Monday, April 25, 2011

Ivan’s War: Life & Death in the Red Army, 1939-45

Thousands of books have been written about World War II. I should know – a bunch of them reside in by bookshelves, much to Carol’s annoyance. But there haven’t been that many that have been written about life in the Soviet Red Army. What was it like for the Soviet soldier? We have been treated to what it was like for GI Joe, the British Tommies, or even the German Fritz. But what about the Soviet Ivan? Catherine Merridale writes an excellent piece of scholarship of the Soviet soldier, who it can be safely said had to endure much more than soldiers from other nations that fought in the Second World War.

Thirty million Ivans served in the Red Army during World War II. Eight million of these Ivans were killed, far more than American GIs or British Tommies. British historian Catherine Merridale applied to teach some history in Russian schools. She asked her students what it was they wanted to learn. She said that without hesitation, they all said they wanted to learn about the Second World War. During Soviet times there was the “official” version of The Great Patriotic War. At the center of the official version was the Soviet Hero myth. You can find it carved into stone on many a Soviet wartime memorial. It is described in countless wartime songs, in paintings and in epic poetry. The Soviet hero was an ideal everyman. He is simple, healthy, strong and kind, far-sighted, selfless, and unafraid of death. There was no hint of panic, failure, soldiers’ fear, self-mutilation, cowardice, or rape. Soviet accounts mention little of trauma, battle stress, or even depression. So rigid was the adherence to the official Soviet history of the Great Patriotic War that it was not a topic for scholarly research.

It is not surprising to me that tales of individual heroism in the Soviet Red Army are few and far between. Soviet society, and the dictatorship of the proletariat that ruled it, placed more emphasis on the success on the collective rather than the heroic exploits of the individual. If heroism was depicted, it was only in the guise of “this is what OUR state produced.” Genuine stories of death and struggle had been turned into patriotic myth. But in the 20 years since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, people are free to ask new questions. University students of today were not alive are too young to remember the state parades commemorating the victory over Germany. They haven’t had the myths of the Great Patriotic War continually crammed down their throats like their Soviet contemporaries. They’re free to ask new questions, and they’re asking them now.

By the time the war started for the Soviet Union in 1941, the generation that fought the Great Patriotic War had endured violence on an unimaginable scale. There was World War I between 1914-18. A three-year civil war that immediately followed the war brought shortages of everything from heating oil to bread and blankets, epidemic disease, and a new thing Lenin called “class war.” Famine followed in 1921, then Stalin, then an even more cruel famine that claimed seven million victims. Soviet society tore itself apart with many five-year plans for economic growth, peasants uprooted from lands and herded into collective farms. These folks endured a lot. Because of these events that preceded the Second World War, these are but some of the many things that contributed to the citizens’ antipathy toward the Soviet regime when the bombs started dropping on June 22, 1941.

For the first two summers of the war, the Wermacht looked invincible. Their tanks and horses raced eastward over sun-baked ground, encircling entire Soviet divisions at a time while instilling panic in the rest. There was a complete lack of preparedness on behave of the Red Army. To what does Catherine Merridale attribute this lack of preparation? Politics, and the emphasis on it above all else, including the training of an army top do what it was meant to do. In a look at a typical training schedule, Merridale uncovers one of many hours of lecture on politics, followed by working in the fields in order to feed the troops. If there was time left over, recruits trained with wooden rifles and cardboard tanks. Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukachevsky had a plan. His plan was a defense in depth of the Soviet Union. Stalin got rid of Tukachevsky and many who thought like him during the purges in 1937. Tukachevsky’s defense doctrine was replaced with one emphasizing the offensive. This emphasis on the offensive had the effect of feeding Soviet troops into a German meat grinder. In Stalin’s mind, the giving up even an inch of ground to be able to construct a decent defensive position was treasonous. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops would be captured, sometimes within hours. For instance, in the fight for Kiev, the Soviets lost 750,000 men killed, wounded, or captured. Two and a half million soldiers were captured by the Germans in the first five months of the war. The Germans captured so many prisoners they didn’t know what to do with them. By the end of the war, the Soviet Red Army was destroyed and completely rebuilt three times. We Americans have no concept of how such a thing could happen.

When war started for the Soviet Union in 1941, Soviet troops were poorly trained, poorly armed, and poorly fed. If one has ever seen the movie “The Enemy at the Gates” [about the Battle of Stalingrad], the scene where troops are being forced into battle without rifles is an accurate one. These men were told there was an arms shortage, and if they wanted a weapon, they would have to get one from a dead comrade who fell before them. The Soviet regime imagined how the general population would react to stories of official incompetence, of total disregard for human life, and for not giving their sons [and a lot of times their daughters too] the means to fight their invaders. They were hungry, subsisting on a diet of soup, kasha, bread and tea. Rampant pilfering of army warehouses and supply trucks diverted more desirable food, as well as other war material, to the black market. Soldiers, lacking spades, dug trenches with their helmets, the same helmets in which they boiled potatoes. It’s no wonder that they wanted to keep such stories from the public. Imagine if such things happened in this country – imagine the outrage that would take hold in a free society. It was in the Soviet regime’s best interests to keep such things secret and to build up the Stalin personality cult, with Stalin as the sole architect of victory in the Great Patriotic War.

After the collapse of Soviet communism, scholars were given access to millions of documents that the Soviets had kept classified. In these records the author found bundles of soldiers’ letters the reports of the military and secret police, the army’s own notes about troop morale. Soldiers had been forbidden to keep diaries, but many did anyway. The author traveled to battle sites, to Kursk, to Sevastopol, Kerch, Kiev, Smolensk and in each place, she tried to find out who had fought, what they did, what the local people saw. She interviewed over two hundred veterans. She was able to look at archives that until then were kept secret from the public. She looked at the forbidden diaries and field reports. Theses soldiers came to understand what happened to their loved ones at the hands of the Germans in occupied territory. Until 1944, most of the Great Patriotic War was fought on Soviet soil. She describes an army fueled by rage and vodka, whipped into a frenzy by its political officers. In practice, this meant rape, pillage and plunder on a scale that has yet to be recognized. The Red Army, Ms. Merridale writes, embarked "on an orgy of war crimes." Yet in none of the interviewers, none of the Soviet veterans cop to taking part in any such activity.

At war’s end, Ivan didn’t reap any of the benefits like a GI Bill, no postwar prosperity. To relive such memories [besides the ones the state created for them], the shock and distress they witnessed in combat, were too painful for them.. Their wartime experiences manifested themselves in the postwar period in the forms of heart disease, hypertension, and gastric disorders. Ms. Merridale describes this as part of the hidden story of the Great Patriotic War. They came home to a country that needed rebuilding. They also came home to a county still controlled by a paranoid madman who imagined there were enemies everywhere. As Merridale writes, “the motherland was never conquered, but it enslaved itself.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge

My friend Susan has been posting links on her FB page daily called the “30 Day Song Challenge.” The problem is she does it one day at a time. I have no patience and then thought “why not blog it?” It’s not like a whole lot of people read this thing anyway, but I want to go through the exercise all in one slug. So here is my list. If I do this another day, it might change, so you might say it’s like Colorado weather – if you don’t like it, wait ten minutes – it’ll change.

Day 01 - your favorite song – Help! by The Beatles. That hasn't changed since 1965. One of the first songs I remember - I got it from my Beatlemaniac sister. Help!

Day 02 - your least favorite song – this might be the toughest question of all of these because I loathe and despise so many songs, especially if they’re rap.

Day 03 - a song that makes you happy - I just happen to have two such songs. I often play them back-to-back. They’re both from the Allman Brothers Band. The first is Blue Sky; the second is Jessica. Both songs together make for one long happy vibe. Blue Sky Jessica

Day 04 - a song that makes you sad – John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy). What makes me sad about this song is that whenever I hear it, I can’t help but think of a man who had all the hopes of seeing his young son grow up, only to have it all taken away in one tragic instant. Another song that evokes feelings of sadness is King Crimson’s Epitaph. It has that Mellotron sound that Pete Townshend once described as “a siren wailing in a canyon.” Ian McDonald’s woodwind work, Greg Lake’s impeccable singing, Robert Fripp’s acoustic accompaniment all makes for compelling listening. Beautiful Boy [Darling Boy] Epitaph

Day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone – Warren Zevon's Keep Me In Your Heart reminds me of my late brother-in-law, Roger Warr. This song kept playing through my head while I attended his funeral. It reminds me of my nieces, Mikayla and Auburn Warr, Roger's daughters, whom I know keep their dad in their hearts. Keep Me In Your Heart

Day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhereIt Doesn’t Matter by Stephen Stills & Manassas. This song reminds me of Fort Collins, Colorado. While Carol and I were still dating, she had to move back home to Fort Collins. I got to see her one weekend every month. On one of those trips to see her I was introduced to Finest Records, a great record store that sadly is no longer with us. I found a copy of a Stephen Stills “greatest hits” album, and this song was on it. When I got it back to Carol’s apartment I heard this song for the very first time. Every time I’ve heard it since I think of those great weekends in Fort Collins with Carol. It Doesn't Matter

Day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain eventWelcome to the Machine by Pink Floyd. While we were at the hospital awaiting the birth of my first son Greg, the Langley AFB hospital allowed us to bring a boom box into the delivery room. Carol had two requests – Pink Floyd and the Allman Brothers. As fate would have it, during the last push Pink Floyd was on the box. At the very instant Greg was completely out, we heard the words “welcome my son, welcome to the machine.” Welcome to the Machine

Day 08 - a song that you know all the words toLA Woman by The Doors. Jim Morrison said more about the City of the Angels in one eight-minute song than Don Henley could on the entirety of the Hotel California album. I and a bunch of other drunks sang the whole damn thing to Carol in a bar in Pueblo called “The Rose.” She was highly amused. LA Woman

Day 09 - a song that you can dance to – this one is tough since I’m a white guy with no rhythm and can’t dance to save my life. I'm like the Elaine Benis "full body dry heave." But in going back to my college days, I knew a guy named Pete Scalia who would go crazy whenever he heard Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, so I’ll go with that one. Footloose

Day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep – Carol and I used to sing our boys to sleep. It didn’t matter what the song was because we were so bad they would fall asleep in self-defense. I don’t usually listen to music to make me fall asleep, but when I did, the song that usually did the trick was New Horizons from the Moody Blues’ Seventh Sojourn album. Not because it’s a boring song, but because it was very relaxing. Lost in a Lost World and For My Lady, both also from Seventh Sojourn, had the same effect. Great music. New Horizons Lost in a Lost World For My Lady

Day 11 - a song from your favorite bandNobody Knows from An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band – First Set. The studio version is from Shades of Two Worlds. I like this one better. It’s about six minutes longer, with Dickey Betts playing probably the best and longest solo I’ve ever heard him play. This one would not be out of place on At Fillmore East.

Day 12 - a song from a band you hateUnskinny Bop from Poison. Tell me again why these posers ever got a recording contract. Quiet Riot’s cover of Slade’s Cum On Feel the Noize is also especially loathsome. I saw those guys open for the Scorpions in 1983. I couldn’t stand them then, and I can’t stand them now. Unskinny Bop Cum on Feel the Noize

Day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasureAbacab from Genesis. I Missed Again by Phil Collins also fits this category. Hell, almost anything from Phil Collins’ first three solo albums [Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going, and No Jacket Required] fits this description, but definitely NOT Sussudio!!! Abacab I Missed Again

Day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love – The Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Nice. This is the lead-off track from Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson’s love letter to his girlfriend about getting married. Brian always sounded great when he sang lead. Wouldn't It Be Nice

Day 15 - a song that describes youI Am the Walrus from the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. A strange song for a strange guy – yup, the Walrus was me. I Am the Walrus

Day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate – Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Radio ruined this song, and when EC plays it live he plays it too slow. I can honestly say I can go the rest of my life without hearing it again. Layla is the same way. Way, way, WAY too overplayed. Wonderful Tonight

Day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio – I don’t usually listen to the radio because formats are so restricted these days. Disc jockeys are not allowed to play anything they want anymore, so I don’t listen. But when I did, a song I heard on the radio often was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama.

Day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio – given the sad state of radio today, this would be a very long list. But if I have to pick one, I’ll pick John Entwistle’s I Wonder from Whistle Rhymes, his second solo album. It’s so obscure that if I heard it on the radio I’d probably drive the car into a ditch or something. “I’m so glad that sharks can’t fly…” I Wonder

Day 19 - a song from your favorite albumI Want You [She’s So Heavy] from the Beatles’ Abbey Road. I Want You [She's So Heavy]

Day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angryNot Now John from Pink Floyd. The first line of the song pretty much says it all – “Fuck all that we’ve gotta get on with these!” Not Now John

Day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy – Deep Purple’s Highway Star, the Made In Japan version. Highway Star [from 15 Aug 72 - the 16 Aug 72 version was blocked]

Day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad – Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass. At a time in my life a long time ago, two stanzas from this song pretty much summed up my mood – My life’s a mess I wait for you to pass/ I stand here at the bar I hold an empty glass… and Don’t worry, smile and dance, you just can’t work life out/Don’t let down moods entranse you – take the wine and shout! Empty Glass [cover version that's pretty good]

Day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding – Since I got married at a courthouse we couldn't really play any music. Had I done the traditional wedding thing, I would have chosen A Whiter Shade of Pale from Procol Harum. That's our song to this day. A Whiter Shade of Pale

Day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral – I won’t be actually playing anything at my funeral myself because I’ll be dead. I'm not even planning on having a funeral. Just burn me and scatter me somewhere. But if someone actually wants to have a funeral and play something for me, see Day 5 above.

Day 25 - a song that makes you laugh – AC/DC’s Big Balls. This song is Bon Scott at his most witty. If you’re not expecting it, this song will have you in stitches. Big Balls

Day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument – Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. I learned it mostly on a six-string guitar, but when I got a twelve-string THAT was the secret. Duane Allman’s Little Martha also fits this category. Be sure to tune your guitar to open E – otherwise you’ll become an alcoholic trying to learn it. Wish You Were Here Little Martha

Day 27 - a song that you wish you could playA Fool for Your Stockings from ZZ Top’s Degüello. This is ZZ Top at their most bluesy. I’d be happy if I could play anything Billy Gibbons recorded [and sound like him, too]. A Fool for Your Stockings

Day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty – I don’t have one of those, so I’ll choose George Harrison’s Not Guilty. It was a song that was recorded for the White Album but didn’t make it. George revived it and cut it for his eponymous album that came out in 1979. Not Guilty

Day 29 - a song from your childhood – a really crappy song called The Night Chicago Died. It’s a really obnoxious song from a band called Paperlace. There is a level of Hell reserved just for them… The Night Chicago Died

Day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year – Bob Dylan’s High Water [For Charley Patton] from “Love and Theft”. High Water [For Charley Patton]

There you have it. Thank you Susan for inspiring me to write this. I’m always looking for good musical blog material.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Frank Zappa - Classical Style

Frank Zappa began writing classical music when he was still in high school. A big fan of avant-garde composer Edgard Verese and classical composer Igor Stravinsky, he wrote classical music before he turned his eye toward rock and roll. You’ll find bits and pieces of classical music on some albums [Lumpy Gravy, Uncle Meat], and full-blown orchestral pieces on others [Orchestral Favorites, London Symphony Orchestra Vols 1 & 2]. On Boulez Conducts Zappa – The Perfect Stranger, some of FZ’s rock compositions were adapted by Pierre Boulez to a classical setting. Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern albuums The Yellow Shark and Greggry Peccary and Other Persuasions are classical interpretations of old Zappa favorites and other works he composed on the Synclavier, as well as original classical pieces FZ wrote especially for them to play. With the exception of Greggery Peccary, all of these works were done in FZ’s lifetime, with his guiding hand. Since his death in 1993, two groups of musicians have recorded some FZ works in a classical format. These are the Ensemble Ambrosius and the Omnibus Wind Ensemble. I won’t write any in-depth analysis of these works. I’m just making you aware of them.

The Ensemble Ambrosius is a Finnish chamber music group that plays modern music on baroque instruments [harpsichord, cello, oboe, recorders, mandolin, organ, lute, glockenspiel, etc]. It began as two young musicians from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland who not only shared a love for classical music, but also a love for the music of Frank Zappa. In what was originally planned as a joke, these musicians, Olli Virtoperko and Jonte Knif [joined by harpsichordist Ere Lievonen], conspired to perform Uncle Meat on two harpsichords and a baroque cello at the final concert of an early music summer course in 1995. The fourth member of the group, oboist Jasu Moisio, was present in the audience. Soon after that Jasu joined them, and what was originally intended as a one-time musical joke led to the forming of Ensemble Ambrosius. It took the musicians four years to transcribe FZ’s work, so The Zappa Album was quite a long time in the making.

Having cut their album of their interpretations of Frank Zappa’s music, they met with the approval of Gail Zappa, FZ’s widow who controls the rights to Zappa's music. When she heard Ensemble Ambrosius' rendition of Zappa for the first time, she immediately approved the whole project, making The Zappa Album one of the few recordings of Zappa performed by other artists ever released in co-operation with The Zappa Family Trust. Ms. Zappa, however, had one request. Zappa himself had always emphasized the significance of conceptual continuity in his art, which time and again returned to same themes and topics. This in mind Ms. Zappa asked if the rabbit on the cover of The Zappa Album could utter one of Zappa's keywords: Arf! [as heard on Evelyn, a Modified Dog from One Size Fits All]. They were more than happy to oblige.

The tracklist: Night School/Sofa/Black Page #2/Uncle Meat/Igor's Boogie/Zoot Allures/Big Swifty/T'mershi Duween/Alien Orifice/The Idiot Bastard Son/RDNZL/The Orange County Lumber Truck/Echidna's Arf (Of You)/Inca Roads/G-Spot Tornado

The Omnibus Wind Ensemble is a 12-piece Swedish group founded in 1981 and dedicated to their own arrangements of works and commissioned works, as well as collaborations with a variety of other performers. What is it with Scandanavians and Frank Zappa? But I digress...Their instrumentation includes flutes, oboes, English horn, clarinets, saxes, and percussion. The Omnibus Wind Ensemble's interest in Frank Zappa's music dates back to the beginning of the 1980s, almost from the very beginning. Under the motto "From Mozart to Zappa", which also became the title of their first, widely acclaimed CD under the Opus 3 label, they have had many of Frank Zappa's compositions on their repertoire over the years. Omnibus Wind Ensemble is a unique group because of its very wide repertoire and virtuoso playing, but also because of its deep interest in the very controversial composer Frank Zappa. Twelve men strong, and with the rather unusual combination of bassoons and double bass deep down, with a very colourful collection of individual musicians, many of them playing several instruments, this group has really created a style and sound of its own. The Omnibus CD Music By Frank Zappa is a grand tour of his music - from the beautiful Peaches En Regalia, the highly complex Revised Music For A Low Budget Orchestra, the outstandingly humorous Brown Shoes Don't Make It to the jazz-bluesy introduction of Inca Roads. Some of the selections here can be found on the Ensemble Ambrosius collection, but the differences between the versions of the two groups are worth paying the price for hearing the same songs. One can never have too many versions of Inca Roads. Warning: the Omnibus Wind Ensemble collection is very hard to find. I don’t know how I lucked out and got a copy, but I’m glad I did.

The tracklist: Inca Roads, How Could I Be Such a Fool, Revised Music for a Low Budget Orchestra, Let's Make the Water Turn Black, The Black Page No. 2, No. 7, Igor's Boogie, Be-Bop Tango, Alien Orifice, Dog Breath Variations, Uncle Meat, Sinister Footwear-2nd Movement, Brown Shoes Don't Make It, Peaches En Regalia, Bolero (Maurice Ravel).

Ok, why do the Omnibus Wind Ensemble include Ravel’s Bolero here? Because they can – Frank Zappa did his own version on The Best Band You’ve Never Heard In Your Life. Since Frank Zappa is still dead, I’m not sure what kind of music the Zappa Family Trust will share with his listening public. Until there’s a proper Frank Zappa release, I’ll be content to hear interpretations of his music such as these. The Omnibus Wind Ensemble and Ensemble Ambrosious are both ESSENTIAL recordings. GET THEM if you like this sort of stuff. They are "precise" AND light and playful. They both bring a "freshness" to the music. Each group sounds like they’re having fun with Frank Zappa’s material. If I had to pick one over the other on the basis of performance and originality, I’d say go with the Ensemble Ambrosius. If an outstanding recording is what you want, the Ominbus Wind Ensemble has great sound.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jeff Beck – Emotion & Commotion

I’ve been a Jeff Back fan for a long time. I’ve got most of his albums dating back to 1975’s Blow By Blow, which is my favorite Jeff Beck album. It was his first album of music without a vocalist. Produced by Beatles producer George Martin, Blow By Blow boasts some wonderful string arrangements [courtesy of Martin], great material to work with [‘Cause We Ended as Lovers being the best of the lot] emotional playing - some of it bluesy, some of it jazzy, some of it funky, all of it great.

Some of Beck’s albums since then have been pretty good [Wired, There & Back], one was just plain awful [Flash], one was a head scratcher [Jeff], some have been exhibits of astounding technique (but not always real songs) [You Had It Coming, Who Else!, Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop], film music [Frankie’s House] and one live album [Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s]. You Had It Coming, Who Else! and Jeff were all exercises in electronica. Some of the songs were good, sometimes the dazzling displays of technique were jaw-dropping, but in places [like the hip-hop bits on Jeff] were complete crap. After Jeff I was hoping that his next album of studio material wasn’t going to be more electronica. With Emotion & Commotion, my wish was granted. Not only did he leave the electronica in his rear-view mirror [he is a big car guy, you know], he decided to work with an orchestra, which he hadn’t done since Blow By Blow. Beck says the idea of pairing his guitar with an orchestra evolved from the version of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 he recorded a few years ago. 'It turned out amazingly well, but I didn’t t want to commit to an entire album of classical music. What appealed to me instead was the idea of bringing together these seemingly contradictory sounds on different kinds of nonclassical music.'

The band who recorded Emotion & Commotion with Beck – Frank Zappa alum Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Jason Rebello (keyboards) and Tal Wilkenfeld (bass) are the best band he’s worked with in many years. Emotion & Commotion starts with a very moving reading of Jeff Buckley’s Corpus Christie Carol. As ethereal as Corpus Christie Carol is, I was unprepared for the blitzkrieg of Hammerhead. Finally, a Jeff Beck original [there aren’t very many] that has a recognizable melody and crushes your skull at the same time. Once the fire-breathing guitar work of Hammerhead dies down, Never Alone goes the subtle route. Beck’s guitar grabs your attention without demanding it. With that troika of songs to being the album, I wondered what else Jeff Beck had up his sleeve.

There are two things wrong with Emotion & Commotion, and they are the songs that feature British soul singer Joss Stone [I Put a Spell On You, There’s No Other Me]. I’ve never been a fan of hers, and her presence on this album hasn’t done anything to change my opinion. This is what the “skip” button on the iPod button was invented for. Irish songstress Imelda May puts in an appearance on Lilac Wine. I don’t normally want to hear Jeff Beck with a vocalist, but with Imelda May I make an exception. She was first brought to my attention when she and Jeff Beck did a Les Paul/Mary Ford tribute at the Grammies with a fantastic rendition of How High the Moon. I thought they made a great combination and hoped they would work together again [wish granted!]. Their combo works here again. Beck’s decision to record a version of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma was another stroke of genius. Emotion & Commotion ends with a wonderful of reading of Elegy For Dunkirk from the movie Atonement. Beck teams with opera singer Olivia Safe for the finale. This pairing is a magical stroke. Sometimes one cannot tell where Olivia Safe voice ends and where Jeff Beck’s voice (his guitar) begins. This song is what the “repeat” button was invented for.

Emotion & Commotion is his best since Blow By Blow [and it’s got a cool cover, too]. Once he gets the tribute to Les Paul out of his system, I hope he makes one more record (and only one more so he doesn’t get stale) similar to this one. Who knows – we might get to hear that version of Mahler s Symphony No. 5. [Please?]