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Bright Blues

Music CD Review
Approved But Not Funded. Composed, produced, arranged, mixed, and largely performed by Marc S. Abel. Musica Scientifica Esoterica, www.hippus.net, 2002. $12.99.
Reviewed by Norman Sperling, JIR v48 #4, November 2004, p31.

This disc offers a witty take on Science, featuring sympathetic lyrics, strong harmonies, and professional blues musicianship and production by Dr. Marc Abel and 18 colleagues, all from the Chicago area.

In the first half of the 1900s, these witty science satires would have been sung in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan. In the 1960s, they'd have been sung as folk songs, accompanied by guitar. But certain aspects of Science give these scientists the blues. The blues is also one of the composer's favorite styles, and one of his greatest talents, so these songs are cast as blues. We're not sure how many readers the blues appeal to; when we surveyed JIR readers' musical tastes, no one style dominated.

The 9 songs' lyrics appeal very broadly to scientific and medical professionals. "Too Much Information" overloads us all. There's a lament about the tenure track, and another about statistical probabilities. Here are the words to "Old Friends, New Data", as we experience at every professional convention:

Old Friends, New Data
Words/Music ©2002 M. S. Abel

Old friends, new data.
Posters, lectures and slides.
Lines for lunch, dinner cabs,
Message center rendezvous times –
With 20 thousand
Of my closest friends:
It's meeting time.

New theories, new data.
Vendor candy, breakfast in your hand.
Abstract reading, abstract thought;
No hotel reservations to be had.
It happens every year,
So you don't have to fear,
It's meeting time.

New friends, old data.
Acting cool but actually you're lost.
Stale coffee, latest toys.
Try to stay within per diem costs.
You stimulate your brain,
Until you feel it drain,
It's meeting time.

No friends, secret data.
The grant givers can take it all away.
Session chair, press release,
It's all part of the game that you must play.
You'd tell more if you could,
cuz it's for the common good;
It's meeting time.

New friends, future data.
Fresh collaborations start to brew;
This exchange keeps you sane.
Call the hotel now to book a room.
The plans that you make here,
will show up late next year,
At meeting time.

Some songs have narrower appeal. "Killed by Toxicology" covers biochemical screening tests, which most scientists never hassle with.

One of the little side delights is the roster of performers' pseudonyms on the jacket, including: Thor Acic, Tall Amuss, Sara Bellum, Sir Cadian, Hall U. Cination, Denny Drite, Al Farithm, N. L. Gesia, E. E. Jee, M. Nesia, Red Nucleus, Cal Osum, Gene X. Pression, Diane Sefalon, Brian Stemm, Anne S. Thesia, Pete Tuitary, and Sir Viccal.

The shortest track lasts :3:10, the longest :5:33.

If you like the blues, this is a fine performance, including 2 instrumental pieces. If the music isn't to your taste, you'll still like the lyrics. Find them at www.hippus.net/Approved%203%20tracks.html . And set them to guitar, or Gilbert-and-Sullivan, or whatever sound you like. As Abel says, "Fresh collaborations start to brew; / This exchange keeps you sane."

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