Category Archives: Music on Mondays

Music on Mondays (8-31-15)—Let it rock ‘n’ roll on down the highway

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It was a long seven days last week, ending with the purchase of a new car.

Our 2002 Toyota Camry finally gave up the last week of July so we were scrambling to find a car that we liked. Jim and I had been driving his mom’s Honda Civic for about a month but there were several things we were not enamored of.

2002 Toyota Camry

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

First, it was a two-door, and the doors were heavy. They also were long, so the seat belts were waaaaay back there. Getting into the car and belting up was inconvenient at best and a real hassle at worst. Opening the door, especially if one was on a slight uphill or right-side-down slope was difficult at best.

2015 Honda Civic

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Honda also had a digital dashboard display. Yeah, it looked cool, but if the sun was coming in from behind, in the southwest quarter, there was no way you were going to see that digital display. Made early evening driving home from the beach difficult. If not for the cruise control, I would have worried about speeding since I couldn’t read the dashboard speedometer.

We did like the large volume knob for the stereo system and the large fan knob for the heating/cooling system. Very easy to work while driving.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Gas mileage for combo city/highway driving in the Civic was right at 29 miles per gallon. We liked that. In fact, we liked it so much that I am officially declaring that, as of September 1, 2015, the days of my infatuation with high horsepower, low-gas-mileage muscle cars officially is over. My next car goal in life is a Tesla at 100 miles per gallon. I didn’t know it even used gas at all! (Note: They don’t use gas. They are completely electric, so its actually 100 miles per gallon “equivalent”).

I also am declaring my days of dark-colored cars to officially be over. No more black. No more red. No more dark blue. Sadly, no more Texas Aggie maroon…….. It’s either white, light gray, or silver. Dark paint doesn’t do well in 11 months of hot, dry San Diego sun.

So when we went looking at cars, we initially started at the independent used car dealerships since there are about a billion of them within five miles of home. Buying a used car would mean that the immediate depreciation resulting from driving a new car off the dealer’s lot would have been absorbed by someone else.

Used car selection, however, wasn’t great. Either the cars were ten years old with lots of mileage, or they were 2-3 years old with low mileage but prices almost the same as a new car.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Then, last Thursday while reading the San Diego Reader, our weekly newsmagazine, I saw an advertisement for Nissan offering leases for no money down. That’s when it hit me that Jim and I had leased a Nissan Maxima and a Nissan Altima in the early 2000s. We were quite satisfied with them, more than happy.

However, Nissan’s dealership is the farthest away out of the major car manufacturers. Honda and Toyota are just a hop, skip, and a jump across the freeway. Being familiar with Toyota, we went there first.

Although we had been driving the Honda for four weeks, I was still quite comfortable with the interior layout of the Toyota. I specifically like the positioning of the cruise controls. I can’t drive without cruise control, and the controls must be easy to use.

We wound up getting a Toyota Corolla LE Plus. Good gas mileage was my #1 goal, and the Corolla was rated at 29/38.

2015 Toyota Corolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Other things we really like about the Corolla:

  • The headlights—They throw a bright beam from side to side in front of the car without being blinding to oncoming drivers.
  • Cruise control—Familiar location and familiar controls.
  • Analog—Dashboard, audio controls, and air conditioning controls are analog.
  • Steering—Seems to be tighter, sportier, than the Civic.
  • Suspension system—Also sportier than the Civic but without being too sporty in that one can feel the road without feeling all the pot holes.
  • Audio system—My favorite part of the car, even more of a favorite than the cruise control, is the fact that I can copy music files to a USB flash drive, plug it into the car’s audio system, and rock on down the highway to my own thing rather than Justin Bieber et al.

2015 Toyota Corolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The one thing that I don’t like about the Corolla:

  • The readout for the audio system is digital. It has room for 36 radio presets, all digital. So what I don’t understand is why texting on a cell phone is against the law but texting on the built-in radio system is okay. The fact is that in order to operate the radio system, one has to take one’s eyes off the road and read these little display readouts on a tinier-than-a-phone display at 70 mph. Makes absolutely no sense. Fortunately, though, there are analog controls on the steering wheel, and once one is familiar with their positioning and functioning, one never has to look at the digital audio display again.

Lastly, I do think the custom license plate is pretty cool:

2015 Toyota Corolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sadly, I won’t get to keep the custom license plate once the car is registered with the State of California…..

With or without the custom license plate, we’re going to let it roll, we’re going to roll on down the highway, we’re going to rock on down the highway!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (8-24-15)—You wouldn’t want to be like me

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

The clown bus full of Republicans wanting to be President of the United States has gotten me interested in dystopian movies. Fortunately, Wikipedia has a pretty good list, and I’m currently watching “I, Robot.” Doesn’t hurt that it stars Will Smith, one of my favorite actors.

The movie is based on a collection of short storied titled “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov and published in December 1950. I read the short stories way back in third or fourth grade so I was interested in the film adaptation.

The film reminded me of a 1977 album in my collection titled “I Robot” by the Alan Parsons Project. Although the album was to be based on the stories, too, and had the full support of Asimov, the Alan Parsons Project could not secure rights to the title. Thus, the group simply removed the comma.

There were three singles released from Alan Parsons project’s album: “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You,” “Don’t Let It Show,” and “Day After Day (The Show Must Go On).” The track “Breakdown” received extensive airplay on album-oriented rock radio.

Here are all four songs:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

 I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (8-17-15)—Good thing the City of Chicago didn’t sue!

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Generally I’m not a fan of cover versions of songs, tending to prefer the original group and the original song. I should define “original song” as “the version that I first heard” because lots of the first Beatles songs in the ’60s were cover songs of earlier songs from the ’50s.

What do I do when the original group re-records the original song to “update” it? Such as this one:

“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, 1970

“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, 1986

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The original version spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in Summer 1970, peaking at #4.

The 1986 version was also released as a single, spending 8 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September & October, and peaking at #48.

Chicago apparently really liked the 1986 version because in addition to releasing it as a single, they made it a B side, too. TWICE! Meaning that it was released three times!

It appeared as the B side to the “Will You Still Love Me?” single released in November 1986, and then again as the B side to the “What Kind Of Man Would I Be?” single released—ready for this?—in December 1989! Three years later!

I like both versions but I am partial to the 1970 original.

Chicago was formed in 1970 in Chicago, Illinois, as Chicago Transit Authority. Unfortunately, the original Chicago Transit Authority sued, forcing them to shorten their name to just Chicago. Good thing the city of Chicago didn’t sue!

Chicago has released 23 studio albums, 3 live albums, 10 compilation albums, and 63 singles. Their most recent album, “Chicago XXXVI: Now,” was released on July 4, 2014. I have all of their music in my collection, and their latest is another fine collection of classic Chicago.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (8-10-15)—It’s a very, very mad world

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I have been trying to watch one movie each day. Surprisingly it’s a lot easier to do since I canceled cable TV back in September 2012. I used to turn on the TV to watch a movie, and as someone more famous than me said,

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I’m in a dystopian/science fiction movie mood lately, having watched just this month things like

“Brave New World” from 1980
“A.I. Artificial Intelligence” from 2001
“Equilibrium” from 2002
“Aeon Flux” from 2005
“Babylon A.D.” from 2008

I even watched all three movies from “The Hunger Games” franchise and am looking forward to the fourth movie scheduled to hit theaters in November. Since I don’t go to theaters, though, and don’t rent movies, I probably won’t see it until Summer 2016.

Whenever I watch a movie and am intrigued by actors and actresses whom I know nothing about, I turn to Wikipedia to track down their filmography. Jake Gyllenhaal is one such actor. I first became aware of him in “October Sky” from 1999, then “Brokeback Mountain” from 2005 but never kept up with him after that.

He’s got quite an extensive filmography for a 34-year-old actor, and one of the movies is “Donnie Darko” from 2001. He starred in it along with Maggie Gyllenhaal (his sister), Patrick Swayze, and Drew Barrymore. The soundtrack is music from various groups that I am quite familiar with, such as Tears for Fears, Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, Pantera, and INXS. The song for the closing credits was by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews, “Mad World.” I was familiar with the song by Tears for Fears but not the very haunting, piano version by Jules & Andrews. Here it is:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I did like the movie.

For everything about the movie, see the Wikipedia entry for “Donnie Darko.”

Here’s the original “Mad World” by Tears for Fears from 1983:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (8-3-15)—Happy 89th birthday to Mr. Tony Bennett

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Happy 89th birthday today to Tony Bennett.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Tony Bennett was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, in Astoria, Queens, New York. He began singing at an early age and had his breakthrough in 1949 with Bob Hope. It was Hope who suggested that he change his stage name from Joe Bart to Tony Bennett. The rest is history….

Bennett had three huge #1 hits prior to the beginning of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1958: “Because Of You,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” and “Rags To Riches.” Here they are:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Tony BennettBennett’s career took a downturn with the British Invasion, and his last record that charted, “For Once In My Life,” only reached #91 in October 1967.

He continued to release albums and singles through 1977 although none did very well. After a near-fatal cocaine overdose in 1979, and problems with the IRS, his two sons, Danny and Dae, helped him get back on his feet. They moved him from California back to New York and started booking him on college campuses and small theaters, anything to get away from the Las Vegas image that had been him for over a decade.

In 1986 he issued his first album in nine years, “The Art of Excellence.” Since then he has had a successful return to the world of music as greatly evidenced by the many Grammy awards he has won since his return. Prior to 1993 he had two Grammy awards, both in 1963 for “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” (Record of the Year, and Best Male Vocal Performance). Since 1993, he has 16 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and 2 Emmy Awards.

Bennett also is a painter, having created works under the name Anthony Benedetto which are on permanent display in several institutions.

He is the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.

Again, happy birthday Mr. Bennett!

Happy Birthday!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift? Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage? Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (7-13-15)—Music, real estate, California, and a cat…. obviously a great guy!

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

In the past I would sometimes buy an album or CD for just one song. That was back in the days when we had to do that. Now if we just like one song, we just buy that one song! Ah, digital music….

Billy Idol’s 1990 album “Charmed Life” is one such album. I bought it for “Cradle of Love” and pretty much dismissed the rest of the album….

….until I equalized the album yesterday. That’s when I discovered “Endless Sleep.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I knew the song from somewhere; Wikipedia helped me out.

The original song was written and sung by Jody Reynolds (1932-2008) in 1958. Yes, I did have it in my music collection.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Endless Sleep” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1958.

Jody Reynolds was born in Denver, raised in Shady Grove, Oklahoma, and eventually settled in Palm Springs, California, working in real estate for Fred Sands Realty in La Quinta. He also had a cat named Bandit. Music, real estate, California, and cats…. Obviously a great guy!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift? Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage? Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (7-6-15)—It’s a small world

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

As I was listening to 1988 music this weekend, a song reminded me that I did an inspection in 2007 for someone whose name was familiar.

At the end of the inspection I said, “I went to high school with a guy named __________ but that was in Kingsville, Texas.”

He looked shocked, and after catching his breath, said, “I went to King High. I knew a Russel but his last name was Kirk.”

“Well, in 2004 I dropped my last name Kirk and took my middle name as my last name. So you’re looking at the former Russel Kirk, now Russel Ray.”

We talked about what brought him to San Diego (the Navy in the late ’70s) and why I changed my name (estrangement from the Kirk relatives).

Here is the song that reminded me of that event:

“Small World” by Huey Lewis & The News

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with my situation, but I had never really listened to the words. I just remember my wise old grandmother always telling me that “it’s a small world” in the context of meeting someone from your past in a faraway place.

The words do have a lot to do with what currently is going on in the world, even right here in the United States with health care, gay marriage, the Confederate flag, this whole group of Republican nuts running for President, etc.

Lyrics

All around the world
There are people like you and me
From the poorest beggar in the street
To the richest king and queen

Some people take
And then they never give
You gotta learn to give and take
If you wanna learn to live
In a small world
Small, small world

Now we can
Fight one another
Like they to on T.V.
Or we can
Help one another
The way it’s supposed to be

If we all give a little
It could really mean a lot
It’s a small world
But it’s the only one we’ve got
Small world
Small, small world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift? Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage? Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post