Best Albums of 2020

2020 wasn’t a year I acquired a lot of new music, but enough albums (okay, CDs and digital downloads. I still call them albums) to compile a list. First we’ll start with a couple of anniversary reissues, some miscellaneous albums and then the 15-CD countdown. Keep in mind, all of this is my opinion and your mileage may vary!

Rush’s Permanent Waves turned 40 in 2020. The CD is a 2-disc set featuring the classic album and a live set from Manchester, London. Not as fancy as the LP deluxe, but still a great reissue.

Turning 50 in 2020 was the Grateful Dead’s classic album, and it came along with 23 songs of live music on 2 discs. Always great to hear the Dead live!

This is an excellent live disc from Pearl Jam, featuring 7 classic tunes, featuring Alive, Jeremy, Ocean, Porch, Even Flow, Black and State of Love and Trust. I didn’t include live discs in the countdown, so I put it here as worthy of a listen or three.

Imaginary Traces by Piano Novel is a 3-song EP of beautiful classical piano music. As I generally love this kind of music, it would’ve wound up as my number 1 disc, but I was hesitant to have an EP as the best of 2020.

Clinton Kane put out a 2-song EP called Hopeless, about the end of a relationship. Both songs, Hopeless and Forget About us are heart-wrenching songs about heartbreak.

And now, the countdown …

#15: Keith Urban puts out consistently good albums. But somewhere along the way, the songs all sort of have a similar vibe. Personally, I think 15 songs from almost anyone is a bit too much. The opening few songs are Urban’s usual pop-country tunes, but the last few slow down a bit too much.

#14: Rise is the new release from Revolution Saints, one of the supergroups made up of Jack Blades (Night Ranger and others), Deen Castronovo (Journey and others), and Doug Aldritch (Whitesnake and others). It’s a great hard rock album that hits on all the right notes to be a fun disc of rockin’ tunes.

#13: The Psychedelic Furs returned with Made of Rain, their first release since 1991’s World Outside. Though the songs are not quite as catchy as their 80’s albums, this is a solid return to form for the boys.

#12: Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man is a solid disc, and for the most part, I liked this one. I’m not really a fan of songs that are more noise than melody and I’m not a fan of Post Malone, hence this album didn’t rank higher.

#11: Iration’s Coastin’. I’ve always been a fan of Reggae and I discovered this disc along the way. It has a number of fun, island songs as well as quieter moments, but all with that wonderful Reggae sound.

#10: Tenille Townes’ Lemonade Stand. And now for something completely different. Ms. Townes disc is a fine collection of country songs with heartfelt lyrics. The melodies are catchy and most of the tunes come a few shades shy of pop.

#9: I haven’t heard new Kansas in a long time, so when I gave a listen to Absence of Presence, I was pleasantly surprised. There are prog influences throughout this disc, and the music is pure Kansas.

#8: I love progressive metal bands (as long as the singer isn’t screaming), so when I heard Psychotic Waltz’s God-Shaped Void, I was impressed. I’m not familiar with their earlier work, but I’m looking forward to hearing their older works.

#7: To be honest, I haven’t heard enough of Midnight Oil to say whether I’m a fan or not. That being said, I enjoyed The Makarrata Project a lot. The album’s seven songs speaks of the First People of Australia and their way of life. This is also the first Midnight Oil LP in 18 years. Time to go back and find more of their music!

#6: I’m admitting here that I’m a fan of Pentatonix. Any group that can put out albums without a single instrument, going full-on acapella, is worth listening to. This 6-song EP kicks off with ‘Home’, a medley of songs about home, from Ozzy to Motely Crue. The other five songs are covers (what they’re best known for) of pop tunes from artists Dua Lipa, the Weeknd and others.

#5: I’ve always been a fan of Moby, and his newest release, All Visible Objects, is more of his electronic wonders with guest vocals throughout.

#4: Little Big Town is a country quartet with wonderful harmonies and they tread that border where pop and country meet. Nightfall is a great album of songs that really show the band at their finest.

#3: Matthew West’s religious / spiritual CD, Walking Miracle, is a 5-song EP of uplifting songs. Tunes such as Walking Miracle, Truth Be Told and What If speak to the soul, energizing the spirit. if you need a spiritual lift, I recommend this disc. (Apologies … I couldn’t find a copy of the cover to put up here)

#2: Bon Jovi’s 2020 is a deep look at our society in the middle of a pandemic, with songs about veterans’ struggles, what patriotism means and how we’re surviving through all that’s going on.

#1: Bruce Springsteen’s Letter To You is a poignant examination of our lives in our pandemic, political world. From the opening track, One Minute You’re Here, the listener is taken on a journey through the heart of life in these trying times.

The Divine Ocean

Spiritually speaking, here’s what I’m learning to believe these days: it is said that we are all one in a vast divine sea of consciousness. We are all connected to “God” or Spirit, First Cause, The Force, Divine Intelligence or however you name it. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the force that created everything that is, including people, plants, animals, and all that’s around us. Everything has consciousness to one degree or another at the molecular level. Obviously, inanimate objects don’t have the same level of consciousness as living things, but it is, as is everything, made up of conscious matter.

This can be a difficult concept to grasp. Consider all you see is made up of “God Matter”. In other words, it’s all Spirit. You are a unique, localized expression of God Consciousness. Every human being alive is a unique expression of this Divinity.

The best analogy I can come up with is a this: On a beach, there are several billion cups of different shapes, sizes and every shade of color imaginable. Each is made of a different type of material and each is unique onto itself. Every cup is filled to the brim with ocean water. Humankind is the cups and the ocean water is Divine Consciousness. This is who we are, and beyond the appearance,  we’re all the same.

We are so busy noticing the differences in the cups, noticing that we are not like the other cups, and judging ourselves and the others for it, that we are distracted from the truth of who we are. We believe in duality, in us and them. The blue cups don’t like the green cups. The plastic ones don’t like the wood cups. We have become domesticated to believe we are small, separate, different and even less than the other cups, that we play small, think small, and tell ourselves we can’t do whatever we dream of because sometime in our life, someone told us it’s impossible, and we chose to believe them.

Yet, we are all filled with the same consciousness that created everything from the smallest atom to the dancing galaxies beyond our vision.

If we take the time to recognize this inner divinity, understand that we are expressions of this one Spirit, then we can create magnificent lives. Think big. Your challenges are your means to a better life. When I am challenged, I need to remember that it doesn’t mean I’ve gone the wrong way, it means this is the right way for me to go to become better at whatever that challenge is.

We are all here to experience life as much as we can, to become our authentic selves through living and shedding antiquated beliefs that no longer serve us. We are all unique cups filled with the infinite divine ocean of God consciousness.

So ends the talk. And so it is.

Life is Just a Fantasy …

“You can’t make a living as a writer and one day you’re going to have to wake up from your fantasy world and get a real job.”

I understand parents always want the best for their children and I know that “making a living” as a writer isn’t easy. So when I was told I “can’t make a living as a writer”, it was with best intentions. However, the idea was that people couldn’t make a living. But having been domesticated to believe that I wasn’t enough, I took as I couldn’t because I wasn’t good enough.

Since that statement was made, I have spent most of my life fighting with myself over what I came to believe to be true and what was important to me. This comment became a belief that became my law to live by.

Was I being irresponsible, childish and foolish by wanting to write as a career? Was everything I’d written fake? What about the money I made from my writing? Was that also not real? I had a real job and I started to believe that happiness was irrelevant. All that mattered was work and money.

Some of my darkest moments were when that voice repeated that I lived in a fantasy world and I was out of touch with reality. I questioned who I was. I tried changing into who I believed I was supposed to be in order to be a part of the “real world”. What a waste of energy.

My heart’s desires are not foolish or childish or irresponsible. I choose to let go of self-defeating beliefs and replace them with beliefs that allow me to see that there are no limits, that if I have passion, I can create my life to be anything I want, regardless of what the next hundred people say.

What about you? Do you believe your dreams and passions are possible or has someone made a comment that shut you down so hard that you gave up before you even started?

Someone once said, “don’t die with your music still inside you.” Let it out. Free yourself.


We Are Not Broken

Psst. Come here a second. I got a secret to tell you. You. Yes, you. Check this out.

I’m not broken and neither are you.

There are people out there who need to feel better about themselves by telling other people that they’re broken and need to be fixed. You know the type: “Hey,” they say, “There’s something wrong with you because you’re not _____ (fill in the blank).” Or maybe you’re telling yourself that there’s something wrong with you because you’ve created expectations about yourself that aren’t true.

What if I told you that we’re all whole, perfect, and complete as we are? Would your belief system kick in and say, no way, man. Could you take that in a little bit?

Society tells us we’re supposed to belong, we’re supposed to carve ourselves up to fit into specific spaces and if we don’t, watch out. We are quickly ostracized and banished, sometimes by our own kin, our own peers.

When we’re young, we perceive the world and our place in it a certain way. We come to believe things about ourselves based on what we see. But you know what? As children, we were great observers, but terrible judges of truth.

I’ll show you. Watch …

When I was a child, I came to see my mother’s sadness as something I should fix because surely – like all children believe at a young age – as the center of the universe, her sadness was because of me. I wasn’t enough to make her happy.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m still in that “I’m not enough” brain space. I come up with all kinds of window dressings to enhance that single thought. There aren’t any counter thoughts. Worse, the two most repeated questions I ask myself are:

What’s wrong with you? and Can’t you do anything right?

My experiences are created out of that thought to reinforce it, and thus the cycle continues, until …

It dawns on me that various people and circumstances have come into my life to give me the opportunity to examine the belief that if I can just fix this situation or save this person, I’ll finally be enough, I’ll have finally made up for not being able to save my mother.

Truth: I can’t fix or save anyone or anything.

And in understanding this truth, I come to know that I am not broken and that I am enough as I am right now. I am whole, perfect, and complete as I am. When I acknowledge this truth, it frees me from all kinds of distractions and allows me to refocus on what is mine to do in this life.

This is just me. But I wonder how many people out there believe they are broken and if they can just find that one thing to fix or that one person to save or that book, workshop, or CD, they’ll feel better about themselves. We don’t need to be anyone’s hero to be whole. Better to consider that we need to recognize our wholeness first to be available to others.

We’re whole, you and me. Let’s change the world.

Have a blessed day. And so it is.


Shoot High

I’ve decided to dig up some old Facebook posts and collect them here, in my bloggish thing, so you can read and enjoy them anytime! This one comes from July 2018. Enjoy!

“It’s not that we shoot high and miss, it’s that we aim low and hit.”

I know many writers who believe they can never get published by big houses or the top paying magazine markets because of one reason (spelled excuse) or another. They’re not good enough, there aren’t enough markets, only the good writers get published there. So they settle, not for the second markets on the list or the third, but they start at the bottom.

We’ aren’t bottom feeders, so why do we convince ourselves only the lowest of the low will accept us, be it writing, art, relationships?

As I’ve said before, we need to lift ourselves up from bottom feeder thinking (yes, you can steal that) and allow a sense of worth to sink in. We’re better than that. We’re worth more than that.

Look, there are enough people out there to criticize, judge and put us down because reasons. Doing it to ourselves makes no sense. We may’ve heard people say you can’t or you shouldn’t or you’ll never, but is that how you want to live your life? Do you say, “I’d like to try … nah, I’ll never succeed”?

Here’s my answer to that: FTS or Fuck That Shit.

Stop wondering if what someone’s saying is a compliment or a put down. How does it make you feel? If it feels good, take it in. If it doesn’t, reject it out right. You know yourself. Be true to who you are, so when someone says something that bugs you, you can let it go and go on instead of taking it in and making it who you are.

You know the four agreements? Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions and always do your best.

Shoot high. What’s the worst that can happen? You get rejected? So you brush it off and keep going.

Look, it’s your life. I can’t change you. I can’t make you do anything. But if you’re not happy or you’re listening to what other people say as your truth, check in with yourself and see if that’s really where you want to be.

Until next time …


Peace, Gary . . .