Comfort Music

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Recharge

Sometimes it can be good to recharge your batteries with what I call “comfort music”. A rainy Saturday can spell new music adventures, well-worn paths, or both. The result is always rewarding, and opens up new avenues to explore, especially when starting my own compositions.

Starting Off

Starting off the day’s listening was Procul Harum’s 2003 “The Well’s on Fire”. Gary Brooker (Vocalist/Piano) is only remaining original member. The group was founded in London April, 1967. Their breakthrough hit, “Whiter Shade of Pale”, came out the next month to critical acclaim. It is an amazing song that holds up over fifty years since its release.

“Whiter Shade of Pale”- Procul Harum

Procul Harum often utilized classical music infused into rock, featuring both piano and Hammond organ. Their 1972 album Procul Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is a masterpiece featuring the song “Conquistador”.

I saw one of their concerts in 1973 and can say Procul Harum was the finest ensemble I’ve witnessed. B.J. Wilson commanded drums like no one I’ve ever seen. They are a singular symphonic rock group that sounds strong to this day.

Next Up

Next up on the listening list came the late, great Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher. Rory formed the band Taste in Cork, Ireland, 1966. They were an excellent three piece blues-rock group that broke up shortly after the huge 1970 Isle of Wight Festival .

Rory then formed his own band that featured his virtuosity on acoustic/electric guitar, slide, finger-picking, blistering leads; even mandolin! His performances were always first-rate and high energy. Additionally, he wrote some great songs (see “A Million Miles Away”).

“A Million Miles Away” live-Rory Gallagher

Alas, we lost Rory Gallagher in March 1995 at only 47 years old from MRSA complications. His boundless enthusiasm lives on, however.

Comfort Music at its Finest

Just what is comfort music at its finest? For me it’s Percy Sledge. I listened to a ultimate greatest hits album that is a real soul-soother. What a voice!

From a humble hospital orderly who traveled with the Esquires Combo on weekends, he went on to sell millions of records- his first, a grand slam- “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966.

“When a Man Loves a Woman”- Percy Sledge

In 1965, Percy Sledge had just been laid off his construction job and his girlfriend left him to pursue a modeling career. He then wrote “When a Man Loves a Woman”-the first song he recorded! His organist and bassist helped him on the song, and the humble man gave them all of the songwriting credits!

Percy Sledge sang many great songs. I love them all. His voice was smooth as silk; and I’m convinced it has healing properties. He passed in 2015 at 74.

Last, But Not Least

Last, but not least, blues legend born McKinley Morganfield, but known world-wide as Muddy Waters. He grew up near Clarksdale, Mississippi and was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress there in 1941. He moved to Chicago in 1943 where he formed his own band. His first recordings were made in 1946.

Over the years, Muddy Waters recorded such classics as “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I’m Ready”, and many, many more classic blues songs. He had a deep, rich commanding voice that was instantly recognizable.

In 1977, Muddy teamed up with another blues rock legend for his “Hard Again” album. Johnny Winter (another great guitarist) produced this album. A couple of months later that same year, they would take the album’s band on tour in its support. A compilation of three live dates was released as Breakin’ It Up, Breakin’ It Down. Along with Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter were James Cotton – harmonica, vocals Bob Margolin – guitar, vocals Pinetop Perkins – piano, vocals Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – drums Charles Calmese – bass -masters all.

James Cotton, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters- “9 Below Zero”- Live

What a great album to wrap up this listening tutorial for now…

Comfort music, indeed!

© 2019 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot Media Skyypilot.com

Company Man

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Beginnings

Let’s start this post with the beginnings of my latest Skyypilot release- “Company Man”. Recently, I went through a foot-high stack of music written over forty years or so. This was just one stack of the compositions! I found a song I wrote in the 1970’s and decided to revisit.

Ben

“Ben Was A Company Man” was my original title for this song. Why? As a 6th grader, I delivered newspapers to Ben’s house. He was a factory printer. Ben was on a never-deviating schedule in his spotless navy blue uniform. I worked at that calendar factory a few years later and speculated on a similar lifestyle. It was purely fictional, of course. The song described a man who had lost all individuality, his marriage, his children, and (ultimately) his life to the system. He died a year before he was to retire ahead of an empty future-not a happy ending.

Since Then

Since then, a few hundred compositions later, my view has changed. Ironically, I became Ben (workwise, anyway) spending my adult life in factories. I chose the banal predictability of blue collar work as opposed to becoming an “act”-no regrets.

My objective is to offer hope at the end of my lyrics. If you know Jesus, there’s always hope!

My song:

Company Man

© 2019 J. Mark Witters


Once I was young, although I was strong, I was a company man.
Living each day pretty much the same way. I was a company man.
Gulped down breakfast, then went on my way.
One useful tool on a path to decay.
Another body that can be on display.
I was a company man. I was a company man.

Sometimes respected, more often rejected. I was a company man.
Had to pretend means justify ends. I was a company man.
Blindly submitting to others’ control.
Compartmentalizing my very soul.
Purposely keeping away from the fold.
I was a company man. I was a company man.

Numbing my mind just to put in the time. I was a company man.
Did what I did, with my feelings kept hid. I was a company man.
One day, I reckoned to get off the floor.
Already elsewhere; one foot out the door.
Knew all along that there had to be more.
I was a company man. I was a company man.

At my first chance, I just left the dance. I was a company man.
Having had my fill; not yet over the hill, I was a company man.
Plotted escape right to the day.
What happens next- let come what may.
No more illusions, no more can I say, ” I am a company man.”
No more a company man.

Company Man

© 2019 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot Media Skyypilot.com

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago…

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Happenings Ten Years Time Ago

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” was a song released in 1966 by the British rock band, the Yardbirds. It featured both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on dual lead guitars-a powerhouse!

I have always been intrigued by the song’s title, so I thought about ten years ago-what a difference!

Looking Back a Decade

Looking back a decade, I had just finished seven weeks of radiation with three chemo treatments. It’s all a blur now, but I was (unknowingly at the time) fighting stage four cancer. Strangely, I was not fearful-just gave it to God. I owe my healing to God. Sure, my family was there for me and I don’t diminish their invaluable help, but God performed a miracle on me. He wasn’t finished with me yet!

My dear Grandmother Elizabeth passed Oct. 31 that year. She, like dear Grandmother Edith, lived on this earth 93 years! Autumn 2009 was indeed a dreary time.

Forging Onward

Forging ahead, I returned to my very physical workplace. We traveled to Alaska and Hawaii with my parents. I ramped up my album production, probably averaging one per year since then. I retired from my mundane job to now doing what I want, no longer taking life for granted; appreciating each day-an empty canvas:

Empty Canvas

© 2019 J. Mark Witters

Greet an empty canvas every day.
How I’ll choose to fill it, cannot say.
But it can be fulfilling if your hands are willing.
Keep it all distilling in your mind.
One need not be ready. Sobering, yet heady.
Deliberate and steady right on course.
Inching forth, eventually your masterpiece is born.
It will only take a little while to take its unique form.

Slowly you will build your gallery.
Forever onward an unbridled legacy.
Art not superficial. Heavy, yet ethereal.
Many in a serial of your life.
Showing all emotion. Recorded upon notion.
There is no magic potion at its source. (It’s God!)
Greet an empty canvas every day.
How I’ll choose to fill it, can never…

© 2019 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot Media Skyypilot.com