Who Are We?  A Review of Riverside’s ID. Entity

It’s been a long four and a half years since we last heard from Riverside.  In 2018, the band was still in recovery mode from the untimely loss of Piotr Grudzinski and, as a three-piece, released the spacious-sounding Wasteland, which thematically dealt with the apocalypse, on levels both personal and civilizational.  The present year finds Riverside releasing another thematically bi-furcated album. ID. Entity deals with the themes of the impact of social media and, more broadly technology, and its impact at the level of the individual and society as a whole.  Given the present zeitgeist, ID. Entity is the timeliest thing they’ve ever done, which is saying something for a band that has albums like Anno Domini High Definition (ADHD) and songs like #Addicted (from Love, Fear and the Time Machine) in the repertoire.

Musically, ID. Entity has a palette as broad as its cover.  That’s no coincidence, as bassist/lead vocalist Mariusz Duda has more or less said in a number of interviews regarding the album.  Sounds ranging from synth-pop, heavy metal, electronica, and 70’s prog, among others, can be found in what is Riverside’s most musically diverse collection of songs yet.  But still, the music has certain threads running through the album that make it unmistakably Riverside.

Friend or Foe kicks off the album, with much of the first half of the song extracted from the 80’s, with synthesizers, a prominent bass line, and a steady drumbeat, before new guitarist Maciej Meller brings a few meaty riffs to the party.  And speaking of Meller, the band has done an excellent job of integrating him into the fold.  Stylistically, there are enough similarities that he fits in with what Riverside does, while still allowing him enough space to be his own guy.  Meanwhile, Duda ponders what the present is doing to our own identities:

Who is behind the filter?

Who Who’s behind the mask?

How much of yourself is left in you?

Landmine Blast follows, a quirky mix of hyper-kinetic electronic keyboards, pounding bass, and guitar that ranges from long leads to power chords.  There is a nice mix of dynamics in this song, loud juxtaposed with quiet, fast with momentary interludes of breath-catching.  In some respects, this song channels some of the same energy from ADHD, but updated for the present.  

The title of Big Tech Brother leaves no questions about its message, beginning with a sarcastic ‘Terms of Service,’ followed by a musical introduction that even includes some brass – a first for Riverside.  Lyrically, allusions to Huxley and Orwell are mixed with those of the present for a potent message, underscored by the dark, pounding music.  Post Truth musically turns things down a notch, but just a notch.  This song seems to point its criticism at the media, traditional and social, and the constant stream of BS that emanates from both.  Meller’s guitar work on this song is particularly good, at times hinting at Alex Lifeson and other times sounding somewhat like the work of his predecessor in Riverside. 

The most overtly prog composition on the album is the 13-minute mini-epic, The Place Where I Belong.  This song has some strong 70’s prog influences, including the use of the Hammond by Michal Lapaj, and within the structure of the piece itself.  The quiet interlude in the middle is an especially good touch.  I’m Done With You follows, with plenty more of the Hammond and lots of prog-metal goodness while Duda pontificates on cutting poison people out of one’s life. The album closer, Self Aware, begins as a straight-ahead rocker, but has a nice keyboard- and bass-driven quiet jam at the end.  It also has a little bit of reggae-beat worked in, reminding me a little of Rush’s Vital Signs.

If you were like me and bought the deluxe edition, you are treated to single edits of Friend or Foe and Self Aware, along with two new instrumental tracks, Age of Anger and Together Again.  Both are worthy additions and worth the extra money. 

In summary, ID. Entity finds Riverside’s music branching out into new areas and new sounds while still maintaining all of their trademarks that have made them one of the best 3rd wave progressive rock bands around.  It’s no accident that they are my favorite band to emerge in the last 20 years or so, but even if they don’t hold that lofty position for you, this album is still worth checking out. 

Americana, the Reich and Motorcycle parts

Recently I had to replace motorcycle tire, it was simply well past its tread wear. These off road Duro tires are made in Taiwan, in fact they are commonly seen in that lesser known Russian Ural motorcycles. These tires are known to be puncture resistant, and more importantly they look pretty good on a Triumph. My side-mirrors are from CRG, handle bars from British Customs, and engine/crash guard from SW-MOTECH. This is not an advertisement, but just an illustration of my ability to make choices.

Making choices for customizing motorcycles is not so different from general life choices. We pick vendors, and parts which are most suitable to our purposes and palette. Just like how we pick our grocery stores, or movie place or restaurants or investment plans. We build life and systems around us based on our choices, those who make better choices build better systems. That freedom to make choices deserves a bit of an appreciation.

Last week I was watching this TV series called “The Man in the High Castle”. It details an alternate reality where Axis powers won the war. And the US is split in half between the Reich and Imperial Japan. The series also brings in the concept of multiverse, where there are parallel realities with different outcomes. In a certain universes Axis powers rule, in others it’s the Allied forces. So, in the story Nazis realized this and decided to build this machine to travel to alternate realities, obviously to conquer them! More than scary it sounded foolish.

Even if by some random stroke of luck Hitler wins the war, they can’t hold a candle to the Allied forces in the parallel universe. So, most likely outcome would be they lose their current reality to Americans from those alternate universes. Interestingly, even here successful outcome comes down to that simple ability to make productive choices.

German Reich is forced to make choices based on meaningless criteria, while Americans make choices to build efficient systems. While Reich has to pander, Americans make choices which can deliver results. Nazis artificially limit their resource pool, while Americans allow winners to emerge from anywhere. Americans simply produce exceptional results because of their ability to make rational choices while learning from their mistakes. Over a period of time it allows best of the ideas to emerge and artificial discriminatory practices to be discarded, this eventually benefits everyone. So, one criterion to measure a legislation would be its impact on broadening choices, seems like that’ll tell whether it’s taking us closer to the Reich or to Americana.

Reverence for Life in a hard-hearted World

By Richard K. Munro

It’s a brave new world where children can access abortion pills (abortifacients) without a doctor’s prescription and without parental notification or consent. It seems reasonable to me that at the very least parents should be notified if their child has a major medical treatment or is prescribed powerful drugs. It seems to me drugs like this should not be administered without a doctor.

An abortifacient is defined as “an agent (such as a drug) that induces abortion.” However, manufacturers often market these drugs as “contraception” so as to obfuscate what these drugs actually do. Many Americans use abortion and abortion pills as a preferred form of birth control.

65 % of American women use or have used artificial birth control.  

91 percent of Americans believe birth control should be made free and widely available if abortion is restricted or banned. Among those who are anti-abortion rights, 61 percent agree.  There is no question the majority of Americans want access to artificial birth control. There is little argument there. The argument is over two questions:

  1. is abortion a form of birth control that should be freely available to all without restriction or limits for all ages (including minors without parental consent)? Condoms, IUDs, and the abortifacient morning-after pill are given to students in high schools – including those under age 16 – free of charge and without parents’ knowledge or consent in many places. Is this right? Some do not think so.
  2. Can or should states restrict or limit access to abortions for minors without parental consent or notification? Some think there can be reasonable restrictions on abortion. Abortion is legal most places in the United States during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Most abortions are done during the first trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester refers to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some states allow abortions until the 24th week, which is at the very end of the second trimester. Some people think there is an unlimited right to abortion even in the third trimester. But that is a minority. In the third trimester, just 19 percent of Americans believe most or all abortions should legal. according to a poll. But a recent poll indicates 80% of American believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester.


If a person is considering abortion, there are two ways of ending a pregnancy: in-clinic abortion and medication abortion (also known as the “abortion pill”). The percentage of abortions done with U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved mifepristone pills rose from about 44% in 2019 to 54% in 2020. This number will continue to grow as in clinic abortions become less common. On Jan. 3, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the distribution of abortion pills to retail pharmacies.

Under the new regulation, certified pharmacies can distribute mifepristone — which is used in conjunction with misoprostol, a more easily accessible drug, to end a pregnancy — in person or through the mail to patients who have a prescription from a certified provider. President Biden’s Department of Justice, meanwhile, has assured the US Postal Service (USPS) that it can continue to deliver packages of abortion pills nationwide, even in states that restrict or limit abortion.

In Texas, for example abortion is restricted except for life-threatening medical emergency, and anyone under 18 requires parental permission or a judicial bypass. I have personally met with young people who were pro-life speakers from Texas. In both cases the mother came very close to terminating the pregnancy (in one case the young person showed a Costco card and in another a fake ID). In both cases parents and or uncles and aunts intervened to demonstrated the young women was not of age of consent. They promised to welcome the children into their family. In both cases the young women decided to carry the babies to term. I met these beautiful and strong young people. I was, personally, haunted by the fact that if they had been Californians their lives would have been snuffed out and thus these two citizens would not exist.

Since the Dobbs ruling, pro-choice advocates say there has been a growth in self-managed abortions — via abortion pills that are obtained through avenues that skirt the law — in restrictive states. Once again I think young women should have reasonable access to birth control but young people should also be aware of the risks of some medical treatments. I think it reasonable that some drugs should be available at pharmacies only with a doctor’s prescription.

Incredible as it seems In 1963, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare shared the widely held definition of abortion as “all the measures which impair the viability of the zygote at any time between the instant of fertilization and the completion of labor.” (emphasis mine; a direct quote).

Indeed, until the mid-1960s, most doctors and scientists acknowledged that human life began at the moment of fertilization of the ovum by the sperm somewhere in the Fallopian tube.

How times have changed!

In 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published its first Terminology Bulletin, stating: “Conception is the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” (Emphasis mine). 

This change of medical terminology as far as I can determine was not based on new scientific findings.

The modern definition of conception was a political decision to appease Planned Parenthood and birth control activists.

Reverence for Life affords us a fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil.  So I would say LIFE is a better choice than DEATH.

I have no opposition to those who want to remain celibate their entire lives. 

I have no opposition to those who want to use birth control to remain childless or limit the children they have. 

If people choose to use abortion or abortifacient drugs for birth control that is their choice. 

Abortion will always exist because it exists in nature and some people want to use it as a form of birth control.   But in the final analysis, LIFE is a better CHOICE than death. 

I would respect Planned Parenthood more if they boasted how many lives they saved and gave up for adoption (they actively discourage giving children up for abortion -they wouldn’t make any money that way).

Abortion should be legal but I think it should also be rare.

Yes, it is a person’s right to choose (within reason) to have a child or children. 

But next year and next century and for 1000 years more it will be a heartbreaking tragedy that so many innocent lives are snuffed out like so many wet matches. Morally to abort without a very strong reason (to save the life of the mother etc.) will always remain an immoral act and a human tragedy.

Why The Last Valley was so controversial

By Richard K. Munro

The other day I got the sad news that CHRISTIAN ROBERTS who had appeared in TO SIR WITH LOVE (with Sidney Poitier) and THE LAST VALLEY (with Michael Caine and Omar Sharif) passed away in December 2022. Andrew Roberts, his nephew, wrote a very moving obituary in the Telegraph. TO SIR WITH LOVE is a very well-known film but THE LAST VALLEY which an excellent and unusual film has been very little seen especially in the USA. Why would that be?

The opening prologue sums up that era of internecine warfare forcefully and concisely: “The Thirty Years War began in 1618. It started as a religious war – Catholics against Protestants. But in their relentless pursuit of power, princes of both faiths changed sides as it suited them and in the name of religion butchered Europe.”

But THE LAST VALLEY was controversial in its time and still remains largely unknown to the general public. Why?

Because The Last Valley was considered by many to be blasphemous and atheistic.

The Last Valley was boycotted by evangelical churches and Roman Catholic Church. I remember there were ads put out against it in major newspapers and religious newspapers. It was not shown on TV for years.   I don’t think it was ever released on VHS.  

Finally, it came out in DVD and we saw it again.   Still, I think it was a great and moving film. The Last Valley had to courage to deal with an actual human quandary. How the poor and the weak can survive an invasion of well-armed and ruthless mercenaries. Michael Caine’s captain could have been a Nazi officer or a Russian officer of today in Ukraine.

The Last Valley was one of the most popular movies at the British box office in 1971.  However, it was an expensive flop overall. It earned rentals of $380,000 in North America and $900,000 in other countries, recording an overall loss of $7,185,000.

Rentals in the USA and Canada were less than $500,000!!!! 

So I would say the boycotts were effective you could see it in New York and San Francisco and LA (briefly) but that was about it.

My father and I went to see it in NYC -heck it was a Michael Caine movie! He and I were the only ones in the theater! It closed almost right away.  

Many people attacked James Clavell’s script because he was a well-known atheist.    

Personally, I thought it was a very honest film and thoughtful film it did not take the side of the Protestants or the Catholics really but had a lot of complexity.  THE LAST VALLEY is also endowed by the ethereal music of the John Barry soundtrack. Barry seemed to capture the mood of the era.

The nihilism and atheism of the captain (Caine) were totally believable. after all the violence he had seen and all the treacherous and corruption of Christian leaders both Catholic and Protestant.

The film was an equal opportunity offender in that way.

The main characters in THE LAST VALLEY were traumatized by the violence and killing they had seen and committed. Such a brutal experience could shake the values of the most serious Christian or Jew.

Traumatic experiences can affect different individuals in different ways.

NIGHT one of the great Holocaust books showed hows the experiences and suffering of Elie Wiesel deeply scarred him and turned him into an atheist.  On the other hand, Viktor Frankl in MAN’S QUEST FOR MEANING another excellent Holocaust book- became more religious.  

In the Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn became more religious by his experience.  C. S. Lewis to me the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century became deeply religious because of his great war experiences. Others became disillusioned and joined the “Lost Generation.” 

I gain my philosophy of life from Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius as well as Lincoln, Churchill, and CS Lewis.  I am influenced by Judeo-Christian teachings naturally but do not consider myself a man of ONE BOOK or

Homo unius libri  (Thomas Aquinas). Aquinas is reputed to have said “hominem unius libri timeo” I fear the man of a single book. I think the Bible is great but recall that the New Testament is just one great book of Greek Literature out of many.    Though many do not recognize it the New Testament paraphrases Greek literature and philosophy.

My father and I often discussed religious and philosophical themes and he used to say I VOTE YES but heaven and eternal life IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.   HE WISHED THERE WAS A JUST JUDGE AND THAT HITLER AND STALIN WERE BURNING IN HELL.   But in truth, he felt they were just as dead and senseless as Julius Caesar. They were beyond pain and punishment. Still, I hope there is a God and I hope he punishes the wicked.

So I suppose my father tended toward the skeptical even more than me.  THE LAST VALLEY was most controversial when it comes to explaining the process of granting indulgences by Roman Catholic priests. In that era their authority was almost complete. Per Oscarsson, a prestigious Swedish veteran of stage and screen in his homeland gave a splendid and singular performance as Father Sebastion (the fanatical priest).

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

Omar Sharif plays the role of an educated stranger to the valley and is entirely credible. Vogel delicately uses his brains, not his brawn. Vogel must find a way to keep the soldiers from massacring the villagers while maintaining peace with the headman., yet at the same time maintaining an uneasy peace with the headman. This was one of Sharif’s great performances. In a supporting role, we have Arthur O’Connell always a very convincing actor.

I thought the script of the LAST VALLEY was intelligent and brilliant and all the acting was first-class.  Michael Caine’s performance was unforgettable. I can’t think of any other film that dealt with the 30 Years’ War.    I think we all can agree that the wars of religion were a great tragedy perhaps as bad as World War 1.   The only thing worse would have been the complete conquest of Europe by the Ottoman Turks! 

And of course, in a way the 30 Years war continued in Ireland until recent times.  

 Sectarian hatreds and prejudices are extremely harmful.    

None of us is perfect and the honest man agrees religion can be a positive influence or a negative influence.  

 I think people should choose for themselves (as adults what religion if any they want to practice). 

Anglican or Catholic or Jewish any tradition could be good and could have a beneficent effect on children and family life.   

  I perhaps would not show the LAST VALLEY to my grandchildren NOW (aged 1 to 5) but by the time they are in high school or college, they SHOULD SEE IT.

I am not in favor of boycotting books or movies although I would say some books and movies should not be shown to k-6 students.  Some are PG PG 13 etc.  

The Last Valley was rated PG and was suitable for all audiences. 

I showed PART of Schindler’s list to my high school students but never showed the entire movie but I recommended it.   I thought the entire movie was too much.  And of course in our district, one could show clips without parental permission but not R films.  You could show an R film if you had parental permission or gave students a chance to opt-out.   

I thought ALL the students should watch at least SOME of the film. Similarly I think The Last Valley is a film every person interested in history and the history of religious conflict should watch. I am glad I saw it in 1971 and I would see it again. It is in my film library next to TO SIR WITH LOVE, The Lilies of the Field, The Keys of the Kingdom The Mission, the Sound of Music, and Miracle on 34th Street.

The Rise and Fall of an American Boobacracy?


For generation after generation, most Americans have not learned to read with fluency.  Today most Americans apparently read only when they have to.  The numbers are daunting: 

  1. Roughly 21% of American adults are illiterate, and another 33% read at or below a 6th grade level; 
  2. Americans between the ages of 15 and 44 spend ten minutes or less a day reading books;
  3. More than half of adult Americans haven’t read a full book in over a year, and 
  4. Young people are reading less than half the number of books that older generations read. 

I included a few cartoons so we can laugh a little before we weep.

As a retired teacher I can tell you literacy has been gradually and continuously declining in America since the 1920s and 1930s.  My grandfather, for example, had very little formal education.   He went to sea as a boy apprentice circa 1894 at age 8.   Of course, in those days on British merchant ships the boy apprentices slept apart from the sailors and were tutored by the captain in reading, basic math, and navigation.   He was very good at basic math and tutored my cousin in high school and helped her graduate. She is grateful to this day. He died the day she graduated from high school.

They read the King James Bible, Scott, Shakespeare,  Dickens, and Burns.  One thing they did not do much of was writing so my grandfather was ashamed that he could not spell and write fluently.   He often would have a friend write letters for him and then he would copy them out line for line.     I suppose that way he improved his writing gradually over the years.  He had a very good-looking signature.    But I don’t think he ever read a book in his entire life.    He was an avid newspaper and magazine reader, however.  He loved to study maps and atlases.    He knew all the classes of naval vessels (he built a few) and he knew British aviation and German aviation and American aviation and production figures.   My father was a college graduate but he always believed his father had deep experience, knowledge, and wisdom even though he lacked degrees and diplomas.   I remember as a boy he read two or three newspapers every day (Daily News, Post, Herald-Tribune plus LIFE magazine and National Geographic).   He could smoke and read quietly for hours.  Of course, he read to me.  He read Kipling, he read comic books (Superman and Classics Illustrated), he read Greek Myths,  He knew some Gaelic but was almost completely illiterate in that language.   Similarly, he knew Scots very well but could not spell or write the way he spoke.  But my grandfather was no unusual.   His working friends all avidly read newspapers and political tracts (some were pro-Communist).   Similarly my father’s mother probably never read a single book in her whole life   But one book she knew very well was the Bible.   She was a devout Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition and it was not unusual for her to attend Mass seven days a week.    What she knew about art and music she mostly got from the church.   She had relatives who were teachers and priests and she had great respect for learning.   She was a very humble woman.  My father was greatly influenced by his uncle who was a teacher and later by his Jewish teachers and professors at Manual Training HS in Brooklyn and Brooklyn College.  

Unlike his father, my father was a very serious reader and an amateur linguist as well. He studied Latin and French in High School and German and French in College.  He taught himself SPANISH, TAGALOG, Italian, Ancient Greek and Modern Greek, as well as Russian.  His reading endurance was remarkable.   He read all of Dickens, all of Shaw, all of Stevenson, all of Twain. All of Shakespeare, All of Dante all of the Greek playwrights all of Cicero, all of Caesar, all of Xenophon all of Homer,  Cervantes,  all of Zola. of Balzac,  all of Victor Hugo.  All of Dante, all of Will Durant, All of Barzun, All of Gilbert Hight all of Orwell  I could go on. I was lucky enough to inherit most of his books I still have a long way to go but in 50 years have made some progress.

My wife is a reader my cousin is a reader we all read the newspapers and Reader’s Digest (for light reading)  My daughter a k-6 teacher reads dozens of books every year and belongs to book clubs.  Like her mother, she reads in Spanish and English.     Her small children are already playing with books and being read to.   They see their parents and grandparents reading,  My four-year-old granddaughter was going over a book of dinosaurs and animals and recognized dozens of animals in English and Spanish EXCEPT  Cheetah or Guepardo.    She said it was a leopard and I pointed out how big cats were different.   Jaguars, Leopards, Lions, and Pumas . She has a little toy Noah’s Arc and she lines up the animals and compares and contrasts them.  She knows colors and the things animals eats.   She loves going to the ZOO. This is how one develops readers.  By example and by reading with them and to them.

I told my students that you don’t get vocabulary by watching TV shows like “Friends”  I made a charter of vocabulary, and verb tenses of three different works  #1 was a random “Friends” episode #2 was a play by G B Shaw #3  was the vocabulary in a book like Tale of Two Cities, Tom Jones,  For Whom the Bell Tolls or 1984 by Orwell.    One could spend MONTHS  studying and commenting on the vocabulary and cultural allusions of the books. Years even.    Pyramus and Thisbe we see in OVID, FIELDING,  Cervantes, SHAKESPEARE, for example

  “Friends” had zero biblical allusions zero historical zero literary allusions and less than 8th-grade vocabulary.      Mostly it had low-brow off-color humor. But it was very clear the education and vocabulary one would receive from a TV show like this would be very limited. 

Of course, one could watch something a little higher up on the cultural scale, Laurence of Arabia,  Great Expectations,  the King’s Speech.    But it is not a coincidence that some of the greatest films are derived from plays and books. But generally, movies and documentaries are just summaries. ELMER GANTRY (1960_ was a fine film but only half or less than the book. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1943) was a faithful adaptation of Hemingway’s novel but one needed the book to understand the background and the characters. It’s a rare movie that is better than the book. Three examples I can think of are John Ford’s GRAPES OF WRATH, John Ford’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, John Houston’s TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE and STANLEY KUBRICK’s PATHS OF GLORY. I read the original books but they were not nearly as memorable as the film versions.

So one should read to gain vocabulary, facts, and information.    This could be the nutritional value of foods or the rules of a game or how to plant a rose bush or olive tree. This could be on how to maintain basic hygiene to reduce illness and avoid the flu,  VD or Covid 19.  

One should read to sharpen your mind and learn from the experiences of those in history or stories.  Years ago I saw the FILM ENCHANTMENT with David Niven and Teresa Wright.  My mother encouraged me to read the book which I did the Rumer Godden novel, “Take Three Tenses” This book was very important for me and for my life because it taught me a very important lesson:  When you find love and happiness don’t let it pass you by.  Take a chance and tell the person how you feel don’t be full of regrets like the Old General who lost the love of his life basically so he could advance his career.   A few times I met women who were really worthwhile and special women.   Sometimes the mutual chemistry and magnetism were not there.   So the relationship never developed or we broke up.   But when you find that love, that friendship, that laughter that joy, that trust you have to take a chance.  You can’t put off love forever do it by your 20s or early 30s at the latest.   Rummer Godden may not be the greatest author in history but she knew about some important things and she woke me up to the fact what was I doing wasting my life with people and women who could not make me happy?   I knew who I loved and just needed to prove to her that I could make her happy and secure.   So we fell in love and lived happily ever after.  And I thank my mother (and David Niven) and Rummer Godden for teaching me the way to make good choices.  But it all started with reading.

Reading teaches empathy and makes one more compassionate for the sufferings of others.   I remember the book THE EDGE OF SADNESS and  THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM and saw the glory and the tragedy of the life of priests and missionaries.    I had some interest in the priesthood and missionary work because I liked teaching and helping people.   But I could never be celibate because especially when I was 17-25 I just loved women and wanted to be with them!   I didn’t want all women however I would be happy with one.

Sometimes I have to travel by myself and wait in airports. I once spent five hours on a layover in Dallas and eight hours at Barajas Airport.  But neither were bad experiences because I had books to read.  There were clean bathrooms, cafés restaurants and places to sit.   So I read and drank coca-cola or coffee and then strolled and then snacked and then ate supper with a book or newspaper.  Before I knew it I was on my plane.   If I hadn’t anything to read it might have been dreadful but I always have a supply or reading materials old and new.  Reading is a great companion and sweet distraction.  Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese poet was right when he said “literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”     I once spent six weeks on Madeira. I had some hedonistic fun.  But what I enjoyed most was reading every morning and most afternoons in the garden of the small hotel where I was staying.   I had an entire suitcase of books that I carried around all over Portugal and Spain including one concise Oxford Dictionary and a small Collins Portuguese and Spanish dictionary.  When I finished with the books I mailed them by boat back to America and filled up my suitcase with the books I picked up.   The Casa Del Libro in Madrid naturally had a magnificent collection of Spanish,  Latin, Greek, and French books but they also had an entire floor dedicated to English language books.  They had a complete collection of Penguins and Everyman books plus many others.   I must have read hundreds of Penguins when I lived in Spain.  I still have a few by Walter Scott and Rex Warner and Michael Grant but most I gave away.  They were just disposable paperbacks after all.    I still have paperbacks and I still enjoy reading print versions of magazines Commentary, National Geographic,  Baseball Digest, and Reader’s Digest but I mostly read electronic versions of newspapers and books unless I really want to study and read a book deeply.   Some books I have on Audible books, hardcover, and e-book versions.    I enjoy adventure tales and westerns and many I listen to on Audible books.   But authors I meet on Audible books I often turn to and read their other books.  If a movie or audible book encourages you to get to know an author that’s great.  What one usually finds is reading is the most satisfying way to experience a book.   I know I remember MORE when I read a physical book than when I read an electronic book or listen to a book.   Having a physical book makes it easier to reference, write notes or re-read.  I find I rarely re-read e-books unless they are very special. One thing is certain. I cannot live without books. People who live without books are missing out on some of the best things in life.

‘Fragile’ at 50: Steve Howe Tells the Story Behind Yes‘s Landmark Album | GuitarPlayer

Steve Howe has no idea where the term progressive rock came from, but he makes one thing clear: It certainly didn’t start with him. “I never called us ‘progressive rock’ or ‘prog-rock,’” he says. “As I recall, when I first joined Yes, we all used to call our music different things. 

“There was ‘orchestral rock’ and ‘cinemagraphic rock.’ We never argued about it, but there were a lot of names and terms being tossed about.” So what term did he use to describe Yes’s music? 

Howe laughs. “I often called it ‘soft rock,’” he says. “I thought what I wrote was a sort of soft rock, but the phrase didn’t catch on, at least not with what we were doing. But progressive rock? Where that got started, I don’t know. I think it might have come after the fact.”
— Read on www.guitarplayer.com/players/fragile-at-50-steve-howe-tells-the-story-behind-yess-landmark-album


By Richard K. Munro

I have been an adjunct professor on the fringes of Academe at Seattle University, Bakersfield College and UVA. I knew a friend who was an adjunct professor at NYU for 7 years. But pathways to a solid career in academia were few and far between it seemed to me.

One of the things I noticed was that marriage and family life were almost impossible under those circumstances. Molto honore poco contante as the Italians say. I was called Professor Munro for $22 an hour no benefits and no future pension. I would say it was an interesting experience, but I truly enjoyed teaching HS much more.

My HS AP students were superior (generally speaking) to my adult JC students. I also had greater freedom to choose my curriculum. At the JC one was mandated to teach the book everyone used. Most were overblown and overpriced. They charged students over $250 dollars for materials for Spanish 1a and 1B. Talk about price gouging. Another reason college is too expensive.

From my JC students I gained private police officers they were astonished that I used inexpensive materials $10.95 for Teacher Yourself Spanish books and CD’s and $7.95 for Collins dictionary. I told them all they needed were those tools, notebooks, colored pencils, and index cards and they could learn any language but they had to invest 3-5 years.

Of course, my colleagues at the JC didn’t really like HS teachers. They resented I took students away from them (AP students tested out). They always resented I taught police officers at 5AM. Working people found it difficult to advance via JC scheduled classes a 1Pm or 4PM what everyone wanted to teach. But to me it was interesting work (meeting people in a different lines of work) and it helped pay the mortgage in the summer.

I studied Spanish for five years in Junior High and High school plus four years in the university and four years in Graduate school (Summers in Spain) I loved studying in Spain (half my teachers were Spanish and the other half were Cuban Americans) and having the opportunity to travel in Western Europe. Of course, Spanish changed my life it was my one expertise besides typing that was always in demand. I worked for the Bank of America, the Marine Corps, and in construction. Knowing Spanish was always advantageous. It kept me in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, everyone else went to Okinawa. I remember Woody Allen joked that being bisexual doubled your chance on a Saturday night; for me speaking another language doubled or tripled my chances for a date. I also think I might have been less garrulous and more polite as a non-native speaker.

JC students were easy to handle, however. I made a choice to be a very competitive k-12 teacher. Instead of a narrow education, I had a broad education. I was certified to teach in English, Spanish, and Social Studies with a bilingual certificate of competence. And I coached soccer and baseball. I enjoyed that when I was young.

At one time I gained 30 credits toward my Ph.D. at UVA but I cut my losses (maxed out my pay grade). It was not a matter of doing the academic work. It was just too costly for very few opportunities. I studied at the Curry School. D- intellectual atmosphere IMHO.

I had 35-year-old PhDs who had never heard of Barzun or Highet or even Will Durant. And you could forget about Spanish or French or British literature. Most seemed to have never read a real book in their lives. They loved the Pedagogy of Oppression by Paulo Freire (complete crap and an evil book). I was a TA for an adjunct who taught a class on intelligence (not in the Curry Schoo). and that was ok I graded about 300 final exams. As an AP teacher, I was good at that. UVA outside of the the Curry School was solid but compared to NYU or Oxford or Salamanca low wattage.

K-12 I earned great benefits for my family plus one year of sabbatical (I spent at UVA and traveled) plus a solid pension I am enjoying now.

I got an MA in Spanish literature in Spain and enjoyed that very much.

Most graduate work in Teacher Ed was merely jumping through hoops it didn’t thrill me. I could have easily gotten an MA in education (I think I was 15 credits short but I did a 5th-year certification and instead of an MA in education I chose an additional certificate in English. In the long run that turned out to be a very good choice.

K-12 education had its flaws -I found it frustrating that most Administrators didn’t really care about education or standards. To many, I was just a cog to fill in a schedule. I worked as a utility player. I taught over dozen preps in three subject areas. I stayed employed but was not happy not being able to teach one curriculum and really getting to know it.

I taught AP US history for five years and AP Spanish and Spanish Literature for 12 years but the demand was not there. They don’t even teach AP at my former school. Everything is via computer and via JC concurrent credit. The bottom line is kids don’t write essays, and don’t research. Now they say kids have AI do their essays and HW.

Brave New World!

The demand and summer schoolwork was in ESL so I gradually specialized in ESL Social Studies and ESL English (all levels).

The advantage was I had mostly immigrant students who were so grateful not to be in Venezuela, El Salvador, Egypt Burma Syrian Russia, or Iraq that they were very happy (and most serious students).

My favorite classes were Spanish for Native Speakers and English as a Second Language.

Most were very enthusiastic.

My least favorite classes were make-up summer school for football players in World History. Administrators would tell me x y and z needed an A or B to be eligible. My response was you should be talking to them not me. Of course, I never taught again for that administrator (he was later fired for indiscretions anyway).

Another least favorite class merely a potboiler was Spanish 1 for Americans. My only interesting students were a pair of Yemeni sisters who were fascinated by Arabic words in Spanish and made for me (I still have a series of posters in Arabic Spanish and English educational and moral quotes of Muhammed). Of course, they were model students. 100% attendance. They also became fluent in Spanish and work at their parent’s local 7-11. Each one had ten children I think.

We have a growing Muslim community. Every Muslim student I knew married and had children. I had one male student who had 8 children by the time he graduated from HS (his wife lived in Yemen and emigrated at age 16). As far as I know, she still speaks no English.

Too many American students just were goof-offs in my experience. It was all I could to tolerate them. OF course, the Administrators didn’t care as long as everyone got at least a D or C.

I also tutored a few football players, privately in Spanish but I did that as a favor.

My best private students were police officers and firemen. They WANTED to learn.

I also tutored the children of teachers in AP US government and AP US History and AP European History. I had a certain reputation everyone I had got a 5. But it was a great experience with kids who wanted to excel.

Unfortunately, I never taught AP European history in HS myself but two of my children studied it in HS (and got 5’s). My own children were AP Scholars. I respect AP because it is a rigorous curriculum. To get a 5 in AP Spanish Literature is no easy matter. To get 5s simultaneously in AP Calculus AP Environmental Science AP US History AP European History and AP English is rare and a true intellectual achievement.

But most Americans were intellectually lazy especially when it came to foreign languages, in my experience. Two of my children are teachers by the way -one is a K-6 Dual Immersion teacher and the other is a HS AP Spanish teacher (who teaches IN his class JC college-level classes also for some extra money. He also tutors Minor League Baseball players for good money for a MLB club. Like me, they went for financial security and tenure via k-12 education. I got tenure after #1 getting a clear credential #2 three years of certified satisfactory work. Of course, you CAN get laid off in k-12 education. But if you are a math teacher, science teacher, or bilingual teacher you will probably stay employed and get a lot of extra work.

I had a wonderful junior HS teacher in Ancient History and I asked him why he wasn’t a PhD in College – He knew Italian, Latin and Greek- He showed me his wife and family four kids -he said you have to make choices I chose personal happiness and family life.

I have no regrets.

Personally, I am very glad I did not hang out in graduate school for years.

Most of my graduate school was really in Spain in a non- college atmosphere. Most of the women I dated were museum docents American express travel agents, nurses or neighbors. Most were readers and well-educated esp by American standards a high school graduate in France or Spain or Italy was at least equivalent to most AA or BA’s in America.

Thinking back very few of the women I dated were college students. or even English-speakers. After age 21 I never dated an English-speaking American girl ever again. Most I met did not have my values and interests. Some of course only wanted to marry for money -big money. I suppose I was naive. I wanted to marry for love and friendship. My own wife had zero money. I didn’t care about that. I promised I would provide a secure life and would work hard. Most college educated American women I met wanted to give away sex -they would be angry if you turned them away but few I met were interested in marriage and children. To me, however marriage and family life were chief goals. I met a lot of semi-educated “Sangerites” (ZPG hard core). Sexual suicide.

For whatever reason, I was seen as very attractive to Latins in the Americas and in Europe.

I think that is because I came from an immigrant family.

My mother and her mother grew up on an Island with 300 people and my father’s mother grew up in rural Argyll. She went to Mass almost daily.

All were devoutly religious and very traditional wives and mothers. They were mostly horrified and shocked by the mores and manners of American women. They would not allow their children to be babysat by American teenagers for example. The mothers of the Latin and Greek women I dated always liked me and welcomed me. I courted the women I dated and showed them great respect. I always respected the parents and grandparents.

I was a gentleman and considered good marriage material. I used to attend religious services with the relatives and parents of the women I dated. They respected that. I didn’t mind attending Greek Orthodox, Evangelical services or Catholic services. I found it interesting. In the service I attended Jewish services and was very friendly with the Naval Chaplain (he lent me books).

I knew a Jewish business associate of my father’s -I liked him- but was shocked when he said he would not allow me to date his (very attractive) daughter. I told him if I dated a Jewish girl -for example, the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor or an Israeli it would be to marry her and if I would marry such a woman I would convert to Judaism and raise our children in the Jewish faith. I was sincere. He was amazed. I think I gained his respect. I believe a couple should have the same faith and raise the children in the faith of the most religious. One of my relatives, by the way, IS JEWISH now as he converted upon marriage a decision I deeply respect.

I lived happily ever after so it worked out for me.

Staying away from the Adjunct Life was a smart decision.

Nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.


by Richard K. Munro

I agree with the Greco-Roman philosophers that wisdom is, eventually, chief among virtues. However, wisdom is a virtue which comes later in life and slowly. Wisdom is a slow growth. It is not, then, first among the virtues we can hope to impart or encourage in the youth.

Cicero said: “Beginning with the bonds of affection between family and friends, we are prompted to move gradually further out and associate ourselves firstly with our fellow citizens and then with every person on earth.”

So what is early education? Child rearing (or breeding) is the product of one’s personal associations in the home, in one’s neighborhood, one’s community and one’s school. Rearing or bringing up the youth presupposes properly coordinating the habits of the young and subordinating the wild, the unhygienic, the selfish and the baser instincts of our single but riven race. A people, a nation or a civilization must have its moral education, its code of civility and norms as well as its time of formal instruction or schooling.

There is a Spanish saying of which I am fond: “Para la virtud, la educación; para la ciencia la instrucción” which means “First teach virtue, manners, good habits and civility; then school for knowledge.” This saying has long fascinated me because it implies that formal education (instruction; schooling) must be preceded and accompanied by what we used to call “breeding” or “upbringing” or training in manners, socially acceptable behavior, politeness, or civility.

In America and the English-speaking world there is much confusion today as to the role of parents, community and school in the rearing, training and education of children and youth and this confusion is reflected in our opaque, modern usage with silly and synthetic expressions like “parenting”, “empowering” etc. which are cut off from the Aristotelian concepts which were once the basis of all Western schools.

In the division favored traditionally by the French and Spanish, we can clearly perceive the influence of Thomistic and Greek philosophy (particularly Aristotle and Plato). So in Spanish one can say without any irony that one’s grandparents were bien educados (polite, generous and courteous) but sin instrucción alguna (without formal schooling -even illiterate).

Himmler was formerly schooled, a wise Spanish nurse said to me, but muy maleducado (without social graces, without a moral conscience, boorish and rude, in short, a barbarian).

Haim Ginott made a very wise observation in his wonderful book Teacher and Child :

On the first day of the new school year, all the teachers in one private school received the following note from a principal:

Dear Teacher:
I am the survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness.
Gas chambers built by learned engineers
Children poisoned by educated physicians/
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women and babies shot and burned
By high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.

Ginott is saying that moral and character education (what the Spanish know as ‘”educación”) is really more important even than academic achievement or excellence because it is what makes people respectful, merciful, decent and fully human or humane.

The Spanish language makes it very clear that education is a process of socialization and ethical development which is accompanied by and followed by “aprendizaje” (which means learning but also “apprenticeship”) which leads to a higher intellectual development called formal education or instruction (formación o instrucción).” The French have the same concept and a similar vocabulary and speak of ‘bonne éducation’ (good manners) or “politesse et civilité” (politeness and civility) as important virtues. Formal schooling is sometimes called “education” or “études” (studies) but especially “instruction et formation” (schooling and academic training). Language helps shape our ideas and our perspectives. It for this reason I believe the well-educated person will have training in one or more languages besides English. There is no question that foreign language study sharpens the mind as to the nuances and shades of meaning of words.

Defying Gravity

After couple of years of pandemic, 2022 was probably the year of transitioning back to normalcy. But, that brings its own changes, and I had to move back to California from PNW. We read a lot about California exodus, that people keep leaving the State, so it felt a bit like I was defying gravity. More than that, the sheer exercise of packing up everything and moving over a weekend was akin to defying the odds and gravity.

My possessions are minimal, and including the motorcycle everything fits well within half of a 15ft truck. But, no vendor except U-Haul would allow me to tow a 4DR lifted jeep using a 15ft truck. Looks like I might be in the minority, and there’s only a small market of 4DR Jeep owners with minimal material possessions to haul!

Even for someone in such a minority situation, market provided an option. Not because U-Haul is charitable to Jeep owners, but because they simply wanted to maximize utility of their equipment. They want to be inclusive because there is a market incentive; it’s like that same American institutional reconciling gene. Private firms also attempt to solve problems by reconciling diverse requirements, while also remaining sustainable.

U-Hauling 1000 miles while towing the Jeep was uneventful. But Northern California provided a rather chilling welcome, and please note this was mid-April weather! But, thankfully that was the last of the snow I saw for rest of the year. Summer and early fall was about motorcycling the Sierras, a totally different experience relative to Pacific Northwest! Colors and the layering of those expansive vistas were just different. Can bring tears into even the most hardened eyes.

Most of the decisions we take in life are based on instinct, we might rationalize them, but life is too complex for purely data driven choices. For example — even though there were other reasons it was pure instinct which eventually prompted me to move back to the Golden State. In general its instinct which motivates us to explore, that exploration could be in the sphere of ideas or back-country landscapes or anything else we might wish. Its instinct which made me study Friedrich von Hayek and his friends, or made me explore heavy metal.

It’s also instinct which made me ride up this narrow single lane, and cliff adjacent winding path going up High Sierra Mountains. But that pure instinct gifted me the experience of motorcycling at 9000 ft. Similarly, studying the works of Prof. Hayek gifted me an understanding of the world. We can apply this instinctive mode to a lot of critical decisions we make in our life. So, even though we have become more civilized, in a way we are still a lot like our cavemen ancestors, because it’s still our visceral choices which rule our life trajectories.

My favorite neo-soul, rock, prog, metal-ish, albums of 2022

Seal’s debut album, featuring the hit “Crazy”, was released on May 24, 1991. I first heard it in early September 1991, having just moved to Portland, Oregon. I was living with my cousin and his wife, who had the CD, probably because of “Crazy”. I still recall seeing it and, being curious and alone in the house, turning it on and turning it up (they had a nice stereo system). The funky groove of “The Beginning” was compelling out of the gate, but it That Voice—that’s what got my attention immediately. “Who the heck is this guy?” I thought. I was hooked. Turns out the album was produced by Trevor Horn (who I knew from my interest in Yes), who also produced “Seal” (1994) and “Human Being” (1998). Those three albums, for me, are about as perfect of a popular music trio as one will find. (Seal’s 1991 debut, for the record, has sold over 5 million copies.)

While Seal remains in very fine singing form (and has some fun moment’s as a coach on Australia’s “The Voice”), his material since 2000 has not, in my opinion, lived up to the heights set by those three first releases; there have certainly been strong moments, but a lack of consistency.

All of which is a preface to one of my favorite releases of 2022: the 45-song Seal Deluxe 1991. I wanted to splurge on the 4 CD, 2 vinyl set, but I instead opted for the less expensive digital download. There is much here for the devoted and casual fan. First, the album is immaculately produced and recorded; it is an aural treasure, with a really stunning mixture of electronic and acoustic sound. Secondly, That Voice. Seal is one of the finest pop vocalists of the past 30 years, able to navigate rock, funk, dance, soul, R&B, jazz, folk, and just about everything else. (He is also a great songwriter, as Rick Beato explains in detail here.) Third, the album is remixed (disc 1), there are acoustic versions and remasters of premixes of the album (disc 2), a wide range of remastered special remixes (disc 3), and a fascinating early live set from late 1991, in Dublin (disc 4).

The latter has excellent sound, catching Seal in a bit more raw form than his later (and also exceptional) 2005 live set from Paris and showing his willingness to experiment with different approaches. (I’m not sure of the personnel, but the drummer is on fire.) My wife and I saw Seal in concert on November 30, 1994, at the Schnitzer in Portland, and it was one of the finest live shows I’ve seen. The only complaint was that he played only uptempo tunes, foregoing crowd favorites such as “Violet”, which is a stunning piece of jazz-pop-folk. But when it comes to this exceptional set, I have no complaints at all. Is it possible that a similar compilation is in the works for “Seal” (1994)? One can dream (in metaphors or otherwise).

I know that I’d heard of o.R.k. in recent years, but I also know that “Screamnasium” is the first album I’ve heard by the band. Which is surprising, because this is the fourth release by the supergroup, which is fronted by Italian singer/all-around-creative-force LEF (short for Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari), the legendary Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister) on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass, and Carmelo Pipitone (Marta sui Tubi) on guitar. This is not prog, although there are plenty of weird notes and chords and song structures. Imagine a crazy but cohesive love child of Soundgarden, Jeff Buckley, King Crimson, Muse, and … other stuff. The playing, singing, and writing is dynamic, powerful, and melodic. Like Soundgarden, the songs are both dark and oddly upbeat (the band insists the album is a work of optimism, which comes through more like flashes of light rather than via upbeat tunes). Pipitone lays down both wonderful, angular riffs and broad atmospherics, and the Edwin/Mastelotto rhythm section is supple, strong, and never simple. And the vocal performances by LEF are, at times, startling in their power, precision, clarity, and range. This is a keeper.

Speaking of Porcupine Tree, HeWhoPlaysAndWritesAndProducesEverything Steven Wilson regrouped with keyboardist Richard Barbieri and drummer Gavin Harrison for a somewhat surprising and completely stellar outing titled Closure/Continuation. It’s all there: the surging guitars, electronic swells, dynamic changes, warm production, distinctive vocals, perfect drumming. “Dignity” is a personal favorite, but every song here is above average. I’ve long appreciated Wilson’s special brand of genre-blurring genius, but this recent interview with Rick Beato took it to another level; it’s a must view for anyone with interest in music and creativity.

The Mars Volta is a group that has been rather maddening to me: some of their songs resonate immediately and deeply (“The Widow” for example, from Frances The Mute), but I’ve struggled with entire albums. There was something about frenetic approach that exhausted me, even while I was always impressed by the remarkable playing and singing. They won me over with “The Mars Volta”, which I suspect has polarized hardcore fans, as it is (gasp) very much a pop album. But, of course, a most distinctive one, as one would expect from guitarist/producer Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals, lyrics). The songs are short and mostly “normal” in structure; there aren’t any wild guitar out bursts or dissonance. Instead, there is a restrained, focused artistry at work, with subtle (but often complex) rhythms, lovely soundscapes, a wealth of textures, and a distinct thread of Latin beats and sounds (and lyrics, from the multi-lingual Bixler-Zavala). “Vigil” is a personal favorite: it seems rather slight at first, but builds a gorgeous melody that is then punctuated by short bursts of guitar and a simple but very effective bridge. A remarkable example of a band achieving greater emotional power by focusing on the basics.

The last time King’s X put out an album, I was in my thirties and singer/bassist dUg Pinnock was in his late fifties (he’s now 72); that was 14 years ago. I’ve been a big fan of the band since I first heard “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska” in 1989. Their 1990 release “faith hope love” remains one of my favorite rock albums; it is, arguably, the creative high point for the band. But there have been plenty of highlights, even if Pinnock, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill have never received the recognition they deserved. “Three Sides of One” sounds both fresh and distinctly King’s X—the vocals and harmonies are fully intact and right up front; Tabor’s riffs and solos are strong and crisp, and the bottom end is as funky and robust as ever. There are a couple of so-so moments song-wise, but there are also very strong, peak moments, notably “Give It Up” and “All God’s Children”. Definitely one of the best musical surprises of 2022.

“Will of the People”, Muse’s 2022 follow-up to 2018’s “Simulation Theory” still has plenty of electronic “stuff” going on, but it feels decidedly warmer and more human than its predecessor, which veered into self-parody territory. Part of the warmth and immediacy is due to two simple but gripping ballads, “Ghosts (How Can I Move On?)” and “Verona”. (The official video for the latter is worth watching.) Of course, there are the big anthems—”Will of the People” and “Won’t Stand Down”—but they are also more immediate, with classic Muse riffs that morph into heavy metal and industrial sounds to great effect. Matt Bellamy’s vocals continue to amaze; yes, the range and power, but also the vulnerable ache and pull. The 2006 album “Black Holes and Revelations” remains my personal favorite, but this is a very solid album with several exceptional moments.

The Norwegian rock quintet Maraton somehow came onto my radar this year with “Unseen Color,” which has elements of Leprous and Gazpacho. Whereas Muse has, I think, struggled at times to use electronic beats and sounds in an organic fashion, Maraton uses them to powerful effect, blending guitar and heavy electronic soundscapes with near perfection. The songs are uniformly strong and often unusual, with lyrics touching on existential literature (Kafka!) and mathematics, carried by the exceptional vocals of Fredrik Bergersen Klemp. While the parallel is not immediately obvious, the production and melding of vocals and electronica reminds me of trip hop/drum and bass duo Lamb. Worth checking out!

Alter Bridge, which rose out (in part) of the ashes of Creed, is one of finest hard rock bands around, featuring the A-list vocals (and backing guitar) of Myles Kennedy, whose resume includes fusion jazz, singing lead for a guy named Slash, and a couple of great solo albums. Pawns & Kings is another notable release; in fact, it might be the band’s best, a perfect example of a band at the height of powers, confident in their identity and letting it fly. I think this is their most eclectic release, with the 8:22 cut “Fable of the Silent Son” demonstrating the full range of the band’s sonic mastery. Mark Tremonti, having released the best Sinatra tribute album in recent memory (more on that in my “favorite jazz of 2022” post, coming soon), shows that his guitar skills have not wavered and that his commitment to heaviness is, if anything, stronger than ever. As Rich Hobson of Classic Rock rightly sums it up: “Make no mistake about it – this is the Rolls-Royce of Alter Bridge records, and a high-water mark to which all rock hopefuls should aspire.”