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Howard Lawrence / Blog

Nuthin Like Music Theatre

My wife and I have been bona fide music theatre enthusiasts for decades. It is far and away my favorite form of popular entertainment. We travel to Manhattan once or twice per year, and make it a priority to see two Broadway shows during most of our visits there. There is nothing like seeing these wonderful shows in their official homes in Gotham City. These performers are all accomplished multihyphenates and a marvel to watch. Most recently, we saw Billy Porter in a remarkable, star-making performance in "Kinky Boots." This was the best stage performance I've seen in memory... he totally blew me away! By my count, my wife and I have had the great fortune to see 11 Tony Winners for Best Musical on Broadway, along with many more in major "Broadway Across America" productions in our DC/Baltimore hometown areas. What a treat! Although it's no simple task for me to whittle down my faves to a Top 10 list, here's my attempt (in no particular order), noting that this list is limited to shows I've actually seen on Broadway: 1. Wicked, 2. Rent, 3. The Producers, 4. The Book of Mormon, 5. Monty Python's Spamalot, 6. Once, 7. Kinky Boots, 8. The Lion King, 9. Avenue Q, 10. The Who's Tommy. I'm sure this list will continue to evolve as we take in more memorable shows in the future. A hearty round of applause (and a million "thank yous") to the writers, choreographers, actors, directors, technical pros and other contributors to these wonderful productions.

Bye Bye Facebook!

It was an interesting experiment, and something truly out of the ordinary for me. Hopefully, my regrets for conducting it will have a short half-life. The HL artist/band page accumulated more than 51,000 Likes from around the world over three years, but most of them were worthless. Similarly, lots of my posts garnered an enviable number of Likes, but most of the people behind those Likes weren't listening to the music or watching the music videos. What exactly were they Liking? Only a behavioral or social psychologist could figure out that puzzling behavior. Anyway, HL was never really cut out for social media, so at least the big one has been excommunicated. Feels like a cleansing already.

Ken Burns: Jazz

Can't get enough of the Ken Burns filmography. After watching his classic "Baseball" and "The Civil War" documentary series, I dug right into his next one that first aired on PBS in 2000: "Jazz." Like the other series, "Jazz" was given the first class treatment. A truly encyclopedic journey that starts back in the 1800s (where the original roots of jazz were planted) and ends at the turn of the 21st century. I've been a jazz fan for decades, but "Jazz" was like going to school. I have a much deeper and broader appreciation of this truly American art form, and am now listening to my jazz collection with more love for these incredible artists. Countless jazz hall-of-famers were given in-depth coverage, but it's clear to me now that jazz's Mount Rushmore is: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. The documentary was narrated in top form by Keith David. I highly recommend this to any jazz fan.

Ken Burns: Documentarian Extraordinaire

"Ken Burns: The Civil War" and "Ken Burns: Baseball" are two must-see documentary miniseries. Burns made these more than two decades ago (Baseball added a new "10th Inning" installment to the series in 2010), and each originally aired on PBS in the 90s. They are comprehensive, meticulous and highly engaging. Having recently seen each in its entirety (I'm a lifelong insomniac, so my middle-of-the-night viewing time is vast), I give them my highest recommendation. These are college-level history courses brought to your TV, mobile devices, etc. Each is available for streaming from Netflix. Of course, one can also grab the physical versions from Amazon.com. Now get to it...

Top 10 Favorite Rock Artists

All of my all-time faves have profoundly influenced my unusual sound and sensibility, although some of these can be heard more clearly. I still listen to these artists more frequently than any others. So many of my life's greatest memories are attached to the music of these renowned artists from the rock world. 1. Pink Floyd, 2. The Beatles, 3. Radiohead, 4. Yes, 5. Jethro Tull, 6. Led Zeppelin, 7. The Who, 8. Porcupine Tree, 9. The Doors, 10. Jimi Hendrix.

The Right Stuff

Having seen the 1983 film by Philip Kaufman several times—it's still one of my faves—I finally decided to read the book on which the flick is based.

Tom Wolfe is such a brilliant writer. It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job with this subject matter, which covers the fledgling U.S. space program in the 50s and 60s—the Mercury program specifically—but really digs deep into the experimental test pilot program that predates NASA (and existed with it "in parallel"). Chuck Yeager gets his full due in this book. In the film his greatness is on display, but his historical import is underplayed (I liked Sam Shepard in the role, however).

I highly recommend "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe to anyone who loves an exciting story told with incredible detail, lots of emotion and plenty of wicked humor. The flick is a lotta fun for sure, but it tells a different story than the book.

The Expanding Reach of "Far From Heaven" on Radio

"Far From Heaven"—from The Enemy Inside album—received an increasingly strong listener response in its second month of rotation on KXRL Radio Los Angeles. As a result, the song will be placed in heavy rotation on four additional radio stations. Below is a list of stations that will be spinning "Far From Heaven" during April 2014.

KXRL Radio Los Angeles, California USA (www.kxrl-radio.com)

KHSX Radio Houston, Texas USA (www.khsx-radio.com)

WMIC Radio Miami, Florida USA (www.wmic-radio.com)

KEDG Radio Sydney, Australia (www.kedg-radio.com)

WLDN Radio London, United Kingdom (www.wldn-radio.com)

Dunno if it'll move the dial at all, but it can't hurt.

Shock Therapy Milestone Reached

I'm pleased to report that I've written the new album, Shock Therapy. The current lineup has 14 tracks. I won't add more, but it's entirely possible that less will make the final cut. Since this is another HL concept album, I can't knock out a track I consider crucial to the story, but I have a little bit of leeway in this regard.

Later in 2014 I'll work on the vocals. On the basis of past experience I'll probably make minor revisions to the lyrics during that phase. I may also tweak musical parts here and there, but those changes will not be significant. Therefore, for all intents and purposes the composing and writing phases of the project are done!

What a relief...

FanReach Is A Joke, Right?

At least ReverbNation gives us the ability to look at granular data, and by that I mean individual email subscribers. I wish Facebook did the same with those ridiculous page Likes.

So I just went through my FanReach database, and cleaned house by removing those individuals (aka, "fans") who have never opened an email from me. I gave those who signed up within the last eight months or so a "grace period" by leaving them on the roles, regardless of response (or lack thereof) to my emails during that period.

Now, I realize that I've only scratched the surface here, because some of the remaining individuals no longer open my emails, despite having done so at some point in the past. Those, I'll eventually weed out.

I think it's reasonable to ask why one would sign up for an email list without having the slightest interest in receiving said emails. Believing it's a "show of support" due to ding the beneficiary receives in his/her "fan count" is silly.

If you're a fan, be a fan. If not, don't waste your or the artist's time. We're here to create and share music, and connect with like-minded souls, not to screw around with stats.

By my tally, I knocked out more than 250 email subscribers with a 0% open rate.

Lyrics For Other Artists

I've developed a bit of a reputation for my lyrics round these parts, and have had the privilege of watching (i.e., hearing) them get incorporated into the music of other unique artists.

My latest gambit into this sideline affair is the "Flobehead Lullaby" by The Magneto Flobe. Listeners have favorably compared our collaborative effort to the sound of the Grateful Dead, which is about as far away from the classic HL style as anything. Derek da boi & his merry men have cooked up a nice little bedtime snack. Check it out: www.reverbnation.com/themagnetoflobe.

The Magneto Flobe
The Magneto Flobe  (6 months ago)

it was exactly what we needed, maestro!!! a million thank you's from me, da bwayzzzzz, and all the Maloa Warriors, etc... we salute you!

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