Casio Tonebank keyboard

Learn how to play your Casio Tonebank keyboard

I do not know how to play an instrument. That doesn’t mean I never tried. In school, I tried to play instruments, but that went nowhere. When I went to the mall as a kid, I inevitably gravitated to the instrument store at some point. Usually I would play around with the organs. If those were off-limits I played with electronic keyboards like the Casio Tonebank keyboard.

They would have these starter books near the keyboards. Slowly I work my way trough “Mary had a Little Lamb” or “Hot Cross Buns”. But my brain would never make the right connections. Inevitably what I would learn would drain out of my head. So each week it was like starting over. Even when my friend got a small keyboard and tried to teach me, I went nowhere. It is a mystery to me, but I could just never seem to master the skills needed to become a skilled keyboardist.

It was probably because I lacked the right tutor. Now I am not talking about a human tutor. No, I am talking about the type of tutor you pop into you VCR. Video lessons from the eighties were like magic. For the first time you could take a teacher home with you and have them repeat the lesson again and again. I learned how to do basic magic from a video tape and I am sure if I had found this Casio Tonebank keyboard tape as a kid, I would be jamming in some music club right now.

Filled with the basics, this keyboard tutorial is just 30 minutes long. In it you learn the basics of keyboarding. So that by the end of the tape you have what it takes to makes sounds that won’t have your parents regretting buying you the keyboard.

The instructions on the tape are very straightforward. So why is this video so great now? Well, even if you don’t pick up a keyboard, it is very much of its time. The crosscutting between scenes with its medium budget animation screens are things you just don’t see nowadays outside of poor parodies. But the real magic is the host. This guy is a workhorse. Not only does he know his keyboarding, but his soothing and sometimes mechanical sounding instruction is just amazing. Combine that with some wardrobe changes and you have eighties’ instructional video gold.

Learn how to play your Casio Tonebank keyboard

Horns

Christmas With Horns

*Rubs hands together*

*Evil laugh*

If you didn’t see any of this coming, then you really don’t know me that well, do you?

So we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season, which began with the carving of a giant bird, which later moved into attacking people in stores for that 55″ television you just had to have. But for $250, it was a steal, and that old man couldn’t possibly run that fast. So as you scream “Survival of the fittest, pops!” you run off while dragging that box behind you…

Whoah, where was I going with this?

None of this actually happened, folks. I’m just trying to set up the season for you. Don’t mind me, apparently I’m a better fiction writer than I give myself credit for!

Anyway, the evil subject at hand…the actual evil subject!

Naturally, when I begin to compile my Christmas playlist – I run with all of the staples and favorites – Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and the like. I’ve begun to expand my Christmas playlist to the likes of Anne Murray and Judy Collins, but I’m more apt to shy away from anything that sounds novelty or cartoonish, with the exception of anything that comes from A Charlie Brown Christmas or How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Don’t make me ever listen to anything from Alvin and the Chipmunks, unless you like to see a quick descent into insanity.

A few years ago, my parents gifted me with Michael Buble’s Christmas album, which mixed the classics with the crooning of Mr. Buble. I’ve been a fan ever since, and since I’m convinced alot of things I like wind up being gateway drugs for other things, I began to take a liking to David Foster, Josh Groban, and became more appreciative of Kenny Loggins and Chicago.

This article all about that group I write way too much about.

I dislike snow, cold weather, and everything that has to do with winter. Conversely, I like Christmas music that sings of all these things. Oh, and there’s a place I’d rather not spend a moment of my winter or Christmas in…Chicago. However, there is one group I’d like to spend my holiday season listening to – the band Chicago.

You knew where this was going long before you started reading. You chose to stay.

Horns

Chicago conquered it all – horn sections, the 1970s, creative album covers that didn’t need to feature the band on them, roman numerals. So it was only natural that they had to conquer the holiday season, but it took them until 1998 to do so, and the result was Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album. The album was released in August of 1998 on their label, Chicago Records (perhaps they were wise to have their own label after the debacle of that unreleased album), and later re-released in 2003 by Rhino Records as What’s It Gonna Be, Santa?, with six additional tracks. This re-release in itself came of the effort to possibly record an entirely new album of Christmas music, which was scrapped due to cost factors.

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The original album featured fourteen tracks, with the re-released album containing twenty. Adding to the festivities and joy of the season were the songs featuring a children’s choir for the songs “Children’s Prayer” and “One Little Candle,” both of which originated on the original version of the album, and featured some of the band’s children – Kate and Sean Lamm (daughters of Robert Lamm), Sarah Pankow (daughter of James Pankow), Dylan and River Loughnane (children of Lee Loughnane), and Ryan and Alex Bittan (children of Roy Bittan), among others.

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The re-released album (containing six new tracks) also gave Keith Howland his first lead vocal contribution for “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” Howland, until that time, had been backing vocals since joining the group in 1995 (he’s still with the band today).

From Howland’s My Space page (https://myspace.com/keithhowlandmusic)

Complete track listing (Both Albums)

And what would an article about music be without, well, music?!

Here’s the original album:

Uploaded by mistermister668xmas

And the six tracks that were added to the re-release in 2003 (All Uploaded by Chicago – Topic):

As far as the albums go, all the standards of Christmas are covered. The arrangements are nice, and very much what you’d expect of any Chicago song, except the horns really add to the festiveness of the season.

I particularly love the total opposite song of the bunch, “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” This was lead guitarist Keith Howland’s first lead solo since joining the group in 1995, and it definitely didn’t disappoint – I love the more contemporary edge he gave the song. Chicago managed to re-invent their sound as the 1980s and 1990s progressed, and this is a great example of how they did it through the post-Cetera years.

And there are the beautiful children’s choir songs – the young voices in the songs “Child’s Prayer” (accompanied by Jason Scheff) and “One Little Candle” help them stand out among the trademark sound Chicago is known for.

And of course, if you ever want to hear a great group effort of vocals, “Sleigh Ride” has a four-part harmony of Robert Lamm, Jason Scheff, Bill Champlin, and Lee Loughnane (whom you’re more likely to see doing his impressive trumpet and flugelhorn work – it’s always nice to see him sing!).

I don’t think there is anything about Chicago I could ever not be impressed about – from their early hits in the late 1960s and 1970s, to their re-invented sounds of the 1980s and 1990s, to Christmas music, love songs, breakup songs, tributes to bassists that were bigger than a big name, and collaborations with other groups to combine sound and style, I just continually am impressed with with a find. I’m still not a fan of “Colour My World,” but that’s a minor detail.

Christmas, Chicago, Chicago music, and Christmas music as sung by Chicago…what could be better?

You came because you were lured in by Christmas music, and you got yet another of Allison’s fangirl articles about Chicago. But that’s ok, you stayed long enough to read this part. If you’d like to read more of Allison’s stuff, she’d love for you to visit her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and Allison is also on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut. She mixes up her articles with random observations, and keeps the politics out of her tweets. She prefers it that way. Why would she want to discuss that when she can discuss a topic of her “happy place,” which is music.

Everyone should have a happy place like that.

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Chicago Proclaims Someone Else is “Bigger Than Elvis”

Apparently, I’ve been in a hole since the third week of October, because I just found out at the beginning of November that Chicago lead vocalist (well, one of them) Jason Scheff, who has been with the group since the post-Cetera years beginning in 1985, officially left the group as of October 25, 2016. Scheff’s vocals matched Peter Cetera’s, and it was easy to see him slipping right into Cetera’s songs. Upon joining the group in 1985, Scheff was 23 years old, and his first test was the remake of “25 or 6 to 4,” which by the way, is amazing live.

Uploaded by Chilo Franco

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Also amazing? That hair!

Continue reading

Hair Metal Pizza

Who wouldn’t want a Hair Metal Pizza Experience?

I grew up in an area of New Jersey where pizza parlors were very common. They all had pretty decent pizza, but not one offered the Hair Metal Pizza Experience of Pony Express Pizza. This pizzeria existed in Redwood City, CA and according to some info I found online, “It was a place where garage bands made their break. …local bands playing there did also, as did those passing through.”

Having a pizza place for bands is interesting. Not something that would have happened in my hometown, but if it had, I am sure a lot of memories would have been formed there. NJ was a great state for hair metal and pizza, so I am a little sad that we were not the epicenter of Hair Metal Pizza.

A few videos of Pony Express can be found online, but I want to start by posting this commercial. It contains everything you would need to entice an impressionable hair metal/pizza fan in the door. High-pitched screeching voices, driving guitar rifts, slamming drums and of course pizza. It is an odd juxtaposition. My favorite part is the woman who is rocking out while a mysterious hand shoves a slice of pizza in her face. If I have learned one thing in my many years on this planet, it is that people love to be hand fed pizza.

Watch this amazing commercial for Pony Express Pizza

This is meant to entice you. To bring you in the door. But what did a real music experience at Pony Express look like? Oddly enough, I have not been able to find any videos featuring hair metal bands. Could this be an example of false advertising? I have seen a bunch of mentions of bands that have played there and some of those appear to be hair metalish. Maybe they just forgot to bring the family video camera to their shows.

Oh well. Here is some footage of a very non-hair metal band playing a show there back in 1988.

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Whenever I Call You (My Other) Friend

Yes, this is about Kenny Loggins.

Did I mention I have OTHER Kenny Loggins articles on this site?

Kenny Loggins (And Michael McDonald)…on PBS!

Kenny Loggins and David Foster Brag, Then Perform “Forever”

And the Only Way to Start Your Set at a David Foster Concert? Heart to Heart!

I started to write this in the middle of listening to a triple threat of Kenny Loggins songs – “Playing with the Boys,” “Heart to Heart” (my personal favorite Kenny Loggins song), and the song that serves as this article’s title (ok, this is a play on the song’s title), which was the song that set off the whole triple threat. And this article.

Who says you can’t find inspiration in the strangest of places? Though if you ask me, iHeart Radio is a perfectly fine place to draw inspiration from!

“Whenever I Call You ‘Friend'” is a single from Loggins’ 1978 album Nightwatch. The single was releasd in July 1978, and reached #5 in the fall of that same year. It was co-penned by Loggins and singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester, and was inspired by their chance meetings in various places and pairings at televised awards shows. They managed to keep running into each other, and Loggins asked Manchester to write a song with him.

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And so they did. The result of that collaboration (and a salute to their chance meetings) was Whenever I Call You “Friend.”

But they never actually sang it together.

No really, they wrote it, but they apparently never had a chance meeting to record it together.

The actual story behind why this never happened all comes down to record labels – Loggins was signed to Columbia Records (still is), and Manchester was signed to Arista Records. So if they wanted to collaborate, their labels would never have allowed it to happen.

So Loggins found a “friend” who could record with him – Fleetwood Mac’s own, Stevie Nicks.

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This is their version.

Uploaded by Sue581000

Oh, and he did this version with his band. And it doesn’t sound bromance-like at all.

Uploaded by KennyLogginsVEVO

Meanwhile, Melissa Manchester recorded a separate version with Arnold McCuller.

Uploaded by MrPurser

I don’t know, this version just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it is the Kenny Loggins bias, but I really like the version everyone seems more familiar. Manchester chose not to include it on her 2012 retrospective, Playlist, citing that she doesn’t feel like her version is satisfactory as compared to Loggins’ version. However, her version was more critically acclaimed, with AllMusic saying Manchester’s version is a far more “elegant and supple song.”

Which version is forever doing it for you?

You’ve never seen such a beautiful site, until you’ve seen Allison’s blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can also follow her blog on Facebook, and call her “friend” on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut. 

Go on, give her a reason to carry on…with her writing!

horror-sounds-of-the-night

Horror Sounds Of The Night

There is no finer example of irony when you go out to the garage to pull out your Halloween decorations, and you’re too afraid to bring them in the house because they’re covered in spiderwebs. Being arachnophobic, I’m not bothered by the webs; it’s what could possibly lurk in those poorly-sealed boxes that worries me. So…..it looks like Halloween is gonna be served on the lighter side this year. Thankfully, I don’t always have to dig through boxes to create a spooky atmosphere. I took the liberty of uploading all those old Halloween-themed records and cassettes to my computer years ago, and have amassed a pretty impressive collection of sound effects, songs, stories and even old radio dramas.

One stands out above the rest and remains a perennial favorite though; the Horror Sounds of the Night by Topstone Industries.
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I remember my dad buying this for me at a local costume shop back in 1986. The store was called Bonnie’s and was the kinda place that was open all year-round, but when October hit, it was THE place to shop for Halloween. It went from being a quiet little craft store to being as packed as a NY subway on a Monday morning! Everything could be found in there! It was usually where my parents went to get my costume, or costume accessories. It was also a great place for cheap decorations and toys. Since I already had my fair share of rubber skeletons, bats and Beistle die-cut outs, I found myself looking for something different to add to my collection. That’s when I found this cassette tape hanging off the rack. It instantly grabbed my attention because at the time, I didn’t have anything like it. Also, it was only $2, so there was no haggling with my dad to get it! As a Halloween-obsessed 10-year old, this cassette was a favorite from the moment I brought it home. It has been the soundtrack every October, 30 years running. I would play this in my room with all the lights out, a Jack-O-Lantern lit up and a green glow stick nearby. Even now, it provides an excellent ambiance for making Halloween crafts, sorting candy, decorating, etc. On Halloween, before we went out trick-or-treating, my parents would let me push the stereo speakers up to the front windows and turn up the volume. (Back then, stereo speakers were so big, they actually could fill up a living room window!)

Nowadays, sound effect CDs are a dime a dozen, but none have ever had the same effect on me. That’s mostly nostalgia talking, but I truly have listened to dozens of these things over the years. Even after discovering recently that a lot of these sounds were “borrowed” from older LPs (60s and 70s era stuff that was probably all public domain by then) I still believe this is the best compilation. I’ve always found this particular recording to be genuinely spooky, fun and not ruined with cheesy narration or pop songs vaguely related to Halloween. (Which is what was more common throughout the late 80s and 90s.) Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE songs like Monster Mash, Ghostbusters and Thriller, but those are songs you play at Halloween parties/dances, NOT what should be included on CDs that are clearly advertised as “Spooky/Scary Sounds”!

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Although, as much as I love this tape, it’s not perfect. Right around the 6 minute mark, you start hearing a woman screaming. Not unusual for a Halloween recording, but it goes on for over a minute and a half, which is a long time if you’re blaring this out of a living room window. It’s not only genuinely unpleasant to the ears, but it quickly starts to blur the lines of reality and fiction. Shortly after the incessant screaming stops, a man’s moaning begins. It’s obviously supposed to be a ghost, but it gets a little too…ummm….adult-themed in nature. As if this particular ghost is having WAY more pleasure scaring people than he really should be. Sure, I get it….we all have fetishes, in life and in death (I assume), too….but let’s just try to keep that to their own category of sounds effect tapes. (Maybe sell them behind beaded curtains in dimly-lit shops on the other side of the tracks….?) Honestly, I just hated always having to rush to the tape player to turn down the volume when these parts came on.

Now, thanks to the beauty of modern technology, I was finally able to edit those unpleasant parts out. I’ve uploaded both the original AND edited versions to Youtube. The first link here is the original recording. The second is the shorter, edited version. (Each one has a link to the other, as well.) Both are in high-quality, LOUD, audio presentation for your listening pleasure. I also took the liberty of adding some carefully-selected, spooky images to the edited version. Now turn off the lights, crack that glow stick, light up a Jack-O-Lantern, sit back and enjoy.

[Via] Anthony Foust

[Via] Anthony Foust

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