Trump Could Withdraw From Bird Treaty

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A little over 100 years ago, the U.S. and Canada signed the Migratory Bird Treaty to protect birds. The treaty limits the number of months hunters can shoot migratory game birds. Trump’s secretary of interior Ryan Zinke has recently moved to expand access to game hunting on public lands. It would not surprise me if Trump were to withdraw from the treaty citing the threat of avian flu, or some other trumped up charge against the birds. Volunteer field reporters from Ribbie’s faux political desk familiar with Trump’s golf outings have reported that Trump regularly feuds with Canadian geese who leave excessive droppings on his manicured greens and the sandpipers that dig around in the bunkers.

There has also been some unconfirmed chatter that Trump wants to require migratory game birds, including those close to extinction, to pay a border crossing tax based on wingspan. Naturally, the cranes are up in arms and the albatross have argued that it creates an undue burden. A group of rough-legged hawks have already begun to organize a migratory bird union, but are having trouble with the warblers who just want to be left alone, and the mockingbirds who won’t take anything seriously.

File under: real fake news, broken news, snark, satire, humor or humour if you like

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Elderly Bridge Denied Health Coverage

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A bridge badly in need of medical care recently received news that given its preexisting condition, it would no longer be covered under Trumpcare.  Distraught, the bridge called the Trumpcare hotline for help.  A transcript of the conversation has been obtained by the investigative unit of Ribbie’s Weblog and reads as follow:

Trumpcare: You’ve reached the Trumpcare hotline, how can I hurt help you?

Mr. Bridgey: Yes, I received a letter indicating that my preexisting condition will not be covered under Trumpcare.  That CAN’T be true.  Trump promised preexisting conditions would be covered.

Trumpcare: I’m awfully sorry, what he meant was that you would have access to health care in a high risk pool.

Mr. Bridgey: But I can’t swim.

Trumpcare:  That’s why it’s a high risk pool.

Mr. Bridgey: How much will my premium be?  It’s currently $1,700 a year.

Trumpcare: Well, that depends on your age, condition and salary.

Mr. Bridgey:  I’m 64 and earn $27,000 a year and I suffer from crumbling infrastructure.

Trumpcare: Let’s see, just a minute – ok, that would be $13,000 a year, assuming your state does not request a waiver of rules under Obamacare.  In some states, the rehabilitation services you may need will no longer be available.

Mr. Bridgey: That’s crazy, I can’t pay that and you are saying that even if I could, rehabilitation services might not be available at all.

Trumpcare: That’s right. However, if you live in Alaska, and you are a bridge to nowhere, you might just be in luck.

Mr. Bridgey: But I don’t understand.  I paid into medicare and social security dutifully my whole life. I have helped millions of commuters get to work over the span of my lifetime.  Whatever happened to the social contract?

Trumpcare: Sir, I’m afraid that’s been renegotiated.

Mr Bridgey: So this is it.  A death panel.

Trumpcare: Is there anything else I can hurt help you with?

Heavy Metal Dogs

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I ran across a disturbing article that got me thinking about food safety.  Trump’s plan to gut most of the regulatory agencies including the FDA puts corporate profits ahead of the interests of the people.  Fortunately, one hot dog maker recalled something like 200,000 pounds of franks after alert consumers found metal in some of the weenies.  There is no report on which metals were found, whether heavy, precious or rare earth elements, but I can assure this, metal won’t easily melt when boiled, broiled or grilled.  It would not have been the intent of the makers of Nathan’s Hot Dogs to provide the consumer a bit of crunch or a metallic aftertaste.  But what would stop an unregulated company from using whatever meat could be procured cheaply, say, horse, dog, chipmunk, squirrel, possum, house sparrow, cat, or rat? For that matter, might we one day find recycled cell phone parts in our hot dogs in the form of rare earth metals that make the meat look fresher and last longer sporting a half-life shelf life of nearly a thousand years? Imagine a heavy metal dog with an expiration date of 2112 guaranteed to produce noble gases.

Top 10 Reasons For Comey Firing

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Rod Rosenstein must be wondering how he got on the sinking ship, as did both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Being forced to write a memo to justify Comey’s firing would not have been a pleasurable task for the career bureaucrat, that is unless he had chosen to have some fun with it.  And if he had chosen the later, he might have offered this top 10 list of the best reasons to can Comey.

10) As a Chemistry major, Comey believes in Science.

9) He’s friendly with former Univ. of Chicago classmate Dem. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

8) He promised to be truthful rather than loyal.

7) But her emails!

6) Comey called you “crazy” and “outside the realm of normal”; he may not even like steak well-done with ketchup – talk about crazy!

5) He likely wire tapped all the microwave ovens in the White House.

4) He’s said to be the most promising athlete to come out of the Yonkers/Queens area. But as you know Mr. President, YOU are the best baseball player ever to come out of New York.

3) No longer a registered Republican, he could be your chief presidential rival in 2020.

2) At 6’8″, Comey grandstands everyday.

And the NUMBER ONE reason to fire Director Comey:  He asked for a second scoop of vanilla ice-cream at your dinner meeting!

Beethoven No. 6 “Pastoral” Reviews

20150425_132906_001Beethoven completed Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (“Pastoral”) in 1808 writing most of it during the spring and summer, no doubt inspired by the countryside in his beloved Vienna.  It is one of my favorite works by the composer. To honor the spirit of this symphony on this fine spring day some 200 years after its first performance, I thought I would put together a list of recordings of the 6th that are of merit along with notes on the performances, recordings, and pricing.  As a bonus, I am also recommending a handful of Beethoven Symphony cycles that can be purchased at bargain basement prices for the budget minded listener.

Let me say at the outset that I purchased almost all of the recordings I reference as MP3 downloads through Amazon, not iTunes. That is to say that you might not find all of the music or the same prices on iTunes. For the “record”, I do have an iPhone and cannot purchase digital files from Amazon on it, although with an app, I believe it is possible.  I did, however, create a wish list of albums to buy and then accessed the wish list on my PC laptop and purchased the titles on Amazon. You see, I am a Windows guy mostly and until very recently had never used an Apple anything of any kind.

After carefully listening to 7 complete Beethoven Symphony cycles from the ’50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and the ‘00s, AND comparing movements of No. 6 from 9 different recordings back to back; AND after reading countless on-line reviews of what critics and devoted listeners have said about them, here are my opinions and recommendations.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)

The following are listed in descending  order of preference:

9 Blomstedt – Staatskapelle Dresden $8.99 (1975-1980)

The Dresden State Orchestra under Blomstedt plays flawlessly but it is too bad the quality of the recording from Berlin Classics is not of the highest standards.  The sound is murky and muddled when the strings unite and the full orchestra blends.  The soloists seem to be playing muted instruments at times as if banished to the penalty box, to borrow a hockey phrase.  The pace throughout is fairly even bordering on monotony and on the slow side, similar to Bohm and Szell.  Beethoven seems to be walking with a cane taking care not to stumble on the rocks all around.  The storm in the 4th movement is somewhat agitating and reminds me of rolling through a tortuous car wash with the windows down.

8 Leibowitz – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) $2.69 (1961)

Leibowitz leads the RPO on a fast-paced romp through nature.  His tempi are nearly as brisk as the versions conducted by Krivine and Toscanini.  The storm is a cyclonic burst that sounds artificial, almost comical or melodramatic, but fun I must confess.  Like the Blomstedt recording, the orchestral soundscape here suffers from a lack of clarity at key moments.  I have not heard the original 1961 pressing from Reader’s Digest from which these have been re-issued on The Genius of Beethoven: 100  Classical Masterpieces, but the sound here is slightly distant.  However, considering that you get all 9 symphonies from a widely acclaimed set plus many other Beethoven classics for $2.69, what are you waiting for?

7 Morris – London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) .99 (1987)

Morris commands the orchestra confidently.  The pacing seems on the brisk side in all the movements as if Beethoven were on a 45-minute power walk.  The violins have a tinny, razor-like sound.  This shrillness adds a rough edge to the performance that gives it character and spirit.  However, the recording lacks the richness of sound that I prefer,  rather like skim milk in coffee – it helps to cut the bitterness, but not enough to smooth it out.  Movement No. IV is positively terrifying.  Here, Beethoven takes cover from violent lightening strikes, and tornadic winds emerging with a disheveled look but otherwise undeterred.

6 Boult – Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra of London .99 (1957)

The Boult performance of the No. 6 found on The Beethoven Big Box has grown on me after repeated listens.  The pacing is uneven and the dynamics give the piece an odd level of excitement.  The British Boult evokes a startled Beethoven who might have encountered a bear or lost his way in Epping forest, pausing periodically to check his compass.

5 Tennstedt London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) 9.49 (1984)

The LPO under maestro Tennstedt deliver a solid performance of the “Pastoral.”  Coupled with excellent sonics in a package that also includes Symphonies 3, and 8 plus the Overtures,  this is a desirable recording.  One caveat is that the storm in movement IV of the 6th is a letdown, frankly, with only a few thunderous timpani strikes. I would characterize it as a dreamy thunderstorm that produced a torrential downpour for a few seconds after which a dazed Beethoven wakes up to ask what just happened.

4 Toscanini – NBC Symphony Orchestra $29.99 (1952)

I bought the renowned ’50’s Beethoven cycle on used vinyl for $1 at a Public Library book sale in Warner, New Hampshire some 10 years or so ago.  The vinyl was in “decent” condition so to preserve it, I converted the records to MP3 files.  The sound is pretty rough because of all the pops, scratches, and skips, not to mention the original lackluster mono RCA recording.  It’s hard to get past the limitations of the recording, but if one can, the rewards are the glorious historical performances of the NBC Symphony Orchestra passionately guided and inspired by one of the greatest conductors of all time.

3 Szell – The Cleveland Orchestra $6.99 (’60s)

Szell’s version of No. 6 is almost as good as Bohm’s.  Perhaps his tempi are a bit slower and somewhat plodding and mechanical like a fine tuned march at times, but the Cleveland Orchestra play magnificently throughout.  The instruments are not as present in the soundscape as in the DG recording of Bohm and the VPO, but the sonics are clean and silky. If you want to calm your nerves, Szell may be all the medicine you need.  Even the 4th Movement is serene, never menacing, just a quick and proper no-frills thunderstorm.  At $6.99 U.S. for all 9 Symphonies, brilliantly played, this is the bargain box of the century.  One caution, as some reviewers have pointed out, the 9th is alleged to be a hybrid – starting off with Szell and ending with another conductor and choir.  I haven’t verified this yet, but even if true, it should be no reason to shy away from the set.  The complete Beethoven cycle of Szell on Sony with the full 9th, would run you $30 U.S.  Is the 9th worth 23 bucks?

2 Krivine – Le Chambre Philarmonique $11.97 (2009)

If you like period instruments, this recording is the one for you.  The tempi are faster than most, making one wonder whether they were speeded up as a result of a recording glitch; actually, the brisk pace feels quite natural.  The sound is crisp and clean.  The storm in Movement IV sounds like a twister rolling through the countryside uprooting trees and bushes in its path before petering out.  This bargain price collection of the 9 symphonies was recorded live in 2009 making it the newest and freshest among the group surveyed and highly recommended.

1 Bohm – Wiener Philharmoniker (VPO) $9.49 (1971)

This one is the gold standard. I should point out that I already had the CD in my collection, so I did my own rip.  I wanted to hear the MP3 format so that I could fairly compare the recording with the other selections reviewed, all or most of which I ONLY own digitally. Bohm’s interpretation feels the most realistic. Nothing is rushed or forced. The tempos just seem right.  The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) sounds passionate, yet controlled. The instruments blend beautifully and shine when individually highlighted. The sound quality of the recording is simply outstanding.  At 9.49 for the digital download, it is not the best bargain among the group reviewed, but it IS the one you want if you only could have one recording of No. 6.

 

Trump as King Richard III and Don Quixote

 

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Dali’s Don Quixote from Rio exhibit

 

After reading Richard III, Shakespeare’s tragedy/history about a power hungry manipulative sociopath who plots his way to the throne of England, I cannot help but think of Donald Trump.  It’s as if Shakespeare modeled Richard Gloucester after Trump.  And while Trump has not actually murdered his adversaries as did Richard, he did destroy his political rivals on the campaign trail and as president has gone after his opponents and critics with a vengeance.  In the following post, I’ll explore the physical, personality, and historical similarities between President Trump (not my President) and King Richard III, the illigimate and brief ruler of England.

Physically, Richard Gloucester, later King Richard, aka Richard III, and Donald Trump share some attributes.  Both are unattractive.  The tall and portly Trump sports synthetic, free flowing, drug induced orange hair.  Richard had a withered arm and hunch back. Both are sensitive and testy about their physical flaws and Trump goes to great length to prove that his hands are above average and that his hair is real.

Psychologically, both men are extraordinarily needy and quite unaccustomed to hearing the word no.  They seem to have not been deeply loved as children and consequently developed inferiority complexes. At one point, Richard admits to hating himself. Trump on the other hand can admit no wrongs. One could argue that both are narcissistic, and incapable of feeling empathy or sympathy for others.  They personalize all events and interactions and value loyality above all else, and become paranoid and suspicious of their closest allies.

Both rose to power by deceit, threat, bluster, and the brutal takedown of opponents. Richard had them all killed while Trump cut them down with viscious verbal attacks. Like Richard, Trump is spectacularly unfit and unqualfied to govern and has surrounded himself with loyal but incompetent and enabling men and women.  And it is yet to be seen who among his loyalists will become suspect and driven out.  Will it be KellyAnne Conway or Sean Spicer who draws the figurative fate of Buckingham? Could Steve Bannon be secretly plotting with the Russians to use Trump and then claim the throne for himself as did Richmond through Lord Stanley?  Will Trump’s reign of terror end as abrubtly as did Richard’s brief tenure on the throne?  The writing may already be on the wall.  Toward the end, Richard became positively unhinged, to the point of flailing wildly with a sword on the battlefield after being unhorsed, not unlike Trump’s incoherent tantrums on Twitter lashing out recklessly in ALL CAPS at ALL critics real or imagined like Don Quixote.

Birds and FDR on a slate colored day

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I’ve been reading Douglas Brinkley’s biography of FDR – Rightful Heritage: The Renewal of America and am fascinated by Roosevelt’s childhood obsession with birds.  As a child of privilege, Franklin had acres and acres of private family owned land to explore.  He particularly enjoyed watching, counting, and shooting birds, not for sport, but for study. As he got older, he began to advocate shooting birds with a camera, not a gun.  Roosevelt was a serious ornithologist.

I too enjoy shooting birds with my camera, although do not consider myself worthy of the title of even amateur ornitholgist.  Nor do I consider myself to be a serious photographer, however, from time to time, I surprise myself.  I do have a sharp eye and the bird in the photograph is proof of that as this particular species, Junco hyemalis, is quite shy and flighty.  And the commonly known Dark-eyed Junco sticks with its own kind not caring to associate with other species. The slate colored specimen I captured snoops around for the birdseed that I tossed out ealier in the day.  The Junco seems to favor sunflower seeds and will fight off squirrels who like them too.  They very often hop from place to place digging aggressively for worms, seeds and other forms of winter sustenance.

Nice to see the Dark-eyed Junco on this gray day.  FDR would have concurred.

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons Patriots Win Super Bowl

10.  The Patriots have experience in the Super Bowl, winning 4 of 6 under Belichick with Brady at QB.

9. The Falcons are 0-2 in Super Bowls. Dan Quinn as a Head Coach and QB Matt Ryan have never participated in a Super Bowl.  As Defensive Coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, Quinn lost to the Patriots in the 2014 Super Bowl.

8. The Falcons have a mediocre defense, ranked 27th out of 32 teams in points against.  The Patriots have the 3rd ranked offense in the NFL.

7. The Patriots have a superior defense to combat the Falcons superior offense. Turnovers will be key. The Pats have forced 23 turnovers, 2 more than the Falcons.

6. The Patriots have home field advantage having won the Super Bowl in Houston in 2004. Plus, 7 players on the Pats’ roster played college ball in Texas, 2 for The University of Houston, including Tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

5. Belichick is 22-3 when facing a head coach for the first time. He will be facing Dan Quinn as a head coach for the first time.

4. In 21 playoff games, the Pats’ kicker Gostkowski is 29/31 in made field goals. Matt Bryant, the 41-year-old kicker for Atlanta has had very few pressure kicks in playoff games – only 10 field goal attempts in his career.

3. Belichick is regarded as the best coach in the history of the game; Brady, the best Quarterback in the history of the game.

2. Brady is out to prove something after DeflateGate.  His feud with the commissioner is personal.

1.  That Matt Ryan won the MVP over Brady should provide just the little extra motivation needed for Brady to perform herculean feats.  Pats over the Falcons 35-24.

Top 10 Plurals for Goldman Sachs

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Rachel Maddow issued a challenge for viewers to come up with an appropriate plural designation when speaking of Trump’s Goldman Sachs (GS) hires.  You know, like a group of Sachs or a bag of Goldman Sachs or a school of Sachs and so on.  You will recall that Trump has named, hired, or appointed something like 6 from the Wall Street firm.  Interestingly, and some would say hypocritically so, he brutally criticized Hillary Clinton for being “totally controlled by Goldman Sachs.” Well, it looks like he was secretly winking at her when saying this because it appears that it is he, not she who will be controlled by Goldman Sachs.  So how do we refer to a group of GS Trump advisers? Here is my list of top ten possibilities with brief explanations:

  1. A coalition of GS, as in a coalition of cheetah, or perhaps even more appropriate, a coalition of GS Cheetos.
  2. A tribe of GS, as in a tribe of goats.  Maybe they will say things Trump doesn’t like and in doing so get his goat.
  3. A bloat of GS, as in a bloat of hippos. Hippos, as one knows, are potentially dangerous to people and so too might a bloat of GS be if financial regulations are relaxed.
  4. A romp of GS, as in a romp of otters who are slick to the touch and like to playfully romp around in rough waters. Let’s just hope the romp of GS advisers doesn’t romp around with our investments.
  5. A wake of GS, as in a wake of buzzards. Now, this sounds bleak and terrifying, to be honest.
  6. A wreck of GS, as in a wreck of seabirds is not much better. An unregulated Wall Street could wreck the economy again and your retirement account along with it.
  7. A murmuration of GS, as in a murmuration of starlings. Can’t you see them all flying in formation? What a spectacle it would be.
  8. A descent of GS, like a descent of woodpeckers pecking away at your life savings until there is nothing left.
  9. A plague of GS, like a plague of insects I think speaks for itself.
  10. A scourge of GS like a scourge of blood sucking mosquitoes – not a pretty image.

In all fairness, I am not against Goldman Sachs or any other investment firm or big bank as long as they play by the rules and behave responsibly.  It just seems so hypocritical for Trump to have derided Clinton for her connections to Wall Street when it is clear that his administration is going to BE Wall Street.  Well, he did say he was going to buld a wall, I just didn’t expect it to be made of Goldman Sachs.

Top 10 Albums as a Teen

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A tribute to Jobim in the Rio Botanical Gardens. His LP Wave is one of my all-time top 10. 

If you are on Facebook, as I assume most of you are, you may have seen this challenge circulating among your network of friends.  I almost posted a list myself but would have felt the need to explain my choices and in doing so would have violated the spirit of the challenge. So I’m sort of doing an end around the rules and sharing a lengthy blog post with commentary on each of my selections. So here goes and in no particular order and ALL from my high school days. I should note that my tastes have changed or expanded since high school but I still love these albums.

Again, in no particular order with some honorable mentions thrown in at the end AND no repeating artists.

  1. Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow (1975). My big sister turned me on to this album when I was probably 12, and I played it endlessly for a number of years thereafter.  “Diamond Dust” and “‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” are sublime tunes.  It is a guitar masterpiece and perhaps Jeff Beck’s greatest achievement.
  2.  Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced (1967).  Well, I thought of myself as experienced as a teen but little did I know what the real world would be like away from my comfort zone of home. There was nothing like him then and nothing like him now although many bands were influenced by his other-worldly sound including the Beatles who owe him a huge debt.
  3. David Gilmour – David Gilmour (1978).  This was his self-titled solo debut and what a debut.  I loved Pink Floyd then and still do, but I spun this one on my turntable more than I did The Dark Side of the Moon, which was actually the only Floyd I owned until college, although I had heard and liked many of the others including Ummagumma with its mind-altering properties that simultaneously fascinated me and freaked me out.
  4. The Beatles – The White Album. (1968). It is not my favorite Beatles’ record which would have to go to Revolver, but it was the only one I owned as a teen. It does have some great tunes – “Dear Prudence”, “Blackbird”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and is arguably one of the top 5 Beatles records of all-time. See my list of the Top 7 Beatles’ here.
  5. The Rolling Stones – Get Your Ya-Yas Out (1970). I had several other superb Stones records as a teenager, including Their Satanic Majesties Request, Goats Head Soup, and Tatoo You, but the one that stood out and that I played more than the others was the Ya-Yas record. This live album was like being in the crowd and featured some of the greatest tunes from their catalog like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”
  6. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974). I lived in a town with radio stations that never played older Genesis records, so I didn’t even become aware of the band until I heard “Follow You, Follow Me” on the radio from And Then There Were Three (1978). Over the course of my teen years, I bought every Genesis record available.  And while I loved and still love Wind and Wuthering, Seconds Out and Foxtrot, The Lamb is their masterpiece and perhaps the greatest art rock piece that was ever written and incidentally the last studio Genesis record on which the great Peter Gabriel appeared.
  7. Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). My dad owned Court and Spark (1974) which I liked a lot and so when Hissing was released, I bought it.  This beautifully written and recorded album has stood the test of time.
  8. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973).  This was the second album I ever bought, and one of the best too.  At the time, I was too young to understand the social significance of the album with its comments on the evils of racism in songs like “Living for the City”. I did feel something of Stevie’s soul on the record and it moved me like no other music. Almost every song on the album is a masterpiece which ranks it, in my opinion, as one of the best albums ever recorded.
  9. John McLaughlin – Electric Guitarist (1978). By this time, I had become interested in jazz-rock and latin fusion and was attracted to Santana’s music. I remember buying a copy of Guitar Player magazine with McLaughlin on the cover. I had never heard of McLaughlin but was fascinated by the cover article describing him as the world’s fastest guitarist. So I ran down to the local record store and bought Electric Guitarist, which featured a duet with Carlos Santana on the tune “Friendship.” This underrated record is a seminal example of fusion.
  10. Steely Dan –  Aja (1977). This band surfaced on my radar with their smash hit, “Do It Again” from Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972). I would have been about 13 when Aja was released and remember hearing “Peg” on the radio. I bought the album just for “Peg” only to discover that all the other tunes on it were better. This is another slickly produced and beautifully sounding record that was never far from my turntable.

Honorable mentions:

  • Todd Rundgren –Todd (1974)
  • Supertramp Even in the Quietest Moments (1977)
  • Earth Wind and Fire – That’s The Way of the World (1974)
  • Crosby Stills Nash and Young –Deja Vu (1970)
  • Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees (1972)
  • Elton John – Rock of the Westies (1975) the first album I ever bought.
  • Yes – Yessongs (1973)
  • The Who – Live at Leads (1973)
  • Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)
  • Heart – Dog and Butterfly (1978)
  • Ronnie Montrose – Open Fire (1978)

You might be interested in some of my related posts from the past…or not.

6 Songs of my life

Yes, Boston 2012

Fleetwood Mac’s Bare Trees

Records of my life

Derek Trucks Band

Wine and Coltrane

Accidental Music