Saturday, April 30, 2011

Linda Ronstadt, Back in the Day

I can't say that I've ever been a big fan of Linda Ronstadt, but the woman sure had (and probably still has) a powerful voice. Contrary to popular belief, a voice alone doesn't translate into knowing how to sing. Praising a singer because of his/her voice is like saying a writer has a nice pen. It's how the singer uses that voice that makes the difference. The average contestant on American Idol doesn't have a clue. They whine and warble without taste or discipline, stretching out syllables because they believe this technique enhances the drama in a performance. It does no such thing.

Ronstadt knew how to use her voice and achieved dramatic results honestly, by finding the emotion in the lyrics and acting them out under the direction of the melody. Her greatest performances, to my ears, anyway, can be found on her 1976 album, Hasten Down the Wind, the follow-up to 1975's Heart Like a Wheel which brought her a top 10 hit with "You're No Good," and made her a star after a decade or so of performing. Although Hasten Down the Wind was a major hit, its first two singles failed to reach the top 40. I remember hearing "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me" many times during the bone-chilling Cleveland winter of 1977, and yet it only climbled to number 42 on Billboard's national chart. "Lose Again" did even worse, gasping its last at number 76. Both songs were written by Karla Bonoff, and are classic torch ballads that gave Ronstadt great opportunities to show her stuff. A live performance of the latter from a 1976 concert in London is available on You Tube. It's well worth hearing and also a pleasure to watch. Ronstadt was quite the babe back in the day (to use a phrase that really should be retired, and soon).

© 2011 Brian W. Fairbanks


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Born with the gift of a golden voice

Unlike Bob Dylan, his only rival as the greatest songwriter/poet to emerge in the 1960s, Leonard Cohen is an affable sort, prefacing his songs with remarks to the audience whom he calls "friends." While glum Bob acts like he's making a sacrifice by appearing before his fans, Cohen thanks them for "keeping my songs alive" and says, "We're honored to play for you tonight." He jokes with them in his witty, self-deprecating way. In Leonard Cohen Live in London, taped at the O2 Arena on July 17, 2008, he recalls that he was 60 when he last played London, "just a kid with a crazy dream."

And the crowd loves him, cheering enthusiastically, and roaring their approval when, in his raspy baritone, he sings those lines from 1988's "Tower of Song":

"I was born like this, I have no choice,
I was born with the gift of a golden voice."

Cohen's voice IS golden, and the songs are magnificent. He performs 24 of them in this concert, all but one from his selective pen. Most of his signature works are here - "Suzanne," "Everybody Knows," "Take This Waltz," "Hallelujah," "Sisters of Mercy" (but not, alas, my favorite, "Joan of Arc") - songs whose melancholy tone nonetheless have a calm, soothing effect, the perfect antidote to a world that, as Cohen observes, "is plunged in darkness and chaos." Hallelujah, indeed!

Cohen is also kind to his collaborators, introducing his band and backup singers several times, and highlighting their exceptional work even during the songs ("Dino Soldo on the saxophone," he points out midway through "Bird on the Wire," and "Javier Mas on the archilaud" before Cohen has even sung a note of "Who By Fire").

I'll always rank Cohen's October 1988 appearance on PBS's Austin City Limits above any other live performances since it was then that I was formally introduced to this incomparable artist (and when will that glorious hour be released on DVD?), but Leonard Cohen Live in London is outstanding. This is a moment in time to be cherished, now and in the future, when, to paraphrase the man himself, we ache in the places where we used to play. If possible, his voice and music will resonate even stronger then, and heal the most battered heart and soul. I love you, Leonard.

© 2011 Brian W. Fairbanks


Monday, April 4, 2011

Qaddafi and the Big Bad Federal Reserve

When did the Federal Reserve submit to an audit? Senator Ron Paul sponsored a bill calling for the Fed to open its books, but I remember hearing it was defeated. I must have been misinformed.

The seemingly indestructible private bank that dominates the American economy is a law unto itself, exactly what the Rockefellers, Morgans, and other financial parasites behind its creation envisioned when they met at Jekyll Island almost a century ago. Its existence is a violation of the Constitution which gives the power to issue currency to the U.S. Treasury. But the banksters are more powerful than our elected leaders, many of whom wouldn't have been elected had they not sold their souls to the money interests, and the Federal Reserve has acted autonomously all these years. The Fed manipulates the economy, and leads us into recession, depression, and war, while our leaders look the other way and remain silent. Those who have dared to challenge usually end up dead, including Mark Pittman, a Bloomsberg news reporter who sued the Fed into opening its books, and John F. Kennedy, who tried to defang the bank by issuing United States Notes through the Treasury in June 1963. As Craig Roberts, author of A Sniper Looks at Dealey Plaza, wrote, Kennedy's action "would end the control of the international investment bankers over the U.S. government - and the American people." Five months later, Kennedy was assassinated.

When campaigning for the republican presidential nomination against Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H. W. Bush coined the phrase "voodoo economics" when criticizing the Gipper's plan for the economy. In truth, "voodoo economics" is the brand of economics practiced by the Federal Reserve. As William Still writes in On the Horns of the Beast, “The Fed system requires that our nation be in debt, and continue expanding that debt as the economy expands . . . If we were to extinguish our debt we would extinguish our money. The average person would have no green folding stuff in his wallet and a zero balance in his checking account. This is not an exaggeration.”

In the age of New Media, the citizenry is more educated than in the past when corporate-owned newspapers, magazines, and TV networks controlled information. Books exposing the Federal Reserve and the larger conspiracy of which it is a part were available under the counter, published independently and available in specialty bookstores. Now, thanks to the internet, the truth is available through a few computer keystrokes. There is such a glut of information that even corporate puppets like Glenn Beck occasionally take on the Federal Reserve, but usually stop short of proposing that it be eliminated entirely and let the U.S. Treasury issue currency, as our Founding Fathers intended all along. Despite the internet's power, the mainstream media continues to wield tremendous influence, and they apparently never bothered to inform the public that the private central bank responsible for so much destruction was recently audited. As long as we don't know it occurred, we won't want to know the results. If we don't know the results, it's as if the audit didn't take place. Fortunately, Rolling Stone, once the voice of the counterculture but now a major and too-mainstream-for-its-own-good periodical, (and, therefore, not above suspicion) still sponsors honest reportage from time to time. In an issue due to hit newsstands in two weeks, the magazine is staying true to its motto - "All the news that fits" - by publishing a story about the results of that audit. A preview currently available on the web is shocking enough.

"Why is the Fed Bailing Out Qaddafi?" asks the headline of the report by Matt Taibbi posted April 1. "Barack Obama recently issued an executive order imposing a wave of sanctions against Libya, not only freezing Libyan assets, but barring Americans from having business dealings with Libyan banks," Taibbi reports. "So raise your hand if you knew that the United States has been extending billions of dollars in aid to Qaddafi and to the Central Bank of Libya, through a Libyan-owned subsidiary bank operating out of Bahrain. And raise your hand if you knew that just a week or so after Obama's executive order, the U.S. Treasury Department quietly issued an order exempting this and other Libyan-owned banks to continue to operate without sanction."

What would Obama say about that? Until a member of our "free press" (raucous laughter) asks him about it, he doesn't have to say anything.

Read more directly at Rolling Stone.

For a more in-depth look at what's really wrong with the world, read The Illuminati Zone by William Fevers, available through Lulu and

© 2011 Brian W. Fairbanks