodged in your imagination, this is a pretty good one to go with.

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Apr 18 2017, 11:24 by bob | Comments (0)
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Flamenco at the Speed of Light

I felt like some old-school jazz flamenco this evening, so I put on some classic Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin playing Di Meola's masterpiece Mediterranean Sundance. It's been over 35 years since these three toured together, but it's amazing how great this piece has held up... and Al Di Meola's run of 256th notes starting at 2:40 would melt most fretboards.

Surprised smile

Posted: Feb 12 2017, 14:46 by bob | Comments (0)
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R.I.P. Greg Lake (1947-2016)

Much has been written by others about the passing of Greg Lake yesterday, so pardon my addition to the fray.

Greg Lake's death follows just nine months after his former band-mate, Keith Emerson, and these musicians were two-thirds of the colossal progressive rock band "Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP)." For those who aren't aware of who these guys were, ELP dominated the progressive rock scene throughout the 1970s, selling millions of records and filling stadiums with hundreds of thousands of fans during their International tours.

As an example of ELP back in their heyday, here's a video of them performing during their headlining performance at the California Jam in 1974:

PS - Since Emerson and Lake have both passed away within months of each other, someone needs to surround Carl Palmer in bubble wrap before something happens to him.

Posted: Dec 08 2016, 11:23 by bob | Comments (0)
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1980s Music Videos

My wife was mentioning how the following pseudo-80s music video for "Pop! Goes My Heart" from the movie "Music and Lyrics" was ridiculous...

I replied that the video from the movie was make-believe; if she really wanted to see a cheesy 1980s music video, she should watch Dokken's "Breaking The Chains"...

It's like a train wreck - it's a disaster, but you can't stop watching...

Posted: Dec 05 2016, 13:32 by bob | Comments (0)
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