Lyrics

I’m gonna ruffle up some feathers

Gonna howl at the moon

Rise above this small town

Like a hot air balloon

Tonight’s a new beginning

I’m pumped i can’t wait

I‘m sick and tired of standing on the sidelines

Gonna come alive

 

Come alive i’ll scream like pearl jam eddie

Come alive my voice is finally ready

I’ll step outside the box that’s holding me

At last my spirit is free

Come alive

 

I’m not afraid to flirt with danger

I’ll make my mistakes

My heart pounds like a school boy

On a prom-queen date

Got a fire in my belly

All my senses are awake

I’ll bust down the doors that block my vision

Gonna come alive

 

Come alive i’ll shake it up like elvis presley

Come alive my rock is rollin’ strong and steady

I’ll step outside the box for all to see

At last my spirit is free

Come alive

 

Good friend i say “goodbye”

There are mountains we must climb

In every life there comes a time to

 

Come alive i’ll be jammin’ like bob marley

Come alive singing love from deep inside me

When i step outside the box the world will see

At last my spirit is free

 

Come alive i’ll run down roads not taken

Come alive i’ll love the life i’m making

When i step outside the box for you to see

At last my spirit is free

 

Story

One day my good friend, Neal Griebling, a career coach, networking specialist and practicing Buddhist, encouraged me to “just keep your feet moving”.  This line was initially spoken by his mentor, a Buddhist monk who encourages his disciples to deal with their fear and anxiety one step at a time. Simply keep moving forward the best you can, despite everything.

It felt right to render this message in a calypso groove when I wrote it. I’ve taken the advice in this song to heart many times in the last few years during the downturn of The Great Recession. Admittedly, it’s not always simple or easy to practice what you preach!

Lyrics

There’s darkness up ahead

I can’t see the forest from the trees

The demon in my head

Got me shaken’ in my shoes up to my knees

The road will twist and bend

So i march to my own drummer

And it guides me like a friend

 

I keep my feet moving

Forget the past i’ll move on come what may

I keep my feet moving

Everyday’s another leap of faith

I keep my feet moving

Step-by-step i find my way

 

There were many days

I could not face the world i stayed in bed

I wasted too much time

A prisoner to the cynic in my head

Somewhere a wise man said

Every thousand mile journey

Has to start with one small step

 

Repeat chorus

 

Who knows what will come next?

But that which does not kill me

Makes me stronger in the end

 

Repeat chorus

 

Story

Do you ever wonder about some of the people who have come into your life?

I'm not inclined to believe that everything happens for a reason, but I have often pondered the age-old question of free will and wondered why I have come in happenstance contact with some of the people I've encountered.

On occasion, I have been blessed by random acts of kindness and humanity from people I didn't even know, including a stranger who once changed a flat tire for me when I was stranded. Sometimes, I also wonder about loved ones and enduring friends who have come into my life, some of whom have departed.

I wrote this song to pay tribute to some of the people who have come into my life, either for a brief, transient moment during a chance encounter or on a more long-term basis. In fact, the title of the CD is taken directly from the lyric of this song: at the right place the right time, shed a little tear shed a little light. In the penultimate line I conclude with reverence - everybody finds their state of grace.

I hope this song reminds you of someone who has come into your life, a specific person who may have helped you out at some point along the way and is therefore deserving of your gratitude and appreciation.

Lyrics

People come into your life for a reason

Some stay some come and go with a blink of an eye

People come into your life for a reason

Is it fate or just a roll of the cosmic dice?

 

The waitress serves you coffee

The butcher cuts your meat

The kid who bags you groceries

The nurse who brings you tea

A smile from your neighbor

A bell-hop holds the door

A message on your cell phone

When you can’t take anymore

 

At the right place the right time

Shed a little tear shed a little light

 

Repeat chorus

 

A child shows me innocence

A good friend lends an ear

A stranger changes my flat tire

In the middle of nowhere

My soul mate gives me kisses

Her love makes me complete

A teacher gives me lessons

To find the truth that sets me free

 

At the right place the right time

Shed a little tear shed a little light

 

Repeat chorus

   

The burqa-clad woman

The drunkard poet at the bar

The old man on a park bench

The veteran of the war

The emergency room doctor

The beggar on the street

The hurricane survivor

The take charge politician on tv

   

At the right time the right place

Everybody finds their state of grace

 

Repeat chorus

People come into your life for a reason

Some stay some come and go with a blink of an eye

People come into your life for a reason

Is it fate or just a roll of the cosmic dice?

 

Story

This is an escapist theme about going off to Mexico with my girlfriend to hear hot Latin music and drink authentic Mexican tequila in the middle of the winter, set to a Mariachi beat. As a child I loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ Whipped Cream and Other Delights. It didn’t hurt that the album cover was risqué for a boy about to spend eight years in a Parochial grade school and four years in a Jesuit high school! The album was part of my Mom’s record collection and I wore out the needle of our RCA stereo playing it ad nauseam.

The genesis of this song occurred as I revisited this classic, Tex-Mex inflected record and sipped a Margarita on my back deck, watching the sun sink into the hills just beyond the Pittsburgh skyline. The actual title comes from an expression coined by Fritz Perls, a pioneer of Gestalt therapy who implored his patients to “Lose your mind and come to your senses.” Interestingly, the line has been updated with the newer, contemporary spin "Get out of your mind and into your life."

In a similar vein, the philosopher of funk and front man of Parliament Funkadelic, George Clinton, once phrased this sentiment even more prosaically, singing "Free your mind and your ass will follow."

Every now and then I’ll read a captivating line or story in a newspaper, magazine or book that fascinates me, triggering my writing process. I also write songs based on interesting turns-of-phrase spouted by people within earshot so be careful what you say around songwriters!

Lyrics

Sometimes i’ve got to lose my head

To come to my senses

You’re beautiful

Your laughter makes me see

Sometimes i’ve got to lose my head

To come to my senses

Liberate the wild side of me

Set love free

 

At manzanillo’s hot cantina

We’ll eat spicy jalapenos feel the heat

I’ll tip the mariachi singer

He’ll serenade us as we salsa cheek to cheek

We’ll get high from that sangria

Meringue plays all night

When your heart beats next to mine i lose my mind

 

Sometimes i’ve got to lose my head

To come to my senses

You’re beautiful

The music makes me see

Sometimes i’ve got to lose my head

To come to my senses

Liberate the wild side of me

Set love free

 

What are they doing back in boston?

Snow is blowing and their ground is packed with ice

I’ll cut up limes you pour the mezcal

Curl our toes up in the sand while sun burns bright

Split the worm inside that bottle

End up in the drink

You’re lookin’ so dam hot i can’t even think

 

Sometimes i’ve got to lose my head

To come to my senses

You’re beautiful

Your body makes me see

Sometimes i’ve got to lose my head

To come to my senses

Liberate the wild side of me

Set love free

 

Instrumental

 

Sometimes i've got to lose my head

To come to my senses

You're beautiful

The moonlight makes me see

Sometimes i've got to lose my head

To come to my senses

Liberate the wild side of me

Set love free

 

Story

This song was born out of a confluence of unrelated and disparate events during the summer of 2007, beginning with the death of my dear friend and mentor Dr. Irma Smith of Chatham University and ending with the terminal diagnosis of my mother Alice who passed away a few months later.

I was thrown for a serious loop and lost my bearings for a while, as if caught in a suspended state of semi-madness that made me feel a little out of control. The poetic testimony of William Butler Yeats perfectly depicts my condition that summer: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

Although I typically do a lot of rewriting and revising during the natural course of my creative process, the bulk of this song just poured out of me one hot, humid night in a cathartic burst of emotion - probably triggered by an innocent but permanently irrevocable miscommunication.

Michelina was a fourteenth century mystic from Pesaro, Italy where she was born into a wealthy family. Upon the death of her only child, she became a lay Franciscan and proceeded to give away all her belongings and property.  Although her family initially believed her to be insanely mad and had her locked up, she eventually went on to found the Confraternity of the Annunciation to care for the poor and nurse the sick.

As a variant of the masculine Michael, the feminine version Michalina is a predominantly Polish name meaning “who resembles God.”

I have an affection, even an admiration for characters who strive against the pressure of social conformity and the stolid inscrutability of real life, often against all odds in the pursuit of their own, inner vision.

Don Quixote, the eponymous hero of Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel and inspiration for the smash Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, defies the logic of the ordinary, mundane world of practical reality to dream “the impossible dream.”

The modern English word “quixotic” actually refers to any action or idea that is idealistic to an impractical or eccentric degree.

In the chapters devoted to the ”Captive’s Tale,” Cervantes broaches the possibility that madness can be an expression of divine inspiration.

Likewise, I have an affinity for the adolescent protagonist in Araby, my favorite James Joyce story from Dubliners about the awakening of a boy who suffers from a youthful malady, infatuation. Caught up in a romantic fantasy and  stirred by his first amorous feelings, he becomes obsessed with his friend’s somewhat older sister and ventures on a quest that takes on a religious-like devotion. The hero of Araby lives a kind of dream and sees what he wants to see until he experiences a sudden, abrupt revelation, what Joyce calls an "epiphany." 

Like the young hero of Joyce’s story, I certainly have my own Araby, my own futile follies. In retrospect, I can recall episodes of naive romanticism when my thoughts or beliefs in something, even with all my heart and soul, didn't make it so.

And like Don Quixote, l have had my own Dulcinea on several occasions, along with my own animating, lofty ideals for better or for worse.

To Each His Dulcinea (To Every Man His Dream)

To each his Dulcinea That he alone can name...
To each a secret hiding place Where he can find the haunting face
To light his secret flame For with his Dulcinea Beside him so to stand,
A man can do quite anything  Outfly the bird upon the wing,
Hold moonlight in his hand  Yet if you build your life on dreams
It's prudent to recall  A man with moonlight in his hand Has nothing there at all.
There is no Dulcinea, She's made of flame and air,
And yet how lovely life would seem If ev'ry man could weave a dream To keep him from despair.
To each his Dulcinea Though she's naught but flame and air!

Lyrics

I was living in a dark age

Had no vision i was sound asleep

Then a ray of brilliant sunlight

From the heavens opened up on me

My black clouds blew away

On the day i met Michelina

 

Like Don Quixote in the old days

On a life quest for love and truth

For Dulcinea he’d fight villains

Tilt at windmills for the love of you

Now i know how he felt

On the day i met Michelina

 

There’s so much i don’t know

Life is a mystery

I was no believer

Now i see a higher plan

I’m a better man

 

Life again is full of wonder

Illuminations wash over me

Like an ancient revelation

I see the beauty that eluded me

I was born again

On the day i met Michelina

 

If you meet Michelina

You’ll love Michelina

Have you seen Michelina?

 

If you meet her

You can’t forget her

Your heart will ache

For the first time

You get a glimmer

Of the eternal

In her soft brown eyes

 

Then she smiles

Your heart throbs

Time stops

Her soul runs deep

You reach a higher plane

On the day i met Michelina

 

Story

Every year the University of Pittsburgh African Music and Dance Ensemble sponsors a wonderful spring show and one of my favorite was titled ”Azaa Loo!”, a West African greeting that means "celebration" in the native Ewe language of then directorJ. S. Kofi Gbolonyo.

Otherwise known as Steven to his friends, his infectious smile exudes warmth and he personifies the awe-inspiring power of music to transcend regional, cultural and ethnic distinctions in this increasingly interconnected, globalized and digitally wired world we now live in.

His conciliatory overture to the audience was "Yell anytime you feel; scream when your spirit calls for it; never restrict your body; move if the rhythm heats you. This is Azaa Loo! It is a communal festival celebration. Have fun!"

Kevin Kornicki, who employed multiple instruments as we recorded the tracks for Right Place, Right Time, was recently featured in Florida Today for his percussion expertise and adept use of the cajon, a drum that was refined in 19th century Peru but originally migrated from West and Central Africa.

Amazingly, Kevin played a plethora of exotic and traditional hand-held instruments to create multiple levels of percussive textures: shaker, tambourine, cabasa, triangle, quiro, African talking drum, African djembe, udu, congas, bongos, doumbek, cowbell, timbales, chimes and cajon.

Maybe Nietzsche conveys the universal value and worth of music most strikingly in Twilight of the Idols when he proclaims, “Without music, life would be a mistake." 

Lyrics

Heat up your body

Energize your soul

Elevate your spirit

Let the music roll

 

Heat up your body

Energize your soul

Elevate your spirit

Let the rhythm of the drumbeat take control

Azaa loo

 

The human tribe is one tribe

It isn’t two or three

Black and white and yellow shirts conceal us

Underneath it’s only you and me

Whenever we have questions

About our love today

The answer’s only one drum beat away

 

Repeat chorus

 

Rhythms migrate cross the ocean

Keep you ears close to the ground

The eternal drum beat is always ringing

Listen we’re all wired to the lovin’ sound

Satellite communications

Send sweet songs through the air

They’re all part of the good vibrations everywhere

 

Repeat chorus

 

Music is a world-wide power

And a blessing never cursed

It’s the language of my ancestors

It’s the rhythm of the universe

 

Repeat chorus

 

Azaa loo dance like the devil

Azaa loo heal your worried mind

Azaa loo sing like a gypsy communicate with life

 

Azaa loo love like a virgin

Azaa loo love me long and love me slow

Azaa loo let the rhythm of the cosmic river flow

            heat up your body energize your soul

        elevate your spirit let the music roll

        heat up your body energize your soul

        elevate your spirit let the rhythm of the drumbeat take control

        azaa loo!

 

The human tribe is one tribe it isn’t two or three

Black and white and yellow shirts conceal us

Underneath it’s only you and me

Whenever we have questions about our love today

The answer’s only one drum beat away

      

                  repeat chorus



Rhythms migrate cross the ocean keep you ears close to the ground

The eternal drum beat is always ringing listen we’re all wired to the lovin’ sound

Satellite communications send sweet songs through the air

They’re all part of the good vibrations everywhere

                         

                  repeat chorus

 

Music is a world-wide power and a blessing never cursed

It’s the language of my ancestors it’s the rhythm of the universe

                       

                  repeat chorus

 

Azaa loo! Dance like the devil

Azaa loo! Heal your worried mind

Azaa loo! Sing like a gypsy communicate with life

Azaa loo! Love like a virgin

Azaa loo! Love me long and love me slow

Azaa loo! Let the steady rhythm of the cosmic river flow

                 

                   repeat chorus

 < >

 

Story

This is a cautionary tale.

While out with a group of friends at one of my favorite restaurants in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Tessaro's, I heard somebody at the end of the table vehemently shout "this isn't Vegas!" above the din of multiple, ongoing conversations.  I never found out exactly what the specific context of that exchange was about but the line got into my psyche and this song is the outcome.

As the well known marketing slogan about "Sin City" insinuates, capitalizing on its dubious reputation as a haven for vice, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." 

However, there really doesn't seem to be any guarantee of privacy or anonymity anywhere any more, at least in most towns most of the time.

After I finished writing this song, I was reminded of the hauntingly ominous portrayal of contemporary life envisioned by the 20th Century philosopher and social critic Michel Foucault, who claimed we are all being watched and categorized by experts.

He compared us to prisoners in a “panopticon,” the perfect prison system that subjects the inmates to a constant state of surveillance by guards in a tower from which they themselves cannot be seen.

Lyrics

She wears a ten-carrot ring

When luster turns to loneliness it doesn’t mean a thing

She’s ached to be touched for so long

Guilty passion racks her heart it’s burning strong

She’s a well connected socialite

A well heeled high class trophy wife

Is she ready now to gamble on her

Plush and privileged life?

 

This isn’t vegas this isn’t vegas

What happens here in this bedroom town

Won’t stay undercover underground too long

This isn’t vegas

There’s ears inside almost every wall

One whisper here triggers her downfall

This isn’t vegas this isn’t vegas

 

She walks down a cheap hotel hall

Slips her ring off when she takes his call

She knows the time is now

As she locks the deadbolt on her sacred vow

A dam has broke deep inside

She’s never felt more alive

He makes his move they play the odds

She won’t get caught tonight

 

Chorus

 

In this high-stakes love roulette

No one can hide when hearts are playing

 

Chorus

 

Story

I attribute the spark that got the ball rolling on this song to Larry Richert during a broadcast of the NewsRadio 1020 KDKA Morning Program. Along with his co-host, John Shumway, Larry has to be the bearer of an inclement weather forecast on many a rainy day.

As I was making coffee one morning, I felt noticeably deflated when I looked out at the panoramic but cloudy vista of the Pittsburgh skyline from my elevated perch-top in Greenfield and heard Larry announce "There's wet weather in the forecast for the next few days." Precisely NOT what I was in the mood to hear!

A side note for trivia buffs...KDKA AM is the world's first commercial radio station.

Lyrics

Got up this morning

Poured my coffee

Fought rush hour traffic

The weatherman predicts a sunny day

 

Boot up my computer

Check my email

You write, “the weather is great where you are

I wish that i was there”

 

I should be drinkin’ up the sunshine

But my heart is drenched in rain

 

There’s always wet weather

Everyday when you’re not here

Torrential drops of rain keep pouring down

Everybody thinks i’m happy

It’s a picture-perfect day

But my sky is always grey

When you’re away

 

Went out with a good friend

To a party

Everybody‘s joking and laughing

Sat in the corner all night long

Ordered a rum drink

With an umbrella

The kind we drank in jamaica

The night we made love on the beach till dawn

 

You love those cute little decorations

Sippin’up our lovin’in the sun

 

Repeat chorus

 

It’s midnight

I can’t sleep

I should be dreamin' i’m tossing and turning

I reach for you you’re still not there

 

Outside my room the moon is smiling

And there’s not a cloud in the sky but

 

Repeat chorus

 

Lyrics

Every time we fight it’s an ugly scene

I don’t hear you don’t hear me

We go our separate way shut off the phone

We think we’re right end up alone

A small misunderstanding becomes a great divide

We’re really not that far apart in the scheme of time

 

Let’s bridge the gap between us and see the truth

Foolish pride separates me from you

Let’s bridge the gap between us and cross on through

To the heart of you

 

The silly games we play someone’s got to lose

Will it be me? Will it be you?

But real love craves mutual affection

A little compromise makes a deep connection

No one wants to be the first to say they’re "wrong"

When there’s no communication loves lies bitter, bruised and torn

 

Repeat chorus

 

Give just a little

Meet in the middle

And it all comes back to a better place

 

Repeat chorus

 

Story

The idea for this emerged while stuck in traffic at the intersection of Highland and Center Avenue in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh. A good friend in the passenger’s seat counseled, “John, it’s time to be Zen-like.”

If you're anything like me, I get a little impatient and occasionally emit expletives behind the wheel of an automobile. Okay, to be honest, I emit a LOT of obscenities while driving!

Patience is definitely not one of my virtues and I tend to get behind schedule, running late as I scurry around town for errands, deadlines, business meetings, appointments and even worse, gigs.

In contrast to the more rational, left-brained, laid-back mode I engage whenever possible, I seem to "meet my shadow," the dark side of my persona as Carl Jung calls it, when I encounter traffic jams.

Lyrics

I’m stuck at a red

Dyin’ for a green light

I got to move on

It’s time for the zen light

 

Been lost dry as a bone

Low on gas all alone

I need to know the past is gone

And life is moving

 

My body shakes

I pump the breaks

Grip gets tight

Fever climbs

Thoughts get loud

Engine pounds

Accelerates

 

Chorus

 

I want to dream out on the edge

I never know what happens next

A learning mind can only guess

Now the past is burning

 

Where rubber goes

To meet the road

I’ll get the vibe

Enjoy the ride

Embrace my soul

Lose control

My spirit flys

 

Chorus

 

My body shakes

I pump the breaks

Grip gets tight

Fever climbs

Thoughts get loud

Engine pounds

Accelerates

 

Chorus

 

Story

Having grown up within daily eye sight of Dorchester Bay and the J.F.K. Library, I have a natural predisposition to be near a body of water.

My childhood home in Neponset sits within walking distance of Tenean Beach and I often crossed over the Beades Memorial Draw Bridge past Savin Hill and Malibu Beaches, trekking home from high school or jogging.

As an annual ritual and a a way to rejuvenate my spirit, I make it a point to spend some time in South Boston on Castle Island, my favorite waterfront destination in Beantown. As I walk around the Head Island Causeway which encloses Pleasure Bay, a tranquil lagoon, I’m completely surrounded by water. In a spiritual if not literal sense, this feels like “home” for me.

Living in Pittsburgh for many years, this song may also reflect the taken-for-granted but ever present, sub conscious influence of the three major rivers that flow seamlessly together at The Point, the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers that forms the Ohio River.

Along with the three rivers, the dominant topographical feature of hills and ravines officially makes Pittsburgh “The City of Bridges,” with a total of 446, three more than former world leader Venice, Italy!

Lyrics

The waters rise

The waters come and go

The waters ebb

The waters flow

 

The waters move

The waters grow

The waters come down

From mountain peaks of snow

 

Every cell in my body

Soon will be replaced

Leaves fall from the trees

Seasons show their face

Infants grow to be old men

And the waters never end

So let it go

Let the waters flow

 

The waters twist

The waters turn

The waters sooth

The waters burn

 

The river’s warm

The river’s cold

The river knows its destination

This I’m told

 

Chorus

 

Instrumental

 

Chorus