Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Make Believe - East Coast vs West Coast

Since the Canadian iTunes (only) single has been well received by the fans, is moving up the Canadian charts and only a few have noticed the alternate version, perhaps this is a small audience debate. East Coast vs West Coast. I think though, the different versions have opened the door for a larger conversation on Ian's music.

Who is Ian Thornley? How do YOU appreciate his talent? Is he a Nu-metal screamer, chugging the chunkiest riffs and emoting with full throated roar? Is he a rootsy, clever folk guy twinkling the dobro and the mandolin? Is he an inventive but mostly traditional blues PLAYER? Is he a MODERN songwriter that can write hooks for mainstream R&B (Jully Black - Until I Stay) or World music, like Sting or Bono (Provide)? OR is he a Classic Rock re-constructionist like The Black Crowes, the latest Raconteurs, the last few Foos and so many others of late (Good Son, Might Be The End)? Or is he an old time crooner from the 40's and 50's, Ray Charles and beyond (Barely Be, All I Need - He's got a hold of something very different with these gems that seem to be of bygone eras. The vocal harmonies in "My Heart Is" is another example of Ian's fluency with old techniques.)? OR is he a straight ahead modern pop-song guru (Brit POP, That Song)? Is he a hired gun guitar slinger (Rosie, Hurricane) or witty front man (Thornley)? The wonderful problem is that Ian is all of those things.

In some ways it's a decades old debate, had by music fans, managers and record execs since pop music became a high stakes game. How do we see the artist? How do we manage our expectations of their musical journey? Will we go along for the ride? Look at the Led Zep debate! Some are Zep I and II fans only, some are HARD lovers, others are EPIC lovers, others are hippy wanabees and dig the musical pilgrimage that Robert Plant has brought them on. The greats come in many flavors and the debates rage on.

The execs guard their investment like fisherman with a limited bait box in search of a killing as the public swarms like frenzied piranha to and fro. It's a funny and unpredictable mess, with the vast unprincipled internet which insatiably collects with an amoral self-destructive appetite. The record company delays, born of uncertain times, frustrates artist and audience alike. How is an artist to position himself? With whom do you align? What audience will support your venture most? How do you keep the base happy and still expand your vision? How do you bring along the rest. What IS your base? What about timing? Are you on the back end of a pop trend? Are you an innovator?

A lot to think about, especially when your goal is to make the audience FEEL something and look natural in the process. That's show biz.

I chalk up a lot of the recent Thornley history to indecisiveness and unanswered business questions. Ian has, as much as said so, of late. In the interview on Explore Music site, Part 2 of the video interview he did there, which was mysteriously removed from the vid portion, but is now up in audio on their 12/19 podcast, had to do with the record company struggle. The balance between leading and being lead.

"Will you surrender to the leading of someone, somehow?" - Undersold.

Ian makes reference to being easily influenced by a good pitch. Hence Come Again. A moment of compromise to a successful genre/market. A perfectly reasonable concession to business reality. It just didn't satisfy in the long haul. Too many crowded the market and there wasn't a noticeable enough separation between Thornley and the pack. The meal was hamburger and no matter the quality of the beef, those that like steak just won't partake enthusiastically. A slim portion of the hamburger market segment was won over but the more nuanced aficionados were left hungry. Ian does not follow modern music as a fan and therefore has no understanding on how to serve that market. Ian made fun of his weakness in one of the Explore segments. He is left to depend on those "in the know". He said that he had become highly suggestible. I assume that it's from years of market misses and big expectations of a cocky young man. Most of us uber-fans are incredulous at the un-mega-ness of Ian. After a while you get like Ian often says, "Oh Well".

In the past 4 years Ian has shared his sketchbook on stage and in the studio. We get to see how songs evolve; some to market, others to our private myspace stash. He said that the record company has finally acknowledged the need to showcase a few of his facets, at the urging of producer Nick Raskulinecz. He should be our new hero. He's got the clout and chops that Ian soooo needed thoughout his career. While Tiny Pictures will be an eclectic collection, Make Believe is certainly more from the market driven side, but it's not without it's Classic rock pedigree.

The day of Ian's Edge 102 appearance, I logged in and tried to setup and record it; to no avail. I only half-assed listened as they got to Ian introducing the new single Make Believe, while talking it up he stated that there was a couple versions. My ears perked up! Within seconds I was like, "Holy shit! This is a whole new song". New instruments, different arrangement. I was ecstatic. Since then I have listened to an edited-EQ'd version culled from the interview that a friend had provided. I've burned it to a CD to listen on the road and have played it a bunch more at home.

Sometimes I listen to music on the radio while driving and once in a while I'd switch back to the CD to play Make Believe as if it is the next song in the rotation, just to see if it fits. Once, while driving, Stairway to Heaven came on the radio so I switched back and forth between the live radio and the CD player. Except for the brightness of modern recording, stylistically they are built of the same musical vocabulary.

The Canadian single (heretofore known as the West Coast) is all glitter and polish. The CD version (East Coast) has little of the grit Ian relishes, but the EC (at least the low-er quality one that I've heard) has a much bigger, harder drum track. It has as much polish as the WC but the nuance is pure classic rock. There is a more standard rhythm guitar instead of the sitar-sound during "I got this film in my head" on the WC. The percussion/clipped cowbell after the first chorus is gone, replaced by piano? and banjo? The classic Leslie warble makes a subtle intro at this point also. "On to the next one, funny how time flies.." the music drops out with a long bass note for some needed space. This provides the expectation needed for the passionate "Ten Years Gone" style string bends into a soaring arpeggio which underline the next chorus. There's a ton of countermelody going on in the big guitar parts underneath as this builds. I can't wait for the hi-fi version in February!

The "As long as I play me, and as long as you play you.." rave up has a really nice "Mott the Hoople" / Alice Cooper "Billion Dollar Babies" era slide accent shifting under the lyric and the euro-siren two note pattern. All this keeps growing more powerful, anchored on a clear baseline, to the very "Foos" (thanks Nick) phased guitar run. The classic rock echoing wail, "credits roooolll!" that was/is in the live version replaces the trippy studio panning. I have mixed emotions on this because I love both the simple space and the full studio gimmickry. My only criticism is the very standard rat-tat-tat-tat drumroll that comes out of the post wail strumming. It needs to be jazzed up, IMHO. Insert grit/mistake/stutter here. More Bonham please.

This song will be best experienced in a big hall like this:

This early live version seems like a compromise between the EC and WC. I cannot hear the Pagian accents if they are present but the coda is more like the EC version. I hope it evolves some complexity as Ian plays it on the road. I'm sure it will, if only to keep it interesting for him.

The coda on the EC is sooo much better than the clipped ending of the WC. The pattern of rock classics like Stairway is to have the post musical orgasm afterglow as an outro. The radio debut on the Edge102 even has the dj "aahhing" appropriately at the end. Just the result desired by the classic rock audience.

About 3 minutes in:

In fact, Make Believe (EC) followed by Stairway, is a natural. The 12 string pattern flows from Make Believe outro to Stairway intro very smoothly. Try it yourself.

Ian has real winner here with both versions. If he can get the pigeon-hole fixated critic/writers to listen past the surface he can perhaps get some positive press. If not, it's up to us fanboy-soldiers to pump it up. I suspect that radio success, and public acceptance will follow this one. Make Believe is a hit for sure. It WILL have a life all it's own. Those that want to dig deeper will be amazed at the depth Ian possesses and those that want a just a simple rockstar will be satisfied too. Quite a coup.

I'm really looking forward to 2009 for Thornley. Mass success or not I do believe Ian will deliver some wonderful deep music. Listen up!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Okay, I've listened to the live version 50 times and now the studio version "recorded live in a car" another 50 times. I've read the lyrics posted on Thornleyfans. My pre-release judgement is ready to be rendered. With the promise from Ian of a return to headphone enjoyment, I have to say this single is as consummate a track as Ian has EVER recorded.

Tavis, Cale and Eric who do background vocals on the live version, add a bit of a different flavor "live" and it is different in a good way. I do not miss it in the studio version, but I look forward to the live because of it.

It seems, as well, that Ian will now be marketed as "himself'. As much as we like/enjoy his co-horts in all their combinations we must acknowledge that whether a flaw or strength, Ian captains his own ship to it's prevail or demise. A creative entrepreneur, that I'm sure frustrates/thrills his team. Giving credit to those around him, from Big Wreck, through multiple Thornley live lineups, each has added his own spice to push Ian. Business delays can and do kill the emotional momentum that a band, as a unit, thrive on. You can just practice, or "side project" so much before 'team" goes away. People gotta eat.

We've all been blessed to have over 30 songs in demo, live or with other artists that clue us to the seemingly bottomless pit of creativity that is Thornley; Any one of which, to us faithful, could be considered a hit. For whatever reasons, Providence has not permitted the "breakthrough", for Ian. And speaking of "Breakthrough", "Make Believe" is certainly a companion song.

As was mentioned by someone on the thornleyfans message board, "Man Overboard" is the little brother to "Lost at Sea". At least metaphorically or thematically. Thanks to a GREAT recording of this one-off show with the nascent Thornley, we get to enjoy the powerful vision which quotes Zep's "Kashmir" and his own "Blown Wide Open". He takes us from languidly afloat on a raft to standing defiant in a storm, both musically and lyrically, all the while clueing us to his artistic journey; solo career plusses and minuses. I just realized that this song deserves it's own write-up. Later.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at
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That ability to reveal ones journey while telling a story is one of Ian's strengths. Duh, I guess you don't create in a vacuum. Big Wreck's "Breakthrough" exposited on the frustration of awaiting that game changing moment of elation when an artist cracks the charts. Couched in a "relationship" song, it's really about "making it" in the music biz. The longing to hit it with the public. I'll never know how this song wasn't a hit? I get goose bumps EVERY time. (Myles Kennedy sings on this one too. What I wouldn't give to see them do this live...oh boy!) So many levels of listening on this one. Great riff, great drumming, keyboards, bass line, the calliope breakdown, and that rave up ending, WOW; a true pop masterpiece. PLEASE!

Forward to December 2008, on the verge of new Thornley studio polish. YEARS of non-breakthrough. YEARS of fans holding their breath and Ian barely being. Make Believe. Another intimate snapshot of life in Thornley's head. And another pop masterpiece.

So Far So Good, Thornley's first hit was a bit of a departure for what we had come to expect from Ian, judging by the high standards of Big Wreck. But in it he nodded toward the reality of the market. The nu-metal production and a vocal cadence, not evidenced previously, won him new fans. Just enough nuance kept the old guard happy but wanting more. After four years delay and squandered momentum, Ian could perhaps start fresh as a "new" thing. Much has been learned in the process, and one of those lessons is to keep the faithful happy; no matter what flavor they come in... new or old.

In Make Believe, the vocal cadence is entirely modern, but the music is "classic". The baseline is subtle yet percolates. The drumming is VERY tasty. According to Ian, Daniel Adair is on some tracks, perhaps this one. It leave space and DOES not sound like anything Nickleback.

We’re rolling down the highway
I’m rolling down my window
Then I stick my hand out and drive with it as it flows
If I started thinking, instead of looking back
You wouldn’t see me sinking, before they covered up the tracks

Your hand outside, in the wind of a moving vehicle, oscillates up and down, mirroring the music biz journey Ian has been on. UP and friggin' DOWN. Never stable. I give him credit for turning his struggle into his art. Don't think too much, just get to creatin'!

This is what it feels like, coming down
We’re all in the movie, can turn it off or shut it down
This is what it feels like, if that’s so
Then where is the director to tell us where the hell to go

What now? I've been locked into this machine, this movie, where I play this part, and the ending is inevitable but I don't know what it is. If it's so great to star in your own movie, how come this director is nowhere to be found. Where is the producer to give credence to my vision? I think he finally found it in Nick Raculinicz. The breadth of this song is evident even in this ultra-compressed youtube recording. I hear some sort of, dare I say, cowbell-ish percussion (or is it an artifact of the youtube recording - help!)

I’ve got this film in my head
They’ve scripted all that I’ve said
Let’s make it of real before we’re dead, because we’re
Close enough, we’re diamonds in the rough
Today’s the day we finally say can’t turn this movie off
And if we’re not, we might as well just blow this all to hell
It’s not a film or a fantasy we’re not just make believe

Going through the motions of life, the painful wait until the next dramatic scene, the wait is what kills ya. He talked about it in the interview that goes with this premier. People move on, go on to other things. It's not just this show biz entity; it's real people with real lives, that have to be sustained between the hits. Management needs to "LOOSE the Hounds!"

So this is what it feels like, running through my lines
I’m never need to ad lib; I find it’s just a waste of time
This is what it feels like, when the hero dies
On to the next one, funny how time flies

Going through the motions of presenting your "hero" (your single) that will rescue the album in the eyes of the soulless record company that just DOES NOT hear it. That feeling of not wanting to explain yourself, to sell the work further, beyond the obvious merit of the song itself. That's the ad lib that is tiring. Explaining yourself to the disinterested unexcitable gatekeeper: BOOOORing. Now it's YEARS of great heros dead to the world. Lost at Sea, Barely Be, Blind and on and on. Oh well.

Again we hit the power chorus that the market loves and Ian does so well. We are what we are! Diamonds in the rough! Just release the stuff. I wanna be done with it!

As long as I play me, and as long as you play you
God I love this scene, I gotta thank the cast and crew
Don’t let the credits roll, don’t let the credits roll

This is a nod to the fans, in my opinion. He is the me, and we are the you. In the end, it's about the fans accepting Ian's creations for what they are. As I've said before, Ian's sketches are cherished to me. I know most here feel this way. It's all at it's best when getting that direct appreciation from the fans with no annoying, but necessary, trappings between. Artist to fan. No execs, no journalists, no hype. It's only in tiny moments, that we never want to end, that we experience the "dreamy" mountaintop. People just aren't made to live on the mountantop. It's a precarious place. It's why we crave to be there. It's so rare. Like a dream we never want to end. Ian's music always meets his lyric. Hence the psychedelic harmonies that follow this section.

The music, specifically the baseline, is totally beatle-esque (Dear Prudence). The cascading vocal interplay I know will fill my head-phoned-head on December 12th. I only wish this part was twice as long. DAMN this market's short attention span.

Some of Ian's most impassioned singing (Vs Cornellian screaming previous) is on the outro. The progression is "Stairway to Heaven" but the details owe as much to XTC as much as Zep. It just makes me want to play it again; Just as all great pop songs strive to do.

Here is an XTC song that exemplifies the pop details that Ian calls up and Nick has rendered so nicely. This is a late 90's pop tune, from a band that took up the Beatles gauntlet like no other.

Greenman - XTC

MB is an unexpected pop twist from a guy who always thrills me. Having lived with all the faded, blurry shadows on the wall, that all the Myspace/youtube/message board postings have hinted at, I await the fullness of the new CD. Like Ian said in the interview, it's an eclectic mix. F'-categories! F-the box that you want to put him in.

"Release the Sounds!!!!"

Thank you Lord; it's gonna be a good year.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Led Zeppelin and Myles Kennedy - Thornley Mention

Just some long stuff I wrote about the whole rumor thang.

A bit of a summation of RP's uniqueness and the thoughts of new material. (There's an Ian mention too...)

Black and Gold wrote:
"As much as people like to bash Robert Plant's solo career, Jimmy and John Paul's post-Zep careers have been far less prolific, successful or memorable. Clearly not because of lack of musicianship but more lack of good songwriting partners. I can't remember the last time I heard a song by the Firm or Coverdale-Page. The songs just weren't that good.

In my opinion, there has to be new material and there has to be at least a couple of really good songs, otherwise it could all backfire and they look like old men reliving their past. They need a great singer that can handle the Zep tunes without trying to sound like Robert. He or she hopefully adds something special to the creative process and isn't just singing the songs."

Some great points you made. The writing is a key factor in this project. The RP/JP factor in Zep music was/is one of the greatest ever. Robert was the perfect foil for Jimmy's powerful musical themes. They were both hungry absorbers of new sounds and foreign musical rhythms. It was a key factor in keeping Zep fresh throughout.

Their work had a brash playfulness and joy even when the music got heavy. They had a "feel" that expressed itself beyond the notes. I couldn't wait to hear what new sound Jimmy would bring to the table. What new riff he could write that would be a game changer that others would follow. There was an innocence about abducting Eastern melodies back in the day. Now that it's been done, it's hard to go there again; at least on a massive pop scale like Zep did. Although Jimmy was the architect, all four stellar members comprised the Architecture. Besides bringing the "hippy drippy" lyrics, Lord of the Rings references, historical blues themes Robert had a way with "selling" it vocally that none in my opinion have ever had. It's an actor's ability.

Robert had a passion in his voice that goes beyond just singing. Plant was born out of Janice Joplin's crushed passion and Billie Holiday's incredible pain. It was off-putting to some, for sure, but for me it was the icing on the cake. His studder on N'N'N'N'N'Nobody's Fault But Mine; his scat singing on What is and What should Never Be, and all his vocal gymnastics were "sexy" in some orgasmic way. I can't think of one singer today that carries that off without sounding forced or trite. The last guy who could, passed away 11 years ago (Jeff Buckley). As I've said before, I think it has more to do with this age of music, the public's acceptance of that type of expression than it has to do with the capabilities of the singer on the market.

The generation of musical children, that Zep spawned; in particular the ones inspired by Robert, could only copy/mimic the more earnest bombast of his style. Most missed the point. The Viking warrior Robert embodied in the Immigrant song spawned a whole genre of metal seriousness. What they missed entirely was the sexiness of Robert's vocal nakedness. His courage and naivete to to expose himself and be cool in the process. NO BODY does this today.

Maybe it's by contrast alone that Plant/Zep could flourish. From the uptight John Wayne tough guy comes the sexy wailing banshee, that fems it up but is somehow even more male! Robert had a confidence that would broadcast at full volume. In todays world his 70's stage persona is a gay prima dona. Even though our society has "opened" considerably our art has constricted/narrowed in how it relates. As a past revisited he's accepted. Copiers are scorned. Imitators are tossed off as children wearing dady' shoes. I guess it's just a natural course of things.

A lot of who I think are today's best (within the last 15 years or so), (Cornell, Myles, Ian Thornley all have Plant-like facets -that's why I like them) are of a different dimension than Plant's 70's man. They all do angst - extremely well. They all do "personal sensitive" into "overwrought anger" really well. They all "get" the blues in a modern age influenced way. They all hit the operatic wail and dig deep for the personal pain. I think that Blue Train is almost a nod by Robert to the personal pain that today's best seem to do so well.

If you take Alter Bridge as an example. They are musically borne out of a strong love of late 80's metal (Metallica/Slayer) employed in "lighter" pop themes. From a business standpoint they are capitalizing on a market they created with Creed (A Perl Jam sound-alike with spiritual overtones - both loved and hated for the same reasons) and at the same time distancing themselves from it. Big Ballady Journey numbers with Metallica chops and bombast. Myles is bringing them more towards the blues that's in his blood, but he also has a knack for writing the big blustery ballads inspired by none other than Stairway. His songwriting seems very familiar at first listen and can be easily dismissed as tribute until you realize that he has tremendous craft. He can write a catchy melody. He's a top notch player to boot. One of his first incarnations was called Citizen Swing. Myles admittedly cringes at some aspects of his young performance but there are portions that expose some early strengths and only underly his current vehicle AlterBridge.

Listen to Motor Mama and Can't Complain
Citizen Swing:

He digs the classic R&B and can refer to the 40's swing feel that Jimmy always incorporated into his live repertoire. I think that that is the connect. They all share a reverence for classic Jazz and R&B. It's what MADE Bonham. Myles albiet a generation removed. Having a common musical language when writing is essential to communicate composition.

Myles, by experience, does not necessarily have the vocal playfulness that Robert brought, but I do think he's earnestly passionate enough to "sell it" if given the chance. It's not just about the chops. It's what Steven Tyler has; that over-the-top-jazz-rooted-scat-singing freedom, but he is just over the hill IMHO.

I do GET the idea that Jimmy needs someone to challenge him musically. Myles might be too generic/of today for most. Not exotic enough and Jimmy falls too easily into the sophomoric. I LOVE the Coverdale/Page CD, musically, but it's cringeworthy in moments because of that 80's poser metal mentality that DC falls into. I definitely think that should avoid the 80's altogether.

JpJ is the "Arranger". He takes the pieces and embellishes and augments. He's the glue that will make the new stuff last. He's a riffage/proggey leaning musician's musician, that's as comfortable in R&B as he is in Country music. That's a broad range to be fluent in. His impact will be immeasurable. I look forward to wonderful instrumentation and intricate interplay. I only pray that they don't low-tech the approach. I want layers and deep listening.

Jason needs to crawl out of the box on this one too. Stop trying to fill his Dad's shoes and just be Jason. He shares much more with Myles than he does with his uncles Jimmy and John. I think that will be key in writing in this environment. How open will the old guys be to the "youngster's ideas? Who will challenge who? Who's instincts will win out? How "forward" will the new stuff be? How "backward"? How will our narrow pre-conceptions be? How do you create innocent joyful music when you're a hard worn veteran in a jaded cynical world? This for certain will be interesting.

Sorry for being so typey.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hard To See - my take

Hard to See
I have only heard 3-4 versions of "Hard to See live and I have tried to piece the lyrics from different sources. The sources are all really tough to discern, at parts, so forgive my misinterpretation.

HTS is without a doubt a driving rocker. The signature intro riff borders on Rock n' Roll but is a more straight ahead runner. I LOVE when Ian just throws a balls-to-the-wall-burner our way. Like Fall Through the Cracks from the Big Wreck days in that it has that one two beat which allows Ian to ad tasty flourishes in between the beats. These little nuances are what does it for me. A good strong riff is like the architecture on which you can embellish and decorate. That's why the blues is such a broad form for guitarists. Hard to see follows this rule.

I'm sure the studio version will carry all of the power that it delivers live. I can't wait to hear what nick raskulinecz heard in this song.

Just fire away, just fire away
and lets begin
In spite of me, in spite of me
I let you in

Ian is such a good "relationship" writer. His point of view always seems to reflect a very REAL situation. Whether they are personal or imagined he writes with the authority of one who's been there. HTS is about a reluctant intervention. Like a guy forced into a discussion about his flaws, pointing the finger at his accuser/intervener. "Lets get this over with", "Go ahead, take your best shot" After all, I LET you go ahead with this, even though it's against my better judgement. Even though my character flawed ego has built up this protective wall, I will let you in... just to remind you who's in control. He's so tough when he starts.

Don't you think your word
is tied to the mess thats inside of me
by now

Then the finger of blame get thrown toward the accuser. We never look inward first. It just ain't our nature. Don't you think that you had something to do with this mess you see me as? Who's to blame here? Me or you!?

It's Hard to see the better side of me
It's time to find a better way to be
Can't figure it out
It's Hard to see the better side of me

The chorus is a tacit admission, that as I look at myself, as you see me, it ain't pretty. I guess, you're right, there's gotta be a better way. I am helpless within myself, or at least at this moment, I see no solution. The beginning of change is the admission of a problem.

Now close the door, now close the door
Lock me in!

Then sign me up, sign me up
for counselin'

But the dysfunctional ego fights tooth and nail for it's survival. Remember, I'm a dangerous animal, you better restrain me or I might run! Go ahead and use that tranquilizer dart gun called "counseling". It's one thing to admit in conversation that you might need to "talk" to someone, it's a whole 'nother thing to actually go through with it, and I DON'T LIKE IT!

Don't you think you're trying to see?
The tragic mess inside of me by now?

Perhaps you are digging a little too deep. Like as you are on the operating table, knowing you need to have a tumor removed, but without anesthesia. That initial cut to break the skin hurts and you pull back. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe you are wrong about me.

It's Hard to see the better side of me
I'm trying to find a better way to be
Can't figure it out
It's Hard to see the better side of me

Each time I stop and I turn around
My foot gets stuck in the earth (mud? jungle?)
Each time I stop and I turn around
It always gets stuck

Finally comes the admission that all your attempts at change have failed. EVERY time I try to change, I get bogged down. You finally conclude that you cannot get it done by yourself. The frustration in the way this line is sung seems personal.

I know this is a music review but I look at things through my spiritual grid. Sorry if I offend. The issues that Ian writes about are common to us all in one way or another. That's why we relate to him so much.

Paul the Apostle in Romans (kind of confusing but if you work it out in your head it will be valuable):
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now Paul's conclusion is to thank God for salvation. God sees the better side of us, even when we don't. That's why he has the desire to Save us. That's why it's so hard for us to see our better nature because we inherently KNOW our own failings and mortality. Deep down we recognize that no good lives in us by our own flesh. It's all about the pleasure and the greed from our natural side. Our spiritual side, at least what we let dwell inside us, is the only non-selfish part.

I love how Ian refers to his foot getting stuck in the earth (I think that's what he's saying), as in the "earthly". He desires to step into the heavenly, but keeps getting bogged down on the earthly. Such a human condition.

It's Hard to see the better side of me
Time to find a better way to be
Can't figure it out
It's Hard to see the better side of me
Time to find a better way to be
Can't figure it out
It's Hard to see the better side of me

A life well examined, and consequently well lived, is a life worth living. I admire Ian's "self" examination even if it's NOT really about him. It's really about US. That's why Ian is such a genius. On one level it ROCK's, on another it rocks your conscience. Genius I say!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Might Be The End

"Might be the End", might be the best song Ian has put out since Big Wreck. Since the first time I heard the moody open, this song has been flooring me.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Ian has perfected a very tasteful "cut and paste" way of composing music that sets a tune in a frame, so to speak. An earlier, more obvious example of a "mash up" is Big Wreck's "No Fault" where Supertramp collides with a chugga-chugga VanHalen riff.

He employs the same technique live when he intros songs with a classic like Supertramp. He stamps the reference for his tribute and then delivers HIS classic take.

This Might Be the End is an amalgam of influences. At it's heart it is a "classic late Zep" blues number. After the Jeff Buckley "Lover You Should Have Come Over" tagged intro, it stomps into I'm Gonna Crawl" territory. The drumming is pure Bonzo, with that powerful reverb. It has a classic swing/shuffle to it unlike most modern music.

The waltzy pace is deliberate and dizzying. As Ian sings "Tiptoeing closer and closer towards.." You can just imagine two dancers on the edge of a precipice, swirling to destruction. The music swells to accompany the lyric, and then delivers an abrupt drop-off. The wet reverb hangs like an echo of their once sure footing.

That slow lazy slide stroke is vintage Page. The picking on the downstroke (what do I know?1... this is what it sounds like to me) has an almost piano tinkle mixed in to it. Such a nice touch. I hope they can keep this in the final. I love the little pieces that add nuance to a track.

Ian emotionally segues into the dread of the inevitable. The music feels like the protagonist dragging his feet, resisting what his heart already knows... "It's over, Johnny!". The tempo changes, the waltz begins again. One last plea for connection.."Dont'cha think we should break down the door..." There is a flanged/echo of a note that cascades out into the stratosphere as he sings this line that sets up the chorus.

A great chorus too. "Sometimes I hold out, when I should give in... There seems to be that old-timey background vocal harmony going on behind Ian. It's hard to tell on the demo. This is very obscure, but Zep on "Hey Hey, What Can I Do", has outro vocal harmonies that sound like what Ray Charles did back in the 50's. Ian seems to be in this territory. There is a more timeless quality to Ian's new demos. He seems to reach back very deeply into his pile of influences. The harmonium intro, most recently a Jeff Buckley thing but, of course, a much more arcane instrument. It's akin to the use of the Hurdy Gurdy in Zep's "Hangman".

The song is firing on all cylinders by now. Flanger, huge reverb, piano tinkle. It's all kickin' and sets up the greatest solo sequence that Ian has EVER performed in studio. It builds deliberately, maturely with the the proper space and timing of classic solos.

All great solos need tension and release and as this solo begins to gallup along, the tension grows. Like a long jumper running up to the take-off, it picks up the pace with that final compression of muscle and bone to launch that solo into history. It does not just go higher, it teeters on the brink. This part ranks with the Claptons and the Pages in my opinion. This is not cover band business. This is a guy who "gets it" because he's "got" it. That innate ability to channel the almighty. To touch a soul. I tear up every time I hear this solo. It's what a guitar aficionado waits for; that transcendent solo.

I think Ian does this influence morphing thing to perfection. On "The Lies That I Believe" he channeled Gilmore and Slash. On this it's SRV-JimmyPage-Neil Schon, at their most classic. Not a direct cop of a riff, but certainly the FEEL. If he is defined by what he steals; his talent at distilling the essence of the subject of his theivery and the resulting amalgam is unparallelled. It becomes a style all it's own. Ian is his own Supergroup.

I don't know if people even care anymore about a soaring guitar solo, but if they do, this is one for the ages.

A little personal anecdote. I was working in my basement studio as my brother-in-law and his future son-in-law were putting in a new heater. Two plumbers, blue collar guys. My Bro-in-law is an old school, nuts and bolts, classic rock guy. His son-in-law is a hnnn-sss, hnnn-sss, hnnn-sss, club dude (y'all know what I mean). I had itunes playing a shuffle of my library through the Mighty Klipsches for their working pleasure. MBTE came up in rotation. As the song neared completion they both stepped out of the back room slack jawed. "Holy shit! Who was that!" said my brother in law. Never having heard the song before (OBVIOUSLY!), with no prompting from me. A 50 yr old recognizing the great heart and soul of the track, the young man exclaiming "I never heard anything like that before!". Totally unsolicited and unexpected. I love those moments.

This is an Ian composition that makes you take notice. The full bore, high octane finish is deeply layered and complex. Powerful shuffling back beat, droning background chorus, intricate soaring guitar runs that intermittently stab through that velvet smooth wall of emotion; all topped off with that passionate but resolute vocal performance we expect from Ian.

Then he drops the mix back to the basics; and we feel that perpetual shuffle of self destruction that Ian is so familiar with and it fades out.

I only pray that this will make it to fully realized studio magic one day. F' the market! This is one that stands alone! Timeless.

For any music fan that wants to take their listening experience deeper Ian is a delight. As I've said before, If I could bottle all that I hold dear in music and give it a label, it'd be Thornley.

Here are a few tracks from one of my 70's faves, Climax Blues Band.

Shake Your Love (very Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, but the slide solo vintage 70's. Zep wasn't the only one):

Flight (very cool jazzy jam that gets VERY intense):

Amerita/Sense of Direction

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

This was show-stopper, live. Sadly I couldn't find a youtube recording. Once you get past the old time opening and jazzy run it changes direction (get it?) it sets up a classic ascending solo that really soars. It's so Ian Thornley; Lost at Sea, "the map is never wrong, they say" and Blown Wide Open. It's some of the reason I find Ian's music so appealing.
Enjoy, my peeps.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I'm glad to start this.

Jamie and BUK are going to be bringing us articles, thoughts, and info and Thornley related info.
Myself and Ashlee will also add stuff to but more so we now have some great talented writers with us to share in spreading the word.

Welcome Jamie and BUK.