Strumzilla

​A blog/journal about my life and the stuff I like. Popular subjects include music, guitars, gear, books, movies, video games, technology, humor.

Nut Cutter

Nut Cutter

 

Chorus
When you pull up on those jeans and they're bulging at the seams
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter
When you’re cruising at the mall and your jeans are way too small
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter

Verse
When your Wranglers are too tight
And your crotch a bulbous fright
Why you need a belt god only knows

Peacocks spread their feathers wide
Up that crack the jeans will ride
Feathered hair, concert tees and camel toes

Chorus
When you're walking through your school and exposing all your tools
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter
When you're sitting there in class with a bulging pelvic mass
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter

Bridge
Alex Lifeson wrapped in silk
Ivory slacks flowed like milk
His samite streams forked below the belt

Derek Small in more than name
Form fitting jeans revealed his shame
Until a cucumber would save the day

Chorus

When your kibbles and bits are giving people fits
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter
When your one eyed trouser snake triggers the shakes
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter

When you go to the show with a raging camel toe
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter
It's really not that nice to wear a denim vice
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter

When your splitting at the seams and the girls start to scream
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter
When you show your wedding tackle and the ladies start to cackle
Nut Cutter Nut Cutter

Not quite the end of summer

August is winding down, but we're still stuck in the middle of the sweltering season. Here in the south that typically runs year round with a few months break that we affectionately refer to as "Winter" but can include temps in the 70s and even 80s. At some point in my lifetime, this is probably going to just change to Summer Light as we will have done away with any temperatures remotely resembling winter. 

I got the 65 Amps cabinet and installed it in my now nominal amp iso room (closet). I don't have the setup totally settled just yet. I'm putting an iso pad like I have for my subwoofer in the home theater to minimize the low end. I'm debating whether to place a few of my bass traps in there as well.  I need to engage in some cable management for that room as well as where I have the amp head in my control room. I gave the setup a few run throughs and my basic impression is that it sounds wonderful. I just very basically placed the two microphones and haven't taken the time to adjust their positions to find the best sound. I'm getting a Dynamount system to make this process much easier. 

The Dynamount is a "robot" controlled mounting system for microphones that allows you to move the microphone through 2 or 3 axes depending on the model. You can mount it horizontally or vertically and this gives the choice of horizontal, vertical or proximity as well as rotation. I'm probably going to go with the proximity option (you have to choose between having the robot system flat or vertical and this determines if you'll get the vertical or proximity option).  My 65 Amps cabinet is a 1x12 so I'm pretty sure I'll get more tonal variety out of proximity than vertical. Right now I've just gotten the one system and I plan to use it for the Royer 122. I'll likely add a second system in the future.  

https://dynamount.com/ 

 

Checking In...

No huge developments since the last post. I'm at the end of my week off, and we're going to see Australian Pink Floyd tonight. I willingly skipped Fleet Foxes last night. A combination of feeling a bit worn out and being ambivalent on the band, especially considering the likely indie crowd at the Bomb Factory. The last show with a similar demographic I saw there (Sigur Ros) was about 30% people who apparently just wanted an air conditioned spot off the street to get drunk and run their mouths. Not a great combination for concert enjoyment. 

I've made a bit more progress on Languid Licking Lollipop. I'm trying to deliberately set aside time at the beginning of my practice day to work on the song. I've had a recurring issue lately with fatigue and headaches which although not severe, has been just enough to suck away my creative will and shorten my practice days. I'm trying to prioritize those days so I can at least get some work done before calling it quits. I know myself well enough that if I'm not feeling well, I'm not likely to have a productive practice or writing session. 

I'm still figuring out workflow both from a physical/studio space standpoint as well as how I approach song construction. I've made some changes to the vocal booth to facilitate using the computer while I'm tracking vocals. I put my little M Audio midi controller (25 key) in there so I can sketch out melodies as I work on a song. I'm not that competent of a vocalist and writer of vocal melodies that I can just go in an wing a vocal and have it sound good. I usually hear the basic outline of the melody in my head, but it takes a few iterations of trying to sing it and then figuring out the actual melody on the keyboard so I can record a basic midi version as a pitch reference. I've also taken to using Melodyne for the same reason. I laid down some scratch vocals and then pitch corrected them to use as a training tool. It also allows me to experiment with moving the melody around to get an idea of how it will sound. 

I used Melodyne on Rascal's Refrain to figure out harmonies and I think I will continue to do that. I also had a small eureka moment (I'm setting the bar very low here) when I remembered I still have the TC Helicon vocal processor which will automatically create harmonies and other cool vocal effects. I'm not sure whether it will be good enough to use for final takes, but this will allow to quickly record harmonies and other effects to a separate track which will give me more options during mixing. I needed some more TRS cables to run from the Helicon to the UAD Apollo, so I'm waiting on those. 

Speaking of waiting, my 65 Amps cabinet was finally delivered to Sweetwater and was supposed to come this Monday. As luck would have it, it's showing as out for delivery by FedEx today, so I'm now waiting for the truck to show up since it requires a signature. The last time we had a signature delivery was also a concert night and I think we missed the driver by less than thirty minutes. There's a good chance this will happen again if he comes after 6pm. Once I do get the cabinet, it's going in my amp ISO closet where I've already run the cables for the Royer 122 and SM 57. I had bought a bookshelf several weeks ago and that's where I'll put the Hughes & Kettner amp head. This will give me another tonal option as well as hopefully providing a bit of a buffer for the loud electric guitar noise. 

High Productivity is Celebrated...until it isn't.

In an ironic twist to my elevated productivity as a fee basis examiner, I had his supreme indolency take the trouble to drop by my office and let me know that my increased numbers (which had necessitated a salary waiver as I had hit my max after five months) had raised a few eyebrows. Although he was attributing it to "someone pretty high in Dallas" (high, he he), I'm sure most of it was coming from him. 

I reacted immediately (as I usually do, sometimes to my detriment) by telling him that I would welcome anyone who wants to take a close look at any of my work/exams and let me know what's lacking or inappropriate. I know my exams are complete by VA standards and I also know that I don't perform exams unless they're requested or justified in the case of a recently discharged veteran who requests to add a few more claims. 

As I explained to dicktug, I'm preferentially getting these bulk Gulf War exams which typically include 10+ actual claims and then an equal number of medical opinions for each claim. This can very quickly run my daily numbers to 20+. He made some sort of brief comment about his ability to generate those numbers which I just ignored because this jackhole was one of the examiners that weren't breaking 40 exams in a month. I've done more than that in one day. 

I also explained to him that I often take on other examiner's work because they call in sick or because they can't be bothered to complete opinions or equivalent. Our admin staff preferentially asks me to do these types of exams because I don't argue with them or make them feel bad for asking. Many of the regular Federal employees are downright adversarial to the people who are just trying to do their jobs and help veterans. 

When I was a regular Federal employee I had the second highest (out of 20ish examiners) productivity in the clinic. Now as a fee basis, I think it's possible I'm the highest, but I haven't been looking at the clinic numbers anymore. I'm definitely generating higher per day numbers as it's not uncommon that I get 25 or more exams in a day. I assume part of his problem is that my elevated productivity makes the glacial examiners look even worse by comparison. 

I'm not sure if the current scenario can be sustained, but I'm hoping things will move slowly as they do in the Federal government. I'm also hoping that we'll continue to have our minimal producers occupying full time slots which will in turn keep the demand up for fee basis examiners like myself.

I think he is offended by the situation in which a lowly PA like myself (in his eyes) can earn an equal income to his while working significantly fewer days and not having to deal with a lot of the regular federal pain (actually my total is probably greater considering my other incomes). I've met several doctors like him in the past that seem to think they have earned a perpetual income just based on their diplomas and not based on any work they're doing now. The good doctors (most of them) judge other providers on their own merits and don't make assumptions based on degrees held. We've never heard them express concern that we have doctors earning huge salaries while doing little to no work. The VA has a prevalence of these types, I think it's one of the primary attractions to the job. 

Making Time for Writing

Time management is a challenge for us all I suppose. Even with a significantly reduced work schedule, it's not uncommon that I feel the weight of competing demands on my available time. I've had a long history (going back 13+ years since I resumed guitar) of practicing most days (typically a minimum of six days a week, with a rare break usually because of some other significant commitments).  For the longest time I was content with this schedule as I was just trying to get better at my instrument. 

As the years have passed I've added instruments (piano, bass, drums, vocals) and so practice time has gotten increasingly precious. Since starting at Berklee I also have the competing needs of schoolwork. This can occasionally be all encompassing when it's a big project. I've usually reconciled with lost practice time in this case because I'm still learning something of value towards my ultimate goal of becoming a better musician, songwriter, producer, etc. 

I've now had the taste of "finishing" a complete song. This is ultimately what it's all about for me, the ability to create something that only I can create. I've always been a creative person and it's in these moments of creativity that I get truly lost and can't measure the passage of time. However, the work of songwriting through to the finished song can also involve much of the technical and this can become tedious at times. 

On to the point. I've given myself a goal of trying to "finish" a song a week. Considering my total output up to this point, that's very lofty I know. I don't mean ready for public consumption, necessarily, but at least to rough demo form where the song structure has been finished and I've recorded working versions of the various parts. Experience is the best teacher I've found, and if I want to get better at songwriting I need to keep doing it as a regular part of my schedule. 

My desire is just keeping cracking at it and I'm confident with time that I'll be able to streamline more of the technical and focus more on the creative. I often refer back to a quote I heard from Brad Paisley that he attributed to a Nashville songwriter (can't remember the name but he's in the Country Music Hall of Fame), and that is "the first two hundred don't count."  While that may seem extreme, it's an absolute truth that if you write two hundred songs, number two hundred and one will likely be significantly better than your first. 

My plan going forward is to start treating songwriting like I treat my practice or even a job. I can spontaneously come up with ideas on a regular basis, but to finish a song requires some elbow grease. I'm hoping that by making it a required part of my daily schedule that I can start moving that song count towards the goal of two hundred and more. 

Learning NEW MATERIAL

A repeating theme I've learned over the years of practicing is that learning new material is one of the most rewarding aspects to musicianship. This is especially true if it's something I'm learning by ear. One of the biggest challenges has been to sound out harmonically complex piano music. I'm guilty of always looking for a sheet music version of something but there are still several tunes or at least versions of tunes I love that have never been offered as sheet music. This is especially true on live arrangements by artists like Rick Wakeman and other improvisers. 

I'm trying to make it a regular part of my practice to incorporate learning new material by ear, at least on piano and guitar. These skills only improve through repetition, and although it's very incremental and almost impossible to discern at times, I do notice a gradual improvement. I suppose this would be ostensibly for the ultimate goal of becoming a better and more rounded musician, but I've also always felt immediate satisfaction for even the smallest bits of a new song I'm learning. Learning a new song for me feels like tapping into the mystical, almost. It's the muggle equivalent of learning a new spell. 

Learning from Mistakes

It's really the most effective way, in my experience. The errors of the past are the things that stick in your memory and typically bring about the most change. This particular episode was my very simple and ostensibly easy Guitar Scales assignment 3 this week. I thought I'd be clever and convert the sheet music over to Sibelius and then import that into Guitar Pro so I could practice along with it before recording myself playing the assignment. 

The problem was that I didn't proofread it, probably because I was in a hurry and it's a pretty simple piece of music that I honestly didn't think Sibelius (via Photoscore) would screw up. Well, I was wrong. Got a B- on the assignment because I played it wrong - the imported version got several note values and positions wrong. I'm not sure what the instructor really thought, as he just commented that I had played the wrong note values. It almost sounded like he thought I had just performed them out of time. Regardless, the grade was fair because I failed to play what was on the sheet. I can just imagine the tone of a professor in a more rigid program a la Julliard or the resident Berklee classes. 

I frankly think he was diplomatic about the whole thing. I'm going to re-record it and submit, although I'm not sure he'll change my grade. I'll explain that it was my error for not proofreading and see how far that gets me. Lesson learned - never assume these technical tools can't make mistakes. Which, I normally don't, but when you're in a hurry it's easy to make stupid errors like this. 

More frequent blogging here

I took a brief hiatus from Facebook. In a periodic reassessment of my life's priorities (a process I engage in every few months to years), I've found that FB for the most part was not adding much of value to my life. At its best, it provides an easy portal to engage in actual conversations with people who share similar interests or otherwise are friends/family. It seems for me that the overwhelming amount of time I spend on there is just reading through a bunch of meaningless posts, getting the same "news" regurgitated by various pages/people, and at best getting a random "like" for anything original I post. Unfortunately, there is still the occasional nugget of valuable information (I wouldn't have found out about King Crimson coming to Dallas until too late without FB) and I'm subscribed to a student group through Berklee where there are occasional important notices.

When I first started posting "original" content (including covers), it was nice to have at least a small audience from which to receive feedback. I greatly appreciated the friends and family who would indulge these efforts because I know I'm the worst about wanting to watch or listen to something if I'm not in the mood. 

The problem became that over time, FB becomes this self perpetuating process where you feel validated by the completely trivial "likes" you receive, even if they only reflect a mouse click. How much effort does a mouse click take? I know I'm pretty generous in giving them if someone posts anything I find remotely entertaining. I'm not complaining about the people on FB, everyone has their own lives and honestly probably don't even see the majority of stuff that any one individual is posting. 

So, all that to say this is where I'll be posting more of my occasional ramblings. I had been using FB for that and it was a nice convenient means to quickly document a thought or picture that others could comment or interact on, although that was rare. I'll still use FB but I'm learning to divest myself from any expectation of feedback or outcome. It may eventually be an artist portal for my various creative works in the future, and in that case I may setup a separate page. 

Hans Zimmer

 

We had a great time and really enjoyed Hans Zimmer last night at Verizon. We managed to get front row seats through the regular ticket sales (without any VIP upgrade nonsense) and it was nice to have an unobstructed view of the entire show. I'm not sure of the exact number, but there were probably about fifty musicians and choir on stage. The primary players included Guthrie Govan on lead guitar right in front of us, so that was quite cool. He had several solos. There were about fifteen "lead" players who were featured at various points and they were all amazing. The Gladiator medley was a highlight, but really the entire show was phenomenal. So cool to see film soundtrack music live, a pretty unique experience for us. Aeyong really enjoyed the show as well, which is always a bonus considering how many shows we see that are more my taste than hers. In the past few years, I've deliberately only bought her a ticket if I think she will enjoy the show. There are several shows that I know will probably be a negative experience for her (gen adm standing, really heavy music a la Opeth, etc.). It's great when I feel like we both equally enjoyed a show, and this was one of those. The set list is an approximation I think. It's taken from a recent show, and I'm not well versed in Han's music to the point I'm fully confident in its accuracy. It's pretty close to what they played though. 

 

 

Driving

Discombobulate

Rescue Me / Zoosters Breakout

Roll Tide

160 BPM

The Wheat

The Battle

Now We Are Free

Chevaliers de Sangreal

Circle of Life Intro

King of Pride Rock

This Land

Circle of Life Reprise

Jack Sparrow

Marry Me

He's a Pirate

Intermission

You're So Cool

Rain Man Theme

Thunderbird

What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?

Is She With You?

The Electro Suite

Journey to the Line

Why So Serious / Like a Dog Chasing Cars / Why Do We Fall?

Fear Will Find You / The Fire Rises / Gotham's Reckoning

Aurora

Day One

No Time for Caution

Stay

Encore - Inception Medley

Half Remembered Dream

Dream Is Collapsing

Mombasa

Time

Languid Licking Lollipop

A work in progress. Again born of a riff that I think heard while running one day years ago. This will sort of fall somewhere between EDM/metal unless the song leads elsewhere, as it sometimes does.

The lyrics are deliberately alliterative and chosen as much for prosody as relevance. The genesis was finding phrases to fit the rhythm, nothing more grandiose than that. The grandiosity always comes later. As JRR said, the tale grew in the telling. A bit pretentious (understatement of the week) in its execution, but I don't care because I'm in this for my own entertainment. Not to be taken too seriously is all I'm saying.

Here's what I have so far, edits are likely. I don't have a name for the tune yet, although I may go with the title of this post. This will make slightly more sense when put to music, and the structure of the song is mostly complete, although that will likely also undergo further development as I record it. 

__________________________

Languid Licking Lollipop💃

Him

Intro

surreptitious schemer
chuckle chortle chatter
lambskin latent lupine
tickle tailored tatter

Verse 1

slipping slinking foot pads
drowned out by the noise
bacchanalia ballyhoo
garish girls brainless boys

stare slowly sweeping
focus coalesce
sneaking snicker sweetlings
aggress and possess

Chorus 1

languid licking lollipop
brashly braying bebop
furtive glance commence dance
sugar sweet soda pop

Her

Pre Verse (intro 2)

maiden meekly modest
demur delicate
duplicitous drapery
simulated celibate

Verse 2

dark path descending
concealed crimson cape
purity pretending
trace hint of lace

stare slowly sweeping
chance opportunity
cocksure closer creeping
ensare with impunity

Chorus 2

red riding randy
deadly deeds dandy
silken thighs conceal surprise
covet carnal candy

Verse 3

raven black hair
world weary eyes
aristocratic air
admirable prize

cocksure closer creeping
comely coquette
paradoxical prey
concealed crimson corset

Chorus 3

beastly bilking milkshake
craving carnal cupcake
bombshell sweetmeat sells
no foot on the heartbrake

Verse 4

too late the tell
madness in her eyes
wariness awoken
wolf in sheep's disguise

cocksure captured sleeping
now fully ensnared
widow black unweeping
victory declared

Bridge

tickle tailgate truncate
primitive the primate
monopolize the mandate
prognosticate prevaricate
consecrate and consummate
intoxicate then copulate
obfuscate and confiscate
propagate then dominate

Verse 5

dark fate befallen
sadness in her eyes
another foe defeated
sixpence none the wise

sowing precedes reaping
longer grows a list
widow black unweeping
silhouette fades to mist

Chorus 4

languid licking lollipop
lupine transform lambchop
game of chance blame romance
sugar sweet soda pop

languid licking lollipop
rock until the ball drops
hidden strings deadly sting
sugar sweet soda pop

__________________________________________

The rest of these are leftovers that I liked but couldn't find a specific use. They work with the music but otherwise don't make particular sense in the narrative. Not that the previous lyrics made a lot of sense either.

mango bongo dingo
the postman’s name was Ringo
he leashed a pink flamingo
mango bongo dingo

freaking leaking tweaking
flying through a window
sneaking creaking squeaking
cagey clever widow

Mabel was quite able
to clean up her table
her mink coat was sable
her thoughts unstable

powdered feathered scattered
thoughts are all akimbo
glassy trinkets shattered
slipping tripping limbo

speculations fabrications
plots run amok
machinations conflagrations
design or dumb luck

brazen battered hardcore
choking cloaking bedsore
thunder crashes nevermore
brazen battered hardcore

kilgore bangalore manticore
he knocked upon the wrong door
they nailed his head into the floor
kilgore bangalore manticore

The Edge of Summer

The sun has been shining, the grass is green, and summer is in the air. We're still in that magical window when it's nice to be outside for most of the day without fear of withering from the heat. The press of the last few months is just about to see its release. I've got a long weekend and then I take my board exam next Tuesday. I feel pretty confident about my readiness, but I'll still crack the books daily til Tuesday. 

The transition to fee basis at work has essentially completed and my schedule has normalized itself for the most part. It's really nice to have a three day workweek at the most. It's funny how quickly that became the norm for me. The default schedule should be three days for three weeks and then a week off. I'm working half as much and bringing home more than double my Federal pay (with consideration for no increase to my pension and no 401K matching).  It's really the perfect work scenario for me and my capabilities. I can complete exams more thoroughly and faster than any of the people I have worked with so far. I'm sure there are others like me out there, but we all have a fairly unique skill set that gives us distinct advantage over other examiners. Nearly thirty years of continual Federal service including the twenty three years of active duty has definitely paid off in my current job.

I haven't really been able to settle in and take advantage yet because the last few months were occupied with the end of the Berklee semester and then the beginning preparations for the board exam. Thankfully, the board schedule is transitioning to a ten year cycle after this.  My goal is that by the time I take the next board, we'll have paid off this house, built or bought our house in the country and I'll be well ensconced in my bespoken home studio.  That mostly depends on a steady state for my current work situation. I'm relatively confident that the C&P program in general won't go anywhere soon, and I'm mostly optimistic that the role of the examiner will stay the same as well. The prevalence of laziness, incompetence, and ambivalence in the Federal service actually plays to my advantage. There's no shortage of work for me, and this allows me to maximize my time/salary in a way that's really unmatched anywhere else in the job market that I know of. 

Rascal's Refrain Reprise

So, I "finished" this version of the tune. I started to work on a video with After Effects but quickly became mired since I don't know the program yet. I decided to throw together a basic lyric video and post that to Youtube and share on Facebook. I'll start watching some AE tutorials here shortly once I finish this semester's homework and finally get around to filing my taxes. I plan on revisiting the tune in the future. There are definitely things I want to add as well as things I'll likely re-do, mainly the guitar solo. I'll probably let it gel for now and start working on another tune. I think some time away will give me a better perspective on the tune. I plan on restructuring the ramped up intro and adding some small electric guitar accents to the later verses. I also still wanted to double track with my Les Paul or something different from my strat just to add some more color. 

 

A busy two weeks

It's the Saturday after I completed my first two weeks as a fee basis (contractor) examiner for the VA in essentially the same job I was performing previously. I worked a total of seven days over two weeks and completed a record (for me) of 161 exams. This will result in a take home pay of about four times what I typically make. I don't necessarily think this workload will be typical, and I don't plan on working any more than three days a week going into the future as I was on the verge of burning myself out after four straight days of full speed ahead. I think it is feasible I could maintain an average of 60 a week with one week off a month for a monthly average of 180ish. Doing the math, this would put me right at the max salary for a year. I could earn more, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't authorize any more.

At this rate, I think it's completely feasible to pay off the house in five years and move forward with our plan to have a home on 1-2 acres on the outskirts as well as getting my dedicated music studio built. This will largely depend on a continued steady supply of exams from work. The proposed presidential budget, as corrupt, lopsided, and tunnel visioned as it is, does allow for an increase in funding for the VA, so at least for the near future work should be plentiful. I'm hoping I may look back at this post some day in 5-10 years to confirm my projections were close. It's possible the timeline could be even shorter if they keep supplying me with exams. In the present environment, I'm not having any problems getting extra exams. I was even turning down a few every day last week because I was already swamped with 20+ exams each day. The lazy and ambivalent federalistas in my department are now a source of extra income for me, so as long as they stay around I should have no problem keeping my dance card full. 

Rascal's Refrain

I'm taking a class called Recording and Producing in the Home Studio this semester. The course centers around developing a song from scratch until it's ostensibly ready for commercial release. I chose a song that had come from a guitar riff and chord progression several years ago. I had come up with it while noodling (as you do) and fairly quickly had an idea of what the song might be about. I never got around to developing it because I didn't think I was ready and then when I eventually learned about this course I decided to save it for that. In the past several weeks I've created a rough draft of the tune and it's gone through a series of re-writes based on the instructor's feedback. So far the response has been pretty positive and he's made some good suggestions.

I had penned scratch lyrics to this a few years ago and then once or twice I had re-visited them for a bit. I've come up with nearly the finalized version, although changes to the song arrangement are still possible and that might necessitate more editing to the lyrics. I posted the lyrics to Facebook and got some positive comments from a few friends. This was nice as they are part of what the song is about. It's a nostalgic nod to the high school and pre-Army years in which I spent all of my free time listening to music, partying, and trying to attend as many live shows as possible. Not much has changed. Here's the current version of the lyrics as of today:

 

Rascal's Refrain

Smoke filled Pontiac traveling east
Fleeing the suburbs, evading police
Another world in that little car
No haze could obscure a sky full of stars

David’s hunky dory when London calls
We’re Miles ahead when Wichita Falls
Kate’s running uphill hounds in tow
After work we'll catch a show

Raise your glasses
To the boys

Wanderlust
We thus entrust

Smoking, Drinking once again
They stagger around
then fall to the ground

Clearview, Arcadia, Bronco Bowl
Seeing every band, our only goal
Smoky clubs and raucous crowds
Take heed now, it might get loud

Pat & Ornette on New Year’s Eve
A Caravan of Dreams departs the scene
Stumbled down an alley, fell in a hole
Late for work with blood on my clothes

Raise your glasses
To the boys

Wanderlust
We thus entrust

Smoking, Drinking once again
They stagger around
Then fall to the ground

Skippy’s was just one mistake
Out of many they made

Vagabonds and wastrels
Derelicts distasteful

Blackout driving
Devils walking with a grin
Their feats will astound, no one in this town

Raise your glass
To yesteryear's past, dead and gone

This rascal's refrain is all that remains

This rascal's refrain is all that remains

Back to music centric posting...

I finally posted my Life On Mars cover video (version 3.5) to youtube and shared it on facebook. I decided to just post it as is in the weekend before I resumed my studies at Berklee. I knew I wouldn't have the luxury of time once classes got rolling. At the time I had a few run throughs of the mix, but planned on re-visiting the audio mix at the end of the semester. That's still the plan as of now. I've already learned a lot in the past few weeks so I'm confident I can obtain a much better result at that point. 

I'm not happy with the musical performances, but they do represent what I was able to create given a short window of time. I performed most of the parts on individual days (I think I performed both the drums and bass on the same day?) and then worked on the audio mix and video edits on subsequent days. My approach for videos has been to keep performing entire takes until I get one that is acceptable and stopping there. I'll have to figure out tactics for punch in type approaches for video. Recording myself performing the music on video/audio is a complicated process and that's when I'm capturing complete live takes. If I were to attempt to capture punch ins like I can do with audio, that would add just another layer of complexity that I'm not really ready to take on for a cover video. I might consider this for my own music in the future, but then I would likely not try to present the performance as a continuous unedited take. 

The response was generally positive from some close friends. I think the ones who actually took the time to comment were doing out of friendship as much as their actual enjoyment of the performance. I still appreciated it though, my overall ego is fairly bullet proof but my artist ego is a delicate flower at times. The musicians and musicophiles from whom I was hoping for feedback gave it the standard facebook "like" but didn't comment. I'm assuming that's their diplomatic way of telling me I need to keep working on my craft. And I appreciate that. My ears are good enough to know my version isn't going to make it on any top 100 Bowie Covers lists, for that matter it wouldn't make it on a top 100 Life On Mars covers list. But it's a work in progress and this represents a moment in time. A few short years ago I wouldn't have been capable of putting together, and I would have been lacking in the confidence to share it with anyone. 

It's February, do you know where your posts are?

Some personal updates - the biggest event in the past few months was a brief cancer scare (I know that's so overused but it's actually kind of fitting) for Aeyoung over the past few months. She had been having some intermittent swelling and pain in her neck and a CT scan had showed some concerning calcifications. After much hoop jumping between the imaging center and our insurance (which saw her finally request the study get performed at a different clinic), she underwent a PET scan a little over a week ago.

It took us nearly a week to get the results, but we were thrilled there was no sign of any hypermetabolic activity anywhere in her body. Not only did that clear her of cancer in the area of concern, but it basically gives her entire body a clean bill of health from a cancer standpoint. This was a big weight off our shoulders. The past several weeks have been like 1997 all over again. There's nothing quite as demoralizing as a cancer diagnosis. You no longer know how much time you have and what the quality of that time will be. We were facing the possibility that we might only have months together, and they might be progressively more miserable for her. 

In the days before we received the results, all I could think about was if I could have one wish it would be for her to remain cancer free. That wish came true and we can return to a sense of normalcy for what lies ahead. My hope is that with a change to fee basis we can accelerate our mortgage payoff and give serious consideration to getting a 1-2 acre parcel of land and having a home and a free standing music studio built. Lots of miles to cover before then, but the horizon is wide open and the future looks bright. 

Work related updates

Another infrequent update. I've been staying busy at work and school. I can't recall if I ever mentioned it before, but in the wake of a lot of upheaval in the VA system, not to mention crossing over the five year mark last August, I decided to request a change from a full time permanent position to fee basis (contract). This would see me forfeiting any additional deposits to my 401K as well as earning any more rate increase on my federal pension. I'm also technically forfeiting the other federal benefits (healthcare, dental, vision, paid leave) but those losses are negligible. I'm already eligible (and using) my retiree benefits for these and the loss of paid leave becomes irrelevant under the fee basis paradigm.  

What I gain from fee basis is getting paid for the amount of work I do, dictating what schedule I want to work (meaning I can work 5 days, 3 days, take a month off, etc.), and the ability to leave work as soon as I'm finished on any given day. The rate at which they pay (and considering how fast I work), means that if I maintain my current production levels I can realistically take home more money while working fewer days. Although I'll be forfeiting additional increase in my federal pension, it was never going to be a significant portion of my retirement and I will still be able to draw some money when I reach 62.  The 401k (TSP) may be eligible for transfer to another similar IRA type account. I will look into this in the future. Regardless, the cons are minor and the pros are great for this change. 

The decision to change was made in the wake of perceived sweeping changes in the VA (including an increased use of contractors) and the concerns about a new administration coming into power. I made the request in December and received fast and positive feedback from my direct supervisor. In this process, he has actually been the only real support and has moved things along at every step. It's still pending because of sitting in the Dallas VA mailroom for a month (literally) and then sitting on someone's desk in HR until my supervisor personally visited and got them to do their jobs. The complete lack of inertia among many employees in the VA is what gives us a bad name. There are people content to draw a paycheck and all the benefits and perform as little actual work as they can get away with. They act like they're doing you a personal favor just to listen to your request. 

All that being said, hopefully things are in the home stretch now and I can adopt a condensed schedule. My plan is to work Tue-Thu, but I'm requesting that they give me a dense schedule every day in the hopes I can maintain similar numbers. I'm hopeful I can nearly double my current take home pay, but that will be predicated by how much they offer in compensation and how high demand remains. 

Midsummer(ish) Update

Work continues on the Life On Mars cover video. I actually had a "complete" version of all the music, and was relatively happy with it. But, in one of many learning points during this project, I gave a listen to the original (which I should have been doing more often) and realized my intro was just too fast of a tempo. I had tried various ways to approach the order in which I laid down tracks. I think drums first is still probably the best way, although in this tune they don't come in for the first minute. After learning that I really couldn't keep track of the drums while trying to play with the original, I tried using a midi version of the song with which I could include a click track and that seems the best approach. 

There are multiple ways to approach this sort of incremental song construction. Due to problems with latency, it was important for me to keep the recording setup between the drums and my DAW as simple and uncluttered as possible. Latency is a killer with drums and percussion if you're trying to record in time. I managed to get a version down that was close enough for my satisfaction. I did end up making some minor timing corrections, mainly for the occasional rushed kick drum on the "and" of 4.  

Probably the single biggest challenge of this project is that I'm recording to video.  Making corrections to timing mistakes and the occasional clam note is easy in a DAW, but trying to get that synced up to video becomes exponentially harder. There are ways around this with creative video editing, but it was important to me that the foundation of the video was going to be good performances on all the parts as the baseline. Although I'm mainly doing this for my own entertainment (and internet points, because, internet points), I have felt this might serve as a sort of audition tape that I could use as needed for bands, further academic endeavors, etc. 

My approach has been to keep attempting complete takes until I get one that's close to "perfect" (my version, not Rick Wakeman's). I then stop recording and know that I will use the last takes. In some cases this might be the 10th+ take overall. 

Once I looked at the rough draft of the video performances and had worked on the mix (I was on version 14 or so), I realized I just wasn't going to be satisfied with my version if it didn't have the same vibe as the original. I never desired or expected to make a perfect note for note rendition that would sound exactly like the original, but I felt like my version was too rushed and too produced sounding. It was lacking the dynamics and character of the original, and that's kind of the whole point. 

I resigned myself to have another go at the intro, as that was the biggest problem and I managed to have a "decent" go at the piano part yesterday. Although it was useable, I was suffering my version of a hangover after drinking four beers the previous day, and I wasn't giving myself the best opportunity for a good take. I also realized that my approach to the green screen needed some work. I've learned a small amount about videography, and one thing I've gathered is that your green screen needs to be as flat and "invisible" as possible and it needs to be lit appropriately. 

Looking at my various takes, there was a variety of lighting and screen real estate occupied by my green screen backdrops. I think for my project, the best approach will be one where the green screen completely occupies the background. There may be future projects where I have the green screen as a sort of object in the background that doesn't necessarily fill up the screen. 

All that being said, I need to re-shoot the entire thing so that I can have a consistent lighting and size for my green screen. I am learning to never see an individual performance as too precious. This is a growing process as I learn to accept not every take will be perfect, but become willing to keep trying until I get as close as I'm capable. I know when I've done my best, and that's usually when I'm just practicing or playing without the "red light".  The good thing is that I've learned to get over red light syndrome because you can always make another attempt. Part of the comfort level comes from really knowing the part well and having confidence that you can play it right. 

Tying in to that was finally settling on an arrangement from which I would build the song and giving myself time to practice it. I think I've decided on just playing the intro piano part independently without a rigid timekeeper and then locking in with the drums at the first chorus when they initially come in. I may tweak this as I discovered that the intro was fairly close to 113.5 beats per minute, but then it increases to 128 at the first chorus. It sort of slows down again at the end of the guitar interlude, but returns to that during the rest of the song. My dissatisfaction with the piano performance largely stemmed from timing and feel issues related to trying to play to a metronome/backing track when I had been accustomed to playing it more freely. 

Dealing with this tempo change has been instructive and it gives me some experience for the future as this issue will come up again. I'm definitely convinced that you need to ensure you practice the piece exactly the way you intend to record it. This seems obvious, but in this case I had been playing the piano part for so long that I didn't think this would be much different. And it wasn't really, but it was different enough that my playing become too mechanical and lost the vibe.

As mentioned, I'm also planning on tweaking the camera setup. My plan now is to use my GoPro and iPhone cameras so I have at least two angles of each performance. This just adds another layer of complexity, but I always enjoy performance videos with multiple angles (if done well) more than just the simple straight ahead shots. The GoPro is ideally suited for "neck cam" on the guitar and bass, and I'll also be able to get some alternate overhead shots as well as a shot of kick drum performance (this will be used sparingly, but I like this angle on drum vids).  

The ostensibly biggest obstacle in this project (famous last words) is getting the piano and drum performances down solid. These are the two that I tend to make the most mistakes (albeit few/small) compared to the vocals, guitar and bass. I find repeating takes of those performances is less arduous and time consuming than piano and drums. My plan is to approach it in this order - drums, piano, bass, vocals and guitar. My main reason to redo the bass & guitar is because I want the additional camera angles and I need to fix the way I use the green screen. I also need to help Aeyong install a window blind for our little half moon accent window which is still letting too much natural light in which can illuminate behind the screen and that's a problem.

Another impetus to repeating the entire process is that I've purchased my next equipment upgrade, which is the Slate Virtual Microphone System. This is comprised of a large diaphragm condenser microphone, preamp and a software based modeling system that models microphone, preamp, and compressor (as desired).  This system was announced a few years ago, but it's just now hitting the market. I've heard all positive reviews so far, but I don't know that it's hit enough of a market saturation to be certain.

Based on the microphone alone and considering its price point ($1K), it's a good upgrade from  Blue Baby Bottle (which is still a great mic) and should fill a niche for several years. Philosophically this system is the microphone equivalent of the AxeFx. As the technology has progressed over the years, modeling has narrowed the gap with analog gear, and most listeners don't know the difference. I've always embraced technology and I while I love analog gear, I also love the digital stuff for the flexibility, variety and power it provides. The three microphones it models (at onset, more will be added later) would be way beyond the wallets of all but the most successful (rich) producers. It models the Telefunken 251, Neumann U47 and Sony C800G microphones. Bought on the market (especially for classic versions), this three mic locker would likely run upwards of $50K.  Of the reviews I've seen so far, people are having a difficult time telling the difference between the original and modeled versions. I'm not sure how much I buy that, but for the price and what's a decent sounding (extremely flat) microphone it's more than worth it. It will be interesting to try this new mic out on the vocals for this project. 

There are more aspects to the video project to come, to include filming our dogs in various costumes against the green screen and the subsequent film editing and use of effects. These are all essentially new skill sets I will develop as part of this project. I'm always going to focus on music first, but an occasional video project is fun and a way to keep it interesting for the short modern attention spans (including mine). 

Sniffwhistles and snarkbottoms...

Don't ask, it just seemed appropriate. We're in the latter half of May, so just checking in. Not a lot new to report. I've taken this semester and intend to take next semester off from Berklee. A combination of feeling like I was falling behind on some areas I wanted to explore (in musicianship and writing in general), combined with a feeling that one of the courses I was taking still needed some work (Music Compo & Theory) sparked the decision. I've got enough eligibility remaining in my GI Bill (9 years) that I can afford to slow the pace a bit. I've grown a lot by taking up drums, bass, and vocals but I've made a decision to at least try and dive deeper into guitar and keys, which I consider my most important instruments. I'm trying to work more on fundamentals, theory, and improvisation, especially on the guitar. 

I've also started separating practice and composition, so that I try to focus on each on alternating days. I've also accepted that some days I just don't have the mental and/or physical energy to make any progress. I just give it a pass when those days happen.  I've made some decent progress with this new approach (considering I hadn't really written anything since the compo class). I've got one song that's almost fully written, and several that I've made progress on.  I've been trying to compose structures and rough arrangements when I have time at work, as I can essentially accomplish this on my laptop alone. I'm also slowly learning how to incorporate some of my theoretical knowledge in helping me structure these songs. I tend to get inspiration in a random fashion, sometimes as a melody, sometimes as a rhythm. It doesn't tend to come theoretically intact (although rules are totally made to be broken, they can help), unless it's a really simple tune in C. I'm trying to hone those skills so I can naturally fit something in a major or minor key without having to look it up. I'll learn more about this is future compo classes, but thus far we were writing to film cues and not necessarily in the way I would write a song for myself. 

I also started recording my cover of "Life On Mars" by David Bowie. I've been working on the piano part for years now. Rick Wakeman's playing is often deceptively simple sounding but ends up being a technical challenge when you try to reproduce it close to his version. It reminds me of Tommy Emmanuel's guitar parts in a sense. They both play songs & parts that are ostensibly fairly easy sounding as a listener, but they both have such manual dexterity and facility on their respective instruments so that "easy" sounding chords and fingerings are anything but. The biggest challenge for me was that I had been playing "Life On Mars" as just a solo piano piece without any reference point, and this meant I was playing it too fast for vocals to keep up. I had to start playing it with the song so that I would pause long enough for the vocals to fit. 

And when I say cover, I'm making a video of myself covering all the parts. The most important lesson I've learned in recording a video, is that you really need to ensure you can play the part without significant (noticeable) mistakes, because it's a huge pain in the ass to try and fix mistakes after the fact. This is true for audio, but exponentially worse with video. I performed a couple takes and got one that I was okay with, if not over the moon. I think I'll probably re-record the piano once I've recorded all the other parts. My biggest complaint with my performance is that I was following/reacting to the recording and this makes it sound a bit robotic and flat. "Life On Mars" is a good object lesson in recording a full band cover version because it has a variety of tempos and the various parts don't all come in at once. 

The drum track is pretty simple, especially for any capable recording or touring drummer. That being said, my recently intermittent practice schedule combined with my intermittent within intermittent practicing of the drum part meant my first attempt was pretty awful. It was mainly the kick drum parts, as there is this repeating lead in beat that's on the and of 4 (I think) and it's offset from an open hi-hat to the extent that I feel like I have to rock back and forth. I think I need to get a drum stool that raises higher because there are times when I think my knee angle is a bit too acute (I think it's typically around 100 degrees flexion, and 80-90 would probably be a bit more mechanically advantageous). I have started practicing drums daily since then with an emphasis on that song and it's improved quite a bit. I feel like I might give it another go this weekend. After all that, I think the bass, guitar, and maybe the vocals won't be too difficult. There are a couple of high parts "Sailors, fighting in the dance hall" for one, that I'll probably need to make several passes at. My normal approach would be to record multiple passes of each line, but I'm not sure how well that will work with recording a video. I'm more likely to try singing it straight through several times and picking the best single take.  I'll likely gain some more knowledge on the recording of vocals since this will be one of my first times trying to layer vocals as well as adding harmonies. The other nice aspect is that this will also be an object lesson both in song recording, but especially in combining multiple recordings into one music video. 

On the homefront the biggest events have been a hailstorm in March that will result in us replacing a big portion of the roof and several windows. With a 2% deductible, that means we're going to be out about $10K of our own cash. We were lucky that we inherited that amount from my mother's 401K when she passed. And when it rains it pours (no pun intended), because our previously reliable (not counting bulbs) front projector seems to be dying on us. The picture dimmed considerably and when I replaced the bulb it didn't make any difference. We made the choice just to replace it, and ended up choosing a JVC that can display 4K, although it's not a native 4K to the unit. It basically upscales/doubles the image faster than the eye can see, so it will accept 4K signals and it will make 1080p signals appear to be 4K. True 4K projectors are still prohibitively expensive, so we're hoping to get at least five years out of this one (the previous one almost made it that long), and by then 4K prices should have dropped to more reasonable levels. 

At the end of March we traveled to Toronto to see David Gilmour at Air Canada Center and then to Chicago a few days later where I flew solo for his show at the United Center. He exceeded all my expectations. My only complaint is that the time flew by so fast and the next thing I knew the show was over. I really hope he films a show or two from this tour, perhaps the planned shows from Pompeii this summer. His most recent album is probably his best, and his set list was probably more than half Pink Floyd tunes. He played Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Time, arguably my top two choices to see live so everything else was icing on the cake. 

Hey Folks

And by folks, I refer to the singular. It's been a fairly action packed few months. I was really busy with school in the fall semester, especially near the end. I discovered that the workload and complexity of the courses as I proceed through my degree plan were increasing to the point that I was burning myself out. I managed to pull off the grades, but I felt I was sacrificing true understanding and deeper absorption of some really important concepts. So, in reaction I have decreased my courseload to two going forward. The heavier courseload was predicated by my (I think now, false) assumption that I needed to take a full courseload to receive all of my GI Bill benefits. I had actually been told that by multiple advisors at Berklee, but I managed to get the supervisor of financial aid to weigh in and he said otherwise.  Apparently taking two courses for 3 months would be the same as taking four courses for 1.5 months. I won't know for sure until I look at my explanation of benefits after this semester is complete, but I think it's accurate. It's a huge relief and weight off my shoulders. I'm not taking these courses at Berklee just to check a box or get a certificate. I'm taking them because I truly want to learn this material. 

There's not much new to report at work, same behavior from the same jackasses. I compiled a DBQ report for October which essentially was unchanged from the report a year ago. Submitting this report to dickless did result in more maneuvering as expected and he actually endorses the idea of counting exams for providers in the interest of capturing workload. That being said, it's apparent that the same non-performers are being protected and given credit for "other duties" which essentially means they're getting a pass since he's unwilling to grow a pair and actually do his job. I'm not surprised, it's essentially what I expected from him. My only faint hope is that eventually when the contract supports runs out (if it does) he'll be left to explaining why the clinic can't meet the demand to his bosses. He probably already has detailed plans on how he'll tap dance his way out of that scenario if/when the day comes. I just can't bring myself to give a shit what he and the other oxygen thieves are getting up to. Life's too short.

On the homefront, we finally got Aeyong her new car, a 2016 Toyota Highlander. It worked out pretty well, and it's a really feature packed nice car. We traded in the Ranger, so I've got the Pathfinder now. We saw Patton Oswalt and Kathleen Madigan on back to back nights at the Majestic last month, and they were both hilarious. I got a cool one off poster that was made for Patton's Majestic show featuring him as various Star Wars characters. On that theme, I've mostly gotten all the concert and music posters framed and put up in the drum room as well as the upstairs living room. I bought four different framed artists renderings of Jimmy Page, David Bowie (as a statue head from the Man Who Fell to Earth), Kate Bush in a sort of airbrushed painting from the back photo of Hounds of Love (probably my all time favorite photo of her), and then an alternate view of Battersea Power Station (from Animals) in black & white with a small colorized flying pig. I think it's the same photographer who shot the album cover, just an alternate view. 

Continuing in the home decorating theme, I sort of grabbed the torch from Aeyong and attached jet packs to my feet before taking off. Aeyong had bought a Daenerys Targaryen doll from one of the local stores a year or two ago. We had incrementally bought these little pop figures (cartoonish versions) of the other GOT characters in the subsequent months. I had seen an article or video showing various Star Wars characters from The Force Awakens, and this led to more exploration into miniatures and figurines. I added several pop figures from TFA including Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma. This led to further investigation, and long story short, I've ordered several miniatures from Star Wars, LOTR, and GOT. This includes premium versions of Darth Vader, C3PO/R2D2, and Rey with BB8. The pop figures are little rubber/plastic dolls and fairly cheap, but the premium format figures are made of quite sturdy material and feature multiple poses, articulations, working lights, etc. 

I have some cool versions of Tyrion and Arya that we've already received. Also coming is a miniature of Strider (it's called Aragorn, but he's definitely in ranger mode with this figure). I also have ordered some really cool Weta miniatures and artwork. The biggest is a huge miniature of Smaug laying on his pile of gold with a tiny Bilbo underneath. I'm also getting a miniature of Bag End, and I've got my eyes on Minas Tirith. We're also getting some lovely prints of various LOTR/Hobbit scenes - a wide angle Bag End with Gandalf at the door, a close up of Bilbo looking out the front door, a wide angle of the Argonath with the fellowship in canoes crossing the water, and a shot of the meeting pavilion from the Hobbit where Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman held their dawn counsel. 

The really cool thing is that Aeyong is into it, and actually wants to display the artwork and miniatures around the house. My first instinct is to keep most of it in the home theater area, but ultimately we're going to run out of room and it will naturally spread. I don't care if this fits with the better homes and gardens of vacuous assholes aesthetic. This is the stuff we're into, and we can do what we want with our house. It's a bit childish I suppose, but in a repeating theme for this blog and my adult life, I still like the stuff I liked as a teenager and I learned a long time ago to do what makes me happy not what meets other's approval. Stephen King made a comment in an updated preface for a comprehensive version of the Dark Tower series (which I've finally got around to reading, mea culpa) that his adult personality and tastes were basically established by age 19. I think that's essentially true. I know most of the stuff I really value was already present in some shape by that age. I've expanded my tastes a bit and I've accumulated a lot more music, books, movies, etc. in the intervening years, but I essentially still love the same stuff.  Continuing the geek acquisition theme, I got a really cool Marvel Graphic Novelish omnibus of the Dark Tower series that I need to hold off until I finish the proper series. I'm on the Waste Lands at present. I had gotten on a bit of a coffee table book kick in the last year which included Jimmy Page's photo biopic, the Kate Bush photo book created by her brother, a comprehensive three volume set of my favorite webcomic Ctrl - Alt - Del and several others. My geekdom spreads its tendrils like kudzu. 

I've gotten some new albums over the past few months. I especially love Beck's 2014 album (yes, the one Kanye had to interrupt the Grammy presentation about), Morning Phase. This is easily one of my favorite albums, and it's gone on the stress reduction anti-depressant album list (sharing space with the LOTR soundtracks, Zero 7, Metheny, Emmanuel and a few others). I've also added a few more Radiohead albums, and I really love Kid A.  I went back and got three Big Audio Dynamite albums as well as The Big Heat by Stan Ridgway. This was after Matt had posted several 1985 era tunes on Facebook. I had forgotten how much I loved that music. This isn't the complete list, but I also added Mozart's Requiem and Symphone Fantastique by Berlioz. 

The past few months saw some devastating losses, but one positive addition. In music we lost David Bowie, Lemmy, Scott Weiland, and several other key musicians. In my personal life, we had to have Bridget put to sleep in November. She was 15 years old, and the small benign growth on her abdomen had grown so large it was affecting her movement, breathing, and she was beginning to behave erratically.  We grew concerned that she would hurt herself, as she was doing things that didn't make any sense. Aeyong was finding her digging in the back yard for hours in the early hours of the morning. She just seemed confused and not herself in the past few months. She didn't seem comfortable or happy anymore and we had to make the hard decision. We had a similar experience with Lucy. Once they got to the point that their personalities changed and they no longer seemed comfortable, it was time to let them go. It's still the hardest thing we've had to go through. These are our children, and as much as I loved and miss my parents, their loss didn't hit us as hard as losing our pets. The silver lining is that we noticed our two other dogs were missing her (unsurprisingly), but we also have grown accustomed to a three dog dynamic since we first got April in 2007.  So, on that note, I charged Aeyong with finding us a new puppy. She looked at several shelters and eventually found our new chihuahua (mix?), aptly named Skittles. She could have also been called skittish or skitters, but Skittles seemed appropriate. She was a rescue and she still has some of that street mentality (she apparently wasn't fed well and has a predilection for plants, acorns and various other flora). She is a sweetheart and I think she knows she is a member of our family now. 

I would be remiss if I didn't further discuss one of the most devastating losses I've ever experienced as a fan of music and the creative arts in general. Two days after the release of Blackstar (on his 69th birthday), David Bowie suddenly passed from this world. Apparently well aware he had terminal cancer, David composed and produced this album as a sort of swan song and parting message, and it's proven to be an amazing piece of work. I can't give the album an adequate review in this space, and neither can I adequately express how much David and his work meant to me. I'll do my best in the future, through spoken word and music alike. For what it's worth, his loss has proven to be just as devastating for artists around the world of every age and genre. Almost anyone of note has expressed their immense sadness at his loss and the profound effect he had on their lives. The number of tribute songs and covers are too numerous to count. I have been working on versions of his music for years, and so a short term plan (which was already in the works long before he passed) is to put together a cover version of "Life on Mars" with me performing all the parts including vocals. This project derived from a desire to put together an audition for the Music Composition program with Berklee (I'm currently in the Music Production program, but want to dual major), but it's also been a long term goal to further my musicianship, production, etc. skills in being able to cover entire tunes by myself. Life on Mars was one of a few select tunes that I felt capable of not making a complete ass of myself in the process. We'll see.