Thursday, April 30, 2009

Come fight my brute!

This post is a bit off topic.

There is a new online flash game that is taking the internet by storm. It's only a few weeks old but it's already so popular its servers have a hard time keeping up with the traffic. Some things that have helped to make it so popular:
You don't have to give out ANY information to join.
It's FREE.
It's a simple little time waster that takes no skill to play.

It's called MyBrute and the gameplay is simple. You create a little warrior or "brute" who has a set amount of fights per day. You have no control over the fights- you just watch them. Every time you intitiate a fight you get points. Get enough points and you level up. Every time you level up you either get more life points, special abilities or weapons.

Another way to get points is to have pupils who gain levels. So, I need pupils. Please join and become my pupil! Just click on this link:


Create your Brute by choosing a body type and colors, type in a name and click on VALIDATE. You will then fight my brute. I will beat you. Don't worry- that's part of your master initiating you. You will then go to your cell where you can go to the Arena and fight 6 more fights on your first day. The fights take around 30 seconds, so it's no great committment. Make sure to click on the link to add a password to your brute so that nobody else can play your turns. After the first day you get 3 fights per day. The servers are often overloaded and you will often get a screen that says "BRUTAL ERROR" - just refresh the page and you'll be fine.

Silly and pointless, but also fun & addictive. So please- go join MyBrute, be my pupil and play your turns every day! Or at least often. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Mad Maggies

Certainly one of the greatest joys I have running NeverEndingWonder Radio is discovering new music by new artists that simply delights and amazes me to the point it becomes part of my life - music that I consider all time favorites, that I can visit any time when I want to feel that sense of belonging, that sense of being at home, of being centered. These new musical masters join the world of musical icons that I grew up enjoying- Donovan, Melanie, Spike Jones, Perrey & Kingsley, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa and so many more. New delights I've discovered via submissions to NeverEndingWonder Radio include The Mod-Est Lads, Shari Elf, Troy Lukkarila, Lucid Dementia, the prime time sublime Community Orchestra, Coyote Poets of the Universe, Veronique Chevalier and many others. They speak to me on a personal level. Their music reaches inside me and opens a smile in my heart.

I've recently made another such discovery- The Mad Maggies. Their music could best be described, I guess, as "alt cabaret" though, really, they defy categorization. The Mad Maggies utilize instrumentation that by any means should be considered out of fashion, or at the very least "quaint" - trombone, cornet, tuba, clarinet, and of course accordion. What they manage to do instead is fashion a sound that is timeless. You might find them at a dockside bar in some elder time singing a lonely sea shanty, or you might find them at some Oktoberfest accompanying drunken revelers. You might find them in a coffee house in the 60s singing a beautiful folk tune. You might find them in your town next week setting the crowd on fire with a instrumental that is nothing short of thoroughly contemporary.

A track from their first release, "Crazed and Enthused" (a title which pretty damn well describes the band itself), "Luna Marie," does an excellent job of outlining their musical territory. With the tuba oomphing away in the background, songwriter, accordionist & vocalist Maggie Martin sings the lyric that sends you on a journey into a timeless era, in some far away star-crossed land:

"With moons in her finger and moons in her toes
A faraway look in her starry eyes
Luna Marie was the belle of the ball
In a town with a lonesome past
Her nights were spent in the old dance hall
Stepping to tunes from a bygone time
Her heart was heavy yet it skipped a beat
When she saw the stranger come in...
Oh Luuuna, Luuuuna we're spinning around in a cold dark sky
And loving makes that seem okay"

Such deftly crafted lyrics evoke images, time, place and emotional context like a great poet, and Martin knows just how to deliver those lyrics with her voice that tugs at our hearts. It's a beautiful thing.

And then, a few minutes later she's singing a song about love with short people that features a sax riff by J.X. Jones that's right out of some 1950s roadhouse. The Mad Maggies refuse to be type cast. They seem to delight in turning musical styles on their end. "Heaven on Earth" presents a syncopated, almost Calypso beat. "Furey's Polka (The Furious)" puts you back there at that Oktoberfest and dares you to remain stationary. "Hearts Ride a Big Wheel," with its driving electric guitar from Gary Wium and wailing sax show us that The Mad Maggies can hold their own and rock out when they want to. "Sleepy Maggie" even puts drummer Billy Dee Boom up front. There are no slackers in this band! Every member is accomplished and passionate.

Their second album, 2007's "Magdalena's Revenge" opens with an instrumental that reminds you just who you're listening to. There are a number of these somewhat somber instrumentals that reveal to us various influences- Balkan, Celtic, Klezmer, Cajun. Even within a particular style The Mad Maggies can't help but being eclectic. In fact, of the eight tunes offered on this album, only three have lyrics. Of the three, "Are Ye Sleepin' Maggie?" is the standout. It's a terrifying tale of magic and mayhem told in the mode of a sea shanty:

"Fearfu' soughs the boontree bank
The rifted wood roars wild and dreary
Loud the iron yett does clank
The cry of hoolits makes me eerie
Oh are ye sleepin; Maggie?
Oh are ye sleepin' Maggie?
Let me in for loud the linn
Is howling o'er the Warlock Craggie"

Based on an old song from the 1700s, The Mad Maggies know exactly how to deliver it.

Their third album, "Skull and Magpie," released this year is their most accomplished and eclectic. One song in particular, "Fair Winds," has grabbed my attention. A wistful love ballad penned by bandleader Maggie Martin, and sung with such sweetness and longing it brings me to tears:

"As the hours pass on a shadowy night
her thoughts drift towards the ocean
where moonlight draws a silvery sword
across her lonely heart
He sailed away one wintery morn
to work along the southern coast
They’d sworn their love with a fiery kiss
And the promises all lovers make
I will return
I will come back to you
I will return to hold you
in my arms
May a fair wind blow
to speed your way
and bring you back, back to me
safely, back to me"

Sung to the simple accompaniment of guitar, accordion and drums, with perfectly timed accents from the rest of the band, the song is a masterpiece, touching, effective, hopeful. It almost brings hope back to my heart. But Mags doesn't rest with one magnum opus, she gives us more. "High Seas Lament," sung in the same hopeful, wistful voice, and accompanied by the same simple instrumentation, catches my imagination just as strongly:

"If I could live my life at sea
I'd spend my days in mutiny
Rising up when'ere I please
No land or Lord could hinder me
As I made my way across the sea
Free from tyranny and toil"

Who could not be touched by such sentiments? It cries to our inner pirate. And Mags' impeccable phrasing betrays a talent of the highest degree. "Navigate," another wonderful song from this release carries a more contemporary sound, and a jazzier style, yet features the same hopeful message of the joy to be found in the journey of life. "The Folly of Fame," with its wordless vocals conjures the image of a mad cabaret band on the road, searching for the next gypsy camp.

I would be doing a great disservice to the band if I didn't mention every member. Everyone contributes equally to this magic sound- Michael Ashby on bass, Johny Blood on Tuba, Lawrence Jarach on trombone, Rhian Robinson on whistle and clarinet, Adrian Gormley on sax, Billy Dee Boom on drums, Gary Wium on guitars, and leading the whole ragtag crew into musical adventures unknown, Mad Mags Martin singer, songwriter and accordion player. Together since 2004, there have been some changes to the personnel, but the band remains the same entity. The eclecticism of the music helps here. The vision and spirit of adventure get stronger with each release. If this band ever heads north from their Bay Area home base I'll quit my job to go see them.

Do yourselves a favor and go check them out:
The Mad Maggies

And tune into NeverEndingWonder Radio to hear them.

NeverEndingWonder Radio
Or- on iTunes, in the radio section, look for NeverEndingWonder Radio in the Eclectic category.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Independent Artist Links

For YEARS I've been working on updating the links to Independent Artists I play on NeverEndingWonder Radio. Well, for a long time I worked really hard on it, then for a long time I just kinda pushed the project aside because it's so massive an undertaking. I finally just decided to put the pages up a they were- something is better than nothing. It's very out of date- there are hundreds of artists not listed yet. Some of the links are probably outdated by now. The interface sucks- it's minimal and disorganized. Very little info is included. Meh. As I said- it's better than nothing. I'll continue to work on adding all the artists not yet included and then I'll work on making it more user friendly. Finally I'll work on adding more meat to the bones.

To all you amazing artists who have donated CDs to NeverEndingWonder Radio over the years- my apologies on my sloth. Anyway- here's the new link to independent artists we play on NeverEndingWonder Radio:

Independent Artists

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Krautrock and King Cole

There's so much that has been added to NeverEndingWonder Radio in the past few weeks I hardly know where to begin. I'll try and touch on some of the highlights.

I've added two great box sets by the two greatest Krautrock bands- Can & Faust.

Can - Anthology
This 25 track anthology includes selections from their entire discography and is a great representation of the different phases and permutations of the proto-movement that became known as Krautrock- an experimental, progressive approach to rock music practiced by several groups of individuals in Germany, starting in the late 60s. The movement featured a high degree of improvisation as well as experimental techniques.

Faust - The Wumme Years 1970 - 1973
Faust are probably the crowning example of the Krautrock approach. Some musicians who had been informally jamming together were contacted by journalist Uwe Nettelbeck, who had secured a contract from Polydor Records to produce some kind of rock album. The musicians - Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, Hans Joachim Irmler, Arnulf Meifert, Jean-Hervé Péron, Rudolf Sosna and Gunter Wüsthoff- sensing a great adventure, demanded a recording studio and an unlimited amount of time to produce whatever they wanted. Amazingly, the label agreed. The band was given an old school building which was turned into a recording studio/living space. They moved in, started doing drugs, hanging out, and occasionally playing music. Fortuitously, they were also provided an engineer, Kurt Graupner, who managed to get the insanity onto tape. Graupner was one of the best recording engineers in Germany at the time, and created many new recording techniques and devices in an attempt to capture what the musicians were doing. The three years Faust spent recording at Wumme netted two albums and a wealth of material, some of which was used for later albums. The Wumme Years contains 59 tracks ranging in length from 25 seconds to 22 minutes. It includes the entirety of the first two albums and much unreleased material, many pieces being experiments. The experiments themselves are quite intriguing- they might not really go anywhere, but they show a creative band of musicians searching for unique material.

Nat King Cole
Another incredible box set- this gives us 100 tracks by one of the greatest vocalists of all times. Ranging from his earliest jazz recordings in the 40s (including his often overlooked piano virtuosity) to his popular work in the 50s and 60s. There's even an unreleased gem- a seven minute opus titled Mr. Cole Don't Rock N Roll. Cole is one of the most popular vocalists of all time, second in hit records only to Frank Sinatra. His smooth delivery is distinctive. During his career he conquered every medium- live performance, recordings, radio, television and films. His recording of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" is arguably THE quintessential Christmas recording. He wrote many of his songs, including the familiar "Straighten Up and Fly Right."

That's all for now. I'll write more as soon as I get a chance.

You can hear all this music, and much more on:

NeverEndingWonder Radio
Tune in via the above link or in iTunes, look in the radio section under "Eclectic."