CD Review: “Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

June 29, 2012

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Razor & Tie)

By Mike Finkelstein

Emerson, Lake and Palmer didn’t begin as a super-group, but in retrospect the band’s pedigree indicated all along that they would sound special.   The band consisted of keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson, fresh out of the classically leaning pop group The Nice, and Greg Lake who bowed out of a prominent role in King Crimson’s legendary sound on their first album (he is the voice on “In the Court of the Crimson King”). Carl Palmer, a hugely talented drummer and a former member of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was recruited to drive the band.   It turns out he was not the band’s first choice on drums — it was actually Mitch Mitchell.   In fact, the band began its career amidst a swirl of rumors that Jimi Hendrix was to be part of the band.   While one can only imagine what, on mere mortal earth, this would have sounded like, the rumors only existed because Emerson and Lake were courting Mitchell to be in the band in the wake of the Experience breaking up.  Mitchell had suggested having Jimi play on the upcoming audition jams, but Hendrix died before anything could materialize and the jam never took place.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

It has been more than 40 years since ELP were burning it up as a trailblazing band at the forefront of the progressive rock movement in England that also gave us bands like Yes, King Crimson, Procol Harum, Genesis, Gentle Giant, and the Soft Machine, to name a very few.   All of these bands were outstanding in terms of playing and writing in their own styles, creating a whole esthetic theme for each album and carrying this esthetic into live performances.   ELP were second to none and certainly one of the very first to be a successful prog band.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s forte was fusing classical music, jazz improvisation, folk music and hard rock together.  It was an ambitious and often fruitful several years in the mid- to early 70’s for ELP.   The result was a gigantic but remarkably nuanced sound.  Perhaps because they were only three pieces, there was always enough room in the arrangements to hear the subtlety meshed with the enormity.   You could always follow every part clearly.

Now, their albums are going to be re-released as expanded packages by Razor and Tie Records.   In anticipation, the company has issued a tidy teaser/sampler greatest hits package, Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and it does represent the band’s parameters well.  Looking at the program and then listening to it reminds us of just how big, yet detailed a sound ELP honed.   No one has sounded like them before or after.

Oddly, however, there is one song included (“Nutrocker”) to represent ELP’s iconic original-release interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s famous work on a live album, Pictures at an Exhibition, that was otherwise largely devoted to Mussorgsky’s composition of the same name.   And there is nothing from the Tarkus album, an ambitious but underrated concept album about the developing problems of over-militarization in the world.   It will be very interesting to see what Razor and Tie will add to the packaging of these two albums when they are released, because they were true milestones as the band established its own musical identity.

The songs on Come and See the Show are not in chronological order, but they do showcase the band’s diverse and prodigious talent.  Their fondness for interpreting classical pieces in their own modern style is represented with enduring renditions of Aaron Copeland’s Hoedown, and Fanfare for the Common Man.

A large part of the band’s commercial appeal was based in Greg Lake’s songwriting, arranging, and singing.   On this album we hear the evolution of his style beginning with the folky tale of a fallen warrior in “Lucky Man,” (one of the first songs he wrote) with one of the better Moog/synth solos we may ever hear closing the tune.   Lake’s voice is rich and polished and blends perfectly with his open tuned acoustic guitar.   After this,his style became jazzier, with more open chords, but always with a bevy of pop hooks to make the song appealing.   It’s a desirable musical landscape that he created for the group.

“From the Beginning” endures as a song people will stop to listen to should it surface on the radio.   It’s a gorgeous set of chords and another sterling vocal performance from Lake.   And Emerson’s restraint in playing only catchy, concise, and beautiful lines in the solo spots is notable.   ELP really did make great singles and this is a prime example.

In a similar vein, we get “Still…You Turn Me On,” same format and same tasty results.  Lake refined his image as a balladeer when he recorded “I Believe in Father Christmas”  for the Works album. It’s an elegantly arranged piece of music that is perhaps a little too over the top to be listened to at any other time than Christmas.

Brain Salad Surgery was ELP’s breakout album in 1974.   From it we get “Karn Evil #9,” which yielded the popular phrase “Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends.”    “Jerusalem,” and “Toccata,” from the same album, are also impressive ELP cuts that represent their ongoing growth in the direction of grand productions.

In their time and in the image of the grandiose fusing of heavy rock and classical music, ELP took their presentation to perhaps silly extremes: playing an organ spinning, suspended from a forklift; stabbing the organ with a knife; a bank of synthesizers sprouting wings.   But through it all, the band pumped out a succession of musically impressive albums.   Their keyboards/bass/drums format was unique and the songwriting blossomed and peaked commercially in the mid 70’s with Brain Salad Surgery.

But at that time, the quality of life changed less for the better in England and in the world in general.  ELP’s grandiose approach to things wore thin and the songwriting waned.   People could not relate to the pretense.   Sooner rather than later, the band’s fortunes faded.

Still, as Come and See the Show reveals, ELP’s best music continues to speak for itself…magnificently.

To read more reviews by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Live Rock: Yes and Styx at the Greek Theatre

August 5, 2011

By Mike Finkelstein

So, what do you do if you were part of a big name FM staple progressive/rock band in the 70’s and 80’s and you still want to play music?   You may have already bought a fish farm, opened a recording studio, started an antiques business – but still, there is a tidy sum to be made playing your hits on summer and spring tours for the denizens who used to buy the albums and see your tours when they were 25 years younger.

Well, in the case of Yes and Styx, you first check to see if the band members are alive/healthy/up for continuing on, and that the vocals are intact.   And that’s not a slam-dunk proposition anymore.  But if you get through those preliminaries, then you might want to join forces and tour with a band in a similar situation.   Which brings us to Yes and Styx at the Greek on Tuesday night.    This was a strong double billing designed and centered on “progressive rock” to bring in fans of both bands and, indeed, the Greek was saturated with fans of both bands.

In their heyday of the early to mid-70’s, Yes were as archetypal a progressive art/rock band as you could find.   Musically, they had their own vision of how it should all sound, developed their sound organically, and with strong songwriting and playing, grew to huge popularity.  Their songs were often long, textured, drawn out arrangements, with little free form jamming.  Their albums also came packaged in the surrealist cosmic airbrush fantasy paintings of artist Roger Dean.  Yes still features original members Steve Howe on guitars and Chris Squire on bass, as well as long time off and on members Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes (who had nine separate keyboards onstage!).

Yes

Yes has had many personnel changes over the years but the one member who never left is Squire.   They have parted ways for the time-being with original vocalist Jon Anderson-but they have found Benoit David in a Yes tribute band who sounds, you guessed it, just like Jon Anderson.   He even had a lot of Anderson’s mannerisms down pat.  It appears that tribute bands have become a bona fide go-to resource for an original band that needs to replace any trademark piece of their sound.

On Tuesday, Yes gave us a nice group of their best known tunes and a new number, “Fly From Here” complete with a video that viewed like a Pink Floyd clip.   While the song selection didn’t go too deep into their catalogue, the band played with verve.    David had Jon Anderson dialed in, easily pulling off songs like “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “All Good People” and “And You and I.”   Yes’ remarkable sound goes up a notch and thrives when they are playing in between the words. Instrumentally,  it came down to the band playing clean and regularly changing their dynamics to make the songs breathe.   But it is the juxtaposition of Squire’s and Howe’s styles that makes it sound like Yes.

Both Squire and Howe approach their instruments in unorthodox manners. Squire’s bass is perhaps the most recognizable part of the Yes sound.   He is actually a  large man and his sound seems to reflect his size.  Squire plays Rickenbacker basses (known for their growl), chords quite a bit, and can get pretty busy on his runs.   His focus was melodic and when he danced around in the higher registers it impressively brought out the motion of the chords.  Squire’s amplified sound also features vibrato and a lot of bottom end boost.    The result is a rattling and pulsating bass tone that is all his own. On Tuesday, this boost and the Greek’s PA system were often at odds and Squire’s lowest notes became an ominous throbbing hum.   You could hear the growl and the grit but itwas often washed away in the low din.  His voice was also the prominent harmony part in their vocal sound.

To watch Steve Howe play guitar live is to realize just how well a clean guitar signal can work in a large setting.   Clean sound just stays cleaner and more defined in the air.  On frenzied runs like the opening of “Heart of the Sunrise” playing clean made a world of difference, putting the interplay between himself and Squire vividly at the front of the mix.   Howe needed several different guitars to get all of his sounds into the mix and for most of the evening he switched between a red Stratocaster and a his trademark hollow body Gibson  jazz box.   But he also used a 12 string Laud for “I’ve Seen All Good People,” a table steel guitar and a MIDI-ed electric guitar on a stand for “And You and I.”   Curiously, Howe’s stage amps were set up inside what looked like a small closet with no walls and the front removed—but it didn’t seem to affect the sound.

Yes’  encore was “Roundabout,”  a tune that crunches and gushes gloriously all over the musical map, mixing classical guitar dynamics, harmonics, spacey lyrics, and lush organ and the classic grind of Squire’s bass line.   “Roundabout” was their most popular radio song until “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” eclipsed it in the early “80’s to become their biggest hit.   As it was recorded, it features many layers of textured overdriven guitars played by Trevor Rabin, quite the opposite of Steve Howe’s approach.  Howe, of course, had to play the hit song Tuesday and offered up an intriguingly tamer, cleaner, and more spartan version of the guitar parts.

Styx

The show was opened by Styx, veterans of the American rock circuit since the early 70’s and a band with a very loyal following.   Their music has always aimed at combining hard rock with progressive songwriting. These days they lean more towards rock and their sound is somewhere closer to say, REO Speedwagon or Kansas, than to Yes.  (One lady even remarked during “Fooling Yourself” that she thought it was a Journey song).

While the band became a big commercial success in the ‘80’s it always seemed to be a struggle for the band to cohesively develop its identity.   On the one hand, guitarists James Young and Tommy Shaw wrote and played guitar driven songs that powered the band’s rock credibility.  On the other hand keyboardist, Dennis de Young steered the band far into pop territory that was at odds with its rock appeal—but sold well to the MOR crowd.

For this performance, de Young was no longer with the band, replaced by Lawrence Gowan, who easily sang all of the former’s parts and is definitely more in line with Styx’ rock stance.   He was spot on for songs like “Lady,” and “Lorelei.”   And he played a keyboard that spun like a carousel atop his circular podium.   The possibilities for cinematic slapstick abound with this setup but it also allowed allow him to face in whatever direction he wanted to.

With a more unified band focus, Styx delivered the hits and even dug down a little deeper for songs like “Man in the Wilderness,” and “Crystal Ball.” Tuesday’s gig was a polished affair with leveled risers, beautifully arranged banks of amplifiers and a hotshot light/video show.

While every member of Styx performed with plenty of panache, the focal point of the band was Tommy Shaw.  He has a winsome presence between songs, has his rock star moves and good looks firmly in place, and many of the women at the show marveled at how little body fat the man has on him.  Shaw is versatile on guitars (he played acoustic, and 6-and 12-string electrics) and being able to work the dual guitar angle with J.Y. Young added dimension to the songs.  There was also an appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo, who sits in with Styx as his health allows (he has contracted HIV).

Early in the evening the show began with a short set by LA singer/songwriter Shane Alexander.

To see more reviews by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Picks of the Week: August 2 – 7

August 2, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

- Aug. 2 (Tues.) Yes and Styx. Two of the classic rock franchises — still going strong — team up for a display of some of the archetypal music of the ’70s and ’80s. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

Jessica Molasky and John Pizzarelli

- Aug. 3 – 7. (Wed. – Sun.) John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molasky. Collectively and individually, the married team of singer/guitarist Pizzarelli and vocalist Molasky make for one of the jazz world’s most entertaining acts. Capable of generating the humor of the great husband and wife teams of the past, they also bring a rare blend of musicality to their singing and playing that is uniquely their own. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323) 466-2210.

- Aug. 3 – 7. (Wed. – Sun.) Clarinet Fest 2011. Everything you ever wanted to know about the clarinet, or hear about the clarinet will undoubtedly take place in this large assemblage of programs and seminars. Clarinet ensembles of every stripe will perform.  Among the many highlights are performances on Sunday by the Eddie Daniels Quintet and the Clare Fischer Clarinet Choir. But there are numerous others, from many other parts of the world. Clarinet Fest 2011 in the Valley Performing Arts Center at CalState Northridge.

- Aug. 4. (Thurs.) Ron Kalina’s Birthday Bash. Versatil jazz harmonica player Kalina — who also plays piano, leads a celebratory evening of music to remember. He’s backed by vibist Gino Antonachi, bassist Pat Senatore and drummer Ryan Doyle. Vibrato Jazz Grill…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

- Aug. 4. (Thurs.) Hippiefest. The annual installment of music from the peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll generation returns for the sixth time. The headliners are Dave Mason (Traffic), Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Rick Derringer, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and Gary Wright. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

- Aug. 4. (Thurs.) Yemen Blues. The Skirball’s always entertaining, free Sunset Concerts continue with an appearance by a band that produces a steaming gumbo of music spiced with elements of jazz, blues, Jewish melodies and African grooves. Don’t plan to sit still when this band starts to kick it. Skirball Center.  (310) 440-4500.

Annie Sellick

- Aug. 6. (Sat.) Annie Sellick. Her bold, assertive style, blended with occasional touches of vulnerability make Sellick an appealing singer — one whose work warrants a wider hearing than she seems to be receiving. Steamers.  (714) 871-8800.

- Aug. 6. (Sat.) Judy Wexler. Critically praised jazz vocalist Wexler celebrates the release of her third CD, Under A Painted Sky, backed by some of the stellar players on the album — pianist/arranger Alan Pasqua, guitarist Larry Koonse, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Steve Hass. Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

San Francisco

- Aug 5 – 7. (Fri. – Sun.) Los Van Van. It’s been more than four decades since Juan Formell organized the fusion Cuban band Los Van Van. Expanding on the traditional charanga style, instrumentally as well as the choice of material, he created a band that continues to provide musical thrills at every performance. Yoshis Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

Turtle Island String Quartet

- Aug. 7. (Sun.) Turtle Island String Quartet. When the Turtle Islanders first posited the notion that the members of a string quartet — if they possessed the right blend of talent and imagination — could play with the creative liberation of a jazz group, it seemed a radical idea. (Despite the fact that their goal also included reviving the improvisation that had been for centuries a fundamental part of classical music as well.) But they’ve made their case convincingly, winning Grammy awards and opening an expressive pathway that more ensembles should explore. Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

Seattle

Aug. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.) Bill Frisell. Ever on the trail of another musical idea, Frisell’s Beautiful Dreamers features violinst Eyvind Kang and drummer Rudy Royston in a challenging, but potentially productive musical setting. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

Chicago

Charles McPherson

Aug. 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.) Charles McPherson. It’ll be an evening of Charlie Parker revisited when McPherson steps on stage. But not in an imitative sense. McPherson’s connection with Parker is inspirational, and the results are always musically compelling. Jazz Showcase.  (312) 360-0234.

New York

-Aug. 2 – 4. (Tues. – Thurs.) McCoy Tyner expands his usual trio format to a quintet featuring the two saxophone front line tenorist Ravi Coltrane and alto Gary Bartz. And it’s hard to imagine a more compatible assemblage of world class players. Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

- Aug. 3. (Wed.) The Center for Improvisational Music. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi, alto saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Kris Davis, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Gerald Cleaver — present and former faculty members — celebrate the 10th anniversary of the School for Improvised Music’s pioneering work in the exploration of the art of improvisation. Cornelia St. Cafe.  (212) 989-9319.

London

Claire Martin

- Aug. 4 (Thurs.) Claire Martin. She’s often described as England’s best jazz singer, which may well be true. But Martin is more than that — a versatile performer with the capacity to find the inner life of whatever she sings in whatever style. She appears with the Richard Rodney Bennett/Bobby Wellins Quartet. Ronnie Scott’s.  020 7439 0747.

Tokyo

- Aug. 2 – 5. (Tues. – Fri.) Joyce with special guest Sergio Santos. Singer/songwriter Joyce — who now occasionally also uses her last name, Moreno, has been a highly visible figure in Brazilian music since the MPB era. Still an engaging performer, she appears here with the gifted guitarist/songwriter/singer Santos, whose talents are still too little known in the U.S. The Blue Note Tokyo.  03-5485-0088.


Picks of the Week: July 6 – 11

July 6, 2010

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Arturo Sandoval

- July 6. (Tues.)  Arturo Sandoval’s Big Band.  The versatile Sandoval showcases his trumpet playing, piano playing, percussion and vocals in the company of a powerful large ensemble,  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- July 6. (Tues.) A Glorious Celebration. The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale launch the 2010 classical season at the Bowl with a program of works by Handel, Haydn, Vivaldi and Poulenc.  The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000.

- July 6. (Tues.)  The Kate Reid Trio. Singer/educator Reid takes time away from the classroom for a practical application of her vocal skills. Charlie O’s.   (818) 994-3058.

- July 7. (Wed.)  Femi Kuti, Terence Blanchard, Richard Bona, Lula Washington Dance Theatre.  Hollywood Bowl. 2010 Jazz at the Bowl opens the season by reaching out to display the wide array of sounds, rhythms and movements that co-exist comfortably under the jazz umbrella. Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

Kellye Gray

- July 8. (Thurs.)  Kellye Gray.  San Francisco based Gray is as impressive with her riffing up-tempos as she is with her poignant ballad interpretations.  She’s backed by Otmaro Ruiz, Hamilton Price and Jimmy BranleyCrowne Plaza. (310) 642-7500.

- July 8. (Thurs.)  Kristin Korb.  Bassist Korb has moved from her role as a first call sideperson into the spotlight as a charismatic singer/instrumentalist. Steamers. (714) 871-8800.

- July 9. (Fri.)  John Proulx.  Impressive as a jazz pianist, Proulx has been displaying considerable vocal ability as well.  This time out, he plays and sings selections from his Chet Baker tribute CD Baker’s Dozen: Remembering Chet Baker. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- July 9. (Fri.) “Music in the Zoo.” World Music Night. The summer music season at the Zoo begins with an entertaining gumbo of world music performances.  On the bill: John Bilezikjian (Middle Eastern), the Marieve Harrington Band (French), Billy Mitchell presents World Music Featuring Marisa Kosugi (Japanese) and “Cui Cui” Rangel” (Mexican), Incendio (Salsa), Paddy’s Pig (Irish), Espino (Latin) and Masanga Marimba (Zimbabwean).  The Los Angeles Zoo.  6 p.m.   (323) 644-6042.

- July 9. (Fri.)  Yes.  Peter Frampton.  The Grammy Award winning progressive rock band Yes and the eclectic Frampton were a pair of the most ground-breaking musical artists of the seventies.  And they’re still going strong, with Frampton showcasing selections from his just-released CD Thank You Mr. ChurchillGreek Theatre (323) 665-3125.

Bill Holman (photo by Lesley Bohm)

- July 9. (Fri.)  Bill Holman Orchestra. An innovative composer and arranger for large jazz ensembles, Holman has been an utterly original stylist for more than five decades.  Far too rarely heard in person, the 80-something jazz icon leads a collection of L.A.’s finest in a program guaranteed to delight the senses and nourish the musical mind.  Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- July 9. (Fri.)  Bill Cantos. Singer/pianist/songwriter Cantos spends a lot of time making other performers sound good.  Here’s a chance to hear him in action with his own fine songs.  The Culver Club in the Raddison.   (310) 649-1776 ext. 4137.

- July 9 & 10. (Fri. & Sat.)  Todd Murray.  Romantic balladeer Murray’s title for this latest show is Croon, which gives a pretty good indication of the engaging style he brings to material from the Great American Songbook.  Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

- July 9 – 11 (Fri. – Sun.)  A Beatles Celebration. Classic Beatles songs performed by a stylistically diverse line-up of singers, including Patti Austin, Joe Jackson, Rob Laufer, Betty LaVette, Brian Stokes Mitchell.  Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000.

- July 10. (Sat.)  Chris Botti.  Botti’s rich-toned trumpet, fluent improvisations and imaginative way with a ballad have established him as one of the jazz world’s most popular artists.  And watch out for Katharine McPhee, whose electrifying singing has the potential to steal a show from anybody.  Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-3125.

- July 10. (Sat.)  Steve Wilson Quartet. Alto saxophonist Wilson has been receiving – with good reason — critical notices identifying him as one of the important new jazz arrivals. Vitello’s.   (818) 769-0905.

- July 10. (Sat.)  Kayhan Kalhor.  Persian kamancheh virtuoso performs a program of traditional and improvised music from Iran and Turkey.  He’s backed by Turkish master baglama player, Erdal ErzincanGrand Performances.  (213) 687-2159.

Susie Hansen

- July 11. (Sun.)  The Susie Hansen Latin Jazz Band.  The dynamic five-string electric violinist, her exciting band and her irresistibly rhythmic Latin Jazz for dancing begin an every-Sunday gig at the Sage Restaurant and Lounge in Whittier with a celebration of the release of her new CD, Representante de la SalsaSage Restaurant and Lounge. (562) 945-1204.

- July 11. (Sun.)  The Phil Norman Tentet. Performing material composed and arranged by some of the Southland’s finest writer’s Norman’s Tentet revives the cool West Coast jazz sound into a briskly swinging contemporary experience.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- July 11. (Sun.)  The Steve Miller Band. The platinum-selling Steve Miller Band hit #1 with their first single, then topped it with the ever-memorable “Fly Like An Eagle.”  Their most recent effort, “The Town and the City” affirmed that the Band is still in rare and entertaining form.  Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-3125.

San Francisco

- July 5 & 6. (Tues. & Wed.) Richard Bona. The African bass master has been using his mesmerizing blend of traditional African sounds with contemporary jazz elements to set new standards for his instrument. Tues.:Yoshi’s San Francisco.   (415) 655-5600.  Wed.: Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

- July 10. (Sat.)  Paul McCartney. Sir Paul brings his current group into a Beatles-sized venue – the official home of the San Francisco Giants.  Expect to hear some nostalgic classics.  AT&T Park.  San Francisco.

San Diego

Pete Escovedo

- July 9 & 10.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Pete Escovedo. 75th Birthday Celebration.  After demonstrating his potent rhythmic wares at the Playboy Jazz Festival, Escovedo and his talented offspring continue the joyous celebration of his extraordinary life and music.  Anthology, San Diego.  (619) 595-0300

New York

July 6 – 10. (Mon. – Sat.)  Louis Hayes Quintet Veteran drummer Hayes leads a stellar group – alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist Rick Germanson and bassist Richie Goods in a tribute to his old boss with “The Cannonball Adderley Legacy.” Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

July 6 – 11. (Mon. – Sun.)  Enrico Pieranunzi.  The Italian pianist’s superb playing provides convincing evidence of the growingly global reach of first rate jazz artistry. Village Vanguard (212) 255-4037.

- July 6 – 11. (Mon. – Sun.)  Ben E. King.  The great ‘60s and ‘70s soul singer – the composer of “Stand By Me” — still knows how to find the heart of a song. The Blue Note. l (212) 475-8592.


Here, There & Everywhere: “Yes, We Can!”

February 18, 2009

By Don Heckman

“Yes, we can” was one of the most frequently heard slogans of the Obama presidential campaign.  And it was a good one, with its implicit sense of working together toward common goals.  This week, President Obama took a giant step toward holding up his end of the catchphrase by effectively taking action on the economic stimulus package.

But what about all the eager supporters, chanting the phrase over and over, holding up the placards, eager to join in the all-together-now choruses of “Yes, we can?”  What’s left for them to do, now that Obama is in the White House and the Democrats control the Congress?  Sit around and wait to see what the President and his minions do next?

Earlier today, a friend forwarded a link to me that provided a view of some of the actions one might take to translate “Yes, we can” into something more closely resembling President John F. Kennedy’s classic phrase “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”

The link connects to a video created by, of all people, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.  In it, some familiar (and less familiar) faces offer thoughts and commitments about the pledges they’re making to pitch in and share the burden.  Sure, it has some of the superficiality that’s present in all celebrity we-are-the-world get-togethers.  But it also has a core of commitment and meaning that is worth considering.  If, that is, the pledges are taken beyond the form of persuasive promises and into the realm of action and productivity.  So I’m posting it here for everyone to take a look, and make their own judgments.


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