Thursday, May 19, 2005

Episode III

It rocks! It rocks! :-)

I loved the action, the effects, the story (especially the politics - watching the way the republic crumbled), everything!

It rocks!

Mark Hansen
Don't Panic

I saw "The Hitchiker's Guide To the Galaxy" last night. That was some serious fun. It was, in many ways, almost, but not quite, completely unlike the book.

The beginning was a bit disjointed, but then, frankly, that's the way Adams writes. He starts his books with these drastically different situations, and by the end of the book they all tie together in very weird ways. The interconnectedness of all things...

And all things were wonderfully interconnected in the movie. I loved the way the actors portrayed the roles. They were all perfect. Especially the snivelly "Dent Arthur Dent", and the bureaucratic and officious Vogons.

The bits of explanation that the book gave were way to brief, though, and the many little bits of humor in the originals got lost a bit. The bit about the babel fish being the clinching proof of the non-existence of God, and starting lots of wars is really irrelevant to the plot, but a whopping lot of fun. I missed those.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Songs of Zion

Kirby Heyborne – Inside

If I were to title this review, it would be a line from one of the songs: “(His) silent shadows confuse my view…”

The songs are wonderfully performed, pristinely recorded, and precisely arranged. The melodies are intricate and fascinating. The lyrics are thoughtful and profound.

At least, I assume they are.

They certainly sounded profound.

Except for the fact that I couldn’t make much tangible sense out of most of them.

There is a trend among current singer/songwriters, both in the big world and in the LDS market, which seems to think that if the audience “gets it”, then the song wasn’t deep enough. Obscurity seems to be their holy grail. Unfortunately, they seem to be finding that grail rather a lot. After listening to “Inside”, I’m left with the sense that I just had a glimpse deep into Kirby’s bared soul, and I couldn’t make heads or tails out of any of it. It’s like he wants to share his most inner secrets with me, but he also still wants to keep his distance.

“Patience”, for example, is a great tune, but one that I don’t understand. There were some cool fishing metaphors in there, but I’m not sure the interpretation thereof. “this”, “Chances”, and “Inside” were all like that, too. It’s like, if I were to just hear the CD, and not really listen closely, I’d be carried along on a wonderful, sonically intriguing, and relaxing ride. But as soon as I start paying attention, I get lost.

There are a few songs that I managed to “get”. “Simon” is about the apostle Peter. It’s a tasty tune, with acoustic guitar and strings. Very Peter Breinholt.

“Won’t Get No Lovin’” is a breakup song about a guy that loved a girl that didn’t care about him, or anyone else, really. She flits from one to the other, and he gives up waiting for her to settle down. This one is by far my favorite of the whole CD, with this killer retro jazz feel. Almost big band without the band. I love it when he screams out the vocals at the end.

There was one song that I have to say I had a very hard time with. “Stay With Me” is a basic love song, but it left me wondering. The song, especially the chorus, could be interpreted to imply immorality. “Stay with me, you know you want to / Stay with me, don’t change your mind / Stay with me, don’t keep me waiting / Stay with me tonight…” I searched and searched for alternative interpretations, but nothing but the wrong one fit. I also don’t like to take things out of context, but honestly, there was nothing in the verses to clarify the meaning. Now clearly, that lyric isn’t as foul or innuendo-laced as, say, an Aerosmith or a Madonna song, but for someone that’s approaching the LDS market, it made me wonder what the intent of the song really was. (--Note from Mark, added 06/07/05: I got a really nice email from Kirby explaining the way the song was written and its intent. Go to this post to read about it)

Now, don’t get me started on his voice. I could go on about that for pages. If I could sing half this well, I’d be set. I’d be hard pressed to find a voice this expressive in all of LDS pop. All the bits of vocal styling are at his simple and easy command: Soft, gentle, gritty, edgy, loving, angry, it’s all there. And he can flip from one to the other in a heartbeat. I’m in awe. It’s THAT good.

I really like the guitar playing, and while it fits pretty nicely into that Acoustic-y, Folk-y singer/songwriter thang that Peter Breinholt, Cherie Call, and Shane Jackman have, he’s also fresh and different from them in the arrangements and the execution.

Three and a half stars. I’d love to give it more, but I just have no idea what he’s talking about.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

My Sickle is Getting Dull, I Think...

On the way in to work today, I was thinking about the verse in D&C 31 (vs 5) that says, “Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live.”

Well, that’s wonderful and well and good, but do you ever have days when you feel like, as a laborer, you’re NOT worthy of your hire? I mean, we’re supposed to serve the Lord with all our Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength, but sometimes I feel like I’m just not giving even close to 100%. And that doesn’t even count the mistakes.


I’m feeling a bit tired and mopey today…

Mark Hansen

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Songs of Zion

Crinna Hill – Worlds of Ice

It’s kind of exciting for me to do this next review. When my wife and I were in the early years of our marriage, The Roberts family (very young as they all were, and with two sets of twins) lived in our ward in West Jordan, Utah. The parents, John and Connie, became friends of ours. Connie has an infectious enthusiasm for life and a tenacity that gets things done. John is patient and artistic. The five kids at the time were very small, but energetic.

They moved south a ways, and though we kept in touch from time to time, we didn’t really see each other much. But their kids grew up, like kids tend to do. Along the way, they learned Irish dancing and picked up singing. They were actually quite active as a performing dance group, doing shows all over, including the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Out of that grew Crinna Hill, a complete family musical adventure. The five kids, Naomi, Arielle, Marshall, Austin, and Sophie are all on stage, singing and playing the instruments. John, the Dad, backs them up on the guitar, and writes the songs (a few of the songs on the CD are collaborations with Naomi and Arielle). Connie, the Mom, is the business end, co-producing the CD and managing the gigs.

“Worlds of Ice” is their freshman effort, and right off the bat, it struck me just how “right” it is for them. Let me clarify that: See, “Art” is always an extension of those that create it. While it’s often true that some singers let themselves be manipulated by their handlers and by the whims of the public, still some of their own personality comes through.

“Worlds” is a wonderful CD in that it really lets the personality of the artists shine through. The songs John has written are thoughtful, the songs are sung with an excitement and energy that only teenagers can have (because we old folks are too tired!).

While I’m talking about John’s writing, let me comment also that he’s managed to pull off the incredibly difficult task of writing for teen performers, to a teen audience, without condescending to either one. It’s a tough line to walk. “Walk on Water”, co-written with Naomi, is a great love song. Not a cheesy teeny-bop puppylove song, nor a overly physical, innuendo-laden grown-up love song (I hate it when I hear teenagers, or even kids, singing that way). “Don’t Walk Away” does the same thing about breakups. Great stuff.

There are a couple of songs that imply some more grown-up topics, but even those are handled very well. “First Day” would be a wonderful song to perform at a reception for a temple wedding. “My Soldier Boy” is about a mom raising kids while the dad is overseas fighting. Another thing I liked about that song, by the way, is how it shows the human cost of war, without getting all political. It says, “war is tough on people” but doesn’t attempt to argue about whether or not the war is justified.

The CD is not overtly religious, either, though a couple of songs make spiritual references. “Broken Sparrow” is all about the verse about how Heavenly Father knows when even a sparrow falls. “Be Still” is about feeling the Spirit, and “First Day” implies a divine blessing on the event.

It IS a freshman CD. And I have to say that it’s held back by the recording and the mix. That’s a shame, too, because the songs are great, and they perform them well. The arrangements were pretty consistent throughout the whole CD, too, so I’d like to hear a little more variety in tempos and instrumentation.

I love their singing, and I love their harmonies (which, I’ve been told, the kids work out themselves). I do wish the CD insert would have said which one was singing lead on which song. I can’t tell them apart on record, yet. They do all sing, though the boys only did lead on “California Dreaming”. And if you really want to hear how their vocals shine, don’t stop the CD player after “I Know You’re Gone” ends. Just let it roll.

You’ll also get to hear how much fun they have together.

"Worlds of Ice" is available at the Crinna Hill website

Mark Hansen


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