Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Top Ten Albums

Well, here I go, trying to be true to my resolutions. The is the second of my top tens, but the first real one really. OK, I do this for fun for me. But I’d love your feedback.

By albums I mean, 1) albums I own, 2) non “best of” albums, and 3) lifetime favorites, as of today. Of course "album" and "CD" mean the same as far as the list goes.

Choosing favorite albums is kind of like choosing between beautiful sunsets. Numbers 11-99 all come close.

OK, here goes, roughly in order….

1. The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East – – The Allman Brothers Band

I suppose they are my favorite band of all time, if I had to choose. The Brothers were on top of their game during the Fillmore Concerts. They are incredibly tight and together, even in the long jams. It may include the best beginning of any album ever – the intro to Statesboro Blues. I like all the songs, but Stormy Monday may be my favorite. With Duane and Dickey both cooking, and throwing in a great organ solo by Gregg - it’s hard to beat. I was recently given the re-mastered version that preserves more of the original order of the Fillmore Concert. I recommend it. By the way, I saw them in concert in Columbia on their Brothers and Sisters tour. Too bad I missed Duane, but that still ranks as my favorite concert of all time.

2. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos

I bought this early in my teens, and it has followed me around all my adult life. I go through phases, listening to it for weeks in my car, and then putting it aside for a year or so. It gets better to me every year. It’s hard to know what to say about this record. It’s rough and under produced, Clapton’s voice is far from sterling, and yet the record is incredible in its emotional power, its consistency, and its mood. So, my two favorite albums both include Duane Allman. Well, I guess I like the blues, and on this record it’s hard to beat the double guitars wailing on Have You Ever Loved a Woman. And to know how true it was for Clapton!

3. Moondance – Van Morrison

Talking about a record of no bad songs! Van Morrison has been a brilliant song writer for decades, and is still going strong. But of all his records this is the smoothest, most consistent, and most emotionally powerful. I’ll tell you, it’s hard for me to listen to Into the Mystic or Brand New Day without tears. I’ve asked that Brand New Day be played at my funeral! The fusion of rock and jazz, electric instruments and horns, is brilliant. But the one word that comes to my mind when I think of this record is "smooth.”

4. Late for the Sky – Jackson Browne

I have listened to the record so many times in my life, and in so many places, and under so many circumstances, that it feels like an extension of me. I consider it his best work. Well, I think of Jackson Browne and David Lindley as a collaborative team. Can we imagine these songs without Lindley’s slide guitar or beautiful violins? My Clemson roommate and I used to play Road and the Sky at top volume and dance around the room before every Clemson home football game. What a great opening line! Over time, the more mellow works have meant more to me – For a Dancer, Fountain of Sorrow, Before the Deluge. What can I say, I love it.

5. Abbey Road – The Beatles

This only entered my top ten this year. I went through a spell when I could not stop listening to it, after I read the long Beatles bio. I don’t know if it is their best record, but it is for now my favorite of their records. I especially am drawn to the medley on side two, which I find to be an ever constant source of musical interest. It is a diverse and eclectic record, more a group of individual works, except for the brilliant medley, which is a compendium of connected short works and themes owned by all of them. “Because the world is round...” I mean, is that ethereal beauty or what?

6. My Life – Iris Dement

I know, who is Iris Dement you say? Well, she is a folk/old country/twangy singer songwriter from the other side of the other side of the hills, and her songs are piercing and haunting. Having now seen her in concert this past summer I realize that there is an aura about her plain Jane no frills persona - transcendent almost. The woman can write songs that make you cry or laugh or remember loved ones or hope for better things. You name it. The song My Life is a favorite.

7. Slow Train Coming – Bob Dylan

I remember when I first listened to Slow Train Coming on my parents' big living room stereo console. I wept. I also spent like three hours trying to write down all the words. If only we had had the internet back then! I love the hard driving bluesy feel to much of the record, yet Precious Angel, I Believe in You, When He Returns, and Man Gave Names to All the Animals are favorites. Mark Knoppler’s guitar on Precious Angel is world class. And I still consider it to contain Bob Dylan’s best singing of his entire career!

8. The Joshua Tree – U2

I didn’t like 80’s music. Big hair, big shows, big production, power ballads, all balanced by punk which I found tiresome. I had about given up when my Toronto nephews turned me on to U2. So I got involved in music again. And when Joshua Tree came out, I sensed it was simply a special, magical accomplishment. U2 is a great band, and I have liked most of their permutations. But give me Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky, and One Tree Hill and I am just fine. And by the way, their Where the Streets have No Name at the Super Bowl after 9/11 was both sensitive and magnificent. I can’t wait.

9. Audible Sigh – Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love

Bill Mallonee, formerly of The Vigilantes of Love, has labored in the world of independent labels for most of his career, which is too bad in a way, given that he is up there with Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne as a songwriter. And his voice grows on you. Resplendent, with a little back up vocal help from Emmylou Harris, is one of the greatest songs ever written by anybody. He was and is a poet, and a bard, and a knower of the human condition. This is a great record.

10. Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin

It’s hard to choose between a whole bunch of records for my top ten, including two or three Led Zeppelin ones, but I give the nod this week to II. I didn’t like Led Zeppelin so much when I was younger. Oh, yeah, me and all my friends spent hours trying to figure out the meaning of Stairway to Heaven, but the driving force of their music, and Robert Plant’s voice grated on me. Not any more for some reason, and I am appreciating more and more their musical brilliance as a band. It’s hard to pick a favorite song on this record, but I might just give the nod to Heartbreaker, due to the incredible lead guitar riff.

Well, that’s the top ten for today!

Going the Extra Mile in Iraq

So, Bush is going to call for a temporary increase in troops in Iraq tonight, and there will be many voices of opposition. Should be interesting.

This is my take. We the United States are not responsible to settle every squabble and fight and solve every problem in the world. We cannot do that. And many places are not well able to accept parliamentary or representative democracy. This may be due to long standing ill will between groups of people, or it may be due to conflict between secularism and theocracy, as in many Muslim countries. I am sure it’s very complicated. It took us a long time to figure it out and we’re still working on it.

We may or may not succeed in bringing true order to Iraq. Adding to the internecine fighting is unhelpful input from surrounding countries, and frankly, our own decision to disband their army and much of their police infrastructure.

Rightly or wrongly we invaded and we got rid of Saddam Hussein. We have done many good things there which go under the media radar for the most part.

But it is a big mess. Will the potential leaders of Iraq be able to pull their country together with increased help from us? I don’t know. We may at the end of the day have to leave the place a total wreck.

However, since we invaded, destroyed much of their infrastructure, exposed their citizens, men women and children, to months and years of fighting and unrest, I believe that we have a moral responsibility to go the extra mile to try to bring as much stability as we possibly can, even at the risk of more casualties and more pressure on our already stretched armed forces.

For me it would be unconscionable to leave the place in a worse state than we found it. We simply cannot and must not do that to the normal everyday people of Iraq. It would, to me, be profoundly unjust, indeed, morally cruel to do so, and we would share with the intractable Iraqi clerics and leaders the blood guilt for what followed.

I don’t think we have yet gone the extra mile. So I think it is right to try to secure more stability, buy time to train more Iraqi troops and police and leaders, and help the fledgling Iraqi government as much as we can.

It is easy for us to criticize them and say they are not carrying their weight, but that is asking a lot in just a few short years following the brutal dictatorship they had.

So, I for one am glad for the troop increase. I cannot say that I know it will work or achieve its objective. But I think we owe it in a profound way to the Iraqi people to try, no matter if we should have gone in in the first place.

And that’s my two cents.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A New Year a Week Late

Ahhh, how has the blogosphere been without me? Probably not noticing my absence! But just as Arnold said, "I'll be back" and he came back, so I'm back, for better or for worse.

My wife had to go help with her mother in Toronto for ten days over the holidays so everything in my life sort of got postponed for a week or so. Thus my New Years resolutions are a week or so late.

I've thought about several things I want to do every day, or most every day, and one of those is publishing a top ten list. So, in the spirit of that resolution I thought I'd post my list of the top ten things I want to do every day (or most every day).

1. Read my bible and pray

2. Love my wife and kids

3. Post a top ten list on Blogger. I have already thought of about 150 possible top tens.

4. Post a "thought of the day" on current events, movies, music, nature, Christian discipleship, etc., either on my Blogger or my Word Press site, the latter set aside for more explicitly Christian stuff.

5. Take a picture of something Guilford County or Greensboro related and post it within a day or two on my Flickr site.

6. Post at least 5 older photo's on my Flickr site. I have become an extended family archivist and this is proving to be a great blessing. Check it out -

7. Walk around the block. Any block. Or footpath. Or trail. Take camera. Pray, take pictures, keep walking, or not, or run even.

8. Comment on one other person's blog or Flickr site - everyday. Just do it.

9. Write a card or letter - a physical hand written note - every day, to someone - family, friends, church, Greensboro community - someone. Got to get those cards and stamps.

10. Beat myself up for not getting all ten things done I want to do every day - or nine I guess minus this. Since I'm very good at beating myself up this will be the easiest.

PS - Good game Florida, but I vote for Boise State for # 1.
PSS - Who is the only undefeated division I basketball team today, umm, tell me? I can't hear you! (That could well end tonight!)
PSSS - John Kerry isn't really going to run again is he? Don't know if I can bear it.
PSSSS - Would some good candidate PLEASE come forward from one party or another?
PSSSSS - I can't believe I am saying this, given my dislike of country music, but Pickler did it - it is a really good CD! Go Kellie! (for a different view go to
PSSSSSS - I'm on a Led Zeppelin kick these days. Been enjoying IV and Houses of the Holy this week. Last night I was jammin' to Misty Mountain Top coming home from the game. Great opening groove.
PSSSSSSS - New York has smelled every time I have been there.

All for now!