Ric's Blog

Posted on: 10/18/2015

 Mankind has debated the existence of a higher and divine being since the advent of thought itself.  Of course, such beliefs are based on faith and faith alone.  If in fact, there exists such an entity, it has chosen so far not to reveal itself.  So we are left to look for evidence of its existence by the reality of the world we live in.  We here at the Ric Zweig Blog have been blessed to have known several breathtakingly beautiful women in our, to date, long life.  When one comes across such a woman who is without flaw and possessed of truly perfect form and shape, it seems to suggest only a higher being could be responsible for its creation and existence.  To us, it seems improbable that such an example of the perfect female form could just be an accident and not the result of some intelligent happenstance.  The same argument could be raised with regard to the creation of great art.  When confronted with the genius of an artist such as Leonardo Da Vinci, it becomes difficult to assume this is due to pure randomness, as opposed to intelligent design.  The same could be argued with regard to music, and particularly the playing of the electric guitar.  In today's world only one musician exemplifies the necessary genius to play the instrument to the absolute highest level of perfection.  That person is John Mayer.  Therefore, we boldly submit that Mayer's out of this world skill level is compelling evidence of the existence of a divine being.  For support, we offer his live performance of his composition "Gravity", in particular, the 8 minute and 25 second version readily available on You Tube.  Mayer hits notes with his playing that no previous guitar player has ever been able to achieve. It is beyond brilliant in its tonal essence.  It is simply so definitively pleasing to our sense of hearing, that it only can exist due to some divine energy at play.  This is NOT to suggest that Mayer himself is God or even God-like, but rather that some divine force is channeled through Mayer's being that allows him to play in the manner he does.  Take a few minutes to listen to the particular version of "Gravity" cited above and let us know whether you agree.  RZ

Posted on: 10/11/2015

 Every year about this time the people who determine who gets into the Cleveland, Ohio Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame embarrass themselves once again with their annual nominations.  This year, despite overwhelming odds to the contrary, they achieved a new low with their nomination of former pop star, Miss Janet Jackson.  Jackson's nomination to the HOF makes as much sense as a future nod to Tiny Tim, who must be breathless in anticipation of his potential future nod.  Janet Jackson is to Rock music what Mickey Klutz is to baseball.  (Look him up, baseball fans).  Jackson is to Rock music what the Edsel is to cars.  Or Doonesbury is to the Nobel Prize for literature.  Jackson NEVER recorded a single rock tune in her long career.  She never sang a single Rock musical note.  Her nomination is a crude insult to legitimate rock artists.  It is simply  a nod to commercialism and a deeply pathetic gesture to make the show more palatable and relevant to a vasty declining audience.  Rock 'n Roll music IS Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.  It IS NOT Frankie Avalon and especially NOT Janet Jackson.  There crass decision makers make a mockery of an art form that deserves respect.  Or as Woody Allen once said, "A sham of a mockery, a mockery of a sham".  Very appropo Mr. Allen.  Legitimate deserving members of the Hall have been sold out too many times in the name of crass greed with zero regard for who actually should be in.  Shame on them once again, until at least next year, when it might be your year, Tiny Tim.  RZ

Posted on: 10/04/2015

 We have changed our opinion.  We are talking about one of the most frequently played and most popular shows on the Paladia television network, namely "Later...With Jools Holland".  Mr. Holland has some major music credentials across the pond and, without question, has serious chops on the keyboard.  Notwithstanding, we here at the Ric Zweig Blog find him a bit goofy in his hosting duties. Most of his shows feature a bunch of vastly mediocre, but original music acts from his native country. But on occasion, there is a gem in the basket.  One thing is certain, if you are a working musician in a British original band that plays gigs, your time will come on Jools' television show.  And this is precisely why we have changed our mind.  The opportunity for British bands to receive this kind of exposure is simply magnificent.  To be viewed as an up and coming band is invaluable to the development of a band.  It begs the obvious question.  Why is there not a similar outlet here in the United States?  Much credit should be given to Mr. Holland, as he is the brainstorm behind this novel concept.  His efforts keep progressive music alive and well in the UK.  The circular stage he employs to position his bands keeps things moving swiftly as well.  A very large soundstage is necessary to accomplish this, but my favorite part of the show's presentation is the initial introduction of all the bands, positioned on stage like pieces of a very large pie.  Of course, the pie is littered with an occasional famous American act, such as "Alabama Shakes" or Laura Nyro, who were both great.  So Kudos to Jools Holland for all that he does to promote Rock music.  Maybe we should pitch this idea to someone here in the States.  Done right, it would be a major boost to the creation of more American original rock bands.  RZ

Posted on: 09/20/2015

 The music of Rock 'n Roll no longer rules the roost of modern music.  Sadly, it has been replaced from being at the head of the class to being a side genre that few young people listen to much any more.  This has been dictated by the major influence of MTV which no longer feeds the masses the revolutionary Rock music missives.  Previously, we here at the Ric Zweig Blog have written of the American government policy to minimize the significance of Rock music in order to stifle dissent.  The brain numbing beats of Electronic Dance Music are at the front of the pack in terms of influence and significance.  The revolutionary poetry of Rock has been replaced by the vanilla script of Taylor Swift who laments about her inability to maintain a relationship or the modern moronic ramblings of Miley Cyrus who glorifies the new sexuality of lesbianism and homosexuality.  The latter being the social status preferred and favored by our current government.  But no matter how hard the government tries, they can not kill Rock 'n Roll.  It shall always remain, at least for the current future, a musical force favored by creative people and played underground in little venues across the land.  Advocates of Rock were bolstered recently by a FaceBook video which featured a 5 year old girl singing and playing lead guitar to Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water".  Her bandmates were her equally young family members on drums, bass and keyboards.  The youthful project was created by their father who scurries around them making technical adjustments on the fly.  The joy from the kids demonstrates the survival mode of Rock music.  They can stomp it down but NEVER will they wipe it clean from a free people.  Here in South Florida, the popularity of Rock music is firmly underground, but our spirits are buoyed by the emergence a 14 year old boy Rock guitarist and his 11 year old drummer sister, both of whom keep the flame alive. There will always be kids who defy convention and play the old Rock 'n Roll music for two simple reasons.  It 's just so good to listen too and so very much fun to play. RZ

Posted on: 09/13/2015

 Who is the most underrated American guitar player?  Who is that musician who performs with consistent brilliance and toils in relative obscurity?  It happens to be a player pretty much unknown to most music fans, but well known to those who play the instrument.  This award could be named after Roy Buchanan, who also toiled virtually unknown, but whose talent was known to other guitar players. We are talking about Mike Campbell, who has been the driving musical force behind Tom Petty & 'The Heartbreakers'.  There are some facts about Campbell which aptly give insight as to who he is.  First of all, he has been married to the same woman for 41 years.  Now that is not an ingredient of a great musician, but it does suggest loyalty.  Therefore, it is not surprising that he has been the central player with 'The Heartbreakers' for 40 consecutive years.  That alone makes him a rarity in the history of Rock guitarists.  Campbell was born in Panama City, Florida which is located in the state's panhandle and is home, each year, to thousands of young visitors to its white, sandy beaches.  (Remember to bring the sunscreen).  Campbell has been involved in writing many of the Petty hits over the decades, but it is his tasteful tones which make him so notable.  One of the qualities of his playing which must be noted, is his uncanny ability to never waste a note.  He is an absolute master of volume control, tone and melody.  It is not surprising that Campbell lists Scotty Moore as his number 1 guitar musical influence.  Regular readers of the Ric Zweig Blog are well aware of Moore and his historic contributions to the development of the instrument.  Any chance to see the Petty band live should be taken advantage of.  Campbell never fails to shine.  Our favorite recorded example of Mike Campbell's genius would be his guitar lead at the conclusion of "Running Down A Dream".  The producers were wise to allow Campbell's lead to last for an extended period of time.  It serves as a perfect example of his exceptional talent.  RZ

Posted on: 09/06/2015

 This year's version of the Video Music Awards (VMAs), presented by MTV, was the worst example of what parades as popular music these days.  New lows were set by the music itself and the vapid personalities that masquerade as artists.  First of all, not a single performer played live.  That's right, you read it right, not a single one.  The reasons for this are obvious. First of all, the performers simply do not possess the musical chops to do so, and secondly the audience is too stupid and uninformed to know the difference.  Even the quality of the lip-synching was embarrassingly shameful forcing the camera shots to continuously cut away to hide the humorous failures.  The spectacle resembled an old Japanese movie from the 50s where the audio failed to even remotely be linked to the video. Don't these people have any shame at all?  Obviously not.  These performers are not even remotely talented.  Chosen by random by MTV for what they perceive to be their visual attractiveness.                 The cause of racism and hatred of Black people was substantially advanced by 2 performers in particular, namely the gutter ghetto theatrics of Nicki Minaj and the talent and height challenged charleton, Kanye West.  West was presented some special award which afforded him the opportunity to waste 11 minutes of air time pontificating on a variety of topics none of which made any coherent sense.  The obviously stoned West came across both arrogant and ignorant and represents the worst example of why so many White people have racist attitudes towards Black People.  Every third word out of West's mouth was 'bro'.  That's his definition of cool.  It's our definition of ignorance. Minaj even outdid the diminutive West, using her award speech, to launch a verbal tirade against show host Miley Cyrus, calling her 'bitch' on live TV.  Cyrus had the class to let it go.  Minaj could take credit for the tens of thousands of American Black teenage girls, who on the following Monday, used the invective in the halls of high schools across the land, thus advancing the cause of young whites who manifest hatred toward Blacks.  Let me be clear.  We at the Ric Zweig Blog deplore racism of any kind, but these 2 Black performers do more to engender racism than any unknown White trailer park trash.  The one redeeming aspect of the show was Minaj's dress which aptly demonstrated her amazingly bodacious physique.  We are not possessed of knowledge as to whether her booty is real or not, but who cares.  A special VMA should be presented to the plastic surgeon responsible for that work, for it is truly the 8th wonder of the modern world.  RZ

Posted on: 08/30/2015

 Writing these 'best' columns is a safe bet to ignite discussion, arguments and controversy here at the Ric Zweig BLOG.  But it's better than arguing presidential politics especially with the Donald and Hillary taking daily potshots at each other.  To be the greatest and best of them all, the music artist in mind, would have to be totally original, innovative, influential, and responsible for changing the course of American musical history more so than any other artist.  An example, if we were writing about Jamaica, would be the choice of Bob Marley.  To reach our choice, we had to consider such candidates as George Gershwin (who was our first runner-up), Jimi Hendrix (second runner-up), as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Also in the mix were Miles Davis, Benny Goodman and Elvis Presley.  But our choice for the best ever is Louis Armstrong.  The major reason to support this is Armstrong's achievement of inventing ALL modern singing.  Every single modern singer, regardless of genre, can be traced back to Armstrong.  Before he began warbling, there was NO singing by anyone that captured the attention of the American public.  It simply did not exist.  His ultimate influence and significance in the world of jazz can not be measured quantitatively.  It's significance defies measurement.  In the early portion of his career, Armstrong was the pre-eminent trumpet player in the world.  No one had his command, tone or smoothness.  A wonderful example of Mr. Armstrong's playing can be found in the instrumental "West End Blues".  With regard to his magical vocals, a wonderful example is "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans"?  It just doesn't get any better than this.  But of course, the best example of Armstrong's genius was during the golden age of Rock music a time when 'The Beatles' dominated the pop charts with their multitude of tunes.  Along comes a song which usurped them and everyone else doing music at the time.  We are talking about Louis Armstrong's monster hit, "What A Wonderful World".  This would also be our choice as the greatest American single tune of all time.  So iconic it is, it can only be compared to John Lennon's "Imagine".  Take a moment on this Sunday and listen to these 3 Armstrong tunes.  They are easily available for free on You Tube.  It will make your day a whole lot brighter.  Guaranteed.  RZ

Posted on: 08/23/2015

 Ethnocentrism is defined as the belief in the inherent superiority of one's own ethnic group or culture.  In the recent past, Americans, with good cause, tended to be ethnocentric with regard to their musical heritage.  After all, the blues is totally American.  So is Jazz, Country, Soul, and Dixieland.  Rock 'n roll was once pretty much exclusively American.  And then along came the lads from England, followed by 'The Stones', 'Pink Floyd' and 'Led Zeppelin'.  Soon the British groups rivaled America as to Rock music.  From there Rock spread to Australia and other English speaking countries with groups like 'AC/DC' and 'Dire Straits' gaining prominence.  Rock is now dispersed all over the world.  In America its previous dominance has been replaced by Electronic Dance Music (EDM).  Pop music, another genre which began in America, has also shadowed the worldwide advent of Rock music.  So who is the world's greatest Pop artist.  No, it is not Taylor Swift or Nicki Minaj. That would be an example of American ethnocentrism.  Our choice is a male singer from Italy that you certainly have not heard of unless you once lived in Italy.  His name is Zucchero and he has no world equal in terms of talent and national popularity.  Zucchero is best known for his vocal performance in the tune "Miserere".  This vocal does not lend itself to verbal description.  It simply must be listened to and upon doing so, will quickly become apparent that Zucchero's vocal tone and control is without match period.  So influential and powerful was this performance, that the world's greatest operatic tenor, a chap by the name of Luciano Pavarotti, sought out Zucchero asking to do a duet of the tune. We would refer our Ric Zweig Blog readers to this rendition of "Miserere" easily available free of charge on You Tube.  It will make the hair on your back stand up.  Not to be outdone, Andrea Bocelli, another great and popular Italian tenor, felt the need to also do a duet of "Miserere" with Zucchero.  A third and equally amazing version exists with all 3 of them trading off vocal parts.  Imagine that. Exposure to this music will quickly put an end to American ethnocentrism.  As in the automobile, Italy has no peer when it comes to popular music.  RZ

Posted on: 08/16/2015

 Despite the decline of music television in recent years, there is still one shining star which consistently delights music lovers.  Of course, we are talking about 'Live From Darryl's House', more commonly known as 'Darryl's House' which is filmed from the small town of Pawling, New York and is seen on the television network known as 'Paladia'.  Each episode features former 'Hall & Oates' frontman Darryl Hall, along with his regular group of music friends and a special guest who jam for 30 minutes and then eat a rather large feast.  The parts where they allegedly smoke weed to enhance these 2 most pleasurable activities are conveniently deleted from the final product that viewers see. Episode after episode features some of the finest music one can hear without a live audience other than the technical crew who record the broadcast.  A recent show featured the great Todd Rundgren, along with John and his band who travelled all the way to Hawaii to play with Todd.  The great scenery contributed to the festivities and a grand time was had by all.  The highlight of this show was the group's performance of the classic Rundgren tune "The Last Ride".  This is must listen-to music and demonstrates the brilliance of all the musicians who contributed.  Especially the singing of Todd and Darryl as well as the blistering guitar solos played by Todd Rungren.  Mr. Rundgren, who still looks great with a full head of hair, has been part of the popular rock music scene since his days leading the group 'Nazz' back in the late sixties.  His talent continues to shine on with the aforementioned diamond brilliance.  So wonderful and delightful to see that one of the good guys continues to do what he has always done.  And thanks to Darryl Hall and his gang for producing such an entertaining show. Catch it whenever you can.  We love it.  RZ

Posted on: 08/09/2015

 The lack of humility with regard to today's pop stars has no bounds whatsoever.  We have written on this topic before as it pertained to Lady Gaga and Kanye West, both of whom having totally predictable but laughably high opinions of themselves.  But a new high, or more accurately a new low, was reached this week by the once entertaining, but now pathetic, has been star known as Madonna. Think how arrogant one has to be in the first place to go by only one name.  Prince gets away with it only because of his massive talent as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer.  Jesus was yet another example, because of his singular impact on the world.  Madonna's claim to fame is her wearing of a pointed bra.  This is just so ludicrous.  This very last week, the boastful Madonna compared herself to the great impressionist painter Pablo Picasso, whose impact on the world of painting can not be over estimated.  Madonna's impact stands out as insignificant in a room full of other insignificants.  While she warrants credit for her financial achievements, her contribution as a musical artist is simply non-existent.  Historically, she must be lumped in with other insignificants of her time as Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton.  Why doesn't she just stop already?  Whether it's clumsily lurching off the stage or making ridiculous comments about her own self-evaluation, she has become a national embarrassment.  There simply is no correlation between making a lot of cash and artistic achievement.  How can she not be aware of this.  But then again she has made a career utterly linked to outrageousness and comparing herself to Picasso just continues that trend.  Enough already. Somewhere there is an old age home with a rocking chair that has your name, just one name, on it, to-wit: Madonna.  RZ

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