Been traveling for the past month and attending to family matters. I will update via a blog post later. Some new music will be available via Bandcamp by end of July as I clean out the queue of work that has been awaiting release. I’m either going to release all I have in the queue or archive it for later as some of it doesn’t feel up to par. I’m working on a more ethereal direction that I hope will feel like a break from my previous output….we’ll see.
In any case, I thank you for your support and interest in my music. May you be blessed with every good.
To borrow a phrase from Neurot Records: Life is Hard. We need music! For the month of May, Alan’s Bandcamp catalog is available at a “name your price” option…meaning, if you want music for free, here you go. I would only ask that you spread the word.
“Is That You?” is my latest instrumental release. Its available exclusively through Bandcamp.com. You can listen via this widget or download the Bandcamp app to your phone, tablet, or computer to stream music from myself and thousands of other artist (big and small).
On January 11th, 2023, I was scrolling through Instagram and was halted by an announcement from Jeff Beck’s official account that he had passed away the day before. A loud and impulsive “holy shit!” came out of my mouth. Even though he was 78 years old, this was a complete and shocking surprise that hit me hard. It seemed that he would be around for so much longer. What follows is a brief summary of what Jeff Beck meant to me.
I came to appreciate Jeff Beck somewhat late. Of course, as a music fan and guitarist, I’ve heard of Jeff Beck all my life. He was one of the trio of world-shaping guitarists, along with Jimmy Page (my all-time favorite musician) and Eric Clapton, that played in The Yardbirds back in the 1960’s but it wasn’t until a friend turned me on to “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop” in 1989 that I became a fan.
When my buddy said “check this out!” and handed me “..Guitar Shop”, I was skeptical. I thought that this was an “old guys” attempt to cash in on the then current trend of guitar virtuosos (e.g., Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc) releasing instrumental music that showcased guitar acrobatics that wasn’t really my thing.
Upon 1st listen, I was immediately surprised by Jeff Beck’s economical playing and melodic sensibility. Of course, he had (as I termed it back then) “chops for days” but the melody’s were hummable and memorable. I also loved his tone which was due, in part, to his eschewing of a guitar pick which is rare for electric guitarists. I loved the album!
Then, in 1992, I eagerly purchased Roger Waters “Amused to Death”, being a diehard Pink Floyd fan. Upon first listen, the intro to the 1st actual song “What God Wants” caught my ear. The guitar playing was very distinct. “That sounds like Jeff Beck” I thought….and upon inspection of the liner notes, I found that it WAS Jeff Beck. I was amazed at how immediately distinctive his playing was to my ears, having really only heard one recent album of his. Now I had to go down the Jeff Beck rabbit hole.
I bought “Beckology”, a career retrospective box set that blew my mind. It touched on everything from his pre-Yardbird days through “…Guitar Shop” and provided an inspiring example of his evolution and brilliance. From there, I got his 70’s classics, “Blow by Blow” and “Wired”. With their Jazz/Fusion influence, these albums contributed to the broadening of my listening palette.
What I found most exceptional about Beck was his continued evolution. His later releases (“Who Else” – 1999, “You Had it Coming” – 2000, and “Jeff” – 2003) are my favorites of his work and are wonderful examples of an artist restlessly pushing the creative envelope. Those 3 albums had a wide mix of genre influences but the playing was distinctively his. That is such a rare achievement. There was a timeless element in his art that made him unique amongst his peers. Whereas many of his generation seemed to stop progressing stylistically decades earlier, Jeff Beck continued to explore and discover new ground.
In 2004, I saw him perform in Oakland and was absolutely floored. As stated earlier, he had chops for days. What impressed me the most was the fact he left the stage for a few minutes and turned the spotlight to Jennifer Batten, a brilliant guitarist in her own right. The fact that he felt so comfortable to turn the stage over to a contemporary guitar virtuoso spoke volumes about his confidence in himself and his willingness to surround himself with immensely talented people. If you look back on the people he’s played with over the years, its a who’s who of world class talent. Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Carmine Appice, Jan Hammer, Tal Wilkenfeld, Terry Bozzio…and the list goes on. He played with the best.
His influence on my playing has been subtle but significant. While I’ll never attempt to write and perform music in his style, it is his approach to the instrument that has influenced my own approach (for example, I gave up using a pick long ago). This perhaps makes him the most influential guitarist on my own playing (even more so than my favorite musician and Jeff Beck’s contemporary, Jimmy Page).
If I was asked who my top 5 favorite guitarist were back in 1989, 4/5ths of the list would be same as now. However, Jeff Beck in now on that list and I will miss his presence on this planet greatly.
Thank you, Mr. Jeff Beck, for a wealth of beautiful music and inspiration.
I will preface what I’m about to write by saying that I try not to view life in increments of 365 days. I do try to take one day at a time, regardless of where that day falls in a calendar.
That said, as a person living in society, its virtually impossible not to think of events as encapsulated in a units of time as society marks. So…on this last day of the year 2022, I’m reflecting on an event of this past year and how it affected me.
I had a negative experience last February that shook me deeply. I will not go into specifics but feelings of betrayal and disillusionment resulted from the experience. I became very angry and filled with self-pity. I was hurt. I became very resentful which is something I’ve spent most of my adult life working to avoid. I’ve had resentments to deal with throughout my life but I have spent time and effort to address them and felt progress was made. Then…POW….another big ole’ resentment to address.
What I have learned from dealing with resentments is to discern what I can address and what I can’t address. I can’t address events that have happened but I can address my impulsive need to obsess on those events, which take me away from the present. I can’t address how another person thinks and behaves but I can address my own mind and behavior. It isn’t easy to break obsessive and impulsive behavior which is how I’d describe the fostering of a resentment. It is very easy to be angry, stay angry, wallow in self-pity, etc. It is also inevitable that anger and self-pity will affect all areas of life, creating great discomfort. I tend to look for distraction from discomfort which isn’t healthy. It takes effort and honesty to address anger. We have to honestly assess why we are angry and go deep. I have to go beyond “So and So did this and pissed me off!”. I have to look at why “their” actions caused such agitation. I have to assess my feelings and address them, even if the anger is justifiable. Anger, in and of itself, is not an invalid emotion. However, how I respond to anger can be non-productive (at best) and destructive which is not justifiable.
One thing I do regularly that has helped greatly is to keep a journal. The journal allows me to see my feelings on paper and to look back on how I was in days past. I don’t edit myself when I write. I just get it down….bad penmanship and all. This allows me the opportunity to look back on past days with a different perspective than I may have had when I wrote the journal entry. Reading the journal entries from immediately after the aforementioned negative events, now several months removed, gives me better perspective. I can see more objectively through the raw emotion. I can more clearly see areas in which I can address in myself. I can also more easily come to acceptance of the things I can’t address or control. In a nutshell: Live and Learn.
What I have learned (or been reminded of) is that resentments cause tremendous damage and if left unaddressed, will lead to catastrophic results. I’ve also learned that I’m a long way from being beyond having resentments. But I’ve also been reminded that when addressed by way of reflection, meditation, and prayer, they can be a fruitful opportunity to learn and grow. I can’t say I’m 100% done working on this most recent resentment. But I’m in a better place now, at the end of 2022, than I was nearer the beginning of the year.
As the year wraps up, here are the recommendable books I read this past year (I’ll spare you the few that I regretted reading):
“New Seeds of Contemplation” by Thomas Merton. This could be considered one of his seminal works. I’m a big admirer of Merton and will be the 1st to admit that some of his writings can be hard to digest. Engagement is required. But I consider him a spiritual guide of sorts and strongly recommend his work to all.
“Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert. A re-read. The conclusion to the story of Paul Atreides, the main character in the start of the Dune saga. I do hope Denis Villeneuve gets to do a 3rd movie that covers “Dune Messiah”. The 1st part of “Dune” (he split the telling of the 1st novel into 2 parts) was brilliant and I look forward to the 2nd part’s release in 2023. The books are always better but he did an admirable job conveying a very dense and nuanced story on film.
“Running with the Devil” by Noel Monk. An entertaining recounting of the era of Van Halen that is nearest and dearest to my heart (i.e. 1978-1984). As I posted previously, it is likely a skewed perspective of a shared history but it is enlightening and entertaining all the same.
Quick note: I have a couple of tunes in the “can” and some new ones in the works. This will be via Bandcamp.
Also, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the +1000 people who streamed my music on Spotify in the past 3 months and shared my music with others. That is a significant uptick for me and I’m most sincerely grateful. Thank you!
As we near another “most important election in our lifetime” cycle in the U.S., I’m left wondering where we are heading as a country. So much vitriol, anger, and fear. I refuse to believe that we are as divided as a country as so many pundits and politicians make us out to be. I base this on my own personal experience.
I’m non-partisan and have lived long enough to be disappointed by both major parties and even some of the non-majors (i.e., Libertarians, Greens). I’m suspicious of people who seek power and the cults of personality that arise all too often in national politics.
To be blunt, I’m not a fan of Trump and I’m equally leery of the majority of the Republican party that is following his lead. But that does not make me a Democrat or Biden fan. And therein lies my point: I try very hard not to view things (politics or otherwise) through an either/or, dualistic lens. Life is more nuanced than that. I believe most people, deep down, think this as well. There is just so much bullshit from the halls of power and the media that fosters division and some people tend to follow the bullshit without thinking critically. But my own experience, having travelled millions of miles around the world and meeting people from all over, tells me that people have way more in common than not. And whatever differences are largely superficial.
I have some friends that are staunch Republicans and have views on politics that I don’t agree with. But they remain my friends because what bonds us is more substantial. There is love and respect that has been fostered over time. The same holds true with me and my radically liberal friends. I don’t necessarily agree with them on many matters but not so much as to disqualify them as friends because of our commonality. This may sound like I’m a “centrist” (i.e. wishy washy or luke warm). I am not. If I’m to label myself, I’m a “non-dualist”. I choose to try to look at the whole of life, not the convenient “compartments” we get placed in, I believe this is what Jesus was getting at when he suggested “love your neighbor”.