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April « 2011 « Forrest Robinson

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PAPER TONGUES (Self-Titled CD)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

PAPER TONGUES: PAPER TONGUES

Review written by: FORREST ROBINSON

I must be honest in saying that as soon as the first track, “Trinity”, began, I knew it was a radio-ready single. However, I was also foreboding this to be another cd that sounded a lot like too many other “Alternative” cds. But I must say that this track represents a good band with an excellent lead vocalist who really brings it as a frontman should. I like the implementation of the synths in this band’s arrangement of their music. “For The People” Is an upbeat track that is well driven by drum programming and live drums. The vocals move at an energetic pace in this one.

“Ride To California” has a hiphop/pop element that is ready for the radio. “Get Higher” combines a rap-like verse with drum programming that goes into a melodic and rocking chorus. “What If” almost sounds like it belongs on another record. It is a really good song and honestly sounds like a totally different band. It also sounds like a surefire single. The lead vocal is very nice and legato. The harmonies are great in the chorus, and musically, it really drives forward.  

Soul” is upbeat and funky in the verse, and then rocks in the chorus. This is probably my favorite song on the record. The dreamy, heavy reverb on the guitar and the keys in the chorus, combined with the melodic vocals really make it happen for me in this track. “Everybody” has a nice funky feel to it from start to finish. The verse has rhythmic rap-like lyrics, and I really dig the drums in this song. I like the way the band opens up in the chorus.

“Strongest Flame” has a nice piano/vocal intro. The drum programming carries the track to the chorus, which is where the band kicks in. The song then stays pretty much live with the band throughout from there, which I think is cool. Again, this is a song that was likely written for the radio. “Rich And Poor” is catchy from the start. The singer is really working hard on this record. I really like the lyrics in this song. I also like how they dedicated this song to all the “struggling peeps”.

“Love Like You” is a really good finish to this record. The overall sound of the band is really good. Though this cd is a fairly predictable one as far as production, style and arrangement are concerned, it is easy to tell that PAPER TONGUES is a band that really wants it. They really worked hard on their sound and image and they are going for it. This is a band that will certainly be recognized. Their self-titled cd is an excellent commercial release.

VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR, SO IS RADIO KILLING THE RECORD STORES? (originally posted Dec. 2006)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By: Forrest Robinson

  • I am pictured here with Tower Records employee (and professional
  • trombonist) Andy Warshill at Tower Records in Pasadena, CA on
  • Dec. 17, 2006 at 10p.m., 2 nights before closing its doors
    permanently.

Yep. I’m probably one of the few weirdos left who still values the music and record store atmosphere in America and around the world. In the day and age where the media boasts diversity and peace amongst the people of this country and around the world, today it frightens me how we have reached the degree of separation, isolation, and alienation unlike anything we have ever seen. Understandably, so many of our youth are not old enough to know the importance of something as simple as actually going to a record store. Okay, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Where are you going with this? And why are you making such a big deal about Tower Records closing its doors for good?” Granted. This is an unusual topic transition. Well, obviously it is quite impressive to be able to download an mp3 from the web, load it into our nifty, high-memory capacity iPods and roll with it. Technology seems to get more and more impressive every month. Many of us who just cannot afford this new techology just can’t keep up with it and seem to devote much of our lives trying to keep up with it for God knows what reason. So the music stores have suffered for it. I wonder if this would be the case if instead of thinking about how “inconvenient” it is to actually go to a music store, if we actually think of it for what it really means to do so, which is to experience being in the midst of other people who are also music lovers just like we are.

There is also the very important point that some of us may not find sound quality of our music to be that important. This affects more things than we may be aware of – including our health. I fear that we take for granted that so many people are either bed-ridden or wheelchair bound, and may wish just for one day that they had the capability that we were blessed with to walk and move freely without any sort of debilitating physical handicap, instead of griping about not being able to find a parking space that is curbside service to the front doors of a music store. We complain about the youth (and ourselves) not getting enough exercise and the obesity rate in America going through the roof. How much are we truly helping ourselves in this crisis… really? Also, many of us realize this (and some may not), but the mp3 version of a song is only 10% the sound quality of an actual cd sound source file (or .wav). So a typical song from an actual cd is somewhere around 50MB whereas an mp3 sound source file weighs in at 5MB. So for someone like myself, who has an iPod, I adore the idea of being able to carry around literally hundreds of cds’ worth of songs in one small piece of technology, but I can definitely tell the difference when I put an actual cd in a cd player. It is worth doing an “A & B” test for yourself at some point. I can download a song from the internet and love it, but if I love it enough, I actually enjoy going to the music store and buying the actual cd, with its accompanying art and lyrics that come with it. Not to mention the community that I experience amongst other people in a time of such separation.

There is also my recent disappointment and close call when my last iPod crashed after only 18 months of operation. Thank God, I owned every cd that I had loaded onto the iPod. Realizing that music can take up a substantial amount of memory, I removed the files from my computer. Historically, recording studios gave musicians the capability to achieve the highest quality sound possible for their recorded works. If it is in fact true that sound quality is not that important to the listener, this really changes things for the music world in general. It is obvious in today’s society that if the money doesn’t have to be spent for quality, it won’t be spent, but don’t expect for the price you pay for music to be adjusted accordingly. We all agree that cds are way overpriced these days, but hey – since the mp3 sound file is only 10% of the sound quality of an actual cd (with artwork, cd cover, lyrics, etc.) then if you ask me, the cds we download from iTunes or other sources today really should be only $2 (considering that many cds have gone up to as much as $19.99 so far). That, to me, is something to think about.

  • Forrest Robinson

  • Dec. 28, 2006

GREETINGS FROM TOKYO, JAPAN (my first visit to Japan – 2002)

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

*this is a re-post from my old site about my first trip to Tokyo in Oct. 2002.

By. Forrest Robinson


(Wednesday Oct. 2, 2002)

Tokyo, Japan is such an amazing place! Tuesday Oct. 1, 2002 was my first time ever there. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve met people who would go to Japan to gig for months and even years at a time. What really got me, was the fact that several friends of mine that also performed there eventually moved there – despite the language-barrier. So Japan has mystified me for years, because I figured that it must be quite an alluring place for so many musicians I’ve known to just pick up and move like that.

The drive from the airport to the hotel was fascinating to me. Just seeing the highway signs, which were all written in Kanji (I think?) really gave me even more of a sense of how big the world really is. Before I had only experienced Japan (and many other countries) vicariously through PBS. Tokyo is a really beautiful city! I love the way the public transportation is set up too. Despite this 16-hour time difference (and MAJOR jetlag), I’m determined to indulge in some serious sushi! I LOVE sushi and have been told for years by friends of mine that eating sushi in Japan is a MUST. Okay, time to get down!

(Thursday Oct. 3, 2002)
The show went very well tonight. We performed at a really wicked venue called Akasaka Blitz. One thing I especially love about Japan and noticed right away is how music is so valued. It’s awesome to turn on the radio and enjoy everything you hear. The variety of what’s on the radio seems to reflect just how much the music in the world is valued here. The several native/local bands I’ve seen on TV or heard on the radio so far are awesome! Speaking of local bands, the opening act tonight, NAMI, was a great example of a band doing their thing and “really wanting to make it happen”. I stood to the side of the stage watching and listening to their show – which was way too short – and tried putting myself within their element right then and there: on stage, performing for their home crowd. I loved watching them get love from the home crowd. For me, it was yet one more reminder of how much I miss the days of hammering it out with my old bands at home in Tennessee, where we would just get together and dream and play, play and dream. I was playing in a band in Chattanooga from 1989-1994 called Running Live; and Rick, Kevin, Richard and I were just sweating it out for hours and hours in Rick’s basement or whatever practice space we had at the time, and seemingly NEVER getting tired. There was no “industry” clouding our view. We just wanted to make it happen! And when we performed, WOO- HOO! But okay, back to the situation at hand: NAMI – I believe she’s the lead vocalist – had a really sweet voice and the band had the whole Rock/Alternative w/loops approach; it was just nice to hear the way they approached it, and to witness their belief in what they do together. They were just out there doing their thing. And I dug it!

I was nervous the whole time because I wasn’t sure how Japan would receive us. As it turned out, however, it was really nice seeing India.Arie connect with the people, and vice-versa. The really touching thing for me, which is also the reality of what a blessing music is, is realizing that even though there were a great number of people in the crowd who didn’t speak English at all, they were singing the lyrics to India’s songs. I’d never been outside the U.S. until last spring so things like this still really blow me away. I was just starting to come to the conclusion that this was one of the coolest venues I’ve played in so far when just before we left, I got the disappointing news that Blitz is getting the wrecking ball in a month because a major corporation which owns the property wants to do something else with the place on which Blitz currently exists. Well, it’s disappointing to hear, but at least I had the opportunity to experience Blitz before it’s gone forever.


(Friday Oct. 4, 2002)
Today we performed at the Tokyo International Forum. What a gorgeous place! This was an event for Universal Japan. There were a number of people on the bill: India.Arie, Vanessa Carlton, Shaggy, Robert Fripp, and several other artists that I couldn’t hang around to see since we had to leave before the event was over. I also dug the video pieces that they showed for Eminem and Nelly. I did notice that I really miss seeing BANDS the way I used to all the time. I sound like grandpa now; but man do I miss the 80s. There used to be bands all over the place. Oh well. Times change – and they certainly HAVE, for the moment. But it was nice being on the bill and getting to enjoy the shows that I was able to see while I was there. It was also nice to have more sushi while I was there at the Forum. We had the same sound and backline crew (Leo Music) and lighting (Kyoritz) at this event as last night at Blitz. They were so on it! All the gear we needed was there to a T, and I witnessed some of the best on-the-spot lighting blends I’ve ever seen to this day. They really cared about how things came together. I had a great time working with them. I just wish that I could speak Japanese so that I could’ve really gotten to know them better.


We head home tomorrow. I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to come back soon and really romp around Tokyo. Despite the lack of free time and the jetlag, I really enjoyed my first visit to Tokyo. It’s hard to give an opinion of a place that I’ve only visited one time and only for a couple days, but all in all, I guess that I can see how my friends wound up picking up and moving here. I must admit that before this year, I never really cared much about leaving the U.S. – perhaps because I didn’t think that the opportunity would ever happen for me – but one thing I can say is that if anyone gets the opportunity to go overseas, GO. There is so much education out there. The world is so huge that reality lets you know that it‘s not about just you or me. I really don’t care for the hassle of customs and whatnot, but the experience and education that follows is SO worth it! GOD reveals a powerful existence to me through the souls of my brothers and sisters no matter what part of the world they’re from and regardless of linguistic-difference. Despite the minimal verbal communication, the unspoken and not quite so understood connection to these wonderful people was an amazing thing to behold. It was indeed an AMAZING first visit to Japan!


Forrest Robinson

A BLESSING IN BAHIA

Monday, April 4th, 2011

By: Forrest Robinson

(This is my personal account of the INDIA.ARIE: "Live In Brazil" DVD taping)

This past May 2002, I was given the opportunity to travel to Bahia, Brazil with India Arie for her taping of Music In High Places. As wonderful as the opportunity was just to be a part of such a wonderful event, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience in this journey. For the past few years, I’ve been on a personal journey into learning who I am and what makes me who I am. There are many things that I’ve been missing; and “community” is one of the keys that I’ve needed in unlocking the door to this love-filled experience.

Customs is the one thing that I don’t like about international travel. It makes me anxious, especially if you have a connecting flight that you need to make with not much time to spare! However, when we finally landed in Sao Paolo and made the drive into Bahia, the first thing I noticed was its immense beauty; soon after that however, I noticed its poverty. Right next to homes and buildings that looked as to having a thriving economy within, stood homes with only a shell of itself: doorways and walls, but no roofs. Normal families live in these homes, but it threw me for a loop because I’ve never seen so many right next to each other in the same community.

Right away, I had a foreboding of this trip. How was I to experience such a blatant display of “haves and have-nots” and yet act as though all was fine and cool? After all, this was going to be televised. And I certainly didn’t want to be there just to not fully enjoy such a blessed experience. No, I was to be there for a reason; and I was about to find out that it wasn’t just about a TV taping.

The entire taping took 3 and-a-half days. When we arrived at our hotel in Bahia, the first thing I did was open the French doors in my room and listened to the ocean as I welcomed the wind to flow freely through. I was so thankful to be in such a therapeutic space for the next several days. Ah, a break from da BILLS! However, I still wasn’t quite sure how I was going to deal with this trip after seeing what I had seen on the way into Bahia. The band and crew were to meet in the lobby at 5a.m. to get an early start before it got really hot. By the way, in June, it was still considered to be late winter in Brazil; and the average temperature ranged from 92 to 98 degrees. Yes, it gets much hotter in the summer, as our guides, who were natives of Bahia told us. Though I’m a southerner and all, this was some intense heat I tell ya!

It was around 4a.m. when I awoke the first day of taping. The sky was still dark, the ocean was still in high tide and the wind was blowing through my room very nicely. All I could think of at that moment was that I did NOT want to get of bed AT ALL. It was mandatory to be on time, so there was no time to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. We went to the first site which was a beach setting in Salvador. I’d recently learned in one of my books, that Salvador was one of the first major slave territories at that time. A lot of history went down there. I must mention that Salvador is also the most Africanized part of Brazil. I’d wondered why I haven’t heard of such a beautiful place before. Maybe I’ve been in a cave all this time, but I’ve never heard of Bahia as being such a glorious getaway as I have Rio de Janeiro, hmmm.

When we first arrived to the beach, the first person I met was a local percussionist named Gil Gilbero Da Silva Santiago. The feeling I got upon meeting him was as though he was a brother that I should have known my whole life. I still wasn’t quite sure of what he was about just yet, so I proceeded down to the beach where India and the rest of the band were. Now I must mention that as I write this, I still haven’t seen Music In High Places so I’m not exactly sure that I remember each of the songs recorded and the order in which they were recorded; but I’m going to try to get them right.

So, the first song we performed was “Creator”. India and I were standing in the water and though the water was cool, the reflection of the sun off the water was intense with its light and heat. A few words of the chorus goes, ‘The Creator has a master plan, peace on earth for every man”. I must admit that I was really praying about what that means in a place where rights were not recognized equally amongst the natives and citizens of this country and where there was so much poverty in sight. I just couldn’t figure how one could have peace. In the midst of all this beauty were the piercing thoughts in my mind, of whether or not some or many of these natives who were there watching, would eat that night, or if it would rain in their homes because they had no roofs. I’m sure that they managed just fine; however, I couldn’t ignore the pain that this disturbance was causing me. I mean, if I asked these good folks how they felt about their situation, they would probably think that I was a nut for seeing anything “wrong” about it in the first place. Seeing it on TV seems to somehow not quite make it a reality, in a sense. Seeing it face-to-face is something else. I was feeling so unworthy. But hey, spiritual peace within oneself is a wonderful thing; and there’s something to be said about it. The beauty of their spirits was that they were completely happy and just didn’t have a care in the world. GOD didn’t seem as much a mystery to them; a Higher Power didn’t seem out or reach and they live on faith everyday. They seem to recognize the natural beauty of existence in itself.

I needed some answers. But because I couldn’t speak the language, I couldn’t ask. I wanted to know the secret to my own freedom. Maybe there was something in me that needed to be addressed. I knew that we had a nice hotel provided for us in the city with poverty out of sight; and then I would fly back home to Atlanta, GA when the shoot was over and wouldn’t have to deal with this reality staring me in the face, or would I? Why couldn’t I just do the shoot and let things be? I realized that I could just as well not have been there to experience such a wonderful blessing of utilizing my gifts and sharing with my people in a different part of the world than I knew, and to learn things from them that are important for me to see and realize first hand. I had a choice of sitting there and sabotaging a great experience by my issues, or make the most of a blessing; and I wanted to choose the latter. What they taught me is something that I will be processing for a long time. The first two days consisted of performing songs in beautiful settings, seeing Capoeira for the first time, enjoying some great food and, listening to the people speak the beautiful language of Portuguese. By the end of the second day, I had befriended Gil, and I was trying to learn as much from him as I could about the history, the music, and the life of Brazilians that I never knew, in hopes that I could somehow learn more about myself.

I feel that I was given a real gift on the third day of the shoot. The day began with a performance by a “band” (which interestingly only consisted of drums) called Alayaye (I’m not sure of the spelling). From the first note, these guys had me hooked. They were so incredible! Something that I’ve being missing for years and years is personally experiencing true “family” or “community” amongst drummers. I’ve hungered for this experience since I left home (Memphis, TN) after high school. These guys were so wonderful to behold because you could feel the love that they have for each other in the music that they were playing. Alayaye also had three brilliant Afro/Brazilian dancers that seemed to truly marry into the rhythm. It was beautiful. So when they finished performing, India invited them to perform “Video” with us. I was ecstatic! So we did the song with this thunderous rumble underneath. It was a nice touch that definitely brought great energy. But what I was about to experience was something that I’d waited years to experience again.

As we approached the end of the song, India and the rest of the band moved away, out of view of the camera. I was like, “Oh no, Forrest. This is NOT your scene. Let these guys do what they do before you make an idiot out of yourself.” And to quote a popular phrase from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “RUN AWAY!” But just as I was about leave, another part of me said, “No Forrest. You know that you’ve wanted to be a part of this experience. You NEED this experience.” I was just about to back away when one of their guys came from the side opposite where I was, to meet me out front and center. I felt my feet involuntarily move forward to meet with him and the next thing I knew, I was trying saturate my soul with this spiritual experience I was having with Alayaye, and to absorb as much communication from these guys as I could. I tried to be as present as I could possibly be. I wanted to somehow emerge as a new individual. The whole thing seemed so surreal to me that I literally couldn’t feel my hands or my feet during the entire experience. But I felt love and I felt warm. I didn’t know where it was going, or how it was ending and I didn’t care. All I know is that when it did end, even though we didn’t understand a single syllable between each other linguistically, we’d just had a great conversation. And I feel that I received some answers that I needed. When we embraced afterwards, I was trying to draw in something that I felt I needed from this guy who came out front to meet with me. As I turned to walk back towards the rest of the band, I thought that I would fall down at any moment because I felt so light-headed and dizzy. It was an experience that I needed.

I experienced a mind-boggling “reality check”. The reality check for me was held in a simple bottle of water (or several, for that matter). As I said earlier, it was blazing outside; so I guess that it’s safe to say that each day averaged somewhere around 98 degrees or so. It was HOT. After taping “Video”, I stood over on the side of the street while Alayaye performed one more selection. When they finished, one of the guys had apparently asked for water, because Gil went over to the crew and came back with a bottle of the water from the cooler. What blew me away was the way the guy in Alayaye asked for it: very humbly and graciously. I saw one bottle of water shared between the entire band. And they were so considerate to the next person with it – making sure that everyone would partake. Then two more bottles were brought and I thought that I would burst with joy at the sight of something that seemed so simple. Their sense of sharing is something that I just don’t see everyday. But it’s always so nice when I do. Though I try to not take things for granted, I was feeling my appreciation for all the blessings and people in my life being affirmed and renewed. I don’t believe that there’s any such thing as too much of this realization.

A couple hours and one site later that day, we had just finished taping “God In You”, when one of the wonderful production crew had brought us all each a bottle of water. I downed mine right away; but one of the other guys had poured some on his hands to wash them off a bit and maybe poured some on his arms just to cool off. There must have been a disturbance going on for a while because Gil came over and asked if there was any water to share with any of the observers because some of them were going nuts seeing the water being used for things other than simply drinking. That hit me with a blow. I then saw 3 or 4 bottles of water stretch between close to 30 people. GEEZ! I learned a whole new lesson in humility that day. Never have I seen each swallow of water cherished to the degree that I experienced at that moment, face to face.


As we approached the end of the final day of the shoot, we went into the downtown market-area of Bahia, where the band Olodum (of Paul Simon “Graceland” fame, again, all drummers) performed. It was nice to see all sorts of people of all colors there united in the music. Earlier on, I was privileged to purchase a wonderful gift: my first Pandeira. It’s sort of like a Tambourine, but not really. I’d never heard of it, but I knew that I really wanted one upon seeing it. Gil, and the guy who sold it to me in the store were KILLIN’ on this thing! And what blew me away even more, is that there were kids who weren’t even 10 years old who were blowing me away percussively with the Pandeira, Djembe, whatever. Now WHY have I not heard of these people? Anyway, there is so much talent over there, undiscovered and broke. I talked with Gil up until the moment we all parted that evening.


As I was on the plane bound for home the next day, I reflected on what I had experienced. I guess that the reality in life is that there will be bills to pay, debts to take care of (sigh), and work to do in order to keep up. It’s easy to get so caught-up in everyday pressures, that it becomes difficult to just enjoy the simple things like having family and friends that love you and other blessings that enrich our lives. Perhaps these simple things are part of what makes us who we are and makes us happy with who we are. Maybe this reality holds the freedom that we, or at least I , have been searching for. Well, maybe I didn’t need to go all the way to Bahia to come to this reality; but for what it’s worth, I’m thankful to have done so. We are all in this thing together, trying to move forward in our lives and trying to follow our personal paths towards being the best we can be. Hopefully and prayerfully, we’ll make it there together, as well as try to help others we love along the way. It’s easier said than done, but it’s possible!

Forrest Robinson

LATE NIGHT ALUMNI – Haunted

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

album cover - Late Night Alumni Haunted

This Dance/House release from LATE NIGHT ALUMNI is one I was excited to see come in the mail. I knew right away that this was something ORIGINAL. The first track, “It’s Not Happening”, takes us there. This is a great song. The beat, the melody, the voice, and the synth work are all AMAZING. “In The Ashes” has a nice arrangement in the chord progressions and the melody. And this type of programming always works. “This Is Why” is one of the ballads on the record. This is only a tiny example of Becky Jean Williams’s vocal genius to this music. It’s nice how the acoustic guitar and glockenspiel sample sets the tone at the song’s intro. 

Becky’s airy voice is really amazing. “Epilogue” is a thing of beauty. From the opening piano and vocal intro to the overall arrangement of this track, this is definitely something pleasing and refreshing to the ears. I really like the haunting intro of “Vixen”. The accordion, voice, organ, and harp are excellent musical choices. The hinting of drum n’ bass in the drum programming rounds the track out nicely. This song has a really nice arrangement. “Angels and Angles” is a duet between Becky Jean Williams and one of the other guys in the band (I wish I knew who!). This track is also fantastic. The marcato strings are a great asset in the arrangement, which builds throughout to the songs end.

“Sustaining” is like a dream with beat. And it cruises on the wave that Becky’s voice produces. The sound of the old, distorted piano intro on “Main Street” has such a poetically melancholy vibe to it.  Becky’s voice is truly a remarkable instrument to build the music around. I LOVE how this song carries itself and builds all the way to its end, even though there is no drum programming to speak of. This adds beautiful diversity to the record. “For Life” reminds me a little of Vanessa Daou. But it certainly has its own identity! It feels like being in the middle of some sort of soundtrack. And I guess that might be the goal LATE NIGHT ALUMNI was going for when they wrote this song! This track is very well done.

“No or Yes” takes us back to the Lounge with some House in the atmosphere. The chords on the Rhodes patch were killing me! And I guess I can’t really stop going on about Becky’s voice! LOL! This would be a welcome problem to have. It’s just not quite fair – haha! That said, this is a great track! Okay, next up is “Spin”. Slow, steady, melodic, and driving describes this song. I love how various tracks exist within this song, which collide chromatically, producing a dissonance between the harmonies that exist between Becky’s vocal melodies and the actual chords of the song in the most beautiful way!

So, with all the brilliance already contained and exhibited within this gorgeous record, why not top it off with a dreamy Bossa track like “Moonwalking”? Why not indeed! The beautiful string arrangement, the steady groove of the acoustic bass sample, those dreamy chords played on the Rhodes (sample or not) and its tremolo effect, along with the ever haunting melodies of Becky Jean Williams, makes calling this track “beautiful” almost generic! HAUNTED is a poetic and beautiful work. If this cd is a forecast of  the music to come in 2011, then we are in for quite a much needed ride! And that means that this is going to be a FANTASTIC year. BRING IT ON! PLEASE!!!!

Forrest Robinson