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Why Politicians Keep Using Songs Without Artists’ Permission

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Music Monday continues with the never-ending struggle of Republicans to drape themselves with the coolness of liberal-leaning rock musicians, and failing to secure permission first…

Don't Say I Never Warned You
Don’t Say I Never Warned You

Technically speaking, copyright laws allow political candidates to use just about any song they want, as long as they’re played at a stadium, arena or other venue that already has a public-performance license through a songwriters’ association such as ASCAP or BMI. However, the law contains plenty of gray area. If a candidate refuses to stop using a song in this scenario, an artist may be able to protect his “right of publicity” – Springsteen’s voice blaring over a loudspeaker is part of his image, and he has a right to protect his own image. “It’s untested in the political realm,” says Lawrence Iser, an intellectual-property lawyer who has represented the Beatles, Michael Jackson and many others. “Even if Donald Trump has the ASCAP right to use a Neil Young song, does Neil have the right to nevertheless go after him on right of publicity? I say he does.”

Iser represented David Byrne when the ex-Talking Head successfully sued Florida Republican Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in a video to attack opponent Marco Rubio during a 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. He also helped Jackson Browne win a suit against John McCain in 2008 when the Republican presidential candidate played “Running on Empty” in an ad bashing Barack Obama on gas conservation.

(click here to continue reading Why Politicians Keep Using Songs Without Artists’ Permission | Rolling Stone.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2016 at 8:54 am

Brian Eno releases ‘The Ship’

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Even though the music review is a dying art-form, the magic words, “Brian Eno” are usually enough for me to purchase an album…

Turn It To Ten
Turn It To Ten…

Greg Kot writes:

Brian Eno is perhaps best known as producer to the stars (U2, Coldplay, David Bowie, Talking Heads). But as estimable as some of that work has been, quintessential Eno can be found on a long string of less widely celebrated solo and collaborative records dating to the ’70s.

Since playing mad scientist to Bryan Ferry’s brooding night-crawler on the first two Roxy Music albums (still the peak moments in that band’s career), he has gone on to create small masterworks of skewed pop, ambient music and experimental electronica. He’s been especially prolific lately, and “The Ship” (Warp) continues his recent run of creativity, an album that has few direct antecedents in his vast discography and arrives as a late-career landmark.

In his typically thought-provoking liner notes, Eno presents the album as something of a soundtrack to two catastrophic events a century ago: the sinking of the Titanic and World War I. “Humankind seems to teeter between hubris and paranoia,” Eno writes, and “The Ship” captures that anxiety in two extended pieces.

The 21-minute title track is a theater of the mind: sonar blips, harbor bells and human voices weave in and out of a luminous soundscape that evokes an orchestra. Though comparisons might be made to Eno’s placid ambient works, the gently lulling layers of synthesizers give way to something more unstable. Eno uses his voice like another instrument. An excellent if underrated singer, he evokes the rumbling low end of Tuvan throat singers and the droning harmonies of medieval monks. As the mighty “unsinkable” ship goes under, words emerge with greater difficulty, as if the shivering, awe-struck narrator were slipping beneath “wave after wave after wave after wave …”

(click here to continue reading Brian Eno brings another wave of innovation with ‘The Ship’ – Chicago Tribune.)

Sounds good enough for me…

How is Brian Eno still finding uncharted waters after half a century spent making music? On The Ship, his first solo album in four years, Eno fuses his signature yawning soundscapes and substantive vocal work for the first time. The result is an album that occupies a space somewhere in between the ambient realm Eno helped to define and traditional songcraft. Its two major pieces meander, unmoored from rhythm and narrative, but they also demand your attention.

Of course, it’s not like Eno just holed up in his breakfast nook and jotted down the lyrics making up The Ship in a spare notepad — that’d be a little too simple. Instead, he fed dozens and dozens of texts into a Markov chain generator written by his frequent collaborator Peter Chilvers, many of them orbiting around a few key topics: soldiers’ songs from the First World War, accounts from the sinking of the Titanic, disclaimers inserted at the bottom of emails. The interesting phrases he salvaged from the resulting mess ended up on The Ship, brought to life by Eno’s sonorous voice.

(click here to continue reading Brian Eno’s The Ship, and the family tree of ambient music | The Verge.)

Velvet Lounge
Velvet Lounge

plus a cover of one of my favorite Lou Reed / Velvet Underground songs – the one with a great, echoey unusual guitar solo1

For the sound installation, Mr. Eno assembled the speakers into “columns which look like gravestones from some culture that you haven’t quite heard of yet,” he said. “A mausoleum of some kind or a cemetery, because the music is very morbid.”

The music of “The Ship” is tolling and elegiac, while “Fickle Sun,” with lyrics about the “dismal work” of a soldier’s life, is in constant metamorphosis. Electronic sounds melt into orchestral upheavals and guitar distortion; voices, natural and synthetic, loom from all directions. It’s a rare Eno piece that revolves around contrast rather than homogeneity: “I liked the fact that things happened which you weren’t expecting, and they jutted out at you,” he said.

The piece ends unresolved, followed by an actor’s reciting a poem generated by a computer program over sparse piano notes and, as a soft landing, Mr. Eno’s tranquil, richly harmonized remake of “I’m Set Free,” the Velvet Underground song with a sweetly barbed chorus: “I’m set free to find another illusion.”

Time and mortality haunt “The Ship.” In recent years Mr. Eno has lost friends like Mr. Bowie as well as colleagues and family members. His father-in-law — “a very happy man, a very good man” — who worked as a doctor for the World Health Organization, once said something that stuck with him: “All men die in disappointment.”

(click here to continue reading Brian Eno: Ambient Sounds, but Political, Too – The New York Times.)

Brian Eno discusses that song:

The first time I ever heard [The Velvet Underground] was on a John Peel radio show… it was when their first album came out and I thought “This I like! This I want to know about!”. I was having a huge crisis at the time. Am I going to be a painter or am I somehow going to get into music. And I couldn’t play anything so music was the less obvious choice. Then, when I heard The Velvet Underground I thought, “you can do both actually”. It was a big moment for me.

That particular song always resonated with me but it took about 25 years before I thought about the lyrics. “I’m set free, to find a new illusion”. Wow. That’s saying we don’t go from an illusion to reality (the western idea of “Finding The Truth”) but rather we go from one workable solution to another more workable solution.

Subsequently I think we aren’t able and actually don’t particularly care about the truth, whatever that might be. What we care about is having intellectual tools and inventions that work. [Yuval Noah Harari in his book “Sapiens”] discusses that what makes large-scale human societies capable of cohering and co-operating is the stories they share together. Democracy is a story, religion is a story, money is a story. This chimed well with “I’m set free to find a new illusion”. It seems to me what we don’t need now is people that come out waving their hands and claiming they know the Right Way.

(click here to continue reading Brian Eno Covers the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”: Listen | Pitchfork.)

Twenty Seconds on Willow
Twenty Seconds on Willow

finally:

You’ve always pushed the boundaries of technology and recording techniques. Did you use any new methods on this album? I’ve been working with Markov chain generators (( from Wikipedia; Markov chain (discrete-time Markov chain or DTMC[1]), named after Andrey Markov, is a random process that undergoes transitions from one state to another on a state space. It must possess a property that is usually characterized as “memorylessness”: the probability distribution of the next state depends only on the current state and not on the sequence of events that preceded it. This specific kind of “memorylessness” is called the Markov property. Markov chains have many applications as statistical models of real-world processes)) which are statistical randomizers. I was using them to generate text and, in some cases, music as well. Like all varieties of randomizers, what matters crucially is A) what you put in the front end and B) how much you select what comes out of the backend. It’s not magic — they’re tools.

The story that is read by Peter Serafinowicz on “Fickle Sun (ii) The Hour Is Thin” is generated by a Markov chain generator. What I put into the system in the beginning was some dirty songs by First World War soldiers — they used to take old songs and would put their own words to them which were often totally pornographic. I had some of the warnings and terms of conditions that appear at the bottom of emails, where they say “If you have received this email in error…” I like that kind of technical language. Then I had accounts written from the lifeboats by people watching the Titanic sinking. And also part of a book about the blitz over London.

All of that stuff went in and then the statistical generator reconfigures it. It might be mixing a bit from a bawdy song with a very serious account of weather conditions over London in 1941. It churns out tons of stuff. The trick is to go through it and find the bits that surprise you.

(click here to continue reading Brian Eno’s The Ship: Producer and artist interview | EW.com.)

Markov chains are employed in algorithmic music composition, particularly in software such as CSound, Max and SuperCollider. In a first-order chain, the states of the system become note or pitch values, and a probability vector for each note is constructed, completing a transition probability matrix (see below). An algorithm is constructed to produce output note values based on the transition matrix weightings, which could be MIDI note values, frequency (Hz), or any other desirable metric.[33]

1st-order matrix Note A C♯ E♭ A 0.1 0.6 0.3 C♯ 0.25 0.05 0.7 E♭ 0.7 0.3 0 2nd-order matrix Notes A D G AA 0.18 0.6 0.22 AD 0.5 0.5 0 AG 0.15 0.75 0.1 DD 0 0 1 DA 0.25 0 0.75 DG 0.9 0.1 0 GG 0.4 0.4 0.2 GA 0.5 0.25 0.25 GD 1 0 0 A second-order Markov chain can be introduced by considering the current state and also the previous state, as indicated in the second table. Higher, nth-order chains tend to “group” particular notes together, while ‘breaking off’ into other patterns and sequences occasionally. These higher-order chains tend to generate results with a sense of phrasal structure, rather than the ‘aimless wandering’ produced by a first-order system.[34]

Markov chains can be used structurally, as in Xenakis’s Analogique A and B.[35] Markov chains are also used in systems which use a Markov model to react interactively to music input.[36]

Usually musical systems need to enforce specific control constraints on the finite-length sequences they generate, but control constraints are not compatible with Markov models, since they induce long-range dependencies that violate the Markov hypothesis of limited memory. In order to overcome this limitation, a new approach has been proposed.[37]

(click here to continue reading Markov chain – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Footnotes:
  1. at least on the originally released version – there are alternates, “closet mix”, “mono mix”, live, etc. – though my favorite is the originally released version []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2016 at 8:34 am

Speaker Maker Bowers & Wilkins Sells Out to a Tiny Silicon Valley Startup

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Quickly, one last entry into today’s tech file:

Bowers & Wilkins

Joe Atkins, chief executive officer of Bowers & Wilkins, has owned a majority stake in the half-century-old British speaker business for the last 30 years. On Tuesday, he plans to tell his 1,100 employees that he’s selling it to a tiny company that almost no one has heard of, run by a man he met just 30 days ago. Over the weekend, Atkins reached a sale agreement with Eva Automation, a 40-person Silicon Valley startup that hasn’t yet sold a single product or service. The company was started in 2014 by Gideon Yu, a former Facebook Inc. chief financial officer, ex-venture capitalist, and current co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers. Yu has said little about his startup. According to the company’s website, it is “making products that will change how people interact and think about the home.” About a quarter of its employees have worked at Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Bowers & Wilkins became a household name before speaker companies had to distinguish themselves through Spotify integrations and voice recognition capability. While Bowers & Wilkins does sell speakers designed to accommodate people used to listening to music through their smartphones, Atkins acknowledges that his company lacks the expertise needed to build software that communicates with cloud services. Any company that wants to sell speakers at a significant premium would need to integrate high-end hardware with sophisticated software. Yu plans to begin selling new products that incorporate Eva’s work by early to mid-2017.

(click here to continue reading Speaker Maker Bowers & Wilkins Sells Out to a Tiny Silicon Valley Startup – Bloomberg.)

I have owned three different Bowers & Wilkins headphones: they all still have great sound. I hope these new owners don’t gut the company of what made it great and run it into the ground.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Music Monday – Part One – Radio Radio

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This sucky blog has been a bit moribund recently due to my lack of engagement with the outside world. No strike that, just a long, long winter and my body has made the leap1 from young to not-so-young, and with it, nagging health issues of various kinds that I won’t bore you with. Anyway, to jump start me writing here again, I’ve assigned myself topics based on the day, starting with Music Monday.

Overstuffed CD shelf
An Overstuffed CD Shelf.

I may be one of the last citizens of America who still purchases music CDs on a regular basis. Streaming music is well and good, I don’t participate. I’d rather indulge my nascent horder tendencies, and have my own copies of things, especially since “used” CDs sound identical to “new” CDs 99% of the time. I also have wider, more varied tastes than the streaming algorithms encourage. I’ve only dabbled with Spotify and the Apple Music channels, but an hour of music via Spotify seems artificially constricted to my ear. You can change your musical directions by seeding new stations, but every “next track” is via a linear progression from the preceding song.

When I am the DJ of my own radio station, which truth be told, runs 20 hours a day2 whether or not I’m in the room(s), I queue up 500 or 1,000 songs at a time. If you are listening to Radio Seth3, you should expect to hear deep cuts from Funkadelic followed by Alt-Country maesters The Jayhawks followed by Brahms concertos followed by outtakes from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti followed by whatever. Or 50 songs about rain, or 24 hours worth of David Bowie or Prince or Merle Haggard. Or albums released in 1985. Or albums released last year. I liberally use randomizing AppleScripts from AppleScript guru Doug Adams to top up my playlists, I change direction on a whim, and of course alter playlists when I have an audience4

CD shelf in need of an alphabetization project
CD shelf in need of an alphabetization project…

There was a mythical era in commercial radio when DJs had the freedom to play what they wanted. By the time I was interested in music, this FM free-form radio era seemed to be on its last legs, so I don’t actually know if there were radio stations that played all sorts of music with only the taste of the DJ linking them together, or if that is another bullshit myth perpetuated by aging Baby Boomers. I don’t even care, in my mind, there was such a time, and I want to have my own radio station that plays all the hits as defined by my own idiosyncratic charts.

CDs in need of a re-org
CDs in need of a re-org…

One last thing, the age of the CD box set has encouraged record labels and musicians to open their vaults, reissues and repackaging are attempts to cash-in, but also mean that much music is available that I’ve never heard before. I’m not one of those who claim “music today doesn’t have the same soul”, I seek out new music from current artists just as much as I seek out classic albums from garage rockers of the mid-1960s or obscure Nigerian funk musicians from the 1970s. I try not to have preconceptions over what I’ll explore, but of course, there is plenty of new and old music I am not interested in. As someone on Reddit said: 

People think old music is better than new music because people have already stopped listening to the old music that sucks

(click here to continue reading People think old music is better than new music because people have already stopped listening to the old music that sucks : Showerthoughts.)

Footnotes:
  1. stumble?? fall?? []
  2. until my Mac sleeps and iTunes pauses until morning []
  3. I use the Airfoil app to stream to different sets of speakers around my office and house depending upon set and setting []
  4. Not everyone is cool with Conet Project weirdness, or never ending guitar solos []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 2nd, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Music,Narcipost

Tagged with ,

Double Door In Danger Of Closing

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Tour Bus Double Door
Tour Bus Double Door

Wicker Park would seem weirdly empty without the Double Door, I hope they win their lawsuit…

Joe Shanahan, co-owner of Double Door, one of the anchor clubs during the rise of the Wicker Park music scene in the ’90s, is facing eviction. But in his first public statement on the monthslong legal battle, he vows he won’t go quietly.

“We’re not going down without a fight,” he said in an interview. “We’ve done the Rolling Stones, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Flaming Lips, Greg Dulli and so many important artists there. It supports the community. We want to stay.”

Shanahan, who also owns the Metro in Wrigleyville, has been one of the pillars of the Chicago music community for decades. He opened Double Door with partner Sean Mulroney in 1994, just as Wicker Park was gaining international recognition as a hub for the city’s emerging bands and artists, including the Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Material Issue, Eleventh Dream Day and countless others.

The fight, which continued this week in Cook County Circuit Court, touches on whether Double Door gave the landlord proper notice that it wished to extend the lease. Schiff introduced documents that included a lease extension request letter from Double Door’s Mulroney dated April 24, more than 180 days before the lease expired, as required by the contract. Strauss’ attorney, Bonita Stone, said the landlord never received the letter and that she wanted to question Mulroney.

The Double Door attorney also contended in court papers that Strauss was operating as a partner of the club and was receiving monthly dividend checks for most of 2015. The landlord “breached his fiduciary duties” to the club, according to the Double Door complaint.

 

(click here to continue reading Double Door won’t go down without a fight – Chicago Tribune.)

Double Door Liquors
Double Door Liquors

Written by Seth Anderson

February 2nd, 2016 at 9:38 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with ,

Fela Kuti Is Perfect For Working Out

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Fela Anikulapo Kuti - complete works 
Fela Anikulapo Kuti – complete works

Songs by Fela Kuti are perfectly suited to listening to while exercising. One queues up Sorrow, Tears and Blood, and maybe Zombie and then International Thief Thief1, and suddenly an hour has passed. Driving, deep rhythms of bass and drums, interwoven with horns, guitar, electric piano, chanting choruses, and so on, and of course, searing politically edged lyrics by Fela Kuti. His lyrical inventions don’t always translate into English, but if you concentrate, you’ll get the gist. Sorrow, Tears and Blood is the Nigerian version of KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police”, or N.W.A.’s “Fuck The Police”, Junior Murvin’s, “Police and Thieves”, or even the Dead Kennedy’s “Police Truck”.2

That is all…

Footnotes:
  1. aka I.T.T., aka International Telephone and Telegraph []
  2. or Furry Lewis’, “Judge Harsh Blues”, The Clash’s song, “Guns of Brixton”, Prince Buster’s “Judge Dread”, you could go on and on. Suffice to say, the police have been frequently agents of oppression as long as they’ve had the power to []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 4th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Best Music of 2015, More Or Less

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I’m Real Proud of my Record Collection

Every year I make the attempt to write about the best new-to-me music I’d discovered the previous year, I think I’ve published a post maybe twice since 2003. Part of the problem is that I’m a glutton for music, and thus spend more than I should purchasing new tunes. Often I’ll be interested in some new LP, purchase a copy1 but not listen to it closely for a year or two. 

Anyway, instead of trying to scratch out mini reviews for the hundreds of new albums I added to my library in 2015, here are an arbitrarily selected few, plus a few duds. There are certainly others that I’m accidentally omitting, such is the hazard of working without an editor…

Also, obviously quite a lot of these albums were not first released in 2015, but that isn’t the standard I adhere to, only that these albums were added to my iTunes library this year.

Bob Dylan - 1965-1966 - The Cutting Edge

Albums I Listened To The Most

  • Verckys Et L’Orchestre Veve – Congolese Funk Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 – a great album, worth tracking down if you like to dance.
  • Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge (1965-1966) – I didn’t splurge on the massive boxset that included even more music later, but 6 discs is a lot of classic Dylan, and mostly good!
  • Baba Commandant & The Mandingo Band – Juguya – another winner, hailing from Burkina Faso in West Africa.
  • Led Zeppelin – reissues of Physical Graffiti, Presence, In Through The Out Door, and Coda. Coda has some of the best new stuff, including the famous recordings with a Bombay Orchestra.
  • Pentangle – Sweet Child – Bert Jansch is a genius, eventually I’ll have every record he ever played on.
  • Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie – some great tunes here, Willie Nelson seems immortal
  • Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World  – OCMS really grew on me this year, as I also had other albums by this band in heavy rotation. Modern string music, folk-rock, bluegrass, who knows. Toe tapping stuff, with clever lyrics.
  • Waterboys – Room to Roam – don’t know how I missed this LP all these years, I really love it

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane

Albums That I Liked

  • The Staple Singers – Uncloudy Day & Will The Circle Be Unbroken
  • Pop Staples – Don’t Lose This
  • Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – High Life
  • Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane – Rough Mix – Ronnie Lane is a genius
  • Billy Gibbons And The BFG’s – Perfectamundo – Hispanic-bionic boogie
  • John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters

Bob Dylan - Shadows In The Night

 

Albums I Probably Will Grow To Like

  • Tame Impala – Currents
  • Björk – Vulnicura
  • Steve Earle and the Dukes – Terraplane
  • Meicio Askanasy, José Prates, Ivan De Paula – Tam…Tam…Tam…! Brazilian jazz reissue from 1958.
  • Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night – crooning tunes actually suit Dylan’s voice these days
  • Funkadelic – first ya gotta Shake the Gate – George Clinton keeps keeping on
  • Grateful Dead – Blues for Allah – occasionally, I do like to listen to the Grateful Dead noodle
  • Wilco – Star Wars
  • The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily – I could get bored with this, but it isn’t bad
  • The Internet – Ego Death – seems promising, but I’ve only had it a month or so
  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color – same
  • Richard Thompson – Live at the BBC – box set, some with Linda Thompson.

https://i0.wp.com/farm1.staticflickr.com/647/23512590601_011cc8154d_n.jpg?resize=320%2C320&ssl=1
 

Albums I Wanted To Like But Did Not

  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress – maybe it will just take a while…for this, and the others in this section.
  • Lotion – Nobody’s Cool
  • Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
  • My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
  • Van Morrison – Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue – sounds too much like elevator music for my taste. Original versions are all better, by far, so why bother? Money I guess, but I wish I had saved mine.
  • Jack White – Lazaretto 
  • New Kingdom – Paradise Don’t Come Cheap
  • Newsom, Joanna – Divers – come to think of it, I didn’t really groove on Have One on Me either.

Spinning

Albums That I Used To Own, And Now Own Again

  • Hair Original Soundtrack – don’t ask me why, but I did buy this in a moment of weakness. There are actually a few catchy tunes on here, but limited replayability, no?
  • The B-52s – Cosmic Thing – classic from my formative years
  • Devo – Freedom of Choice – another classic from my formative years
  • Bert Jansch & John Renbourn – After the Dance – awesome collaboration with two great guitarists, both sadly deceased as of 2015.
  • Motörhead- No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith – damn, Lemmy died
  • Gregory Isaacs – Night Nurse – classic Reggae LP from circa 1982
  • Sonny Boy Williamson – Don’t Start Me Talkin’ I’ll Tell Everything I Know – classic Chicago blues from the Chess label
  • Poi Dog Pondering – Poi Dog Pondering – I was walking around this summer, and encountered a marquee announcing a 25 year anniversary of some album of Poi Dog Pondering, remembered seeing them play all over Austin back in my callow youth. Cheery pop still has its place.


Footnotes:
  1. I will note that I have zero problems buying used music, especially in the era of compact discs, which means I can find a lot of new-to-me albums for a couple bucks []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 31st, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with

The Silence of Vinyl Records

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C.R.E.A.M.

Silence rules everything around me…

Recently, I was alone for an afternoon, without any pressing tasks to complete, so I decided to pull out my turntable1 and listen to a few records. I listen to music all the time, and have a vast, horder-esque iTunes library, but I’m often too lazy to play records. I sat in a room I call The Lounge, and spun a half dozen LPs. Some I only wanted to hear a song or two from, some I listened to in their entirety, both sides. 

Such a different experience, as I’m sure you’d concur. I won’t go into the debate here over sound fidelity, and warmth, and all that. In honesty, I don’t want to give up the convenience of being able to walk around with hundreds of my favorite albums in my pocket, or the ability to instantly play a song in my car. Vinyl does wear out, and there is that crackling, popping sound that does not exist in digital versions. 

The vinyl experience is different in other ways. I didn’t realize when I purchased my turntable, but it doesn’t have an automatic shut-off feature. In other words, I need to be actively listening or else the album will continue to spin for hours, wearing out the turntable’s needle. I’ve incorporated this negative feature into my ritual of listening to records. I put the needle down on the song I want to hear2, sit down holding the album jacket, study the cover art, read the liner notes, and listen with my full attention. I have the option of listening via3 desk top speakers, or a4 headphone amplifier with comfortable over-the-ear headphones.5

Curating playlists on my Mac is one of my hobbies, creating mixes of songs and albums based on topics and phrases, or genres, or concepts, or years, or events; but that means the music never stops playing. In contrast, when a record is finished, there is silence. Silence until the next LP is selected, or until the current record gets flipped over. I guess one could say listening to a CD would be similar, but my first (and only!) CD player was a six disc shuffler – again, when music was on, it kept going and going, filling up the nooks and crannies of available aural space.

I was surprised at how significant the empty spaces were, especially on a quiet afternoon. 

These are the records I played6

of Montreal - the past is a grotesque animal
of Montreal – the past is a grotesque animal

Otis Rush - Blind Pig records
Otis Rush – Blind Pig records

Leo Kottke, Ice Water
Leo Kottke, Ice Water

Songs of Kristofferson
Songs of Kristofferson

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

Otis Rush - Tops
Otis Rush – Tops

Footnotes:
  1. an Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable []
  2. or the beginning of the LP, of course []
  3. an Audioengine []
  4. Schiit Magni []
  5. Beyer Dynamic DT-880 []
  6. there might have been one or two more that I didn’t think to photograph []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 16th, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Music,Personal

Tagged with ,

Earworm Theater – Jayhawks “Blue”

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 This morning’s edition of Earworm Theatre is Blue from the Jayhawks 1995 album, Tomorrow the Green Grass.1

On a semi-regular basis, I wake up with a song or piece of music playing in my head, echoing in my brain. The song won’t leave until I play it, which depending on how my morning goes, could be an hour or so. The earworm occurs not nightly, not weekly, but several times a year. Frequently, but not always, a song I haven’t heard in a while, often with lyrics that have some resonance to something that happened recently. My subconscious trying to be helpful, in other words. This morning’s edition, Blue, was more about melody however, since I couldn’t even remember the lyrics unaided. I love how the chorus and bridge are harmonized. My voice cracks when I try to hit those kind of high notes…

Youtube “Official” video

Here are the lyrics, for reference, since I looked them up…

Where have all my friends gone
They’ve all disappeared
Turned around maybe one day
You’re all that was there
Stood by on believing
Stood by on my own
Always thought I was someone
Turned out I was wrong

And you brought me through
And you made me feel so blue
Why don’t you stay behind
So blue
Why don’t you stop
And look at what’s going down

If I had an old woman
She’d never sell me a lie
It’s hard to sing with someone
Who won’t sing with you
Give all of my mercy
Give all of my heart
Never thought that i’d miss you
That i’d miss you so much

And you brought me through
And you made me feel so blue
Why don’t you stay behind
So blue
Why don’t you stop
And look at what’s going down

All my life (staying while)
I’m waiting for (staying while)
Someone I could (waiting around)
Show the door (now that I’m blue)
But nothing seems to change
(That I’m blue from now on)
You come back that month

So blue
Why don’t you stay behind
So blue
Why don’t you
Why don’t you stay behind
So blue
Why don’t you
Why don’t you stay behind
So blue
Why don’t you stop
And look at what’s down

but my subconscious wasn’t trying to send me a coded message, I don’t think, but rather a way of harmonizing. Or something, lines of communication between conscious brain and subconscious brain are notoriously fickle. 

I did hear Blue recently; I was singing it to one of my cats, who wouldn’t harmonize with me:

It's Hard To Sing With Someone Who Won't Sing With You
It’s Hard To Sing With Someone Who Won’t Sing With You

and for your amusement, here is a very young Jon Stewart introducing a live version of Blue, circa 1995

Footnotes:
  1. and yes, I know theater ≠ theatre. Blame my Canadian public schooling… []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 28th, 2015 at 9:04 am

Posted in Music,Personal

Tagged with ,

Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session

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Cowboy Junkies Trinity Session
Cowboy_Junkies_Trinity_Session- cover

A few moments ago, the Cowboy Junkies best album1 came on my stereo, The Trinity Session, and I listened to it intently for the first time in a long time. Such a timeless LP, and of course, hearing the album triggered a bit of reverie down my own memory lanes and paths. I recall many late nights putting this album on my turntable, and being enveloped by its mood, as I drank red wine with some people who have since faded from my life.

Per Wikipedia, The Trinity Session was released in 1988, but I don’t think I purchased a copy2 until 1989 or even 1990. I’ve never been enthusiastic towards opiate-induced dream stupors, but I’ve been around enough people who were, and the slow-placed, languorous tempo of the Trinity Session evokes a similar state of blissful melancholy.

Thom Jurek writes:

The Trinity Session was recorded in one night using one microphone, a DAT recorder, and the wonderful acoustics of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. Interestingly, it’s the album that broke the Cowboy Junkies in the United States for their version of “Sweet Jane,” which included the lost verse. It’s far from the best cut here, though. There are other covers, such as Margo Timmins’ a cappella read of the traditional “Mining for Gold,” a heroin-slow version of Hank Williams’ classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Dreaming My Dreams With You” (canonized by Waylon Jennings), and a radical take of the Patsy Cline classic “Walkin’ After Midnight” that closes the disc. Those few who had heard the band’s previous album, Whites Off Earth Now!!, were aware that, along with Low, the Cowboy Junkies were the only band at the time capable of playing slower than Neil Young and Crazy Horse — and without the ear-threatening volume. The Timmins family — Margo, guitarist and songwriter Michael, drummer Peter, and backing vocalist and guitarist John — along with bassist Alan Anton and a few pals playing pedal steel, accordion, and harmonica, paced everything to crawl.

(click here to continue reading The Trinity Session – Cowboy Junkies | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic.)

The lyrics and instrumentation of the album were lifted from the classic country groups the band was exposed to, and the song “200 More Miles” was written in reference to their life on the road.

As they had on Whites, the band wanted to record live with one stereo microphone direct to tape—it is stated on the album cover that the recording was made on 2-track RDAT using one single Calrec Ambisonic Microphone.

Peter Moore was enlisted and suggested the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto for its natural reverb. To better persuade the officials of the historic church, the band claimed to be The Timmins Family Singers and said they were recording a Christmas special for radio. The session began on the morning of 27 November 1987. The group first recorded the songs with the fewest instruments and then the songs with gradually more complex arrangements. In this way Moore and the band were able to solve acoustic problems one by one. To better balance Margo Timmins’s vocals against the electric guitars and drums, she was recorded through a PA system that had been left behind by a previous group. By making subtle changes in volume and placement relative to the microphone over six hours, Moore and the band had finally reached the distinctive sound of the album by the time the last of the guest musicians arrived at the church.

The band was unable to rehearse with most of the guest musicians before the day of the session. Considering the method of recording and time constraints, this could have been disastrous for the numbers which required seven or more musicians, but after paying a security guard twenty-five dollars for an extra two hours, the band was able to finish, and even recorded the final song of the session, “Misguided Angel”, in a single take.

Contrary to popular myth, the album was not entirely recorded in one day. In the hustle of the first recording session, the band forgot to record “Mining for Gold”. Margo and Moore recorded the song a few days later during the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s lunch break.

Sleeve notes state that the recording was not mixed, overdubbed or edited in any way.

(click here to continue reading The Trinity Session – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Michael Timmins adds more detail of the album’s genesis:

We had spent the past year touring Whites Off Earth Now!! around Canada and the United States, grabbing gigs wherever and whenever they were offered. We had sold an incredible (by the Canadian indy standards of the time) 3,000 copies of Whites and had taken the little money that we had made from touring and placed it all back in the band. With a pocketful of change and the inspiration from our travels we began to conceptualize our next recording.

While touring Whites we had spent a lot of time in the Southern States, especially Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas. For some reason the club owners down there took a liking to what we were doing so we spent a lot of time crossing the kudzu choked highways that ran through the heart of the old Confederacy. Those were the days when having to spend a night in a hotel room would mean the difference between eating the next day or paying for the gas to get us to the next town, so we spent a lot of our time sleeping on the floors of friendly promoters, fans, waitresses and bartenders. One of the best part about being “billeted” was that each night we were exposed to a new record collection and each night we’d discover a new album or a new band or a whole new type of music that was springing up in some buried underground scene somewhere in America.

(click here to continue reading COWBOY JUNKIES | The Trinity Session.)

Footnotes:
  1. that I’ve heard, at least []
  2. used, from Waterloo Records, I believe []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 1st, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Music,Personal

Tagged with ,

After 36 years, Neo leaves a changing Lincoln Park

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Smoke Break in the Neo Alley
Smoke Break in the Neo Alley.

Sasha Geffen interviews Callin Fortis about the closing of Neo.

When Callin Fortis took over Neo in 1982, Lincoln Park had no Gaps, no pet boutiques, and no day cares. It was a nightlife hub, with cheap rents and 4 AM bars and 24-hour diners—”like New York,” says Fortis. His own nightclub, one of the last of its generation in the area, is now sandwiched between a preschool and an Urban Outfitters in an alley on Clark Street, just south of Fullerton Avenue, less than a mile west of the Lincoln Park Zoo. Neo had been open for just two years when Fortis moved in, and at the end of July, it will close its doors after 36 years in operation. The preschool that occupies the storefront of the same building will move into the space that has served as a late-night hangout for Chicago’s misfits since 1979. “The neighborhood has changed dramatically,” says Fortis over the phone from Miami, where he now lives. “Lincoln Park was still residential, but it was much hipper than it is now. It was still filled with art and cool stuff. Now, it’s not. Urban Outfitters is still there. That’s probably the coolest thing there is.”

Fortis and the owner of the building where Neo is housed, John Crombie, recently failed to come to an agreement on a new lease for the space, forcing the club to relocate. Currently, no new venue has been pinned down, although Fortis says he’s had offers come in from across the city, and that he’s eyeing a space in Wicker Park.

(click here to continue reading After 36 years, Neo leaves a changing Lincoln Park | Bleader | Chicago Reader.)

NEO - shutting down

I never claimed Neo as one of my spots, but I have been inside a few times, and always enjoyed myself.

Neo’s Neon

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Amazon Associates Linkage Dying Off

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Amazon the Everything Store
Amazon the Everything Store…

I got an email from the Amazon Associates division, reading, in part:

As part of our continuing effort to improve the Associates program’s products and services, we are making some changes to our technology platform. This platform change will require you to replace some older product links, banners, and widgets you currently have hosted on your website as they will no longer be supported after July 31, 2015. Text links are not impacted by this deprecation.

Action Required
We ask that you replace or update the impacted ad units prior to July 31, 2015. The links require the following update that can be facilitated through your CMS (content management system). You may make these replacements at whatever scale you are comfortable with.
– Find and replace ws.amazon.com with ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com
– Find and replace rcm.amazon.com with rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com

Keep in mind that starting August 1, 2015, any remaining legacy product links (text + image, image-only), banners, and widgets will be served with non-clickable public service announcements that will not send traffic to Amazon, impacting your referring traffic and potential earnings, if not addressed. On September 1, 2015, these legacy ad units will no longer render, thereby creating a broken link on your website.

The thing is, I probably won’t bother. When Amazon decided to kill off the Illiniois affiliates program rather than give the state a taste of the tax revenues, as we’ve discussed previously, I stopped posting as many reviews of Things I Discovered That You Might Like Too. Coincidentally, this was also around the time I became a half-hearted blogger, posting less frequently and decidedly less enthusiasm. My daily traffic plummeted, probably because there are now many alternative blog-like media outlets, places like Gawker and Deadspin and Curbed, and so on – not written by hobbyists and part-timers like myself, but paid writers1.

After a couple of years, Amazon decided that paying taxes to all the state governments was not as big a deal as they had once complained about, and reinstalled the Affiliate program. However, they wouldn’t give me my old affiliate link back, nor would they merge the two accounts I had, so basically I stopped using Amazon links much.

I don’t think I’m going to go back through the thousands of posts I’ve made to correct the Amazon links, they will just become dead links, and I no longer will get a 3% bonus from Amazon if you clicked through one of this blog’s links and purchased something. Possibly, I’ll fix a few, if I happen to run across the post for other reasons; I doubt I’ll create replacements on a global level. I stand to lose dozens or more cents, but there are more important items on my agenda.

Moving on…

Footnotes:
  1. or whatever it is that the Huffington Post model is of exploitation, a model followed by some other sites []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 9:06 am

Sticky Fingers

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Last night Sticky Fingers1 came up on my shuffler2. Within a millisecond of the opening riff of “Brown Sugar”, I instantly knew what I was listening too, and went into a reverie. Here’s an edited version…

Patience please
Patience please

I cannot quantify the number of times I’ve heard this album in my lifetime. When I was a child living in Toronto, or Frostpocket, whenever there were parties hosted by the Ragnarokr generation, Sticky Fingers was a frequently spun disc. When I was 8 or 9, Sticky Fingers was one of the albums I would play when I was alone in the house – I distinctly recall sitting on the Frostpocket front porch in a rocking chair listening, loudly, to Sticky Fingers played through the house speakers, reading some book or other, and not reading but just listening.

When our family moved to Austin when I was a teenager, I remember Sticky Fingers playing at dinner parties or other occasions for guests to mingle.

I started attending The University of Texas a few months after my 17th birthday, I also moved out of my parents’ house. My first financial aid check was blown on frivolities/necessities like a stereo for my car, and a receiver, speakers and record player for my apartment. Sticky Fingers was one of the first LPs that was played on that stereo system.

Chios - or Mutiny On The Aegean
Chios – or Mutiny On The Aegean

For a few years while a student at UT, on Saturday’s, I would go have breakfast with Honoria, strike poses (fully clothed) and she would sketch line drawings while we listened to music and chatted. Sometimes I brought friends, but mostly, just me and a few records made the journey. Sticky Fingers was a frequent companion. 

My friend Trey Buck3 would come over and we would spin records, drink wine, shoot the shit. Sticky Fingers was a frequent companion.

I made several dozen mix-tapes4 of music that played while I worked at Magnolia Cafe South, at least until the ASCAP people came by and harassed Kent Cole, the restaurant’s owner. Songs from Sticky Fingers were often in the mix.

I rebuilt my iTunes Library last in 2002, but since then, I’ve played songs from Sticky Fingers 122 times, using this particular library, or on an iPod/iPad/iPhone. This doesn’t take account of the many times the album or songs from it played in a car, either with a mix-CD, or someone else’s iPod on road trips.

Rolling Stones 1971

Like everyone, my musical tastes have changed over time, but surprisingly, Sticky Fingers has not gotten tiresome to me, despite the constant playing over my entire life. There aren’t many albums I can say the same about.

Footnotes:
  1. by The Rolling Stones, if you didn’t know []
  2. I use Doug Adamsshuffle random albums to playlist” AppleScript religiously to feed my iTunes jukebox []
  3. before he went insane []
  4. #71 is where I think I stopped, though the first five or six were less polished, made when I was too young to appreciate the wide gamut of music available []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 4th, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Random Friday – Desperados Waiting For A Train Edition

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A slightly different way to play the random music on a Friday game, I started with a song I wanted to hear, and used the Create Genius Playlist on my iPhone to generate a list. 

I’ve talked about my deep love for Guy Clark’s version of Desperados Waiting on A Train previously, instead of repeating that, I’ll just add that these songs do fit well together. Vocals and literate lyrics front and center, lots of stringed acoustic instruments, guitar, fiddle sometimes, lots of empty space. If I had been older instead of younger, I’d probably have seen all of these acts multiple times when I lived in Austin, as it is, I don’t remember ever seeing any of these acts live (maybe Joe Ely, but my memory is fuzzy). I really wish I had seen Townes Van Zandt at least once, his music can bring a tear to my eye.

  1. Clark, GuyDesperados Waiting For A Train
    Old No. 1
  2. Steve EarleMercenary Song
    Train A Comin’
  3. Townes Van ZandtPancho And Lefty
    Rear View Mirror
  4. Jerry Jeff WalkerPissin’ In The Wind
    20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of Jerry Jeff Walker
  5. Slaid CleavesBroke Down
    Broke Down
  6. Ray Wylie HubbardConversation With The Devil
    107.1 KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 7 (disc 2)
  7. Ely, JoeMe And Billy The Kid
    Live At Liberty Lunch
  8. Earle, SteveThe Mountain
    Just an American Boy
  9. Townes Van ZandtTecumseh Valley
    Live and Obscure
  10. Jerry Jeff WalkerDesperados Waiting For The Train
    Viva Terlingua
  11. Mary GauthierI Drink
    Bob Dylan – Theme Time 3 Drink
  12. Earle, StevePoncho And Lefty
    Townes

Written by Seth Anderson

March 21st, 2015 at 9:37 am

Posted in Music,Narcipost

Tagged with ,

Bob Dylan Hates Purple Throated Vocalists As Much As I Do

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Trio of musicians
Trio of musicians

Long time readers of this humble blog might remember a discussion or two about singers who over-sing. Artists like Whitney “permanent orgasm” Houston, for instance, who constantly ululate over and around the melody until it makes your ears bleed. There’s probably a better way to describe this style of singing, but I call it purple throated, in homage to the phrase “purple prose”.1

Bob Dylan is many things, but one of my favorite aspects of his persona is his love for music, and his propensity to speak the unvarnished truths about musicians.

Such as in his speech at the MusiCares Person of the Year event yesterday:

Dylan was gracious enough not to identify by name the singer who was the recipient of his sharpest barbs. But he seemed to be referencing Ambrosius, who has had several R&B hits, most notably 2010’s Far Away, sang the national anthem at a 2012 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Cotto fight.

“Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable,” he said. “Let me tell you something: I was at a boxing match a few years ago, seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it. And it was beautiful, it was heartfelt, it was moving. After that, it was time for our national anthem, and a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing it. She sang every note. That exists. And some that don’t exist. Talk about mangling a melody. Take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes.  To me, it was not funny. Mangling lyrics, mangling a melody, mangling a treasured song. No, I get the blame.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

If you want to torture your ears, here is the YouTube of that rendition of the US National Anthem, available at the moment.

Dylan also discusses another my favorite songs, Sunday Morning Coming Down. I’m partial to the Kris Kristofferson version, but the Johnny Cash cover is pretty spot-on too.

Dylan recalled reading an interview with Tom T. Hall, the country singer and songwriter noted for story songs like Harper Valley PTA and (Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine, during a Nashville recording stint many years ago. In the interview, Dylan said, “He was (complaining) about some kind of new song coming in. And he couldn’t understand what these new kinds of songs were that were coming in or what they were about.”

“Now, Tom, he was one of the most pre-eminent songwriters at the time in Nashville. A lot of people were recording his songs, including himself. But he was on a fuss about James Taylor and a song James had called Country Road. Tom was going all off in this interview: ‘Well, James don’t sing nothing about a country road; he just says that he can feel that ole country road. I don’t understand that.”

“Now some might say Tom was a great songwriter, and I’m not going to doubt that. At the time, during his interview, I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio in the recording studio. It was called I Love. And it was talking about all the things he loves. An everyman song. Trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think he’s just like you and you’re just like him. We all love the same things. We’re all in this together.”

“Tom loves little baby ducks. Slow-moving trains and rain. He loves big pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleep without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on a vine and onions.”

“Now listen, I’m not every going to disparage another songwriter. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not saying that’s a bad song, I’m just saying it might be a little over-cooked.”

Dylan said that Hall and a few other writers had the Nashville scene “sewn up” — until Kris Kristofferson came along and started writing songs like Sunday Morning Comes Down, which Johnny Cash turned into a No. 1 single.

“That one song blew Tom T. Hall’s world apart,” Dylan said. “It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard one of my songs.”

“If Sunday Morning Coming Down rattled Tom’s cage and sent him into the looney bin, my songs surely would have made him blow his brains out.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

Bob Dylan - Shadows In The Night
Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

By the way, Bob Dylan’s latest album, Shadows in The Night, is actually pretty good, in a melancholy sort of way. Very down-beat, but in a quiet mood, I like it. I’m guessing I might not have appreciated it as much when I was 17, insistent that every song I heard be guitar-driven, but now that I’ve expanded my musical palette a bit, I can appreciate songs by Frank Sinatra, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, et al.  Also, Dylan’s voice sounds much better than it did on that lame Christmas album2 released a few years ago.

Footnotes:
  1. In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. []
  2. Christmas In The Heart []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Arts,Music,Suggestions

Tagged with