Sunday, January 12, 2014

America: An Anthem

American Flag
(Wikimedia Commons)
Part 1 Of A Series Of 6
Highway 101 Crossing The Border:

Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes. We are still stuck in traffic here as we cross try to get across the border from Tijuana, Mexico so we can get onto old Highway 101 and continue our musical journey North up the California Coast. As we wait in traffic, listening to the honking horns and trying to dodge the street peddlers who wander between the lanes of traffic, more thoughts of the USA come to mind. And when you look up at the imposing building that is the US Border complex you see above it a flag. That flag has a song and this blog is about music. So lets get patriotic.

The Jones Brothers kick off the set with their version of the World War II country hit "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere".

There are a lot of Star Spangled Banners waving in my music collection. The first is a folk version from former Byrd, Roger McGuinn. He is a cyber citizen and has a great website, The Folk Den, that is chock full of downloadable folk songs. This is one of his offerings, I quite like it.
My next addition is pretty much a mystery. My wife found this CD in the dollar bin at Target. It has no marking other than a track listing and a clip art American Flag on it the with the words "Music CD". It is mostly synth versions of various patriotic songs likely scoured from the open source Internet sites. The versions are good, if generic. Needless to say, I can't offer any link to this gem but it does make it onto the list.

  • Star Spangled Banner     Music CD     Artist Unknown     1:28

Spreckles Outdoor Organ, San Diego CA
Spreckles Organ-Look how small the keyboardist is!
After that plain instrumental version of our nations song, I thought it would be appropriate and perhaps even respectful to offer a version that is a bit more impressive. Sadly this version will also be hard to share with you as you have to get it from the source. Soon we will have crossed the border and will be exploring San Diego. One of the cities crown jewels is Balboa Park, which offers everything from zoos to museums to lawn bowling and hiking trails. The park also houses the Spreckles Organ. A gift from the founder of Spreckles sugar to the city of San Diego it is the worlds largest outdoor pipe organ. We got to see one of it s Sunday performances a few years ago and picked up this souvenir CD, I would offer a link to purchase online but you have to buy it on site. While the recording of the CD is fantastic, there is no way to replicate the awesome sound of hearing it in person. Definitely recommended if you are in the area, it's a one of a kind experience. I could not find a link to the album I did find a YouTube video of a performance of the anthem that also shows off the organ.

While the anthem can be so majestic, it also packs a lot of meaning. Jimi Hendrix took that power and that meaning and changed the way the anthem could be presented. His feedback drenched rendition leads to an explosion of sounds to cause us to examine the tension between the romantic notions of revolution  and the horrors of modern war. The dynamic reworking of the song also embodies a celebration of the freedom of America, which I believe he was trying to emphasize over the militarism so controversial during the Vietnam Era. I have two versions in my collection that vary just a bit, so they are both being added to our playlist.

Mannheim Steamroller checks last with us this week with their version that offer much in the way of flourishes, fanfares, and synthesized magic.The video is of a 4th of July light display in Wheeling WV.

We have barely creeped forward in our trip back across the border. But enough daydreaming about the flag and its anthem for a while. Next Sunday we will continue our dreams of America with some alternative anthems.  Don't forget to stop by Saturday as we dig deeper into Chicago and its music. Until then, Travel safely my friends.

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