· · Music
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5★♫: The Köln Concert
· What happened was, I was gonna make the traditional Sunday-morning pancakes and bacon and, as I do every other week or so, told the eight-year-old to turn the damn cartoons off already because I wanted music. I threw the ancient vinyl of The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett on the turntable and all these years later, I kept having to stop making pancakes because Keith had grabbed me where you have to listen when they grab you there ... [2 comments]
5★♫: Jeff Beck Rock ‘n’ Roll Party
· I saw the LP on the new-vinyl rack in a record store and was surprised, because I’ve been a pretty big Jeff Beck fan for quite a few years now, but I’d never heard of it. It turns out the Rock ‘n’ Roll Party is a collection of traditional pop chestnuts with a super hot band, not like a Jeff Beck record at all, and excellent. This is happy, happy music. But maybe the YouTube version is all you need. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [3 comments]
5★♫: Hard Again
· In the mid-Seventies, old Mississippi/Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters had record-label problems, but still an audience. Young Texas bluesman Johnny Winter had never been a pop star, but had one too. So Johnny producing and playing on an album by Muddy wasn’t really a long shot; and Hard Again came out great. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [2 comments]
· What happened was, I glanced at my browser and saw a random turn of phrase, The freedom to be who you want to be…, and thought “That reminds me of something”. It turns out that it reminds me of With You There To Help Me, a lovely song on the album Benefit, a 1970 offering by Jethro Tull. So I pulled out the vinyl and have listened to it three times in the last two weeks; it’s really just unreasonably good. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [15 comments]
5★♫: Jets Overhead
· Wow, it’s been 2½ years since I did a Five-Star Monday piece, and this is for a disc I just bought today, so it may well be too early as well as too late. Jets Overhead are from Victoria, BC, which is near me; what I think deserve the stars are the first two songs from their 2009 No Nations, I Should Be Born and Heading For Nowhere; brilliant pure-pop tunes and can they ever sing. Also there’s a geek angle. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [3 comments]
· I see they’ve dropped the price of the basic iPod Shuffle to $49. That’s the only iPod I have. It’s a remarkable device, with enough songs and enough juice to get you over the Pacific and back. You just have to remember to auto-fill and recharge before you go. The ergonomics are minimal and kind of perfect. Now, everybody knows that the best gift for anyone is one you make yourself. It seems to me that a pre-loaded Shuffle qualifies, at a reasonable price-point ... [6 comments]
5★♫: Mixed Up
· I’m not a fan of The Cure, particularly. I am not nor have I ever been a Goth, and I laugh cruelly at Emos given the opportunity. I think Robert Smith looks ridiculous. But Mixed Up, a 1990 set of remixes and retakes (I own none of the original versions), which was poorly reviewed and sank like a stone on the charts, well, it’s just outstandingly great music. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [11 comments]
5★♫: Arrau Plays Chopin
· Yet again, one dead guy playing another’s music (I promise a return to the living after this): The Nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), as recorded in 1977 and 1978 by Claudio Arrau (1903-1991). Each of the last three (this, Mozart/Brain, and Bach/Kremer) are fine music which has been recorded by many fine performers, but where I never bothered checking any other performances out after hearing the record in question. The Nocturnes have no raw edges, no starkness, but are ravishingly romantic and irresistibly pretty, while still being involving and deep. They’re nocturnal all right; two solid hours of sweet dark-brown ebb and flow, bedtime music for sure. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [4 comments]
· I used to visit music stores often. There are fewer now, but the ones that have made it this far may survive I think. The other day we were on Hastings to visit Sophia Books, and on impulse I went two doors down to Sekora’s Classical, and it’s probably been a year, and what a shame. I hadn’t intended to go shop but dropped $162 in about fifteen minutes ... [1 comment]
5★♫: Brain Plays Mozart
· Continuing the theme (from August, argh, maybe I don’t have a 5★ life) of music written by dead guys, and in this case also played by a dead guy. The dead composer is Mozart, the performer Dennis Brain. I refer to Brain’s 1955 recording of the Mozart horn concertos with the assistance of Von Karajan and the Philharmonia Orchestra. You already know this music. You may not think so, but trust me, as soon as it starts playing you’ll think “Oh, yes”. I’m not sure whether it’s everyone actually having heard it, or whether Mozart tapped into something so smooth, polished, and elemental as to convince us that we’re on familiar and well-loved territory. Nobody could call this obscure, it’s sold a kazillion copies; but perhaps not in recent decades. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [2 comments]
Tab Sweep — The World
· Tonight we have the great Audio Conflict of Interest, eBay Pain, Iranian politics, Chinese macroeconomics, new Israel/Palestine horror, men vs. women, and the big debt problem. Unifying themes are for weaklings; the world’s not like that ... [4 comments]
· On the one hand, there’s Elvis’ 1956 version, with the small band and lots of screaming. On the other hand, there’s this 1990 version with neither Elvis nor screaming, but with John Cale, Shawn Colvin, and Richard Thompson. You pays your money and you takes your choice. Well actually, it’s all free, of course. What a wonderful world. [2 comments]
5★♫: Kremer Plays Bach
· I’ve been fishing in Twentieth-century five-★ waters of late, so let’s cast our eyes back on music written by dead guys. There have been a few classical works that I’ve heard one artist play, then never bothered to take the time to listen to anyone else’s take. For example, Gidon Kremer’s 1980 recording of the Violin Sonatas and Partitas by J.S. Bach. This might be a tough sell: two hours of music containing no notes much below middle C, and no more than two notes ever played at the same time. And Kremer is all about Truth not Beauty, which is to say he doesn’t sugar-coat Bach’s rough edges. But I think that truth is beauty, and I think that this music has so much of both that you really ought to sit down sometime and listen to all of it. Well, and it sounds good. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [7 comments]
5★♫: Cinquième Saison
· This one is kind of obscure, but worth hunting down; the full title is Si on avait besoin d’une cinquième saison, recorded by Harmonium in 1975, who were a Big Deal in Québec back then. I’m sure it would appear in my personal top-ten-of-all-time list, computed by how many times I’ve listened; mind you, that’s with 32 years of accumulation. But I still put it on, and I’ve never played it for anyone who didn’t like it. It’s mellow, sweeping, and full of beautiful melodies, beautifully performed, that you’ll find yourself humming while you walk down the street. (“5★♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [7 comments]
· Suppose you’ve just rolled into the office and the coffee isn’t quite doing it and you need a little pick-me-up. Well, just saunter over to YouTube and listen to one or two of the many live cuts of the Raconteurs’ Blue Veins. I’ve only taken in a couple, but on the evidence most of ’em will set your blood sizzlin’· ... [5 comments]
5✭♫: The Texas Campfire Tapes
· Just like the title says, this was recorded by a campfire in Texas in 1986 (on a pre-digital Sony Walkman). Voice and guitar and brilliant music bursting out in all directions by Michelle Shocked, one of my personal musical heroes. But there’s some controversy about which version to get. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [7 comments]
5✭♫: Coltrane and Hartman
· That’s short for John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, recorded in one session—most songs in one take—on March 7, 1963. It sold a zillion copies back then, and was infamously nominated as the Greatest Recording Of All Time by some rock&roll-hating snob in a glossy mag in I think the early Eighties; but that was then, and I’m betting that a lot of people who’d really like it have never heard of it. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [10 comments]
· The boy had a few morning minutes free before we had to leave for school and so “Daddy, can I listen to your iPod?” I told him to go ahead, and then when we were heading out the door he was singing; he can carry a tune well and I knew it but couldn’t make out the song. I asked him to sing a little louder: Perverts in the sun... perving everyone... Oops. It turns out that the Shuffle had shuffled in some of Iggy Pop’s Skull Ring. I suggested that maybe he not sing that one at school, and realized that if the iPod is a family resource, I’m going to have to be a little careful. Why’d Ya Do It?, for example, is right out. [7 comments]
· You know, I don’t often post here saying “check out this YouTube clip”, but today I’ve got two, both featuring Dick Dale. The first one I saw was this interview, where Dick offers advice based on bitter experience that illustrates, were that needed, how dysfunctional the music business is. Then serendipity led me to this 1963 video of Dick playing Misirlou. Because, you know, there are many different genres of music stretching back over the decades and centuries, but it seems obvious to me that anyone with taste and intelligence would have to acknowledge that the surf-guitar-instrumental stands head and shoulders above all the rest as the pinnacle of human musical achievement. [4 comments]
5✭♫: The Hot Spot
· Dennis Hopper directed The Hot Spot in 1990, and I’ve never seen it. He hired Jack Nitzsche to write the music, and they got Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, and some other really good musicians to play on it. It’s the only record I know of in which Miles Davis plays straight blues solos in front of a straight electric blues band, and while there’s some other good stuff too, that would be enough for me. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [2 comments]
Wobble and Laswell: Radioaxiom
· What happened was, I was thinking of listening to something by Jah Wobble, long one of my musical heroes, and the W’s are down at the bottom right of the thousands of CDs so you have to bend and stretch to see them, and lo and behold, what do I come across but Radioaxiom by Mr W and Bill Laswell, which I not only don’t recall buying but totally can’t even remember ever having heard of. I’ve listened to it three nights in a row now ... [3 comments]
5✭♫: Misa Criolla
· Ariel Ramírez is an Argentinean composer born in 1921; Misa Criolla, a 1964 mass for tenor, mixed chorus, percussion, keyboard and (especially) Andean folk instruments. It appears on several disks; I’m going to recommend two featuring José Carreras and Mercedes Sosa. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [2 comments]
· Suppose it’s really late and you have a little baby who’s cranky (maybe sick) and can’t or won’t sleep and you’ve tried all the usual tricks and they’re not working. Here’s my ultimate weapon, and while the sample size is only my two children, it does span genders ... [3 comments]
· What happened was, I got a note from my friend Adam “Vudu” (MySpace) about his new CD echo :: dubstyle. I have a soft spot for dub and liked the samples, so I hit the “Buy” button. The record is good, a huge bargain at $12.97, go get it. But the buying experience was out of the ordinary ... [8 comments]
· The Times writes about the music labels toying with the idea of selling products without poison oops I meant DRM. Chris Anderson takes it further, arguing that the economics of music favor performance over recording. (I’m not sure about that, I still think selling recordings is a good business). Andrew Orlowski over at the Reg has a lengthy and instructive interview with music management maven Keith Harris covering related territory. But the future is already here ... [7 comments]
Byrne on Music
· Almost everything David Byrne writes is interesting, but when the subject is music and you’re someone who cares about it, you really want to read it. While he falls for the “an LP has more information than a CD” canard, and that in an essay where he has earlier considered the effects of CD’s vastly-superior handling of the high and low ends of the frequency range, it doesn’t really weaken the force of his argument. Many will probably be too young to spot that his title Crappy Sound Forever! is a reference to the initial 1983 CD marketing pitch “Perfect sound forever”. This pitch was widely derided by audiophiles, who justly criticized the bleed-from-the-ears effect resulting from playing quite a few of the early CDs on quite a few of the early players. Byrne speculates about the kind of music that might start to be written under the influence of the ubiquitous MP3 players’ private listening experience, and says he doesn’t know of any examples. My own private-listening-experience music includes pretty well every kind of music imaginable, so the new medium doesn’t seem to rule anything out. Having said that, Lola Dutronic (@ MySpace) has been in heavy rotation on my iPod and matches Byrne’s criteria well. Mind you, it also sounds great on the home stereo and in the car. [5 comments]
3✭♫: An Other Cup
· This is a recent release by Yusuf, born Steven Demetre Georgiou, known in a previous life as Cat Stevens, and whose legal name is Yusuf Islam. It has very beautiful sound and some fine singing, but only a few of the tunes are keepers. There are religious issues. (I’ve been running a “5✭♫” series, introduction here, with an explanation of why the title may look broken; I’m borrowing the format for this piece.) ... [8 comments]
5✭♫: Rough Mix
· This is a 1977 album by Pete Townshend of the Who and the late Ronnie Lane of the Faces. It’s a rarity in that most of it, while unquestionably rock music, is also gentle. Of its eleven songs, eight or nine are extremely beautiful, the singing is tuneful and heartfelt, the playing (lots of stars sitting in) is great, even the lyrics will grab you. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [3 comments]
Samsung, Ringtones, Fair Use
· My cellphone expired, so I was poking around here and there on the net looking for something unlocked in a GSM flavor; but one of my key criteria is big buttons that I can see without my reading-glasses, and the Web just doesn’t help you there. I ended up at a local grey-market emporium where a friendly Russian sold me a Samsung SGH-D600; it definitely meets the no-reading-glasses criterion and seems like a pretty nice phone. This cute little slidey black goober lets you use any old MP3 as a ringtone. Given that most of us have tons o’ music on our computers, and it’s pretty easy to slice out a sub-ten-second clip and Bluetooth it over to the phone, I guess the ring-tones business is dead. It seems obvious to me that using music I’ve already paid for in this way is Fair Use, but I bet there’s a lawyer somewhere who’d disagree for a fee. So I sat up late one evening cackling fiendishly over the audio software, and my ringtones are: Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme (the classic Ray Anthony version of course), the opening sequences of Burning Spear’s Slavery Days and Deep Purple’s Highway Star (off Made in Japan), and the closing seconds of Runaway Horses from Phil Glass’ wonderful Mishima soundtrack. Now, whenever the phone rings, I smile. [2 comments]
5✭♫: Brahms’ First & Haydn Variations
· If I were asked to pick my favorite symphony, well, I couldn’t. If I were backed into a corner and really pressured, I still couldn’t. But if it were a matter of life and death and I were making short lists, Symphony No. 1 by Brahms would be on all of them. Some have argued that the First isn’t really his first symphonic work; that would be Variations on a Theme of Haydn. Which, if granted, might not change my answer. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ... [7 comments]
5✭♫: Patti’s Gloria
· Patti Smith is an interesting person and a fine musician, always worth listening to; I particularly enjoy her recent recordings. And in her youth, she recorded Gloria by Van Morrison; it’s a contender for the best single-song rock performance ever. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
· In the wake of the passing of Syd Barrett, Roberto Chinnici pointed out that you can see a compendium of Barrett video at YouTube, and I spent the best part of an hour watching some. Ah, YouTube, feels like the Napster glory days; beyond any doubt a life-enhancer. Colby Cosh has innocent fun searching it by date. And, like Napster, it feels doomed. Pumping video around the Net isn’t cheap for anyone, and I just don’t see how it gets paid for. For more Internet video negativity, see Mark Cuban. And speaking of magnificent silliness.... Syd. Bye, Syd. He never made it out of the Sixties and I had a few friends not make it out of the Seventies, you can burn the candle at both ends and in the middle too, but not for that long. I looked into the record collection and didn’t find anything with Barrett on it, so last night I listened to Atom Heart Mother, which is not far off. It’s hard to know what to think of PF these days. Their later work is far too much on the radio; suddenly about the time of the execrable The Wall, the world flipped and they were a symptom of everything wrong with Rock; Johnny Rotten was picked out of his London gutter wearing an “I Hate Pink Floyd” T-shirt. Still, I’m quite sure that the music will remain loved by many long after we’re all dead; but I bet most of them will never have heard of Syd.
5✭♫: Tabula Rasa
· This is the title of an album of music by Arvo Pärt, and of a composition on that album. I have a lot of music by Pärt, but if I had to recommend one record, or one piece, both would be Tabula Rasa. It’s complex, deep, and austere; and contains some of the most beautiful sounds ever recorded. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Israelites and More
· Desmond Dekker just died; I had to do a quick rip on his Greatest Hits so he’d qualify for the 5-✭ treatment. A lot of people under 45, and a lot of Americans of all ages, won’t know about Desmond, and you’re missing some pretty good music. You might only have heard Israelites and that’s an outstanding song, but there are lots more, and a greatest-hits disc is a no-brainer investment. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Wrecking Ball
· The last 5-✭ song, Dylan’s One More Cup of Coffee, got there in large part due to harmonies from Emmylou Harris. Emmylou’s never really been a Big Star I think, which is unfair; she’s sung more beautiful songs beautifully than almost anyone. Wrecking Ball, her 1995 outing with Kanadian Karmick Konsultant and overproducer Daniel Lanois and featuring lotsa Big Stars, is perhaps not absolutely her finest work; but it’s what I have on my computer and it’s very good. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: One More Cup of Coffee
· I’m not really a Bob Dylan fan. A voice like that, and a tunesmithing talent like that, come along only a few times per century, but he’s still kind of irritating. That aside, the song One More Cup of Coffee, from the 1976 album Desire, can’t be ignored; wonderful tune, wonderful orchestration, wonderful performance. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Take Five
· You’ve all heard this, it’s the biggest hit Dave Brubeck’s band ever had, only Dave didn’t write it nor does he play a solo. The tune’s cool enough, you’ll hear it and think “Oh, I know that” but actually you probably don’t, it’s an altogether astounding performance and rewards lots of close listening. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Rock n Roll Animal
· The last five-star piece, from two weeks ago, was about the Cowboy Junkies. They covered Sweet Jane on their excellent The Trinity Sessions album, and Lou Reed was quoted as saying that their version was definitive. He’s wrong; his own take on this 1974 live set is at another level entirely. So is much of the record. If you had to name the greatest live rock record of all time, well you couldn’t, but if you had to name the top five, this would be one: it shows how hard rock ought to be played. There are some problems: it’s kind of bombastic in places, and it does glamorize the use of addictive narcotics; but let’s not be picky. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
· Early this year, I reconfigured the video setup, among other things adding a little Velodyne “MiniVee” subwoofer that worked really well, but made me think that perhaps the big Serious Music system could benefit from subwoofer love. So I added a Totem Thunder; herewith an unashamedly sicko-audiophile (but quantitative, with measurements) fragment that obsesses about music in general and Really Low Frequencies in particular; with a side-trip to a church in Paris. I’ll provide some introductory material in hopes of maybe luring innocent readers into this obsessive and expensive hobby ...
5✭♫: Pale Sun, Crescent Moon
· Three tracks from this 1993 album by the Cowboy Junkies earned five stars, pretty good for pop music. Plus there’s one from The Trinity Sessions, but let’s leave that for later. There are a lot of Cowboy Junkies albums, and they’re all good as far as I know; I find myself ashamed that I haven’t bought any for a decade or so, so I’ll fix that Real Soon Now. Read on for an appreciation of good songs, good singing, good playing, and good words. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Plutonian Nights
· This is a track by Sun Ra from his album The Lady With The Golden Stockings, recorded around 1958 and released in 1966. Sun Ra, full legal name “Le Sony’r Ra”, born Herman Blount, said a lot of crazy stuff and played some crazy music, some of which I like. But this isn’t crazy, it’s 4:22 of low-voiced cool funk perfection. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Come On-A My House
· This song was made famous by Rosemary Clooney, but the version I’m writing of here is by Julie London, who recorded 32 albums but is no longer a household name. Julie’s version of Come On-A My House is just the thing for Valentine’s-Day week: Come on-a my house (my house), I’m gonna give you candy... Pure, pure sex. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
5✭♫: Burning Farm
· Shonen Knife formed in Osaka in the early Eighties and, a decade later, suddenly had a North American audience; it helped that they opened for Nirvana on a 1993 tour. Burning Farm was the title of their first record but also of a song; the version I have is off of 1993’s Let’s Knife, probably the group’s essential album. It has a lot of good songs with great melodies, superb light-hearted vocals, high-energy performances, punk guitar, and amiable Japanese looniness; but Burning Farm stands out. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
· The mornings when I take the kid to school I see them standing in the schoolyard, sharing two between four or three between five. It’s a primary school, which around here means K-7, and I’m talking about the Grade 7 girls and their iPods. Two can share a listen, an earbud for each and two ears left open for talk, but mostly they don’t, they just listen, maybe bopping a little but mostly not. I wonder what they’re listening to? I’m seeing more of them now in the new year than I did back at the start of school, I wonder if the iPod-per-girl density reached a tipping point at Christmas. [Update: What they’re listening to.] ...
5✭♫: Any Time
· Leon Redbone is alive and performing, but he’s not actually a contemporary artist; he performs sentimental and jazz songs from the first half of the 20th century, with acoustic accompaniment and period arrangements. Which doesn’t sound very compelling; except for, Redbone picks terrific tunes and sings them beautifully. The song in question is the title track from his 2001 album Any Time, and it might just be the single best vocal performance of our young century. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) [Update: Samples at the iTunes UK store.] ...
5 ✭ ♫ Mondays
· The idea came from JWZ in late 2005: why not rate all the music in your jukebox? If your jukebox is iTunes, you create an “unrated” smart-playlist containing all the tunes with no stars, then you set up the Party Shuffle to draw from it, then you rate them as they go by except when you’re not listening, and after a few months, you have them all rated. I haven’t got them all rated, but I have quite a few labeled ✭✭✭✭✭, which means “a tune that in some way gives me as much pleasure as music can.” I care a lot about (and am reasonably literate about) music, so I decided I to share some of this five-star stuff with the world. I’ll try to post something most Mondays. [Does the title look broken? Here’s why (Updated 2006/01/30).] ...
5✭♫: BWV 131
· I think I should start with J.S. Bach, since we have a special relationship. BWV 131 is one of his cantatas, based on Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir (from Psalm 130), composed in 1707, and if you buy it you’ll like it. (“5✭♫” series introduction here; with an explanation of why the title may look broken.) ...
· Hey, good on the Stones for posting the tracks from A Bigger Bang. There were some quality-control problems getting them to play on my Mac yesterday, but they’re working now. Yeah, I could steal ’em, and some people will, but the Stones no longer play for a “What can a poor boy do?” demographic, they play for people who can buy the songs they like. The last Stones record I bought was whatever Miss You was on, damn I loved that song, that’s a decade or three back. I might pick this one up because I like their Internet Marketing Mojo, but ya know, there are some decent-or-better tunes here. I particularly like Back Of My Hand, straight blues, and This Place is Empty, a sentimental piano ballad with Keith on vocals. Dangerous Beauty is a pretty good rocker. Don’t think I’ll go see the show though, because I don’t want to pollute the golden-glow memory of singing Happy Birthday for Keith Richards a few years back.
Sock Hop Arousal
· In recent weeks, I’ve had some successes at discovering good new music on the radio, which isn’t what it once was but is still not beyond hope. Here’s one: the other night, listening to CBC Radio3 sometime past midnight on CBC-FM, I really liked a cut off Bonobo-a-Go-Go by Sock Hop Arousal (they have a way with words if nothing else), and then the guy came on the radio and said “You can buy that at Bullfrog Music” and right then and there, sitting in my chair, I did, it was C$8.49 and with shipping was still only $12 or so. The most obvious influence, like the Web site says, is Bristol trip hop, only with guitars. The music, to my ear, has a heart, a centre; a rare enough thing these days, or in any days. Money well spent.
Tiki Torches at Twilight?
· I’m on vacation in Maui next week (Feb. 7-13). In the unlikely event that any other sunburnt geeks will be on the island, get in touch and let’s do a social under the palms. Oh, the torches? Just an excuse to recommend a truly superb recording ...
· She is a musician but unusual both in her musical and business approaches, and I think you might enjoy her ...
· A pointer to something called emusic showed up in a Google ad on the front page at ongoing with a teaser that mentioned some interesting music, so I checked it out, it wasn’t really turning my crank until I ran across Lew’s Cool Before You Were; he’s funny and he recommends some seriously interesting-looking music.
Afro Celt Sound System
· One of the nicest ways to find out about good new music is to hear it while you’re shopping in the record store. I picked up this one that afternoon in San Fran because they were playing it real loud in the Virgin store and I knew I had to have it. This recording by Afro Celt is called POD (Real World 7243 597526 0 0) and it’s a collection of remixes. Occasionally they stumble into world-music clichés, and a couple of the tracks are just sonic wallpaper; but very pretty wallpaper. The flavor is more Afro than Celt and occasionally the pipes or penny whistle or whatever don’t quite make it with the djembes, but usually they do, and the sound is generally glorious. Plus it came with a DVD of the band performing, and they seem like some damn hot stuff, I’ll go see ’em if I get a chance.
· I’ve been lucky in my music shopping in recent months and ended up with a stack of excellent recordings I’ve been meaning to write up. Let’s start with this one (Warner Classics 2564 60190-2) subtitled Music for strings, featuring the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under three different conductors. Some of the music works a little better than others: Tippet’s Fantasia concertante is a bit of a yawner, but the two chunks of Purcell, arranged by Britten and Stokowski, are both magic, as is Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis and the William Walton pieces from the Henry V movie soundtrack. Rather English in theme, you observe? Well, there’s a non-Englishman, Arvo Pärt—represented by Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten—well, OK, it’s really English. The music is good, and the sound, well the sound is magical; recorded live (and minimally I’d guess) in a London church, it flows out of the speakers like silken tsunami, even the less thrilling numbers caress the ears.
· Herewith a couple of notes on recordings and performances by two famous cellists, Du Pré and Ma, living and dead ...
Goodies From the Family
· I had a birthday a few days ago and the family was real good to me. A genuinely funny e-card from my mother-in-law (pretty good), an obscure DVD from the kid (quite good), and from my Mom, Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Coming, highly literate doomsaying but, dig this, it came from Amazon. My Mom uses Amazon, is that cool or what? Then Lauren gave me a beautiful bird picture and—best of all—a pair of Shure 3C’s, the ultramodern way-in-your-ear headphones. This motivated me to go rip a couple of CDs with the new Apple lossless encoding; first to hand were Steve Earle’s Train a Comin’ and the k.d.lang/Tony Bennett Wonderful World collaboration. I’m writing this at 33,000 feet on the Airbus from Vancouver to San Fran, and I hear no airplane, just Steve and the band; raspy heartfelt harmony and sweet swinging strings, so tight they’re loose. (To everyone: Lossy compression of music is vandalism, i.e. MP3 is so over.) And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.
Legal Downloads, Eh?
· It’s all over the news that a Canadian judge has ruled that posting copyrighted works on a P2P network is not against the law. (I have no idea how long-lived that URI will be, Canadian newspapers are not very careful about their web-space). I wonder if the ruling extends to the Web? I would just totally love if it I could post the occasional excellent piece of music here, and I bet it would drive business to the artists and their published works; and I’d love it if some of the other people whom I’ve gotten close to via their writing were able to share some of their faves with me, too. Go, Judge Finckenstein!
Young Cave Pop Strummer Stripes
· That would be Neil, Nick, Iggy, Joe, and White, get it? What happened was, I was downtown to meet Roland Tanglao (Vancouverites see also VanEats) and had a few minutes to kill and this big music store jumped out in front of me, and I ended up buying five recordings at least four of which are worth shouting about musically and then there are some other points of interest, like those music-biz guys aren’t fibbing when they say they’re in trouble, you can smell it ...
· A couple of months ago, I got a plain brown envelope at the office. It contained a CD by something called Buck 65 along with a poorly-photocopied promo blurb from Warner Brothers. It got lost in the papers in a corner of the desk but just fell out so I stuck it in the Mac. Herewith a shameless attempt to become part of the music marketing food-chain, and the stuff isn’t bad either ...
· After dinner Friday the kid wanted to do a jigsaw puzzle and I thought that we might as well have a musical backdrop for our quality time. I felt in a rock & roll mode and my hand fell on the White Album. Eventually Revolution #9 came along, and all these decades later, you know, it holds up pretty well. Anyhow, the kid with furrowed brow was trying to figure out which way a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine would fit, and I was making helpful suggestions when I noticed that in his little munchkin voice he was intoning “Number nine... Number nine... Number nine...” Now that’s Quality Time.
· Dub the Rock by Israel Vibration has been in heavy rotation in the car CD player in recent weeks. Dub as deep as the ocean and sweet as chocolate, ghosts of song structure and aetherial instrumentals floating over the vasty depths ...
· What happened was, I went to Black Dog, our local (very good) video joint, for a Saturday-night flick for a tired family, and picked up Princess Mononoke, we having recently become Miyazaki fans (it’s good, but not up there with Chihiro). As I was walking out of Black Dog the new Led Zeppelin DVD jumped out in front of me. Lauren gave me an understanding look after Mononoke ran down and shuffled off to bed, so I Zepped out till late. Herewith some notes on the DVD and band, for which the audience will self-select, a high proportion shuffling off like Lauren to more worthy diversions ...
Giving Back Timbuktu
· Heh, a minor milestone; for the first time, I put something back into CDDB. Which makes me think that I should take a moment to plug the disk Talking Timbuktu, by Ali Farka Toure (from Mali) and Ry Cooder. CDDB is magic, so is the record, read all about it ...
Riffs Für Gitarre
· My old phone kicked the bucket and I got a new one; it turns out you can laboriously program in your own ring-tones. So I went looking for some candidates and, well, I don't know why this picture is funny, but I think it's funny ...
Death by Music
· “Music to Die For” is a not-uncommon expression but it makes me nervous since I'm among the people most likely to be a music fatality. This would happen when I'm driving and something comes on the radio that I haven't heard before that's so beautiful that it sucks up all my mental capacity. What's really sad is that I could easily take some innocents along with me, and they might hate music, which would be terribly unjust. It happened again this morning, but I survived and can tell you about an outstanding recording you've probably never heard of ...
Rock & Roll Radio(head)
· I was driving around today listening to the local modern-rock station (104.9 XFM, but their website won't work on Mac browsers, bah), and I had a real teenage moment. The DJ had got his hands on a bootleg of Radiohead's Hail to the Thief, to be released June 9, and was playing the tracks as fast as he could one after another, saying he'd been told there was an incoming cease-and-desist. Radio normally isn't like this any more, what a pity ...
· This morning listening to one of the Big Musical Finds of recent years, a recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations by a string orchestra led by, and playing an arrangement by, Dmitry Sitkovetsky. The recording is EMI 79341-2, and Sitkovetsky is a Russian violinist of whom I really know nothing beyond this recording and arrangement. It's an astounding, beautiful, fiery performance. The variations were written for keyboard (the story goes, for Goldberg, personal musician to a Polish aristrocrat, to play to lull his employer to sleep; don't know if this is true) but after you listen to this it seems obvious that Bach must have had a string orchestra in his mind ...
By Tim Bray.
The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.