Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Charles Stross's Dead Lies Dreaming: The New Laundry Files Novel

U.S. Tor edition
I actually completed work on this manuscript for Tor Books at the end of January -- yes, January 2020! But knowing that nine months remained before the book would be published I decided to hold off writing about said book on this blog until we got a lot closer to the publication date.

That date is approximately four weeks away: the U.S. edition from Tor will be released on October 27; the U.K. edition from Orbit Books will be released on October 29. 

And though Dead Lies Dreaming will be the tenth Laundry Files novel from Charles Stross, this book is not -- I repeat, not -- part of the current/ongoing series involving our favorite cast of characters from Q-Division: Bob Howard, Dominique "Mo" O'Brien, Alex Schwartz, Mhari Murphy, and Pinky and Brains.

This new volume is actually the first in a new trilogy involving... well,  the only character from the prior books who even tangentially appears in this new series is Fabian Everyman, aka the Mandate, aka New Management (aka the Prime Minister). In fact, Stross's working title for this new series is "Tales of the New Management."

In his "Charlie's Diary" blog post of September 27, the author writes:

"....I gave myself license to doodle therapeutically. The therapeutic doodles somehow colonized the abandoned first third of a magical realist novel I pitched in 2014, and turned into an unexpected attack novel titled Lost Boys. (It was retitled Dead Lies Dreaming because a cult comedy movie from 1987 got remade for TV in 2020—unless you're a major bestseller you do not want your book title to clash with an unrelated movie—but it's still Lost Boys in my headcanon.)
Lost Boys—that is, Dead Lies Dreaming—riffs heavily off Peter and Wendy, the original taproot of Peter Pan, a stage play and novel by J. M. Barrie that predates the more familiar, twee, animated Disney version of Peter Pan from 1953 by some decades....Peter and Wendy can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg here. And if you only know Pan from Disney, you're in for a shock."
Orbit U.K. edition
In that blog post, the author shares a lot more detail on the genesis of this new Laundry Files series than I have included here, so be sure to click on that "Diary" link above to read the full content.

For those familiar with the previous Laundry Files novels, in The Annihilation Score, regular humans began developing superpowers. In Dead Lies Dreaming, those everyday people have formed groups, or clans (i.e. the Lost Boys of the original title), and now work in unison to, shall we say, pull the wool over the eyes of authority. And in this world, where there are thieves, there will be a thief-taker.

But as in any Laundry Files novel, there is always a much bigger (very much bigger!) outcome (the world!) at stake.

Dead Lies Dreaming is now available for preorder at Amazon and Amazon UK, or your bookseller of choice.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Grace Potter - "Eachother" (Lyric Video)

"Streets are all empty
Shelves are all bare
The world is holding its breath like we're running out of air

It's the first in our lifetime
Might not be the last
But I remember when my grandmama told me once - she said 'This too shall pass'

I don't know where we're going
But if the going gets rough,
We've got Eachother
And for now, that's enough"

Featuring Marcus King, Jackson Browne, and Lucius....

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mural by Denise Olenak

Denise Olenak finishes a mural in San Jose, California on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, honoring health care workers fighting the Coronavirus pandemic. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

For additional photos and details of the mural-in-process: The Mercury News.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020

"Hallelujah" Performed by K. D. Lang at Fire Fight Australia

"Hallelujah," written by Leonard Cohen, performed by K. D. Lang, at the Concert for National Brushfire Relief, Sunday, February 16, 2020, at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia.

To donate: Fire Fight Australia.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Patti Smith and Choir! Choir! Choir! - People Have The Power

"People have the wrestle the world from fools...."

This is my second posting of a Choir! Choir! Choir! video. The first featured David Byrne and the song "Heroes" (written by David Bowie and Brian Eno). You can view that video here.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

In Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of "The Weight" - Song Around the World / Playing for Change

"The Weight" was written by Robbie Robertson, recorded by his group The Band, and released on the album Music From Big Pink in 1968.

From (September 18, 2019):
"What key is it in, Robbie?" Ringo Starr, sitting behind a drum set, asks Robbie Robertson over the phone. Ringo nods. "F-demented!" What happens next is a joyous cover of "The Weight," with Robertson reprising the recording's soulful intro lick. A series of musicians from all over the world – Marcus King, Lukas Nelson, the Japanese guitar virtuoso Char, Congo soul singer Mermens Mosengo and more – all add their own flavor to the classic from different locations.

The project comes from Playing For Change, a group dedicated to "breaking down the boundaries and overcome distances between people." That includes 15 music schools across 11 countries, documentaries and viral videos bringing artists from different cultures together; the group has released videos for "Redemption Song" [Bob Marley], "What’s Going On" [Marvin Gaye], and more ["All Along The Watchtower by Bob Dylan]. "The Weight" was done on an epic scale, a year and a half of production over five continents. "We made it brick by brick, starting with Robbie," says co-founder Mark Johnson, a Grammy-winning producer-engineer who's worked with Paul Simon, Keith Richards, and more. "That's what makes this special. We could never have never assembled this group in the studio. You need to go there, and then when you go there, you're where they feel comfortable....

We had built a mobile recording studio... Now I have little battery packs so we traveled the world with a mobile studio, great equipment and some cameras and this one we started off with Robbie Robertson playing guitar... And then as we traveled the world, we would deconstruct [the track.] So Ringo would replace the drums. Hutch [James "Hutch" Hutchinson”] would replace the bass. Everywhere I go, I'm putting headphones on musicians, and they're listening to whatever preceded them and playing along. And that's how we built it as we went from country to country. I think in this video, we went to about ten different countries.

Learn more about Song Around the World on the Playing For Change website -- and check out all those other videos!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Jeff Buckley - Grace

In memory of Jeff Buckley (November 17, 1966–May 29, 1997) on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of his Columbia Records album Grace on August 23, 1994.

"Hallelujah" (Official Video)

"Lover, You Should've Come Over"
Recorded live at the Middle East Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
February 19, 1994


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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Now Reading: The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel

Vinyl Detective 1This is the first mystery I've read in a very long time, and especially one that kept me reading, page after page, wanting to learn what happens next.

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel (Titan Books, 2016) is the first volume in an ongoing series that currently numbers four -- and I already have book number 2 on order.

Recently, I seem to be selecting books to read that have received a starred review in Kirkus. Those familiar with Kirkus know that even being reviewed by this publication is indeed rare; receiving a starred review nearly requires cosmic intervention.

For those not of the vinyl record persuasion, the "dead wax" of the title refers to the area on a record between the end of the last track and the label. Typically "matrix" information is provided in this runout area, sometimes stamped, sometimes etched, occasionally both: alphanumeric information that pertains to that pressing of the record. Often the only way to tell a first pressing of an album from a reissue is by the matrix runout information.

I was relating some of the story to my wife and I couldn't remember the protagonist's name -- the Vinyl Detective of the title -- so I picked up the book and leafed through what I had read at that point, and realized that his name is never given! Even when he meets up with friends or talks to friends on the phone, no one addresses him by name. He picks up a nickname or two along the way, but we never learn his real name. That I found quite intriguing. I'll have to see if Cartmel's "no name" quirk continues into the next volume.

As to the story: years ago, our protagonist, a rather unassuming record-collecting geek, had handed out business cards at record stores, pubs, and dj gigs. The business card simply read "Vinyl Detective" below his name and address. So much time had passed that he actually forgot about those business cards. Now, years later, one of those cards results in a knock at his door -- and an offer to hire him to track down an extremely rare jazz album from the 1950s, of which only a few hundred were pressed at the time.

This album, as it turns out, is one of fourteen different titles that the record label produced during the course of only one year, before the owner of the label committed suicide and the label ceased production.

Of course, beatings, murders, and mayhem ensue -- this is a mystery, as I said. But, as the subtitle suggests, the secret to the mystery is written in the dead wax -- and to learn that secret, our Vinyl Detective must actually track down all fourteen of those albums.

"An irresistible blend of murder, mystery and music... our protagonist seeks to find the rarest of records – and incidentally solve a murder, right a great historical injustice and, if he's very lucky, avoid dying in the process."
—Ben Aaronovitch, bestselling author of Rivers of London

"Crime fiction as it should be, played loud through a valve amp and Quad speakers. No digital writing here, it's warm and rich. Every delicate pop and crackle adding character and flavour. Witty, charming and filled with exciting solos. Quite simply: groovy."
—Guy Adams, critically acclaimed author of The Clown Service

"The Vinyl Detective is one of the sharpest and most original characters I've seen for a long time."
—David Quantick, Emmy Award-winning producer of VEEP

I haven't had this much fun reading a mystery novel in a long time.

You can find The Vinyl Detective at your book store of choice or via

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Final Excerpt: Chapter 22: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneI have to hope I'm not dulling the senses with all these excerpts from Carlos Santana's autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light.

Chapter 22 deals with the making of the album Supernatural. Unfortunately the pages are too numerous to excerpt, so if you've read -- and enjoyed -- the excerpts I've posted so far, then please do snag the book for yourself. You won't be disappointed....

At this point in Santana's career, he and the band were still under contract to Island Records, with two albums remaining on that contract. Carlos met with Chris Blackwell, of Island Records, for lunch and simply asked him to release him from his contract. Carlos felt something special was brewing, and Island Records was not the label to be with. Much to Carlos's surprise, Chris agreed, and with no strings attached. (Chris could have made Carlos pay for the remaining two albums, he could have asked that Carlos's next label buy out the contract, etc. but he didn't -- he simply let Carlos go.)

This allowed Carlos and Santana to team up again with Clive Davis, now with Arista Records. Clive was formerly the head of CBS (Columbia Records) in 1968, and he was instrumental in the production of the first Santana album. Clive put together the entire Supernatural album, bringing together all the singers and musicians who performed with Santana on that album. Clive Davis wanted to put Santana back on the radio!

Excerpt from Chapter 22:
It's really hard to describe how it feels when something [Supernatural] hits that big, all around the world, and you're in the middle of it. It's like being that cork floating on a big ocean wave—how much am I controlling, and how much is controlling me? Every day the ego games have to be checked, and you have to find your balance again.
In February of 2000, Clive told me that Supernatural had been nominated for ten Grammy Awards. Deborah started calling me a new name even before we got to the show. "So, Mr. Grammy, how many do you think you'll win?" The kids were like, "Yeah, Dad, how many?" I was feeling that I'd be lucky and happy with one. That's why, when I won the first one during the event that takes place in the afternoon, I thanked everyone I could— Clive, Deborah, my father and mother and the kids. When I won the next one, I was thanking my siblings and the musicians and songwriters. By the time of the evening event, which was on TV, I felt like one of those dogs playing fetch with a Frisbee, and it became something to laugh about: winners in other categories, such as classical music and country, started thanking me for not doing an album in their genres.
The whole thing was a blur, really. The two things that I was most proud of were playing "Smooth" onstage, with Rob Thomas singing and Rodney Holmes [the drummer] bringing everything he had. I hit that first note, and everyone in the whole place jumped to their feet. My other favorite moment was when Lauryn Hill and my old friend Bob Dylan presented the Album of the Year award—that was the eighth and last Grammy that Supernatural won. They opened the envelope, and all Bob did was point to me—no words. I got up to accept it, and suddenly it was clear what I had to say.
"Music is the vehicle for the magic of healing, and the music of Supernatural was assigned and designed to bring unity and harmony." I thanked the two personal pillars who first came to mind: John Coltrane and John Lee Hooker.

The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light is available from your bookstore of choice as well as

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Friday, August 9, 2019

Chapter 20 Excerpt: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneIf you haven't been keeping up on my blog post excerpts from Carlos Santana's autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, then here's a few significant points about the book:

The book was published in 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. NPR (National Public Radio) named The Universal Tone one of its Best Books of 2014. It received a starred review in Kirkus (and anyone who knows Kirkus, knows that it's nearly impossible to even get reviewed by Kirkus!). And the book went on to win the American Book Award in 2015.

So, why aren't you reading this book already?

From Chapter 20:
In a funny way, my life has always been local—everything that happens comes from where I am. John Lee Hooker was living in the [San Francisco] Bay Area at this time. He was the Dalai Lama of boogie. Shoot, he should have been the pope of boogie as far as I'm concerned. We got to know each other. A lot of times we'd be playing, and he'd say, "Carlos, let's take it to the street," and I'd say, "No, John, let's take it to the back alley," and he'd say, "Why stop there? Let's go to the swamp." I miss him so much.
A John Lee boogie pulls people in as strongly as gravity holds them to this planet. He is the sound of deepness in the blues—his influence permeates everything. You can hear him in Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" or in Canned Heat's boogies. That's nothing but John Lee Hooker. When you hear the Doors, that's a combination of John Lee and John Coltrane. That's what they do; that's the music they love.
In '89 John Lee was local to the Bay Area. He was living not far from me, in San Carlos, which is near Palo Alto. We met a few times and talked, and at some point he actually invited me to his house for his birthday, which was the first time I really hung out with him. I brought a beautiful guitar to give him.
When I walked in, I saw that everyone was watching the Dodgers on TV, because that's John Lee's favorite team. He was eating fried chicken and Junior Mints. No kidding—Junior Mints. He had two women on the left and two on the right, and they were putting the mints into his hands, which were softer than an old sofa. I stepped up and said, "Hi, John. Happy birthday, man. I brought you this guitar, and I wrote a song for you."
"Oh, yeah?"
"It sounds like the Doors doing blues, but I took it back from them and I'm returning it to you and I'm calling it 'The Healer.'
John Lee chuckled. He had a slight stutter that was very endearing. "L-L-Let me hear it."
I started playing, and I made it up right on the spot—I knew how he did the blues, how he played and sang. "Blues a healer all over the world..." He took the song, and when he recorded it, he added to it in his own way. I said, "Okay, we've got to go to the studio with this, but I just want you to come at one or two tomorrow afternoon, because I don't want you to be there all day, man. I just want you to come in and just lay it. I'm going to work with the engineer—get the microphones ready, get the band to the right tempo. You just show up."
"Okay, C-C-Carlos."
When John Lee showed up we were ready. I got the band warmed up—Chepito, Ndugu, CT, and Armando—no bass, because Alphonso didn't make that gig. John Lee and Armando were checking each other out like two dogs slowly circling each other—they were the two senior guys there, and you could really tell that Armando needed to know who this new older guy was. He was looking at him slowly, all the way from his feet up to his hat. Just sizing him up. John Lee knew it, but he just sat there, tuning his guitar, chuckling to himself.
Armando threw down the first card. "Hey, man, you ever heard of the Rhumboogie?" He was talking about one of the old, old clubs on the black music circuit in Chicago, opened by the boxer Joe Louis back before I was even born. John Lee said, "Yeah, m-m-man. I heard of the Rhumboogie." Armando had his hands on his waist like, "I got you now." He said, "Well, I played there with Slim Gaillard."
"Yeah? I opened up there for D-D-Duke Ellington."
I saw what was going on and stepped in. "Armando, this is Mr. John Lee Hooker. Mr. Hooker, Mr. Armando Peraza."
We did "The Healer" in one take, and the engineer said, "Want to try it again?"
John Lee shook his head. "What for?"
I thought about it and said, "Would you mind going back in the booth, and when I point at you, would you be so gracious as to give us your signature—those mmm, mmm's?" John Lee chuckled again. "Yeah, I can do that." I said okay. That was the only thing he overdubbed that day—"Mmm, mmm, mmm."
"The Healer" helped bring John Lee back for his last ten years. He had a bestselling album and a music video—everything he deserved. We started to hang out more and play together. I would see him in concert, too. He had a keyboard player for many years—Deacon Jones—who used to get up onstage and say, "Hey! You people in the front—you might need to get back a little bit, because the grease up here is hot. John Lee's about to come out!" I have so many stories like that as well as stories about John Lee calling me—sometimes during the day, but, like Miles [Davis] did, mostly late at night.
I remember John Lee opening for Santana in Concord, California, and we had finished our sound check and he'd been waiting for me on the side of the stage. We were done, and he started talking to me while we walked away. The soundman came running up. "Mr. Hooker, we need you to do a sound check, too."
"I don't need no sound check."
"But we have to find out how you sound."
John Lee kept walking. "I already know what I sound like." End of discussion.

"The Healer," John Lee Hooker, featuring Carlos Santana:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Chapter 19 Excerpt from: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneI've been gracing this blog with excerpts from Carlos Santana's autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company. There is so much rich material in this book that I'm actually having difficulty deciding what to post since I don't want the publisher (or Carlos himself) chastising me for quoting too much material! But if you enjoy the music of Santana, if you enjoy autobiographies, if you enjoy reading about a person's spiritual journey, then this is the book for you.

From Chapter 19:
In 1987, when Sal [Salvador, Carlos's son] was just four, I was jamming in the studio with CT [Chester Thompson, keyboard player] when one of those magic moments happened. But the engineers were still messing with calibrating something, and we wanted to record what we were doing right then. "Hit RECORD right now! Get this on tape, man — I don't care how you do it" So we got it on a two-track reel-to-reel — one track for CT, one for me. Just as I played the last note and it faded, the tape ran out — flub, flub, flub. Years later I found out that one of Stevie Ray Vaughan's blues was recorded exactly the same way — suddenly, on the spot, on a two-track reel-to-reel. And just as he played the last lick, the same thing happened — the tape ran out. The really weird thing? It was the same engineer both times — Jim Gaines.
I have to say a word about Jim and the other engineers Santana has been blessed to have in the studio and sometimes on the road. Fred Catero, Glen Kolotkin, Dave Rubinson, Jim Reitzel — they've all been instrumental in our success through the years, and I feel they all need to be honored. Jim Gaines worked with so many great artists, from Tower of Power to Steve Miller to Stevie Ray Vaughan, before he came to us. He brought a really earthy quality to the sound and did what he did without any ego — he was a pleasure to work with. He was with Santana just as things were going from analog to digital, so he helped with that transition and was as great with the computer as he was with the knobs. Recording technology was up to thirty-six tracks at that time, before Pro Tools came around, but he was really patient and knew what to say and when to say it in a very gentle way that would help make the music a lot more flowing.
After that jam with CT in '87, Jim gave me a cassette of it, and I left it in the car. The next day Deborah [Carlos's wife at that time] went shopping in that car, and when she came back she asked me, "Why don't you play like that?" There was that question again, the one she asked after the Amnesty International concert — sometimes she'd say that and I'd have to think, "What does she mean?" Before I said anything she was already asking me the name of the song on the cassette.
"What song?"
"You know, that song you played with CT. I heard it and couldn't drive. I had to pull over."
I decided to call it "Blues for Salvador," not only for Sal but also because San Salvador was going through some hard times then, with an earthquake and a civil war. That song inspired my last solo album as Carlos Santana. I love it because it has Tony Williams on it, and more of Buddy Miles's singing, and that band — CT, Alphonso, Graham, Raul, Armando, and the rest. I dedicated the album to Deborah, and the song "Bella," for Stella [Carlos's oldest daughter], is on there, too.
"Blues for Salvador" won a Grammy as the year's best rock instrumental performance — the first Santana Grammy, but not the last.

Please feel free to scroll back through my blog posts for previous excerpts....

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Another Excerpt from: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneAnd yet another excerpt from The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, an autobiography by musician Carlos Santana.

From Chapter 9 yet again:
I remember one time in 1988 I got into Chicago around five o'clock and was checking in to an airport hotel. The phone was already ringing in my room when I put the key in the door—it was Buddy [Guy]. "Hey, Santana! Listen, Otis [Rush] and I, we're waiting on your ass here. You got a pen? Write down this address and come on over."
The address was that of the Wise Fools Pub, and I didn't waste any time. I got there early enough, when the place was only half full— Otis hadn't actually showed up yet, so Buddy and I took some solos, and we were just killing it. Then suddenly I saw that cowboy hat and toothpick come out of the shadows. It was like a scene in a movie. Otis looked around and walked through the crowd like he was in no hurry at all. This was his turf. He grabbed his guitar and stepped into the single spotlight, which hit his face in a very dramatic way. He leaned into the microphone and said: "Give them a hand, ladies and gentlemen!" Then quietly, almost to himself, he said, "Stars, stars, stars..."
It was like Otis was saying, "Oh, yeah? You think these guys were good?" He plugged in and didn't even sing—he just went straight into round after round of an instrumental blues that showed us who the star really was. He was in the middle of a solo and hit a lick that had Buddy and me screaming like shrimp on a Benihana grill. We couldn't believe what he was able to get out of each note. It was like getting a real long piece of fresh sugarcane and peeling it with your teeth to get into the middle, where the sugar is, and the sound it makes when you suck the sap out of it and the juice starts running down your chin and onto your hands. That's what it was like when Otis was hitting those notes—nothing sounds or tastes better than that!
Over the years I've gotten to know Otis and let him know how important his music is to me. He's not one for compliments, though—the first time we met at the Fillmore, I told him how incredible he sounded. His reply was, "Man, I got a long way to go." What—you? The guy who made "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" and "I Can't Quit You Baby"? I think he's just one of those brothers who has a hard time validating his own gift, who's distant in his mind from his soul—except when he's playing. Not long ago Otis had a stroke, and he can't play anymore, and I make it a point to stay in touch, send his family a check twice a year, and let him know how much he's loved. He was never really one for words, but he'll still get on the phone and say, "Carlos, I love you, man." What can I say? He changed my life.[1]


[1] The Universal Tone was published in 2014; blues legend Otis Rush passed away on September 29, 2018.

Friday, July 26, 2019

More from: The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana

Santana - The Universal ToneStill reading -- and thoroughly enjoying -- the Carlos Santana autobiography entitled The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light.

Here's yet another excerpt, this one from Chapter 9:
At Woodstock, I think Santana played a great show, but I do not think Santana was responsible for all that happened afterward. That's like a cork floating on top of a wave in the middle of the sea, bobbing up and down and telling itself it's controlling the entire ocean—that's an ego out of control.
There were a lot of things that nobody planned at Woodstock but that made it work for us. If we hadn't stayed in the town of Woodstock for the week before the festival, we probably would have gotten stuck in traffic and showed up late or not made it at all. And if some groups hadn't been late getting up there, we wouldn't have gone on early in the day and we could have gotten caught in the rain later that day and had our show messed up or even been electrocuted or forced to quit. And if any of that happened, maybe "Soul Sacrifice" would not have made it into the Woodstock movie and nobody would have seen us.
There were a lot of angels stepping in and making a way for us—the more time goes by, the more I can say that with clarity and confidence. I'll say it again: the one angel who deserves the most credit is Bill Graham. He got us the gig when nobody had heard of us. We had just finished our first album, but it hadn't been released. When Michael Lang, who was producing the festival, asked Bill for his help, Bill told him, "Okay, this is a big endeavor. I'll help you with my connections and my people. They know how to do this. But you need to do something for me—you need to let Santana play."
"Okay, but what's Santana?"
"You'll see."