Saturday, February 14, 2015

Jimi Hendrix - Bold As Love



Like any sane person I am very big fan of Jimi Hendrix. The greatest tragedy of Hendrix’s music career is of course its length. Jimi only managed to produce three studio albums before his untimely death and the imaginations of fans and other musicians of what was next to come, what could have been, and what if, have haunted us ever since. Hendrix was a unique talent, he was obviously physically talented in how absurdly well he could play guitar, but he was truly special because of who he was and what he represented. He was a black man in a troubled time who only saw colour in his music, he was a rainbow of complex ideas and emotions.

Not everyone knows this but Hendrix struggled to write music with any sort of uplifting message or theme. His naturally disposition was one of darker inclinations, which makes a lot of sense when you re-examine songs like “Third Stone From The Sun,” “Castles Made of Sand,” or “The Wind Cries Mary.” It is easy to make the accusation that Hendrix’s psychedelic lyrics and guitar licks are the inspiration of drug use, and there is certainly some degree of truth to that, but by focusing solely on Hendrix’s drug habits we do the man and ourselves a great disservices, because the truth is far more splendid. The primary reason for the far out lyrics and ideas in Hendrix’s discography is because he was a deep thinker, which is likely also the reason for his brooding thoughts. The introverted journey into one’s self can be a challenging thing to do, for it can be an uncomfortable exploration, there is more than a drug induced trip in Hendrix’s music there is also a philosophy yearning to be explored and understood. Knowing how Hendrix struggled with being positive gives, to me, a new reflection on some of his sweeter songs. An earnest effort had to put forward to create song like “Bold as Love.”

I am particularly fond of “Bold as Love;” it is a poem with a great guitar outro, but it is also something of a tell all of Hendrix and in fact all people. The nature of “Bold As Love” is very simple, Hendrix assigns a color to each and every one of his emotions, gives them a short and sweet description, and then declares them “all bold as love.” By the end Hendrix declares;

“And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from,
Giving my life to a rainbow like you.”

After all Hendrix is all these different colours/emotions and so is the woman he is singing to, hell she is rainbow, but by this standard so is Jimi, so is everyone.

Any jackass can tell you what you already know about Jimi Hendrix and “Bold as Love.” We all know Jimi is one of the very best guitarists ever, all of us also know already know that Jimi was a one kind musician and individual. It is easy to understand the message of how everyone is a composite of all our emotions and how that fact makes us the complex creatures we are. Yeah anyone can tell you that, so I am going to do something different, I am going compare the characters described in “Bold as Love” to the various coloured lanterns represent the emotional spectrum from the mythology of the Green Lantern. That should be cool.

Hendrix Bold of Love Characters:

Geoff John's Green Lantern Colored Spectrum:

It appears the only colors that Jimi Hendrix and DC comic book writers agree on is yellow. Yellow should be the color of fear. The rest is a scrambled mix and match, and while I can completely visualize Hendrix’s characters in my head, I am very fond of the expanded Green Lantern mythos created by Geoff Johns, and I lean towards his selection of emotional color combination a little more. Still it is arguably completely arbitrary which colors we think represent which emotions, so I suspect there is no right answer.

I searched the web, and I was disappointed to discover that no one has taken to creating some artwork depicting the colorful characters of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold As Love,” not even on deviant art. Better yet I think it would be cool to see some kind of cross over artwork, like Jimi Hendrix wielding all the corps rings and sending out a rainbow of cosmic beams from his guitar, something like that. I would create it but I have no artistic talent, maybe someone reading this will agree and make it happen, we can only hope.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Got to use some of my old photoshop skills this time, only I had to use paint.  Harder then it should have been.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Tallest Man On Earth - Love Is All



The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson. In reality Kristian is only five foot seven, which is actually rather short of an adult male, so I do not know why he elected to have the stage name “Tallest Man on Earth” for his folk music career. Presumably the name was chosen for reasons other than actual height but I do not know these reasons.

One day whilst engaging in the wonderful world of listening to random recommended songs on youtube.com, something I recommend to everyone, I was led to the song “Love Is All,” by The Tallest Man on Earth. This would be my first and favorite exposure to the band. Nothing I have heard since by Kristian have I enjoyed anywhere near as much as “Love Is All.” I would concede that every song I have heard under the banner of The Tallest Man on Earth has been nice and mellow and rather enjoyable, but nothing hooked me quite like the peaceful licks and dramatic pauses of “Love Is All.” It is a very charming song, one of my favorite modern folk songs I have heard in a long time.

At 5'7 Kristian Matsson is not in fact
the tallest man on earth.
Trained in classical guitar, which is surprisingly rare these days, Kristen developed the necessary skills to perfectly create a folk guitar playing style that was reminiscent of his heroes, as well as unique to himself, as well as true to classical form. Tallest Man on Earth is often compared to the likes of Bob Dylan which is fair when comparing theme but you can also clearly hear the stylization of simultaneous picking for both melody and rhythm. A style I have always loved is the picking of individual notes, the much more common approach to song creation, especially for rhythm guitar is to rely on chords, and in a lot of pop rock and punk rock they sometimes, in my opinion, rely too heavily on bar chords, usually the only time individual notes are invoked is during guitar solos and that is a shame, because the best guitar playing, and definitely the most unique kinds of sound a guitar can produce come from individual picking.

At some point in his youth Kristian grew tired of playing guitar, it felt mechanical to him, which is impressive that he got so knowledgeable and skilled at player he could feel that way about it. It was not until he discovered the idea of playing in various tunings that allowed him to use “open tunings” that his passion for guitar playing returned to him. Open tuning is a method of tuning the guitar so a primary chord can be strummed without any frets pressed which allows the player the freedom to manipulate the sound in a grand variety of ways. This explains the strumming Kristian plays while picking out the individual notes. This style is lovely and I really enjoy listening to it and as a man who unsuccessful learned to play Mason Williams “Classical Gas” and Bach’s “Air for G String” on guitar, I can assure you the best guitarist either are classical guitar players or rock stars who can play in a classical style if they so choose, so long story short, I always have a soft spot for songs like “Love Is All.”

The other advantage Kristian found with open tuning is that it allowed him to focus a little more on his singing while playing, which I suppose is what created The Tallest Man on Earth project. Sometimes it is not the talent of a singer that wows us, sometimes it is the passion of their voice. Kristian is a solid singer but he is really good at putting a lot of heart into his vocals and his lyrics are strange poetry. The song “Love Is All” may or may not actually propose the idea that everything we do is love. There is wonderful water imagery, walking over the river like it’s easier than land, throwing evil into the current, and this mighty river is both our savior and our sin. Neat stuff, also a house made of spider webs? A lot of really strong stuff is being thrown at the listener and I really like it because it stirs my imagination in a variety of directions. Everything is top notch but the finally icing on the cake is the way Kristian wails through the chorus.

“Oh, I said I could rise,
From the harness of our goals.
Here come the tears,
But like always, I let them go.
Just let them go.”

Really emotional stuff coming from the Swede, and I think that may be the reason I enjoy a song like “Love Is All” so much more than his other songs. The wailing in his voice invokes sadness and a joy at the same time, which is interesting, it may sound strange but I suspect a lot of people’s favorite emotion is being happy and sad at the same time and I feel that is exactly what I hear in Kristian’s voice every time he sings this chorus.

I do not exactly listen to a lot of modern folk music but the fine guitar work and emotional vocals in a song like “Love Is All” is the sort of song I always feel partial towards. I will have to dig deeper into The Tallest Man on Earth’s repertoire surely there are other gems waiting to be discovered.

- King of Braves