at www.RARWRITER.com      

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Volume 2-2016






Use this link to add your email address to the RARWRITER Publishing Group mailing list for updates on activities associated with the Creative Culture and Revolution Culture journals, and other RARWRITER Publishing Group interests.


ABOUT RAR: For those of you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites. Use this link to visit the RAR music page, which features original music compositions and other.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.


(Click here)

Currently on RARadio:

"On to the Next One" by Jacqueline Van Bierk

"I See You Tiger" by Via Tania

"Lost the Plot" by Amoureux"

Bright Eyes, Black Soul" by The Lovers Key

"Cool Thing" by Sassparilla

"These Halls I Dwell" by Michael Butler

"St. Francis"by Tom Russell & Gretchen Peters, performance by Gretchen Peters and Barry Walsh; 

"Who Do You Love?"by Elizabeth Kay; 

"Rebirth"by Caterpillars; 

"Monica's Frock" by Signel-Z; 

"Natural Disasters" by Corey Landis; 

"1,000 Leather Tassels" by The Blank Tapes; 

"We Are All Stone" and "Those Machines" by Outer Minds; 

"Another Dream" by MMOSS; "Susannah" by Woolen Kits; 

Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other dead celebrities / news by A SECRET PARTY;

"I Miss the Day" by My Secret Island,  

"Carriers of Light" by Brendan James;

"The Last Time" by Model Stranger;

"Last Call" by Jay;

"Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; 

"Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" fromActress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; 

"Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; 

Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; 

Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio;

Apteka "Striking Violet"; 

Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along";

Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"Music Hot Spots"




























Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page


CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects the building of America in a trilogy of novels collectively calledATWOOD. Book One explores the development of the American West through the lens of public policy, land planning, municipal development, and governance as it played out in one of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious and cultural traditions that imbued the American Midwest with a special character that continues to have a profound effect on American politics to this day. Book One creates an understanding about America's cultural foundations that is further explored in books two and three that further trace the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as an icon in the development of a certain brand of American character. That's the serious stuff viewed from high altitude. The story itself gets down and dirty with the supernatural, which in ATWOOD - A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliveranceis the outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the monumental to the sublime. The book features the epic poem "The Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel











I am offering another novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado, 1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.

It is a ripping good yarn, filled with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950, when the story is set. Richard Padilla has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns. Use this link.



If you have not explored the books available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You will find classic literature there, as well as tons of privately published books of every kind. A lot of it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published books are awful, but some are truly classics. You can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works for two bucks.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves atNOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.




Under Cover Sounds

"When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." - Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)


I would admit to finding cover bands to be curious things, even wondering on some levels why they even exist. Their very nature is disqualifying in a fundamental way, which has become more fundamental over time as the world has become starved for great new works. The best that cover bands can hope to be is a reflection of the sound that they are replicating, which artistically speaking seems like a low aspiration pursuit. And yet cover bands seem to be bigger than ever, especially in the conceptual sense, if you consider the tidal wave of "tribute bands" that now populate the landscape. The notion of a tribute band has been elevated to a kind of an art form with its own set of standards. Here in the Bay Area, we have a Pink Floyd (House of Floyd) tribute band, while in the UK they have "Brit Floyd" (which seems a little redundant) and in Australia they have Aussie Floyd. We have Creedence Clearwater Revisited in San Francisco, and the Dixie Chicken Band in L.A., and you can probably guess who they simulate. San Francisco has Powerage, a tribute to AC/DC, Damage Inc, a tribute to early Metallica, Ezzy Alive!, a Randy Rhodes era tribute to Ozzy Osbourne, and Ancient Mariner, a tribute to Iron Maiden. That only scratches the surface. There is no high profile act that isn't the subject a tribute version. These tribute units have occasionally served as training grounds for vocalists and musicians who would eventually get a chance to join the band they have been tributing, as in the Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star, which was based on the true story of a guy named Ripper Owens who got a chance to join Judas Priest when their singer left the band. Owens had been fronting a JP tribute band. Quiet Riot's attempt to fill their lost vocalist's slot with a tribute band veteran produced one of the weirdest documentaries of all time (see the Cinema page review).

Tribute bands seem to break down into two camps: the kind that want to simulate and portray every aspect of the band they love, right down to their stage moves; and the kind who just want to focus on excellent renditions of their heroes' classic songs. Currently, former Guns'n Roses frontman Axl Rose is fronting AC/DC, filling in for their lost singer, and getting rave reviews for the way he is bringing his own energy to faithful reproductions of the AC/DC catalog. Given the attrition in AC/DC's original lineup, they are now kind of an AC/DC tribute band in their own right.

There is an entire industry built around Beatles tribute bands, which probably started with the Broadway show Beatlemania, which represented both a theatrical and a music-focused approach to recreating the magic of Beatles performances, even when some of their greatest material was never "performed" at all, at least not to a live audience. There are some truly spectacular bands at work today doing righteous-strong covers of The Beatles songbook, which are great in that they give audiences a chance to thrill at some truly majestic music that was and is at another level beyond that of the talented but general madding crowd. The Fab Faux is one such excellent example.

On the flip side, is there anything creepier than The Beatles tribute band The Fab Four, who show up on PBS from time-to-time during one of their tedious fund drives? They are great at replicating the sound of the early Beatles, but watching them portray the behaviors of our lads from Liverpool is disturbing, in that way that figures in a wax museum are disturbing. Why would anyone do that? Some of those PBS funds ought to be spent buying away The Fab Four's rights to do Beatles performances, which could then be given to people who don't seem so inclined toward celebrity fetish.

Most cover bands aren't really tribute bands so much as they are human jukeboxes, just playing a set list of material that is easily recognizable to people who book club acts. Where the big tribute outfits are demanding big returns on ticket sales, which defray the royalty fees they must pay to music publishers for the use of their copyrighted material, the club bands are making no money at all because they also pay royalty fees to cover the tunes they play, and they don't generate big returns. ASCAP fees are typically paid by the club owner out of proceeds that would otherwise go to the band. A band could circumvent that issue by just playing original material, but that is next to impossible to book and most musicians are not songwriters anyway, at least not so anyone would notice, or pay to hear their work.

The concept of "doing covers" really only emerged with the massive commercialization of Rock'n Roll music that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. Surf music was a huge incentive, followed by the enormous success of the British Invasion, each of which created a wave of child musicians. Once every kid on the block rushed out to become a guitar player or a drummer, AM radio became a live feed of stuff we could all emulate, and could all do. In the earlier Jazz and Big Band eras, everyone was playing the musical compositions of people who made their livings doing musical scores, so that performers were presenting interpretations of songs by serious songwriters. By the Rock'n Roll era, kids were copying the sounds they heard on their records, which more and more, as the youth music industry evolved, were songs written by other young people, which were typically of a lower order of composition than that which had been known to older music fans. In the 1950s, there were ambitious interpretations of Hoagy Carmichael's 1927 classic "Stardust", but by 1964 garage bands were covering "Louie, Louie", because it was easy to play and carried a sort of street cred in its perceived (or misperceived) vulgarities. So the cheesy world of weird cover bands was born, and rock music started down the path toward the tawdry and the sub-sublime.

I recall Joni Mitchell saying once that she didn't see the point of doing other peoples' songs because then all one could ever hope to be is second best. There are many instances, of course, where covers of previously recorded material have been perceived as "better" than the original version, but that is alchemy reserved for top recording acts. Van Halen could breathe new life into Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman", for instance, but Orbison's original version exists as historical artifact, a remnant of a moment in history when an original inspiration was born. One might hear the Van Halen version and remember 1982, when theirs' was released, but it did not represent that period in any significant way. By 1982, Van Halen was being slowly buried by a New Wave sound that would consign them to an irrelevant corner reserved for early MTV bands, which would serve as an excellent example of how even inspired musicianship would succumb to the blender of uber-pop.

Last year, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, and Bozz Scaggs toured as "The Dukes of September" - a truly depressing name for a band consisting of old people - and they were booed when they covered classic R&B tunes. "What, you don't like Ray Charles?" Fagen asked his jeering fans? Such is the Twilight Zone world of the cover performer, because those jeering people like Ray Charles just fine, they just don't necessarily like to listen to somebody else doing Ray Charles songs. And yet the instinct to cover is strong. Even top touring pros have songs that meant a great deal to them in their youths and feel the urge to perform them themselves. Apparently dedicated cover bands can get away with that, but fans paying 125 bucks a seat to see famous musical celebrities feel like they deserve the real stuff, not some knockoff dish reheated from the fridge.

To Cover or Not

On many levels, covering a song, as in playing it precisely as it was initially recorded, is like a music training exercise. It is how we learn chord shapes, string-bending techniques, and rhythm patterns, among other guitar player things. It is how we learn to reproduce songs that people will immediately recognize, because that recognition is the big payoff if you are playing covers. People have to recognize the song and appreciate the integrity of the reproduced product, like one might appreciate a convincing reproduction of a Rolex watch. The ability to get that kind of reaction from an audience is satisfying and proof positive that you got it right: you accurately reproduced a familiar sound.

That said, it is possible to interpret a piece of music in such a way as to uncork its essence in a personalized form. Siouxsie and the Banshees were sometimes good at that (e.g., "Dear Prudence"), and The Smashing Pumpkins were sometimes referred to as "the world's greatest cover band", which may not have been literally true, but you get the point - they were living on the work of others and being appreciated for how well they did it. David Bowie did a surprising number of covers, many of which he brought nothing special to at all, so even the best among us have used cover material for filler.

On the other hand, a lot of bands cover Bowie's material. Consider Bauhaus' note-for-note replication of "Ziggy Stardust", which strikes me as the strangest (albeit very satisfying) choice of cover, given that it is a signature tune from one of Bowie's very specific stylistlic eras.

Then there is weird stuff like Kenny Chesney covering, very closely, UB40 songs. It is a little strange that UB40 is a British band playing Reggae (very well), but to have Mr. Barefoot Country playing Reggae is just ridiculous. You may recall the grief that Eric Clapton got when he covered "I Shot the Sheriff", which at the time was a bald-faced exploitation of the Reggae sound, newly discovered at the time by pop music fans. Clapton's cover seemed pretty shallow next to Bob Marley's original version, but it seems golden next to country music star Chesney's completely inauthentic Reggae enthusiasms.

My sense is that people who go to clubs probably go because they want a night out at a club, and if they happen to hear a live band playing familiar material then all the better. People tend to feel confirmed if they recognize the songs they hear being played, rather like laughing at a comedian's joke has been said to be the act of an audience congratulating itself for getting the humor. Familiar feels good sometimes, maybe more. Maybe that's why The Blues is still around. People know the blues, and it's all covers.


But Can He Play Somebody Else's Material?

I was once engaged in conversation with the great bassist Chuck Rainey - perhaps most noted for his work with Steely Dan - who challenged the musicianship of no one less than fellow bassist Paul McCartney. Rainey made the point that McCartney's bass lines with The Beatles were all great, but he discounted McCartney on the grounds that he was just playing his own stuff. How well could he play other people's material? That struck me as sort of lame at the time, and I doubt Chuck Rainey would still make that argument today, because McCartney has effectively covered tons of other people's material over the years. Still, you get the point. Some people are not going to give you credit as a musician until you prove that you can take on tough challenges and produce great takes of that material. Who better to use as a testing grounds for that point of view than the much-appreciated, much-vilified band Radiohead. They have delighted their fans and frustrated their detractors over the years just by being so damned inaccessible, playing music that often seemed determinedly anti-commercial, as if they preferred to mess around in close proximity of wonderful possibilities instead of delivering great pop songs. Back in 2007, they went into a studio and recorded songs from two of my all-time favorites, The Smiths and New Order, and they proved without a shadow of a doubt that they are flat-out talented pros. They even covered Portishead with sublime integrity and musical respect. Check out these video exhibits below.

Radiohead Plays The Smiths

Radiohead Plays Portishead

Radiohead Plays New Order

Best in Class

The Fundamentals

Speaking of cover bands, are you familiar with The Fundamentals out of Montreal?

I became interested after seeing singer Chris Cole performing with The Wayne Fettig Quintet at the Empress Theater in Vallejo. Cole is a wonderful singer and performer, and natural front guy, and while looking for information on him I discovered that he is part of the party band The Fundamentals. They play corporate gigs and big social events and they cover the cheesiest material ever to be transmitted by AM radio. Their audiences are the affluent middle and upper-middle class folks whose best years all happened later in life after they had established themselves in solid career-type jobs; the kind of people who weren't cool in high school but look pretty damned good at their high school reunions. When it comes time for them to choose entertainment for their corporate events, they choose the bands that play Disco.

No band does terrible music better than The Fundamentals, because musical performance is a funny thing. Almost anyone in the world can play pop music. It is usually pretty simple and, at its core, accessible to the talent range of most musicians. There is, however, a special envelope of performance that very few musicians can actually break through. Those folks get it all exactly right: the pitch and timber of the vocals, the timing, the tone, the beat, the instrumental parts, and they blend with a natural chemistry that makes the life of the audio guys, the sound mixers, pretty darned easy. That pretty much describes The Fundamentals, who are that top-tier type of unit that reproduces crap music with such effortless virtuosity that it turns scrap to gold. They are amazingly good at what they do. Check out these promotional videos of them doing two wholly separate types of very familiar AM-style music, and just killing it!




The Creative Culture Journal at RARWRITER.com



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George Bernard Shaw

"Hell is full of musical amateurs."





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Kat Parsons

Rob Lynch

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Blaza Duvall

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Massy Ferguson




Guitarists: How to Set Up Your Effects Board





Copyright October, 2016 Rick Alan Rice (RARWRITER)