Trash Attraction

IMG_6100We saw lots of interesting things on the streets of New Orleans, but this was one of the most compelling and evocative sights — a trash can, decorated to resemble a human face, with the words “If ever I cease to love” on it.  When I tossed my trash away through the wide mouth, I wondered what the heck was the significance of those words.

There is, in fact, an explanation:  “If ever I cease to love” is the name of a classic Mardi Gras song.  According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune blog, the song has been the anthem of the Rex’s Boeuf Gras parade ever since the Rex organization first marched in 1872.  I think that explains the trash can’s crown and the bright coloring.

If you’re interested in hearing this Mardi Gras classic, a YouTube performance is below.

Benedictines of Mary, Queen Of Apostles

I love choral music, and recently I discovered the CD Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles choir. It is an astonishingly beautiful piece of work that should appeal to anyone — regardless of their religious affiliation — who loves the sound of the human voice.

I knew nothing about the Benedictines of Mary when I discovered their music. They are a monastic order of nuns that began in the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania and then transferred to the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. The order follows the monastic directives of St. Benedict, which includes regular singing and chanting. The video above tells a little bit more about the life of these nuns and gives a taste of their exquisite music. Advent at Ephesus is just one of their CDs, and coincidentally a new CD is coming out this week.

There is a ethereal, transcendent quality to the blended voices of these nuns that is enormously appealing and deeply peaceful. Of the songs on Advent at Ephesus, my favorite selections are Like the Dawning, Come Thou Redeemer of the Earth, Maria Walks Amid The Thorn, and Benedixisti Domine, but all of the songs on the CD are wonderful. I recommend it highly to anyone who is a fan of choral music.

Five Years In The House

A few days ago the Webner House blog celebrated its fifth anniversary. Our first post appeared on February 1, 2009.

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years. Five years ago President Obama had just been inaugurated and began his first term in office, and the Affordable Care Act was just a gleam in his eye. Five years ago Eric Mangini was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and there have been three head coaches since then. Five years ago no one had heard of a Tea Party, or George Zimmerman, or Ted Cruz. For reasons like these, five years seems like a long time.

During our five years we’ve published 4,718 posts that have generated 289,076 views and 4,082 comments — all of which were welcome. We’ve made some new friends and found some blogs we like to check out, too. We’ve written some bad poetry, taken some bad photographs, and followed the Chronicles of Penny.

It’s been a fun five years. What better way to commemorate it than to post David Bowie and Arcade Fire performing the song of the same name — a song which begins one of the great rock albums ever recorded: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars?

The Sounds Of A ’60s Summer

There was the ever-present throb of fans, because no one had air conditioning.  Square fan units that fit into the bottom of a window that you could yell into and have your voice emerge, chopped and distorted, on the other side.  Rotating fans that whirred from side to side, with streamers tied to their wire covers blowing in the breeze.  Standing fans in the corner that sent air circling around the room.  They didn’t make the air any cooler, but they helped the “circulation.”

Screen doors creaking open and slamming shut with a bang as kids came and went and exasperated Moms said:  “In or out?”  Baseball cards attached to bicycle frames with a clothes pin that were strummed by the spokes of the rear wheel and made a bike sound like a motorcycle.  The hum of riding lawnmowers, as the neighborhood Dads cut the grass on their acre-sized lots.  The fat from cheeseburgers sizzling on hot charcoal.

And, as the evening arrived and shadows grew long, boxy Zenith and RCA radio units were turned on.  The sounds of ’60s music floated out the open windows through the screens into the humid summer nights as the adults gathered on patios and kids ran around, waving sparklers or catching lightning bugs or playing flashlight tag.  Martha Reeve and the Vandellas and Dancing in the Street.  Frank Sinatra and Strangers in the Night.  The early Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Four Seasons.  Dionne Warwick and Petula Clark.  And, most of all, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, whose music perfectly captured the ’60s summer mood.  Happy, bopping music, light and upbeat, infused with optimism, as the adults talked quietly and laughed about last night’s Tonight Show or reenacted one of the bits from the latest great Bill Cosby or Bob Newhart comedy album.

When bedtime came, the beat of fans was still there, accompanied by the chirping of crickets and the buzz insects in the sultry air.

Bobby “Blue” Bland Goes Farther On Up The Road

Bobby “Blue” Bland died yesterday at 83, and the ranks of the legendary blues singers were thinned measurably as a result.

Over his long career he wrote some of the great R&B songs, including timeless efforts like Further On Up The Road and Turn On Your Love Light.  I was introduced to his music by Eric Clapton, who played an exceptional Further On Up The Road filled with awesome guitar work.  When I heard Clapton’s live introduction to the song — simply, “this is a song by Bobby Blue Bland called Further On Up The Road” — I knew I had to listen to the artist who wrote such a fantastic song.  My guess is that many rock ‘n roll fans who loved Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and other rockers who played the blues were introduced to Bobby “Blue” Bland and other blues artists in that same way.

Bland had a fabulous voice, deep and smoky and soulful.  And, as the YouTube clip I’ve included above shows, he must have been a blast to share the stage with.  The clip is part of a performance by Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B. King on Soul Train, circa the mid-70s.  From the basso intro by Don Cornelius to the vintage ’70s clothing to the stunning music, the clip is a classic — and a great reminder of Bland’s outsized talent.

Ray Manzarek, RIP

Ray Manzarek, one of the founding members of The Doors, has died in Germany after a long battle with cancer.

When I think of The Doors, I think of Jim Morrison’s deep, throaty vocals — but I think equally of Ray Manzarek’s keyboards.  Both of those elements made The Doors musically unique, and both were equally important.  Mazarek’s deft chops on the keyboard helped to burn countless Doors’ songs into the brain synapses, where they will remain forever and can be hauled out and remembered, note by note.  Most of The Doors’ great songs had a great keyboard riff in their somewhere, but my all-time favorite is Riders On The Storm.  For us wannabe musicians, who don’t know anything about those black and white keys, it’s one of the great air piano songs ever.  I’ve “played” that extended keyboard solo on desktops, tabletops, car dashboards, and the air above the walkway around the Yantis Loop, always with a smile on my face and those lilting notes lifting my heart.  I’ve put a YouTube video of Riders on the Storm below, and it still sounds fantastic and absolutely fresh.

Thank you for that, Ray Manzarek.  You were one of those creative forces who helped to change the course of popular music, and you made my life a little bit richer through your genius.

Rocky Mountain Way

It’s Friday night, and we’re waiting to go to the airport to pick up Richard, who is coming home for a visit.  Unfortunately, his flight has been delayed, so we’re biding our time for now.

Normally I would squawk about airlines and their comically frequent flight delays, but I’m too happy about Richard’s visit and the arrival of the weekend and I don’t want to ruin my mood.  So I’m going to go in the opposite direction, dive into some truly vintage rock that takes me back to high school days, follow Joe Walsh’s suggestion, and get into the Rocky Mountain Way insteadAfter all, it is better than the way we had.