Pages Menu
TwitterFacebooklogin
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jan 8, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Restaurant Reviews | 1 comment

Restaurant Review: Limoncello (Las Vegas)

 

Limoncello Restaurant (W. Sahara -- Las Vegas)

 

Las Vegas is a highly-competitive city for Italian fare. Fueled by transplants, retirement, and international exposure….quality, ambiance, and price varies widely. I’ve witnessed a dozen Italian restaurants open and close in this city. As soon as one goes out of business, another one down the block opens its doors.

I’ve been greatly anticipating the new Limoncello’s opening for months. It took over a mediocre Mexican-food restaurant location on West Sahara between Cimmaron and Durango, invested heavily in remodeling, and now looks every bit the stylish but traditional Italian eatery-bistro.

The building and decor are magnificent. The dining area is unusually spacious. The first impression was positive. I also liked the host asking if we preferred a table or a booth. Most seating staff doesn’t do this. So, let me give credit where it’s due.

I’ll also acknowledge the service and management did a very thorough job. Service was attentive — perhaps even too much so. On a few occasions, the table conversation was interrupted. I don’t like that. But, that’s a small detail and I’d rather see the waitstaff trying hard to please rather than mired with indifference.

Food quality was good.  Nothing exceptional.  But good.  Admittedly, I saw only three entres and tasted two, so my score of the food probably deserves a grade of “incomplete.”

Limoncello’s mistakes and misses were small, but gradually added up over the course of our 90-minute stay to the overall grade of disappointment:

— prices were a little high for a neighborhood eatery.
— chairs are terribly small and uncomfortable
— there’s no music in the restaurant [this might be considered a good thing by some, but it seemed very quiet on a night with perhaps 10 tables occupied in a 35-table (est.) restaurant].
— the waiter tried to take my guest’s plate away when she had plenty of food still on the platter. I don’t get the “rush” here, and this happens a lot in upscale restaurants. Please stop it.
— I ordered baked lasagne. The temperature was inconsistent. Lukewarm on one side. Piping hot on the other. This would be a non-issue if I paid $11. But for $18 (no frills, everything else ala carte), a poorly heated product is unacceptable.
— Food portions were small.
— Parmesan cheese, which is a standard accompaniment in any traditional Italian restaurant had to be requested. The cheese should have been delivered on the spot at the time of dinner presentation.
— Bread was peasant-style…very rustic. I presume this is a stab at authenticity. But the bread was a teeth breaker. Not good.

Bill for three came to $115 with tip. We shared on an appetizer, had three entres, and two Stella draft beers. That price would normally be in line with most upscale dining establishments that delivered on all fronts. But Limoncello missed too many checkmarks. I simply didn’t feel we got our money’s worth.

There are way too many good Italian places all over town to return. I hope Limoncello improves and eventually does well. I like having good restaurants in my neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend them.

 

LINK TO LIMONCELLO’S HERE

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Jan 3, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

NFL 2019: Wild Card Week (Playoffs — Sunday)

 

 

A few generic thoughts on this week’s wild-card round of playoff games:

  1.  Many bettors step up their bet sizes because playoff games are more meaningful.  This is wrong.  Playoff game odds/numbers are often the worst matchups to handicap and bet on.  I’d much rather bet on two losing teams playing a late-season game than any of the so-called premier matchups.
  2. Unlike regular-season games where motivation, fatigue, internal team disarray, and other intangibles can influence the outcome of a game (and create the basis of a bet), all teams are motivated and ready to play come playoff time.  There really is no “bet against” team, as is the case during the season when teams and players aren’t expected to play at peak level.
  3. None of us gamblers (and certainly not fans) have any inside information as to what will happen in a playoff game.  Any legitimate rumor or betting edge would already move the line (and totals, props, etc.) before it reaches the betting public.  I know nothing more than anyone else, nor does anyone who takes this endeavor seriously.  Anyone who claims to “know something” is lying.

So, why am I wagering on this week’s games?  I’ll explain below in my weekly writeup.

I’m now up for the season about 23 percent ahead of the starting bankroll.  Let’s hope the strong second half of the season continues for four more weeks.

 

**************************************************************

2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          77 — 62 — 3

Starting Bankroll:   $ 8,398.

Current Bankroll:   $10,541.  (+ $2,143.)

Last Week’s Results (Week #17):         7 — 5 — 0  (+ $575.)

**************************************************************

 

THIS WEEK’S WAGERS 

SUNDAY GAMES AND ANALYSIS:

Minnesota at New Orleans

One Wager:  Saints Team Total Over 28.5 (-115) — Risking $287.50 to win $250

Comments:  Let me explain the reasons why there’s more that I *don’t like* betting this game:

— It’s tempting to bet New Orleans on several connected wagers to a Saints victory  (game line, first half, team total over, money line, etc.).  However, I see -400 money line as a bad number.  If these two teams were to play four times under identical conditions, my projection is — the Vikings would win perhaps a quarter of the games.  In other words, I predict they’d go 1-3 in four hypothetical matchups.  Hence, I see this as closer to a -300 lay price and even then, there’s no actual value.  So why not bet the Vikings at +300 (which is the price?).  Again, no value here.  I’d probably bite at +350 or higher.

— Laying -7.5 with the Saints is problematic.  That half-point off touchdown scares me.  At -7, New Orleans is probably a solid bet given the roll they’re on at the moment, but the best price I see comes with -135 vig.  I’m not paying an extra 25 cents to capture the half point-off the 7.  So, that’s a pass.

— Minnesota at +7.5 looks tempting.  But I’m seriously concerned with the disparity of playoff experience between these two QBs in the post-season.  Future Hall of Famer Brees is 8-6 SU in the playoffs and generally performs well in games like this, and he’s even stronger in the first round.  Meanwhile, Cousins has made one start in his mediocre career, which was a blowout loss when he was with Washington.  I’m wary about betting unproven starters, especially why they could be badly outmatched.  So, no play on the Vikings plus the points.

— Saints team total looks to have slight value for a number of reasons.  First, New Orleans will be on a delirious high for this contest.  They’ve been waiting for a year to get back to this spot, hosting a playoff game at home.  This could be their final playoff home game given the route they would likely take, even with a victory.  So, the Saints should be ecstatic here and ready to roll, particularly on offense.  New Orleans has been a scoring machine since Brees returned from the early-season hand injury.  Saints have eclipsed the 28.5-point mark in 8 of last 10 games.  Saints have gone 6-2 over that mark in all home games this season.  Bottom line is — New Orleans has proven time and time again they can score.  So, I’m willing to bet over a slightly higher-than-average team total, even with the hook added to four touchdowns (28.5).  One more point:  I don’t see New Orleans slowing down late in the game, even with a lead.  They’ve been burned in playoff games before.  New Orleans was still throwing the ball in late-season games when ahead by big scores.  Hence, this offense is likely to be in gear for 60 full minutes.  Finally, it goes without saying the New Orleans receiving corps may be the best in the league.

— Another factor that sways me to New Orleans scoring points is the impressive sack totals allowed by the Saints.  When Brees has time, the Saints score and win.  It’s that simple.  New Orleans protected Brees very well in second half of the season.  Even though New Orleans throws more passes than average (and is subject to more sacks), they ranked third in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed.  If Brees has time, this spells trouble for the Vikings defense.

— So, why not also bet the game OVER 49.5?  It’s tempting.  If Saints get up on the scoreboard, this game could turn into a shootout.  But that’s the last thing the Vikings want.  Minnesota will aim for a ball-control, milk-the-clock game plan that wins time of possession and keeps the high-octane Saints offense on the sidelines.  If somehow they are successful, this game could fall under.  Let’s credit Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer for being a defensive guru.  Moreover, the Saints defense could make Cousins have a miserable day.  My bottom line opinion is — there’s a better chance New Orleans scores 28.5-plus than this game goes over 49.5.  Of course, both could very well happen.

— Note the 14.5 on the Saints first-half team total.  That half-point is very problematic and keeps me away.  It’s more likely New Orleans breaks the 14-point threshold in the second half, when defense is tired, Minnesota makes offensive mistakes in desperation when playing from behind, etc.  So, even though I’m bullish on the Saints scoring, I see that first-half total as a bad number.

FINAL DECISION:  One wager only, on the Saints to score at least 28.5 points.

 

Seattle at Philadelphia

One Wager:  First Half — Seattle PICK (-110) — Risking $275 to win $250

My first instinct was to pound Seattle at this price (PICK).  Eagles’ injury situation is epic.  While they’re somewhat healthier now, it’s hard to see many strengths on this team, which has struggled repeatedly in multiple games this season, even down the stretch facing outmatched opponents in must-win games.  I don’t see what others are looking at with the Eagles, unless they look at Seattle as a *bet against* team based on some false metrics, including a really porous defense.  The question is — does Philadelphia have the weapons to take advantage of Seattle’s weaknesses?  I’m not so sure they do.  Here are my thoughts on various numbers connected to this matchup:

— Philadelphia has been a very slow starting team in a majority of their games.  The Eagles do tend to adjust at halftime.  But for some reason, this team doesn’t look prepared early on, in the first half.  Hence, I lean to Seattle strongly based on team performances in the first half.  I also suspect the Eagles’ younger players, many with no playoff experience, might need a little time to adjust.

— Let’s also remember, Eagles QB Carson Wentz hasn’t won a playoff game yet.  I’m a fan of this gutsy player, who gives it all on the field.  But that’s a concern if you’re backing the Eagles.  During their Super Bowl season a few years ago, Nick Foles, the backup took all the snaps.  Wentz is also 0-3 in his career against Seattle, including a 17-9 loss earlier this season.

— Russell Wilson.  Enough said.

— Let’s keep in mind that Seattle was 11-5 this season while Philadelphia went 9-7.  Seahawks went 5-0 this season on the road in the East time zone, so I’m not sure there’s ANY concern with Seattle as the road team here.  A perfect 5-0 record, both SU and ATS for any West Coast team traveling three time zones is impressive.  However, I see this as Seattle being proven as a battle-tested road team.

— I’m very concerned about Seahawks losing 3 of their last four games.  However, those were to division rivals.  The other two Seattle losses were to New Orleans and Baltimore, and there’s no shame in those defeats.

— The total at 45 was tempting as a contrarian over play for me.  Total opened at 45.5 and dropped and I might have bit into the apple at 44.5 and certainly 44.  But, it’s gone back up again to 45.5.  So, this rates as a pass.  Some handicappers are pushing the under really hard here, and I see some basis for that wager based on playoff games being a little more conservative offensively, combined with some reason for optimism the Eagles’ defense might rise to the occasion.  The bottom line for me is — mixed information will keep me from betting this total, either way.

— Team totals care about where they should be.  I see no value on any of those numbers.  22.5 is team total on both for the game.  Slightly lean to at least one of these teams reaching the 23-point mark.  But not strong enough to bet it.  Interesting numbers at 10.5  both teams in the first half, with some higher juice leaning to the under.  Wish I could capture a 1o, in which case I’d probably bet either team over that number.

— As stated previously, it’s tempting to play Seattle for the game as a pick ’em.  However, given the Eagles’ slow starts this season and some concerns this injury-depleted team could make mistakes early on, I think the optimal wager is betting Seattle in the first half.  Note that there is one place in Las Vegas (MGM) which lists Seahawks minus .5 in the first half at +120 but also has Eagles at -1 and -105 for the game.  That’s one of the more unusual number combinations I’ve seen for any playoff game.  But it also tells me the Eagles slow starts but solid halftime adjustments in previous games are being factored into the spreads.

FINAL DECISION:  One wager only, which is Seattle in the first half, at pick’ em.

 

SATURDAY:  In the Saturday games, I risked a total of $1,492.50 to win $1,250.  The 4-0-1 result is posted in the updated figures above.  Here were the plays, with comments:

 

GAME:  BUFFALO +3 vs. HOUSTON — Risking $275 to win $250

FIRST HALF:  BUFFALO +1 — Risking $275 to win $250

FIRST HALF:  BUFFALO TEAM TOTAL OVER 8.5 POINTS (-130) — Risking $325 to win $250  

Comments:  Since 2003, underdogs have covered in 55.6 percent of all playoff games.  That’s enough to make me look mostly at dogs, and then pounce on one when the team look optimal conditioned to pull off an outright upset.  I think that’s the case with the Buffalo Bills here, playing at Houston Texans in the early Saturday game.  First and foremost, the Bills field the better defense.  Come playoff time, I like betting on superior defenses.  We are also getting points, in both the first half and for the game.  Initially, I was planning to wager Buffalo +1 for the first half only.  However, I saw several books move the game line to +2.5 and I was still able to get the +3 at the old price of -110.  So, unless the line moves back to +3 by game time, I’m getting line value.  On paper, these teams look pretty evenly matched.  Both are 10-6.  Both rested starters in the final week of the season and appear reasonably healthy.  Neither starting QB has playoff experience.  What tips me towards Buffalo is [1] the clear advantage on defense, [2] a suspicion Houston offense is a bit overrated (in Texans last 10 contests they didn’t score more than 28 points in any game), [3] getting the key number +3 with the dog (and +1 in first-half which is significant), [4] strong performance historically of underdogs in playoff games, and finally [5] the record of road dogs in 2019, which are covering 60 percent of the time in all games, which is historically unprecedented, which also tells me home-field edge might not be what it used to be.  I also like Buffalo to cover the low number in the first half on a team total.  It’s important to capture the 9 and 10, and 8.5 gives us a win on those two numbers:  14, 17, 0, 31, 3, 10, 14 were the first-half points allowed in each game by Texans since their mid-season bye.  So, I have three wagers in all, each connected to the Bills as the live dog.

 

FIRST HALF:  TENNESEE +3 at NEW ENGLAND — Risking $275 to win $250

FIRST HALF:  TENNESSEE TEAM TOTAL OVER 8.5 — Risking $325 to win $250 

Comments:  I see some respected handicappers on New England, citing “line value” on the dynasty team laying just -5.5.  That sounds reasonable and history is certainly on the Patriots side given their extraordinary success in the post-season.  However, Tennesee might be the worst possible team the Patriots could face at this point — a solid rushing team that doesn’t make many mistakes nor turn the ball over, an offense led by a veteran QB with lots of experience playing in Foxboro, and perhaps most shockingly ….. an offense that is scoring a ton of points:  35, 28, 21, 42, 31, 42, 35, 20, 27, and 23 since QB Ryan Tannehill became the starter.  While New England fields the #1 defense in the NFL in several categories, they did seem to draw opponents when they were struggling at their worst, namely the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, Giants, Browns, Cowboys, Bengals, and a heap of other trash.  So, I see those numbers as being slightly inflated.  Also, consider New England’s collapse in the previous game, where they blew the chance to get a bye.  That’s not just an outlier of a loss to shrug off.  That wouldn’t have happened to Belichick-coached teams of the past.  Patriots in last four home games — lost to Miami, had to stave off a last-second scoring chance by Buffalo to win by 7, lost to Kansas City, and barely beat Dallas 13-9.  That’s four less-than-stellar performances by the Patriots at home.  So, I can’t lay -5.5 with this team.  It seems obvious the Titans should be the play here getting generous points, but I’m going to skip the strong temptation to take the +5 and +5.5 in some places.  Note that +6 is probably a wager for me.  Instead, I do see strong value with Tennessee +3 in the first half.  If the Titans are to win the game, they likely have to avoid falling behind early.  With a solid rushing attack, I expect this will be just the right formula to make that happen.  And, in a similar wager with identical justification to the team total (Titans over 8.5), I do see value on the team that’s been scoring like crazy the last nine weeks of the season to eclipse what seems like a low number.  Weather is forecast with drizzle and 40 degrees.  I don’t think this hurts the run-heavy Titans as much as possible the Patriots so slippery conditions could actually work in our favor.  Two wagers on this game, both on the dog Titans in the first half.

 

INVESTMENT GROUP [37 persons Active]

Investor  —- Amount —- Pct. of Total Fund
Heldar $ 211 2.51%
Watanabe $ 100 1.19%
Peter Lucier $ 1,000 11.91%
Kramer $ 302 3.60%
Finbar O’Mahoney $ 200 2.38%
Howler $ 100 1.19%
Linda Keenan $ 500 5.95%
John Pickels $ 100 1.19%
Patrick Kirwan $ 100 1.19%
Sean McGinnis $ 300 3.57%
Jim Anderson $ 252 3.00%
Chad Holloway $ 200 2.38%
Eric Schneller $ 500 5.95%
Randy Collack $ 351 4.18%
Dave Lawful $ 100 1.19%
Paul Harris $ 1,000 11.91%
Dan Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Sharon Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Ken QB $ 102 1.21%
Chuck Weinstock $ 102 1.21%
Peter Taki Caldes $ 102 1.21%
Kenny Shei $ 51 0.61%
Jeff Deitch $ 51 0.61%
Kevin Un $ 128 1.52%
Becca Kerl $ 22 0.26%
Corey Imsdahl $ 102 1.21%
Don Bingo Rieck $ 102 1.21%
Jeff Siegel $ 1,000 11.91%
Stephen Cohen (payment pending) $ 100 1.19%
John Reed $ 114 1.36%
George Wattman $ 51 0.61%
Mickdog Patterson $ 51 0.61%
Larry Lubliner $ 100 1.19%
Grizz Berentsen $ 100 1.19%
Edmund Hack $ 100 1.19%
Bob Feduniak $ 500 5.95%
David “Quick” Horowitz $ 102 1.21%
TOTAL $ 8,398 100.00%

$200 Invested into Pick Contest (outcome pending)

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Jan 2, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

The Van Morrison MasterClass: Week 4:

 

The Essential Van Morrison

 

“I write songs.  Then, I record them.  And, later, maybe I perform them on stage.  That’s what I do.  That’s my job.  Simple.”

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS:  WEEK 4

Part 4 (Days 22-28) of an ongoing retrospective on the music and career of Van Morrison

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 22

“Whenever God Shines His Light” (1989)

This is the opening track on Van’s Avalon Sunset, but was then released 30 years ago as the one-and-only Christmas-themed single in the singer-songwriter’s lengthy career. So, it seems most appropriate as the musical offering on this day, December 25th.

This is far from one of Van’s best songs, but it’s among the most deeply personal, honest, and expressive. It’s a clear testament to faith, which Van has revisited in his music many times. To this day, Van often shows up unannounced at church services while he’s on tour, grabs an acoustic guitar, and performs something spiritual from his vast catalog of original music.

True to Van’s virtually rapid-fire pace of songwriting and composition, all ten songs on Avalon Sunset were rehearsed in just two days and summarily recorded during the following two days. Given the diversity of styles on this album, including lots of ornate instrumentation, some songs accompanied by a symphony orchestra, it’s astonishing that this entire album project came together in just four days.

Avalon Sunset produced two original hit songs, “Have I Told You Lately” (later recorded by Rod Stewart, which became an even bigger smash hit) and “Whenever God Shines His Light,” which sold well enough in the crossover Christian-rock crossover genre that was emerging at the time to hit #15 in the charts in the U.K.

Joining Van on backup vocals in the studio (and in the video, which is posted here) is Cliff Richard, who is well known in the U.K., but might not be nearly as familiar to American audiences. Here’s a stunning trivia question: “Who ranks third as the best-selling artist in British music singles history behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley?” Answer — Cliff Richard, with 250 million records sold worldwide.

No matter what your beliefs, this is a catchy, upbeat, song with obvious appeal. Van’s piano riff adds immensely to the joyous spirit of the track. Van’s lyrics aren’t too bad, either.

Whenever God shines his light on me
Opens up my eyes so I can see.
When I look up in the darkest night
And I know everything’s going to be alright.
In deep confusion, in great despair
When I reach out for him he is there.
When I am lonely as I can be
And I know that God shines his light on me.

 

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 23

“Ordinary People” (circa 1974)

Let’s stick with the blues. Van has written some extraordinary blues-driven tunes. Few if any of these songs were commercially successful, perhaps one reason why so many of these lost treasures end up on the B-sides of singles and rare bootlegs.

Consider this blues masterpiece, “Ordinary People,” which has no liner notes available, anywhere, but which was believed to have been written and recorded sometime in 1974 before Van took his unannounced three-year career hiatus from recording and performing. He composed a massive number of songs during this combustible period, some of which were intended for a 1975 album tentatively titled, Mechanical Bliss, which was never released. Most of the songs from this period were shelved and forgotten for almost 25 years.

In 1998, Van released an extraordinary collection of lost B-sides and previously unreleased original songs which became The Philosophers Stone. There were so many songs available (30 ended up making the cut), that a double-album became mandatory. On the so-called “compilation” album — which is something of a misnomer since most of the songs had never been heard before — appears “Ordinary People.”

Van is in absolute top form here on vocals backed by a bluesy piano. But this musical canvass clearly belongs to Ronnie Montrose on electric guitar, who shreds the melody for five-full minutes. Montrose, who died in 2012, was one of rock’s most respected guitarists and was once described as “America’s answer to Led Zeppelin.” When you hear his guitar on this piece, especially the instrumental interlude, you’ll understand why.

Chances are, you’ve probably never heard this rare track before. So, crank it up. Loud. After listening to Van on vocals and Montrose on guitar, it’s inexplicable this was considered a track that wasn’t fit for release until many years after it was recorded. What were they thinking? Just listen.

In many ways, this simple yet impeccable tune exemplifies so much about the vast and varied Van Morrison musical catalog. The deeper one digs, the more treasure one finds.

 

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 24

“Gloria” (1964)

G-L-O-R-I-A….Glooooooria!
G-L-O-R-I-A….Glooooooria!
G-L-O-R-I-A….Glooooooria!

Practically everyone knows this song or is at least familiar with the chorus.

It’s been described as one of the first songs that every beginning guitar player learns to play, easily explained, since it requires knowing just three simple chords. It’s the ultimate garage band song. But, it’s also experienced unanticipated staying power in popular music. Indeed, “Gloria” has been covered by everyone from The Doors (and their so-called “dirty version”) to Patti Smith. “Gloria” has been described as one of the very first “punk rock” songs, with Van’s raspy Howlin’ Wolf vocals and the lyrics’ overt sexual suggestion.

Van was only 18 when he wrote “Gloria” sometime during 1963, He was the lead singer for the newly-formed Northern Irish band — Them, a collaboration which lasted less than three years but which launched Van as a singer-songwriter with a rebellious streak. Recorded and released in 1964, this was Van’s first original hit song, even though no one expected it to be a success. In fact, “Gloria” was actually picked as the B-side to the single, “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” which was thought to be far more commercial.

Now, 55 years after it’s release, “Gloria” is nothing to marvel at, musically speaking. However, most critics place it in the Top 100 pantheon of songs which influenced rock n’ roll.

This video is scandalous for its day (flashing frightening images of a donkey, which makes no sense). Not great sound quality, but worth a look for nostalgia purposes. Along with “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Moondance” this is arguably Van’s best-known song.

 

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 25

“Down to Earth” (1975)

Yesterday, we explored “Gloria,” one of Van’s biggest hits and most popular songs. Today, we’re veering in the opposite direction, examining rare and previously unreleased material that somehow has never surfaced publically. Trust me about today’s lesson, this one’s a gem.

Van’s burnout between 1974’s Veedon Fleece and 1977’s A Period of Transition made for some glorious failures and undiscovered musical chestnuts. A number of album projects (at least three, and perhaps more) were simply abandoned, with no explanation given. Consider one of the forgotten tracks from this period titled, “Down to Earth,” written and recorded in the fall of 1975. This song was planned for inclusion on a jazz collaboration to be produced by Stewart Levine, best known for working with artists including Simply Red, Dr. John, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Patti Labelle, Sly Stone, among many others.

After Stewart Levine’s death, Sunny Levine (his son) wrote from conversations with his father about those forgotten sessions:

“….Morrison and the…..band got along great and the sessions were a joyful experience. Morrison was very relaxed and sounds extra soulful as you can hear on the tape. The whole tracking experience was a pleasure with no drama in sight. (Then) they went away for a week and planned to put the finishing touches on the record, which would have been the Tower of Power horns, followed by mixing. When they returned to the studio, Morrison and Levine had an argument that abruptly ended the sessions and that was that! The record was never released….”

So, nine tracks on a 7 1/2 IPS, half-track reel-to-reel Dolby tape are all which are known to remain from those fascinating recording sessions (see the image of the hopelessly deteriorated tape, which is posted here).

Credit:  Jeff Gold [Virtual Museum: An Unreleased Van Morrison Album from 1975 Surfaces for the First Time]

Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t very good. Nearly five decades sitting in a garage will do that to reel-to-reel tape. But it’s still good enough to recognize there’s a really great song here. Have a listen to Van’s unreleased “Down to Earth,’ an original composition with the singer in top form backed by some powerful horns.

Here’s yet another track buried deep in the vault that inexplicably has never been re-done nor re-recorded, let alone released to the public. Well, at least not until — now.

Enjoy!

 

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 26

“Golden Autumn Day” (1999)

The album Back on Top is aptly named. It’s one of Van’s best albums.

The 10-track collection (plus two more bonus tracks on the re-issue) features an album cover showing Van silhouetted in black shadow with his back to the camera. Musically speaking, this isn’t so much a nostalgic return to his rhythm and blues-driven roots, so much as a glorious reinterpretation of all-too-familiar themes updated with brand new concepts. It’s almost as though Van took his 25 years as a singer-songwriter and decided to use early passions as a foundation. Here, the organ and harmonica — which appear so often on Van vinyl — aren’t the typical instrumental accompaniments. Instead, they seem intent on complementing a much richer and more complex orchestration. The song which is the subject of today’s lesson exemplifies this melding of influences and combination of styles.

“Golden Autumn Day” isn’t the best track on the album by any stretch. Alas, picking a favorite is made all the more difficult by a final finished product that doesn’t seem rushed (unlike so many of Van’s album releases, before and since). Another viable explanation — perhaps Van didn’t get bored this time around and storm out of the sessions as he’s been prone to do on many projects. The extra time spent in the studio crafting this album to near perfection pays off handsomely. The work was praised lavishly by Rolling Stone magazine, which labeled the collection as “one Monet and nine Normal Rockwells” — the Monet referring to “When the Leaves Come Falling Down,” described as “a masterpiece.”

There’s a lot happening here musically in “Golden Autumn Day,” which runs for nearly 7 full minutes. Van’s gruff but quirky lyrical realism. The unmistakable heart and soul of the Hammond organ. A full string orchestra, the volume cranked up slowly until a final grand crescendo. Van taking the lead on harmonica. Bluesy piano. A catchy upbeat chorus with a message of hope and aspiration.

Pay particular attention to the instrumental interlude at the 3-minute mark, where Van inserts his own harmonica followed by Pee Wee Ellis on sax. The fade out in the final minute with full strings is also a brilliant touch. The piece plays out like the closing credits to a movie.

Back on Top hit the top of the charts in Scandanavia when it was released in 1999. It peaked at #11 in the U.K. Although the album spawned three singles that charted and enjoyed modest airplay, it didn’t fare nearly as well in the U.S.

Back on Top is a suburb album from start to finish. It’s fitting that Van ends the 1990s, and indeed the century, not falling from the mountaintop but reaching for higher musical peaks, and hitting them once again.

 

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 27

“On Hyndford Street” (1991)

“On Hyndford Street” isn’t a song so much as a sermon.

It’s a fond remembrance of childhood memories, a homily to a simpler time.

Van was born in a red-bricked terrace house with a blank facade, utterly ordinary and identical to all the other working-class homes on Hyndford Street in east Belfast. The only thing that now distinguishes the building — which still stands — is a small brass plaque beside the front door, announcing that George Ivan Morrison was born here on August 31, 1945.

His father worked in the Belfast shipyards. He brought home records from America regularly, which virtually no one else in Ireland had heard at the time. Van grew up an abundant musical diet of Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Lead Belly, and others far away but with a kindred spirit.

Van has written affectionately of Belfast (Northern Ireland) and much of the Irish Republic. Song titles including “Cypress Avenue” and “Orangefield” reflect both the then and now. One need not be Irish nor even be familiar with these places. We all have our own “Hyndford Street.”

The original song includes Van’s spoken lyrics which overlap extended background chords from an electric organ. It sounds like a spoken prayer.

“On Hyndford Street” was included on the astounding 21-track double album released in 1991, Hymns to the Silence. The album received mixed reviews from critics and was even criticized for being “too long.” It did not do well commercially. In retrospect, though, it’s a definitive personal statement connecting with listeners of all ages and backgrounds, with multiple timeless compositions.

I’ve posted a live rendition of “On Hyndford Street” from a 2012 recording in Belfast. The audience, intimately familiar with these places and references, react to every vocal syncopation with wild enthusiasm. Van, best described as an erratic, dispassionate performer these days, connects to his Belfast brethren in a manner that really brings the song to life.

Have a listen.

“Take me back, take me way, way, way back….”

 

VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 28

“Celtic New Year” (2005)

Congratulations — and, Happy New Year!

We’re now four weeks into the class.

Rarely will we repeat songs and topics, but since today is special, I think one item is well worth re-visiting.

“Celtic New Year” was released on Van’s 2005 album Magic Time.  This is 100 percent trademark Van all the way, with the gruff accented vocals serenading a special time and place. Catchy riffs punctuate lavish melodic orchestration. And, as Van so often does in song — he starts off slowly and builds to a glorious crescendo.

This is a live version of Van’s original composition (which isn’t as well-known outside Ireland). One need not be Irish to reflect and enjoy.

I’m a huge fan of the creation of music. I like to know how music is made. I want to learn what inspired an artist and know why strings or a trumpet or some other instrument was added to the mix.

This live version of the song, recorded during Van’s BBC sessions broadcast in the U.K. in 2008 is a beautiful rendition with ornate instrumentation. It’s almost an anthem. Listen in particular to the Piccolo flute come in as part of a duet. I also love Van’s guitar work here, plucking notes which accentuate the folksy narrative. And the strings are truly magical.

“Magic Time,” indeed!

Previous Segments:
Note:  Follow me on Facebook for the latest editions of the Van Morrison MasterClass, and more.
.

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Dec 31, 2019 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Music and Concert Reviews, Personal | 4 comments

Video Tribute to Poker People We Lost in 2019

 

Empty Poker Table

 

A Note to Readers:

I didn’t plan on doing this.

In fact, I had no intention of writing anything to do with poker ever again.

But sometimes, forces extend beyond our control and sharing something meaningful becomes an obligation.

Last night at around 8 pm, I began putting together a short article about all the wonderful people who left us during these last 12 months — mostly friends, and even family.  Oddly enough, as I compiled my thoughts and reflected, I came to realize that all of them were in some way connected to poker.  I guess that’s what happens when one spends nearly a quarter century attached to the game.

Words just didn’t seem enough for the occasion.

Purely by coincidence, I’ve been working on a project called the “Van Morrison MasterClass.”  One of the songs from the daily retrospective was off the 1999 album, Back on Top.  The song isn’t just appropriate.  It’s an epiphany.

“Reminds Me of You” says it all, really.  It expresses how we feel.  It reflects a sense of longing, and even loneliness.  But the song also gives comfort.  It’s not a song of sadness.  It’s a melody of joy, and celebration.

I uploaded this hours later, on YouTube.  Some of the cuts and transitions are a bit rough.  Please indulge me.  Also, forgive any people I missed in this tribute.  I’m sure there are names forgotten who deserve to be mentioned.  Feel free to add their names, and even photos, on social media or in the comments section, if you wish.

And now, let’s remember:

 

Yours Truly,

 

Nolan Dalla

Las Vegas — December 31, 2019

 

__________

 

 

 

Read More

Posted by on Dec 28, 2019 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

NFL 2019: Week #17

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs victory in Super Bowl IV. Remember the Chiefs’ unusual “choir huddle?” This year’s team likely promises to be their best chance in decades to get back to the championship game.  I’m backing the Chiefs big in the final week of the NFL season.  Hoping to sing “Hallelujah!” Here’s my Week #17 write up.

1969 Kansas City Chiefs

 

I’m glad to be in the profit column for the year after suffering through a brutal mid-season slump.  Let’s now close out the regular season strongly with this final slate of wagers and (hopefully) winners.

By the way, I’ve begun contributing original content for an online gambling website, which (appropriately enough) is onlinegambling.com.  Please check it out.

Those of you who like data, trends, and various aspects of handicapping methodology may be interested in these three new articles which I wrote up and posted in the last two days:

KEY BETTING TRENDS FOR NFL WEEK 17

TOTALS ANGLE SUGGESTS FOUR POSSIBLE UNDER WAGERS

HOW TO HANDICAP THE FINAL WEEK OF THE REGULAR SEASON

If you want to know my reasoning for this week’s wagers, much of the content in these articles (links above) will explain.  I’m particularly proud of my work on the UNDER trends, as this took considerable research on my part and (to my knowledge) hasn’t been discovered until now.

 

**************************************************************

2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          66 — 57 — 2

Starting Bankroll:   $ 8,398.

Current Bankroll:   $8,966.  (+ $568.)

Last Week’s Results (Week #15):         13 — 4 — 1  (+ $2,050.)

**************************************************************

 

THIS WEEK’S WAGERS 

This week, I made 12 wagers.

There are 6 teaser bets.  The hub team is the Kansas City Chiefs at -2.5.

There is 1 money line bet.  The Kansas City Chiefs are -380 favorites versus the LA Chargers.

There are also 5 totals bets.  Four bets are “under” based on my research.  One bet is an “over” based on opinion the total is simply too low.

I’m laying a total of $5,125.  Here are all the plays (each teaser is listed at -120 unless noted otherwise/each total is listed at -110 unless noted otherwise):

GREEN BAY / DETROIT UNDER 44 — Risking $275 to win $250

MIAMI / NEW ENGLAND UNDER 45 — Risking $275 to win $250

NEW ORLEANS / CAROLINA UNDER 45 — Risking $275 to win $250

WASHINGTON / DALLAS UNDER 45.5 — Risking $275 to win $250

ATLANTA / TAMPA BAY OVER 47.5 — Risking $275 to win $250

KANSAS CITY (MONEY LINE TO WIN) — Risking $1,950 to win $500

TEASER:  DALLAS -4.5 / KANSAS CITY -2.5 — Risking $300 to win $250

TEASER:  NEW ORLEANS -7 / KANSAS CITY -2.5 — Risking $300 to win $250

TEASER:  NEW ENGLAND -10 / KANSAS CITY -2.5 — Risking $300 to win $250

TEASER:  GREEN BAY -6 / KANSAS CITY -2.5 — Risking $300 to win $250

TEASER:  CINCINNATI +8.5 / KANSAS CITY -2.5 — Risking $300 to win $250

TEASER:  NY JETS +7.5 / KANSAS CITY -2.5 — Risking $300 to win $250

 

BD /SM INVESTMENT GROUP [37 persons Active]

Investor  —- Amount —- Pct. of Total Fund
Heldar $ 211 2.51%
Watanabe $ 100 1.19%
Peter Lucier $ 1,000 11.91%
Kramer $ 302 3.60%
Finbar O’Mahoney $ 200 2.38%
Howler $ 100 1.19%
Linda Keenan $ 500 5.95%
John Pickels $ 100 1.19%
Patrick Kirwan $ 100 1.19%
Sean McGinnis $ 300 3.57%
Jim Anderson $ 252 3.00%
Chad Holloway $ 200 2.38%
Eric Schneller $ 500 5.95%
Randy Collack $ 351 4.18%
Dave Lawful $ 100 1.19%
Paul Harris $ 1,000 11.91%
Dan Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Sharon Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Ken QB $ 102 1.21%
Chuck Weinstock $ 102 1.21%
Peter Taki Caldes $ 102 1.21%
Kenny Shei $ 51 0.61%
Jeff Deitch $ 51 0.61%
Kevin Un $ 128 1.52%
Becca Kerl $ 22 0.26%
Corey Imsdahl $ 102 1.21%
Don Bingo Rieck $ 102 1.21%
Jeff Siegel $ 1,000 11.91%
Stephen Cohen (payment pending) $ 100 1.19%
John Reed $ 114 1.36%
George Wattman $ 51 0.61%
Mickdog Patterson $ 51 0.61%
Larry Lubliner $ 100 1.19%
Grizz Berentsen $ 100 1.19%
Edmund Hack $ 100 1.19%
Bob Feduniak $ 500 5.95%
David “Quick” Horowitz $ 102 1.21%
TOTAL $ 8,398 100.00%

$200 Invested into Pick Contest (outcome pending)

__________

 

Read More
css.php