GONG/I see you (what a long strange trip it continues to be)

gong   This idiosyncratic view of the world was loosed in nineteen sixty eight and has beheld its audience for over four decades. Though personnel changes have left a revolving door of musicians to roam through, the band has held it together. Ties with the Van der Graaf generator, The Soft Machine, and even a breeze through with Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson) have visited the barriers within this cosmic journey. The psychedelic era has no true definition. It’s a strangely crafted menagerie of imagination and abysmal twists and turns with splashes of dismal melancholy. The early days of Pink Floyd with Syd Barret delved into the far reaches of interplanetary thought on albums like “A Saucerful of Secrets” and “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” where Barrett dominated the aura of the band entirely until his madness caught up with him. Gong has endured through much of the same history. In the true realm of psychedelics albums like “Expresso 2″, “Angels Egg”, “Flying Teapot”, “Shamal”, and the famed “You”, their unbridled insanity expanded to mammoth proportions. Now, “I See You” continues on the path they have carved out for themselves. This trip was much longer than anyone expected.

NYPD Blue/season 8 (city gone blue)

nypd 8    One of the finest true life depictions ever presented to television has spawned a long standing event that time has only improved since its genesis. The interactions between the characters bleeds blue and the story-lines actually deal and incorporate their personal problems and the struggles they face within themselves and how they affect their work. It has always been said that the best way to bring down an organization is from the inside. In this colorful season that is precisely what the fifteenth precinct will face. Detective Sorenson begins to come apart at the seams, new faces draw suspicions, and we even lose a few of the old ones. Take a deep breath hold it and watch as the city goes blue. Don’t forget to exhale.

Welcome back Kotter/the complete second season (taking it to the classroom) )

kotter  Welcome back to the classroom of no knocks. You can always depend on these characters to redefine education wherever it’s necessary (and some places where it’s not).  Of course the responsibility of reining in these wild cards and actually teaching them a bit of enriching knowledge is far more difficult than building an ark. What do we expect from them? Well…Mr. Kotter has to deal with the fact that he was once himself a sweat-hog, the delightful relationship he holds with his much less than altruistic principal, and the list of never ending list of excuses spilling out from our fantastic four are just a few.. Now, without question, Epstein rules the roost with his bombastically bogus notes from home usually signed Epstein’s mother. Questions with no answers and answers with no questions  are the soup of the day in this fun filled room full of life studies. This season offers the boys putting on a play with incorrigible results, Boom Boom gets a crack at radio stardom, Epstein attempts kicking the smoking habit, and Mr. Kotter’s quick witted advice hopes to penetrate some very thick skulls. Yes, some things are learned on the streets, but it seems these boys are taking to the classroom.

Gentle Giant/live at the bicentennial 1776-1976

giant   With all of the modern-day technology we have at our fingertips, it would be considered an odd thing to rely strictly upon our own steam without a net. And the recording industry would be no different. Magic is performed within those walls and a nice shiny album usually pops out for us to give an ear or two. I like live events and recordings as well, and some of the greatest moments have been captured in this vein. Gentle Giant approached this album with raw power without the benefit of studio retouching to bring us an honest depiction of their provocative talent unleashed with no nets allowed. The result is a great instrumentation and outstretching vocal capacities emanating into the far reaches of the cosmos and beyond. It would be placed next to “Grand Funk Railroad Live” and “Jethro Tull Live at the Isle of Wight” where perfection is cast to the wind and the musicians emotions and firm grip on the instrument prevail with no overdubs or enhancements to poison the waters. Some of the songs featured were not the usual tunes expected and that was a strange curiosity in itself to be able to hear them live. You may be familiar however with “Excerpts from Octopus” fashioned as a redirected abridged version of the original. These boys were in their true element here and though it’s an unusual circumstance, the result is Gentle Giant as a roaring lion (gently…of course).

Mannheim Steamroller Live at The Collins Center for the Arts

steamroller   The institution known as Mannheim Steamroller is a legacy of musical achievements. Through the years they have recorded countless albums, performed an inconceivable amount of concerts, and in their multi-decade realm of ever flowing notes they have recreated our traditional songs of Christmas cheer with perpetual flair, and have even conceived a catalog of new ones. Last nights flawless performance without spot nor blemish pleased us all with the warmest and most sincere collection of songs representing the Christmas season. Each member is sharply talented with their instrument of choice, and delve into another world with others. That was the first time I had ever seen it snow indoors as visual effects surrounded their tunes on a huge screen enhancing the experience . A splendid evening of valor and talent adorned the beautiful Collins Center for the Arts with such a well received response from an appreciative audience. Their much celebrated anniversary marks a passage of time duplicated by none, and has introduced a remarkably original idea and watched it flourish beyond what was most likely expected. A wonderful prelude to our Christmas cheer.

Rossini’s Il Barbiere Di Siviglia at the Collins Center for the Arts from The Met

barber    Welcome to a two hundred year old story whose parameters haven’t changed at all  in the course of human existence. All’s fair in love in war holds fast and true in all historical accounts and remains in perpetual motion in opera. What a magical performance given to us by The Met and presented to us through the Collins Center for the Arts on a massive screen as large as the personalities that appear on them. In this little tale of the overwhelming matters of the heart, our dear Count Almaviva has been desperately bitten by the charms of the lovely Rosina and will apparently do whatever is necessary to win her affections and pry her away from her impossibly overprotective (and coveting) guardian Bartolo (who has emotional intentions of his own toward this lovely woman). The conversion of thought as to what the best course of action would be is implemented by employing our quite confident and dripping with self admiration, Don Basilio as an accomplice in crime with his unending madcap antics. However, the inversion of plans causes quite the kerfuffle in the lives of all involved. Thus…the opera. The diversion(s) are without shame, conscience, but with cause for alarm when it appears that they seem to dwindle in merit. Alas, deception holds a dear and true place within the parameters of the opera with a healthy dose of manipulation and adoration for the chase. As in a comedic opera, things do find way of working themselves out and after bribes of gold, being trapped without a ladder (or a backup plan), and the plan in its entirety may foil, this floating asylum of a household places the right people within their proper arms as only love can prevail (with the help of one good old barber and his zest for good and gold). A wonderfully well-rounded hailstorm of emotional entanglements unleashed in a not so simple story with a happy ending. Support opera at the Collins Center for the Arts, for the only truest tragedy would be if it were gone.

John Cleese/So Anyway (how to endure life as a python without getting constricted)

cleese    The eclectic manner in which this individual has portrayed himself through our time is one of sheer madness without the loss of mental capacity. The exterior delves beyond the realm of lunacy, whilst the inner humanity remains open, wounded, and honest. That is one small side of John Cleese. As wild as the antics have been whether they be the days of “Monty Python’s Flying  Circus”, “A Fish Called Wanda”, or appearances in a James Bond film as a genius scientist with quite the wit (or at least half of it), he has broken through the seal of relaxed entertainment and propelled his maddening talent as an innovator of comedic instability. By that I mean it is ever evident that his life has spilled onto the canvas that paints us a picture of his talent. His profuse over the top outbursts in the Python days releases a somewhat anxiety that he has been able to use for good, even though many times his heart may have been troubled in his real life. The very transparent words upon these pages translates his feelings into his work. He is quite the honest man in his writing, never really needing to read between the lines (which is extremely refreshing in this day in age). The admiration he had for his mother is a wonderful conceptual perpetual work in progress even though she had been doused within her eccentricities and fears which affected the family. His father , a loving and most patient man noticed what John was enduring alongside his own battle. On a lighter side, the shenanigans never do end, giving life to old bits as well as new ones. The unforgettable “Parrot Sketch”, and the seriously absurd maniacal goings on at “Fawlty Towers” have embraced a new form of insanity ala Cleese. An exhilarating window into the life of a gangly shy young man who soared upon sheep wings and onto a world unleashing a comedic view that does not border on lunacy but defines it…so anyway…