There's almost no gray area when it comes to Christmas music. You either love it and feel it's charming, or it's a holiday plague that you endure, cringing instinctively every time a bell jingles and someone wants a "figgy" pudding.
I was very sad to learn of the death of Ahmet Ertegun, one of the three visionaries behind Atlantic Records. Having met him several times, it makes perverse sense that he would have met his end due to complications from a fall at a Rolling Stones concert. He was a man of music to the end.
It was one of those New York days when all you want in the world is for something, anything to come down fromBetwitched or Zeus' cloud or the time space portal to Northern New Mexico and transport you like smoke to somewhere far, far away. It was also one of those days when John Atkinson and I were torturing each other with visions of our old home in Santa Fe and the steaming bowls of green chile stew we each now crave like dogs. "Hurry up, Tie off the vein, get the sopapillas ready for after…"
Whenever I fly into one of those, "I gotta get rid of some of these CDs" moods, I inevitably settle on my seemingly endless boxes of blues records. But then like magic, hard–edged questions like "Do I really need 15 B.B. King records" eventually morph into expressions like, "Damn, I haven't heard this record in a hundred years." I am genetically unable to dump blues records.
Now that O.J.'s come out with his TV interview and his book, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. The DVD/CD tie-in. How about a soundtrack album featuring OJ enthusing about he "may" have done it. Or a tribute record: "Song for OJ." Or possibly "OJ sings the hits of …" Don’t laugh (or gag). Anyone unbalanced enough to write this book, presumably for the money, no matter what it's doing to his children, is ego-blind enough to think he could make it in the music business. Hey, he's already been an actor.
Heard a fairly scary rumor this week that I'm trying to confirm. Supposedly, you now only need sales of 50,000 units to jump into the upper third of the Billboard album charts. Consider that number against the fact that the two largest selling albums ever, Thriller and the first edition of the Eagles Greatest Hits have sold something north of 25 million copies and you get some idea of how shocking this stat is if true.
Had the old boy lived past the ripe old age of 27 (thank you tequila and morphine), Gram Parsons would have turned 60 last week on November 5.
Ohhhhh, my aching head. Back from a wedding and then right into CMJ (a sort of New York version of Austin's SXSW), which strangely enough actually had music worth seeing and some very cool panels for the first time in many many years. The Thrill Jockey Showcase that I saw, which showcased all the noiserock that Shytown is famous for, was excellent. Also attended a party at the Slipper Room on the Lower East Side for Fuzz Music, a new music company whose backing comes from one of the Google millionaires. They're looking for things to sign but have no real idea, it seems, as to what directin they want to go. A new music company in 2006. God bless they're Googly millions.
There are a lot artists who try as you and they might, never really grab ya. Then there are those who made one single that for some odd reason touched you. No, not there! In the heart or the head or some combination of both. Most are pop artists. And most of these one track wonders fall into the category of the "guilty pleasure."
The music business needs to start developing talent or the slump they're currently in is not gonna get any better any time soon. One reason people aren't buying records anymore, or downloads if you must, is that in some genres there's a lack of compelling talent.
Course that's common sense, and this is a business that seems to always be looking for a silver bullet. Or backward at its glorious past.
Fitting right in with that last vision is the "new" Beatles album that's in the offing. Amazing how many new albums come from people who've been dead for years ain't it? This one will use music from the Cirque Du Soleil show in Vegas. Sounds classy right? Not. Check this quote from Giles Martin, Sir George’s son that appeared on NME's website:
"What people will be hearing on the album is a new experience, a way of re-living the whole Beatles musical lifespan in a very condensed period."
Uh Huh. Maybe it's me but the real Beatles album experience seems to have aged rather well thank you. What we don't need is another remix album. What we do need is for Sir Paul and Ringo to spend some time in the tape vault and then release some of the jillion outtakes, alternate takes, live material, etc. that have been mouldering away there for years. No release date yet on the new album.
Earlier this week I was invited to Per Se, a sleek restaurant in the Time Warner Center here in NYC for a lavish lunch sponsored by Concord Records. Co-owner Norman Lear was there. So was former SNL and now Letterman band leader Paul Shaffer who served as MC. The occasion was the release of another Ray Charles project which I will be writing about in more detail in an upcoming issue of the magazine. Titled Ray Swings—Basie Swings, it's an elaborate studio creation. Again though, Look for more in December's Stereophile.
For as long as I live, like it or not, I'll remember 10:28 am 9/11/06 like it was yesterday. I remember the roar and the sight of the giant radio antenna on the last of two towers standing disappearing into the massive clouds of gray smoke. I remember the emergency room personnel at St. Vincent's out in the street waiting for survivors that never came and the clouds of gritty smoke and 8 x 11 sheets of paper blowing up the streets of Brooklyn. And then I remember the jumpers, those who'd rather jump than burn.
As we all know, the focus of Stereophile's music section, and rightly so, is recorded music. But in my unsubtle opinion, music writers or just music fans who only listen to recorded music and never see anything performed live, are missing half the ballgame. If the only way you know a certain artist is through their records, then sorry to say, and yes, I know that not everyone lives in a city where they can see live music, you’re only getting half the story. I know critics who've been let go because they basically refused to go out to see live music. They were happy to stay homehey, no traffic, no lines, no fighting the elements, sounds good to meand listen to CDs or LPs. Unfortunately though, while they may have stayed comfy cozy at home, their opinions on music ended up having only a certain amount of value. The X factor about seeing music live versus hearing it on record is that often you have to see the music performed live to make any sense of the record. Though rare, it can also work in reverse as well: you have to listen to the record to make sense of a live show.
I love Bob Dylan: the man, the music, the whole enchilada. I even like the endless tour, (currently playing triple A ballparks), which he seems determined to continue on until, to use that famous line from Midnight Cowboy, he "dies on the stage."