I’m a fan of Tyler Childers’ music. He’s a singer songwriter with an interesting voice and talent for producing lively melodies. And he tells stories about modern Appalachia. Stories about country people and stories about himself. One of my favorites of his songs is a murder ballad on his Purgatory album called Banded Clovis. His lyrics paint an engaging picture of the murderer at the moment when greed and desperation over comes camaraderie and decency.
Childers’ new album Country Squire is in the same cast as Purgatory. It has songs that describe the life of every day folks in Appalachia and also has more autobiographical songs about his life on the road as a musician. For me these personal songs are not as compelling because that lifestyle doesn’t resonate with how I live. But the other songs are more interesting to me. So, unsurprisingly the three songs I like best on the album are of this type; Creeker, Peace of Mind and Matthew. They’re just stories of everyday people living everyday lives. But Childers is able to generate good country songs with it. The other six songs have a number of what I called above autobiographical songs and here it’s more hit or miss. “Country Squire” and “Bus Route” are pretty good. But “Ever Lovin’ Hand” I’ll take a pass on. The musicality is fine but the story is too odd for me.
So if you’re a Tyler Childers fan you’ll like Country Squire. If you’re a country music fan give it a try but I would start with his Purgatory album first. I think it’s a better introduction to his range of songs.
So this is the companion to my review of the movie “Hell or High Water” movie. The film brings up to the present day the Texas outlaw genre. The music is a mixture of evocative movie background instrumental and then songs from various artists that speak to the theme. The artists, Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Waylon Jennings, Colter Wall, Scott H. Biram and Chris Stapleton are far from uniform in their styles or even genre. I believe Van Zandt is considered a folk music singer/songwriter but the songs fit the theme and even the instrumental pieces provided by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis fit together well and qualify as actual music and not just sound effects. I’ve listed the non-instrumental songs below. All in all, an enjoyable album of music. Recommended for when you’re feeling like an outlaw which for me lately is most of the time.
Here’s my retrospective on 2018, completely subjective of course and whenever I can’t make up my mind or I don’t want to leave something out I’ll cheat and provide more than one choice. And that’s one of the wonderful things about being the boss, you get to break the rules and do what you want.
Best Quotes of the Day
Some are political, some philosophical and some just human nature. The order is just chronological of their appearance on the site.
“In the many forms of government which have sprung up there has always been an acknowledgement of justice and proportionate equality, although mankind fail in attaining them, as indeed I have already explained. Democracy, for example, arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”
“No state will be well administered unless the middle class holds sway.”
“When there aren’t any smart decisions, I suppose you just have to pick the stupid decision you like best.”
Orson Scott Card
“No one likes the fellow who is all rogue, but we’ll forgive him almost anything if there is warmth of human sympathy underneath his rogueries. The immortal types of comedy are just such men.”
W. C. Fields
“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
Carpe diem! Seize the day! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.
“And this is the simple truth – that to live is to feel oneself lost. He who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look around for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.”
If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts.
Over the course of 2018 I read and reviewed all eight of the volumes in the main series (first volume linked above) and they only got better as the series went along. It was good old mil-sci-fi space opera. I assume I won’t live long enough to see the end of the series but so far that isn’t a problem. I look forward to the next installment soon and am in no way tired of this particular universe. Kudos to Anspach and Cole. Long may they stoke their dumpster fire at the Edge of the Galaxy!
Vega is an acquired taste for me and as I’ve written about him, “It’s for those who like gritty crime dramas with a staccato, post-modern, minimalist writing style.” Even though my tastes are a little more conventional I appreciate that there is an audience for the more unusual so I look around for interesting stuff. As I’ve said before, your call.
The two books listed below provide two different takes on the way to interpret the results of ancient DNA analysis.
“The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending
“Who We Are and How We Got Here; Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Past” by David Reich
David Reich being an academic embedded in the politically correct culture of the university system treads ever so gently around the edges of how the science of human genetic history should be interpreted. Cochran and Harpending are much more direct and sometimes possibly presumptuous in the conclusions they draw from the evidence. Both books together tell a fascinating story of how much we now know about the complex and diverse origins of the various human populations.
This is a kids’ movie but it far exceeds any of the other “superhero” movies for just plain entertainment value. I won’t say it was as original as the first installment but it mostly kept to the spirit of the original and provided a fun vehicle for parents (or grandparents) to enjoy a movie with their kids.
This is a twofer. For younger folks I’ll only recommend the new version by the Coen Brothers. For people who grew up on the John Wayne movies of old I recommend they view both movies back to back in chronological order. They each have facets to its advantage. Each differs slightly from the source material. But each is a fine movie. And I’ll also recommend the novel that is the source for the movies. It also has facets that aren’t available in either movie.
Album of the Year
Colter Wall by Colter Wall
Song of the Year
Pan Bowl by Sturgill Simpson
My music choices are very idiosyncratic so I won’t try to justify them. To paraphrase a recent annoying politician, they just reflect who I am Pan Bowl is an older song from Simpson’s 2014 album.
The only truly notable television I watched in 2018 was the State of the Union address by the president. Everything else was at best just okay.
On – Line Articles
Here are the articles that I thought were informative on our political situation. There were many others that were intersting but these seem to encapsulate the developments in the political thinking this year. Basically it’s the red-pilling of the normies.
1985 was a great year. President Ronald Reagan began his second term in office, The Portly Politico was born (not the blog, just me), and Dokken released their finest effort to date, the start-to-finish gem Under Lock and Key.
Their third studio album was also their most commercially successful up to that point, perhaps due in part to a more commercial sound. That said, Under Lock and Key isn’t just a Def Leppard sound-alike, or full of crowd-pleasing power ballads. It’s an album that rocks consistently, and even the mid-tempo material is full of fist-pumping fury.
Take the opener, “Unchain the Night.” Just like Tooth and Nail’s “Without Warning,” Under Lock and Key kicks off with a brief but effective instrumental intro (albeit part of the title track, instead of a separate tune), this time with synthesizers. I crank this part up as far as my Dodge minivan’s sound system will allow for the full, gut-punching effect—after a slow synth arpeggio drop, the guitars kick in full blast, and “Unchain the Night” truly begins.
I don’t know exactly what Dokken is trying to convey when he sings, “Never unchain the night/don’t tell me that the love is gone/never unchain the night/’Cause tomorrow’s another turn,” but it’s powerful, and a powerful earworm. I also can’t help but note the contrast with Breaking the Chain’s title track, which is all about breaking free of personal and emotional chains (a later chorus in “Unchain the Night” ends with “I’m never gonna set you free”—dang).
“The Hunter” is an equally effective second track. It’s the perfect song before heading out for a night on the town, as it’s all about being a hunter on the prowl, “Searching for love on these lonely streets again.” A common theme in rock ‘n’ roll is the pantheric nature of the wandering troubadour, never fully satisfied with his lot in life and love, constantly stalking the concrete jungles for a shot at romance—or unbridled lust. It’s not as intensely sexy as Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night,” but it gets the point across well.
The third track, “In My Dreams,” is a solid track, and was a minor hit for the band. Here the fullness of the band’s ensemble vocals is heard from the get-go. It’s a strong rocker, and one that showcases the band’s overall style and range well.
But for money, the best track on the album is “Lightnin’ Strikes Again,” a furious, intense, full-throttle rocker that never lets up. Like sitting through a raging thunderstorm, you can feel this track in your bones. It features an incredible, multi-measure drum fill that sounds like acoustical lightning, and some of Don Dokken’s finest vocal work as he leaps to seemingly impossible heights, with a call-and-response, “Lightnin’!/Lightnin’ Strikes Again!” repeats until the end.
The rest of the album is solid throughout; if anything, my failure as a reviewer is how hooked I am on “Lightnin’ Strikes Again.” When I listen to Under Lock and Key, I force myself to listen to the last five tracks, not because they suck, but because “Lightnin’ Strikes Again” is so good. “It’s Not Love” is a fun song about breaking with an obsessive girlfriend (not fun if you’ve ever experienced, but the song handles it cheekily). “Will the Sun Rise” is a brooding, beautiful, sad tune about warriors setting off in a post-nuclear war, and asks dolefully if they’ll ever see the sun or sky again.
Most reviewers recommend Under Lock and Key as a good place to start with Dokken, and I will repeat that advice unabashedly. It represents a mature version of the band, and it has something for almost any taste (as long as you’re broadly into hard rock and heavy metal from the 1980s). It remains one of my favorite albums of all time; if not in the Top Five, it’s definitely in the Top Ten. Highly recommended.
We continue our yuletide celebration of Dokken with the 1984’s Tooth and Nail. After the tepid performance of 1983’s Breaking the Chains, Dokken found themselves in debt to the tune of a cool half-a-million, and Elektra contemplated dropping the band. Don Dokken and his management convinced the label to give the group one last shot; thus, the tenacious title.
That tenacity paid off, and is heard in every riff of Tooth and Nail. If Breaking the Chains had some gems, Tooth and Nail shines like a diamond throughout. Indeed, it’s a testament to the band’s songwriting that their third album, Under Lock and Key, would improve upon Tooth and Nail’s sonic attack.
Simply put, this album rocks, while also offering up more pop-oriented tunes. Dokken opens the album with an atmospheric instrumental opener that’s just the right length. I’m a big fan of extended instrumental introductions, so long as they lead somewhere. “Without Warning” lives up to its title, as it seamlessly, suddenly transitions into the full-frontal assault of the title track, “Tooth and Nail.”
“Tooth and Nail” is the kind of opening rocker that should start every metal album. The track is fast and fun, with an excellent, memorable chorus. Don Dokken had been working with a vocal coach in Germany, and his improved range and technique are evident on “Tooth and Nail,” as he hits a stratospheric “Straight to the top!” toward the end of the song.
There are several other standout tracks, including the power ballad “Alone Again,” a song that helped boost flagging album sales. Some listeners scoff at power ballads, but I love them if they’re executed well, with solid dynamic contrast, memorable choruses, interesting bridges, etc. “Alone Again” doesn’t quite get to the level of, say, Heart’s “Alone” by these metrics, but it’s fun to sing in your car.
For my money, though, “When Heaven Comes Down” is a solid, underappreciated rocker, one that demonstrates the strength of the backing vocals. Don’t underestimate the power of good backing vocals (see also: Michael Anthony on almost every Van Halen song).
“Bullets to Spare” and “Turn on the Action,” the album’s closer, are similarly rockin’ affairs, though I’m partial to the latter. “Bullets to Spare” is the kind of cheeky tune that makes me love the macho humor of glam metal, but “Turn on the Action” sounds like the kind of tune that could have come on the heels of “Tooth and Nail” to make for the iconic double-rocker-opener that I crave.
Ultimately, Tooth and Nail helped get the band off life-support, and set the stage for the exquisite Under Lock and Key—the subject of our the third and final album in our series A Very Dokken Christmas.
To celebrate the Christmas season, I’d like to explore 80s hair metal giants Dokken’s first three albums, starting with their 1983 debut, Breaking the Chains. The story of this album is curious in itself, as there are actually two versions: one recorded in 1981, then in another with the classic Dokken line-up of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Mick Brown, and Jeff Pilson (Pilson played bass on the tour, but not on the album). The best treatment of that story is The Rageaholic’s Metal Mythos: DOKKEN video; indeed, that video first turned me on to Dokken, a band I’d almost entirely missed in past forays into 80s metal.
This review will cover the 1983 album, as that’s properly when “Dokken” as such began (some pressings of 1981’s Breakin’ the Chains—note the dropped “G” in the ’81 version’s title—listed the artist as “Don Dokken”). Also, I haven’t heard enough of the ’81 cut to comment upon it adequately.
Breaking the Chains kicks off with its excellent title track, a tune that’s both rockin’ and sleek. It’s central riff—built around a persistent transition from E minor to D to C, and back again—is simple but effective, and resolves nicely into the G major of the distinctive chorus. Like much of 80s hair metal, the tune effortlessly combines a brooding sense of rock ‘n’ roll machismo with a catchy, radio-friendly chorus.
The album’s second track, “In The Middle,” is another mid-tempo rocker, but feels like a missed opportunity. The opening track itself, while exquisite, is already a slower tune. The decision to follow that up with another andante selection makes for a lackluster double opener. Dokken would perfect the “rockin’-double-opener” approach on future albums, but the best tracks on Breaking the Chains await.
Really, the album doesn’t really get cooking until the fifth track, “Live to Rock (Rock to Live),” an unapologetic rocker all about, well, rockin’ out. I’ve yet to give this track the “drive test” I referenced in my Down to Earth review, but I’m sure it would pass. Speaking of the drive test, Dokken follows “Live to Rock” with “Nightrider,” which sounds like driving a sports car with a panther on the roof through the rain-slick neon of an 80s night. These two tracks should have appeared a bit earlier on the album.
The album closes with a live recording of “Paris is Burning” from a 1982 show in Berlin. That track rips open with a George Lynch guitar solo that sounds like Van Halen’s “Eruption.” That kind of guitar pyrotechnics is missing from most of the record, so this live recording is a welcome addition to the album.
Much of this initial effort is enjoyable but forgettable, but there are some real gems on Breaking the Chains, not just the title track. All in all, it’s a solid record that points to the intensity and power of future Dokken releases.
The good folks at Orion’s Cold Fire have generously allowed me the opportunity to contribute to the site. I write primarily about politics, economics, and history at https://theportlypolitico.wordpress.com, but as a “semi-pro” musician (and a full-time music teacher), I enjoy occasionally critiquing music. The purpose of this feature is to review classic 70s and 80s-era hard rock and heavy metal albums. Why such a specific genre and time period? Essentially, I believe this genre represents the pinnacle of rock music. With its confluence of blues, acid rock, country-western, and all the other distinct musical “flavors” of the mid-twentieth century, rock and roll reached its greatest artistic and technical summits during the “classic rock” era. I’ll write further about that contentious claim at a later date; but now, let’s boogie!
When considering an album to review, I more or less use this criteria: does it sound like hard rock/heavy metal? Have I listened to it enough to comment upon it? And does it rock? That’s not the best criteria, as it predisposes me to writing glowing reviews of every album, but there you have it—the highly unscientific approach I take to writing about music I generally love.
All that aside, my first album review for Orion’s Cold Fire was a no-brainer: 1979’s Down to Earth by Rainbow. This album perfectly encapsulates the direction of rock music at that crucial turning point between punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Down to Earth was the first and only Rainbow album to feature Graham Bonnet on lead vocals, who replaced legendary metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Rainbow’s guitarist and mastermind, Ritchie Blackmore, was notorious for sacking musicians on a whim, so most of the album’s personnel was wildly different than even the previous Rainbow release.
Regardless, this album rocks. While he’s no Dio, the songs on Down to Earth are uniquely suited for Bonnet’s vocals—probably because he wrote the melodies after the band had already recorded all of the tracks.
The album’s big hit—and Rainbow’s first hit single—is “Since You Been Gone,” a Russ Ballard-penned tune that strikes the right balance between rock and pop. The chorus is catchy as the flu, but like any good hard rock song, the pre-chorus build really sets up the triumphant release of the chorus beautifully. Listen to the bass and guitar after the line “Your poison letter, your telegram” and you’ll see what I mean.
That said, my favorite tracks are the opening and closing numbers, “All Night Long” and “Lost in Hollywood,” respectively. Musically, they rock, and “Lost in Hollywood” passes what I call the “drive test”—I drive much faster when listening to it. It also features some of Rainbow’s signature neoclassical embellishments, pointing to the rise of neoclassical metal.
Lyrically, they’re fairly depressing commentaries of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, not to mention the Sexual Revolution. “All Night Long” is sung from the point of view of a jaded, lonely rocker, searching the crowd for a babe to spend the night with him (the most poignant line, from the third verse: “I know I can’t stand another night on my own”). “Lost in Hollywood” describes a man so dedicated to rock, he’s lost the woman who makes it all worthwhile.
There are some less memorable tracks—the neoclassically-inflected “Eyes of the World” is a commentary on humanity’s rapacious capacity for violence and waste, but is a bit ponderous; “Makin’ Love” has its moments, but is forgettable—but, from start to finish, Down to Earth is as good an introduction to classic hard rock as I can conceive. Crank it up!
This evening has been (Been hoping that you’d dropped in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry (Beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (Beautiful please don’t hurry)
Well maybe just a half a drink more (I’ll put some records on while I pour)
When I heard about this tempest in a teacup the first thing I did was put the phrase “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on my Christmas Card title. This song was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 to be sung as a duet with his wife at parties. If the comparatively restrained adults of the greatest generation and the one before were adult enough to understand that the song implied a flirtatious game between consenting adults then you can only assume that the present-day adults must be pulling our legs when they claim outrage at this song. These are the same people who watch jadedly as their alleged entertainers twerk their carcasses across the stage and screen. This is a generation that will sanctify any form of abomination as their state sanctified privilege and parade it down the street frightening animals and small children in the process. These are people who ventilate their faces with rings and metal studs and treat their epidermis as if were an urban surface in need of a good coat of grafitti. Some of these folks are willing to castrate and mutilate themselves to satisfy a sense of ennui and we are supposed to believe that a popular Christmas song from the 1940s is too much for their delicate sensibilities.
Well I’ve got news for them. These people don’t have mothers and fathers who worry and pace the floor. In fact, most of their parents would probably be thrilled to death if they thought that their daughters were with a man at all and if he were a man that could be even nominally mistaken for a man from this song’s era they’d shake his hand and ask him to stick around for New Year’s Eve. The prospect of a normal heterosexual relationship that leads to marriage and children is becoming like some kind of UFO sighting, dubious and extremely rare.
The only consolation from this whole thing is the knowledge that these people are self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool and leaving the field open for people with a little bit of normal instinct to have a family. And for those people and especially for their parents, this song is a mild reminder that men and women have a dance that we go through to recognize each other. It’s as common in the animal kingdom as can be. Peacocks and roosters strut. Fighting fish flash their colors. Lizards find a prominent rock to sit on and puff out their throats. The females play hard to get and the males wheedle and sometimes snort at them. But it’s a dance that both sides recognize. And if any of the individuals in the population don’t recognize or know how to respond to the dance then they get left out and they disappear from the gene pool.
So good luck to anyone who listens to the outrage police and forgets why we have the dance. If you’re not on the inside then baby that’s when it really is cold outside.
As the results of one of my recent website polls reminded me, opinions differ about what the future will bring for our country and world. Some people think that we are irrevocably moving down the path that will put an end to the things that made the United States a great nation. They say that our culture and the freedoms that are built into our Constitution will be swept aside and we will end up in a banana republic that resembles the condition of Brazil. Other people contend that a revolution either more or less violent will achieve a division of the country into a Red State model and a Blue State one. And some believe that we will be able to regroup from our differences and patch things together.
Honestly, I don’t know which, if any, of these scenarios will occur. I’m not even sure anybody actually knows. What I am sure is that the old way of life and the things it stood for are under continual attack from the Progressives. And they are succeeding to a great extent in destroying the culture that has existed in this country and made it great. They are eliminating all the concepts and behaviors from American life. The three biggest weapons in this effort are the entertainment industry, the schools and the corporate America. They are using these forces to shape the images that children and young adults see all around them and convince them that it is the only acceptable choice. By subtle and not so subtle imagery they are showing children how they must think about sex roles and even the definition of men and women. They are preaching the globalist doctrine that says that national identity and patriotism are social constructs that have no place in the modern world and thinking otherwise is a hate crime.
The first thing that needs to be done is locating and preserving all the remnants from the earlier time. Books, movies, pictures and study aids that can be used to show the younger people what used to be the normal world need to be identified and made available to families to allow them to undo some of the damage. I’m making it a point to review and recommend any books or movies that have value. At some point I intend to put together a curriculum for different age groups that will both inform and entertain.
The next effort will be to organize into local groups to provide support and fellowship for people on the right. These can be anything from hobbies to social events to sports to political activities. It can even extend to religious and educational organizations that provide resources for families who don’t feel they can utilize the existing local groups. Over time it is hoped that these groups can replace the existing institutions that have become debased by the culture at large. I guess it could be hoped that some of these organizations could be reformed but I seriously doubt that will ever happen.
But as I said above, preserving the knowledge of the better times is first. If anyone has a recommendation about a book, music or a movie or some other thing like a website or an on-line course, or even a business that deals in things that need to be preserved then, pass it along.
My longtime readers may remember me mentioning my maternal grandfather. He was the one who took on the pseudonym Charlie Young and lied about his age in order to enlist for World War One. He was an extremely colorful character who was a cop in New York City during the first half of the twentieth century. Toward his own children he was the typical autocratic Italian American man. But toward his grandchildren he was like a big kid. He brought us out for hamburgers and ice cream and whatever else he could think of. He would tell us stories of the old days. Some of them quite remarkable. And whenever things got quiet, he’d sing some variation of a song that we thought he had just made up. It would usually go something like this,
“It was midnight on the ocean
Not a streetcar was in sight
Me and my old friend (fill in the name of a particular grandson)-boy
Were eating by the candle light
When along came a big whale
And washed us all away
Then grandma came along and saved the day.”
Now this song varied by the identity of the grandchild and the details of the trip we were on. But it was mostly along these lines. And to a little kid who was out on a fun car ride and getting fast food hamburgers and ice cream it was Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Well my grandfather’s been gone about thirty five years and about ten years ago it occurred to me to try to find the lyrics to his little poem on the internet. And what do you know? It turns out it’s an old English nonsense poem. And more to the point a song was made out of it by an American country singer named Harry McClintock back in the 1920s called Ain’t We Crazy (catch the words at the 1:00 mark of the song).
Well, at the time the song was only available as part of an imported music collection that cost $600 so I couldn’t buy it then. But this week I found it on an inexpensive album on Amazon and got it. It turns out McClintock also has a song that ended up on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack (Big Rock Candy Mountain). I guess he’s not as obscure as I thought.
I sent the above link to my siblings and cousins and many of them have the same fond memories that I have of this little ritual my grandfather had. I think I will adopt it with my grandchildren. Of course, I’ll have to personalize it for each of them but that’s half of the fun of it anyway. And while I’m at it I’ll tell them stories about their great-great-grandfather Charlie Young who went off to war as a very young doughboy and shot it out with 1920s gangsters from the running board of a speeding car. They’ll probably think it’s as crazy as the song.