Saturday, 31 December 2016

Opportunities for Sri Lanka in 2017 After Recent Disappointments

I’m writing this at the end of 2016 looking at Sri Lankan issues from a political angle. I’ll start by mentioning recent disappointments from my perspective that happened in the last 3 months of 2016. I don’t intend to go into detail discussing or explaining them in this article. These recent disappointments include the President’s controversial speech at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, the recent emergence of racial crimes & hatred, issues regarding the Government & Police’s response to these incidents, the Inspector General of Police being caught on a phone call implying he’s protecting someone under investigation, the possibility of increased fines for traffic violations cancelled due to a strike by private bus companies, a strike at the Hambantota port, the Navy Commander assaulting a journalist at that strike etc.

I think it is important that the Sri Lankan Government resolve the problems arising from these issues. This Government really needs to deliver in 2017 in light of these issues, and as more needs to be done based on what they were voted in for. On the positive side, there are some events set to take place in 2017 that could bring real benefits to Sri Lanka. Firstly, the Cabinet recently approved a yearly event National Integration and Reconciliation Week beginning from the 8th to the 14th of January 2017. This event will be promoting national integration among school children, creating sensitisation and awareness in the media in all three languages, encouraging the private sector to be involved in integration programs, north south dialogue & inter-village exchange programs and a competition to promote national integration.

As expected in January, Sri Lanka will lease Hambantota port to a Chinese firm raising about USD 1.12 billion which should help Sri Lanka pay off the USD 8 billion owed to China for the development projects under the previous regime. I hope that the Chinese firm will be able to make the Hambantota port profitable to bring more benefits than just the money. In June 2016, the Right to Information (RTI) Bill was passed in Parliament. The RTI Act will come into effect on Independence Day, 4th February 2017. It is from that day onward when citizens can file RTI requests, making the Government more open to its citizens.

The Sri Lankan Cabinet passed the Open Government Partnership (OGP) plan in October 2016. The OGP plan gives a 12-commitment national policy plan and sets up a steering committee to monitor its implementation headed by both the President and the Prime Minister. This national policy plan has a schedule until June 2018. Member countries of OGP, in endorsing the OGP Declaration, show a commitment to “foster a global culture of open government that empowers and delivers for citizens, and advances the ideals of open and participatory 21st century government.”

A promise of the 100 day program was a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians, which still hasn’t been made law. There is some hope as the Code of Conduct was mentioned in the Sri Lankan media recently, and it was tabled and presented in Parliament on the 10th of December. This gives an indication that it will get passed in Parliament in the next 6 months, providing it gets enough votes. Sri Lanka is working on a new constitution right now and it’s possible that the new constitution will get completed or at least make real progress next year. The Megapolis project is in its early stages right now, and I hope to see much progress on it next year.  

So these are some of the opportunities for Sri Lanka based on events set to occur in 2017. I don’t have any idea how 2017 will play out for Sri Lanka, but if the Government is mostly successful in the opportunities I mentioned, as well as in other events, 2017 could be a good year for Sri Lanka, compared to 2016.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Ten Great Bob Seger Songs by Ten Different Piano Players

I am a Bob Seger fan and I like piano in rock music, so I decided to write a blog post choosing ten Bob Seger songs with great piano in them played by ten different piano players. Most of these songs are rock songs, but I am including some songs that probably wouldn’t be classified as rock here. For each song, I’ll give the name of the piano player and the year in the title, with my thoughts on the piano in the song. I did include three of his most popular songs “Old Time Rock & Roll”, “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Against The Wind”. Most of the songs are credited to Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, with there being one solo song as well as some songs credited with the Silver Bullet Band, but having no Silver Bullet Band members on it. Here’s my ten great Bob Seger songs given in sequential order. Hope you like it.

Piano Rock

Old Time Rock & Roll - Randy McCormick (1978)
This song was given to Bob as a demo that was written by George Jackson and Thomas Jones. Bob Seger rewrote most of the lyrics, but didn’t ask for credit. He tried recording it both with his Silver Bullet Band and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (a group of session musicians in Alabama that he recorded with in the 70s and 80s), but it wasn’t working. Thus, he decided to record his voice over the original demo that featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and removed the voice of the original singer. The piano is played by Randy McCormick. The song opens with the legendary piano intro that’s instantly recognisable. I use the piano intro as my phone ringtone. Silver Bullet Band member Alto Reed plays saxophone on the song that was recorded as an overdub. While the piano may not be the loudest instrument in the song, it’s played very well.

We’ve Got Tonight - Barry Beckett (1978)
This song is a ballad credited with the Silver Bullet Band, but was recorded with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and has Barry Beckett playing the piano & organ. It opens with the great piano intro that’s played over and over during most of the song. In the bridge, the piano playing changes where it is played faster. The song has a good section where the chorus is played three times at the end, first as usual with the band, then a slow version just with piano & Bob’s voice that’s joined by the other instruments at the end which is followed by the last chorus with the band again that works very well.

Brave Strangers - Doug Riley (1978)
This song recorded with the Silver Bullet Band opens with the great melodic piano riff played by Canadian session musician Doug Riley and the song is then joined by the organ, acoustic guitar, bass and drums. Just before the bridge, Doug does good movements on the piano. Then the bridge takes the melody in a different direction featuring great piano work by Doug before going back to the piano riff and previous melodies. I consider this to be a rock song with a soul influence which goes on for an epic six minutes and twenty seconds.

Against The Wind - Paul Harris (1980)
This song is slower as it’s a ballad and has a country influence. It’s a Silver Bullet Band song with the piano and organ played by Paul Harris. Paul delivers a good country sounding piano solo which goes back and forth with him and original Silver Bullet Band guitarist Drew Abbott. The piano provides most of the song’s melody. This is also a long song that goes on for five minutes and thirty four seconds.

Love’s The Last To Know - Bill Payne (1982)
This song is again a ballad recorded with the Silver Bullet Band featuring Bill Payne on piano. It starts with just piano, which is joined by the organ about fifty seconds in and then the remaining instruments at about the one and a half minute mark, but with the drums playing softly until about two and a half minutes into the song where the drums are played hard which results in the piano played more stronger. This song holds a special significance to me as the acoustic guitar is played by Davey Johnstone (Elton John’s guitarist) with Bob Seger and Elton John being my two favourite singers.

The Ring - Craig Frost (1986)
This Silver Bullet Band song features the piano played by Silver Bullet Band keyboardist Craig Frost. I consider it a pop rock song featuring the signature Bob Seger piano sound. The piano seems to go up and down throughout the slow and fast sections of the song. There is this great melody on the piano that’s played throughout the song. The piano has a lot a room as the guitars here are acoustic ones. This epic long song goes on for five minutes and thirty five seconds.

The Fire Inside - Roy Bittan (1991)
This is another of Bob’s epic long songs which rocks really well being led by the incredible inspired piano playing by Roy Bittan. It’s credited with the Silver Bullet Band, but recorded entirely with session musicians. The guitar featured is an acoustic guitar played by session guitarist Steve Lukather of Toto fame giving the piano more room to rock. There are two amazing piano solos, one in the middle and the other at the end of the song. I consider the piano playing to be of the signature Bob Seger piano sound that’s also in the previous song, but with more energy and rocks better. Near the end of the song there is a brief moment where the piano notes go back and forth between high and low ones. The song goes on for five minutes and fifty six seconds.

She Can’t Do Anything Wrong - Walt Richmond (1991)
This song recorded with the Silver Bullet Band was written by Bill Davis & Walt Richmond and it is Walt who is playing the piano. Like the previous song, there are two piano solos, one in the middle of the song and one in the end, but this song seems to have a southern rock or rock & roll feel unlike the previous one with another difference being this song’s use of electric guitars. Bob sings throughout the piano solo at the end.

I Can’t Save You Angelene - Bob Seger (1995)
In this song, it’s interesting as Bob Seger himself is playing the piano. I wish Bob Seger would play piano more, especially on rock songs. This is probably the best piano playing he’s ever done, delivering a great performance. This song isn’t rock, as it’s an upbeat blues song. His playing is melodic and opens with the great piano riff that goes up the scale to the high notes that is played throughout the song. He even solos in the last minute of the song, where he also does a bit of singing.

What I love about this song is that it sounds so much like Elton John, being a fan of both singers. One Elton John song it sounds like is his hit “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”. The Elton similarities are the fact that Bob is also playing the piano, the melody sounds Elton like, the piano playing sounds like Elton and lastly Bob’s singing resembles Elton. I love Elton John’s voice post late 80s as I find that voice has a lot of depth. Bob’s vocals are great here, where he sings with depth similar to Elton, and in the last minute of the song sings a “yeah, yeah” that Elton has sung. I would love it if Elton John and Bob Seger would do a duet, and then Elton would become another musician that’s played great piano on a Bob Seger song.

Satisfied - Steve Nathan (2003)
This is another upbeat blues song so it sounds similar to the previous one. It’s a solo song featuring piano and organ by Steve Nathan. There is a great piano solo in the middle of the song, as well as another great piano solo at the end where Bob sings along which of course resembles the end of the previous song.

So this was my list of ten great Bob Seger songs by ten different piano players. I think these songs would make a great album with the time totalling forty six minutes. I hope you enjoyed this list and would like to hear your thoughts on it.