On Saturday night, in New York City, upstairs in Manhattan’s 54th Street Yamaha piano studios, which by the way is very close to that other keyboard shrine, Steinway Hall, Stereophile’s own contributing editor Bob Reina and his group, Attention Screen recorded their third live album for Stereophile Records, a label owned and run by editor in chief/sound engineer John Atkinson, our fearless leader. Just so there is no confusion, I mean that last term as an endearing salute rather than in the sense of Rocky & Bullwinkle’s Germanesque dictator of Pottsylvania.
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.
So call me a wild colonial boy, but while I found European record stores fun and alland being in huge Virgin megastores stuffed full of jazz and classical records made me long for the days when they were still in the U.S.one visit to Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania made me realize what that rock and roll immortal Chuck Berry said best “Anything you want, we got right here in the U.S.A.” Jerry’s is easily, I mean EASILY! one of the top five record stores here on Starship Earth. The man is a mensch, the store is a huge, rambling barn of a place, and my God does he have the product. No onesies at Jerry’s. You often have many different copies of a single title to choose from. Never, ever miss Jerry’s when you’re anywhere near Pittsburgh. Seriously, the place is as much a shrine to the vinyl LP as it is a store.
During my Barcelona sojourn, I made a trip to the leading high end gear store in that beautiful city, Casa Werner, which is downtown, on the Ronda Sant Pere. Open since 1933, this former music store which began selling Victrolas along with 78’s, before moving entirely from content to gear, has been in the same family now for about a decade.
Now that Christmas has come and gone, and my need to hear Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bells Rock" has subsided — I'm not sure but I think it has something to do with those electric guitar flourishes, it's seems an appropriate time to say something about the continuing and astonishing turmoil in the record business which according to most sources experienced a nearly 20 percent decline in sales of physical product compared with last Christmas.
Is it me or does Phil Spector, the Wall–of–Sound inventor turned murder suspect, look more and more like a middle aged woman, particularly with his new blonde doo. If I were his lawyer I might have asked that he not change his hairstyle from notoriously weird to super weird on the eve of the trial. The photos, CNN.com has some doozies, that are really, really strange. Him with that Doris Day gone mad hair waving a pistol around demanding God knows what? Whatever the verdict, the man needs supervision.
Needless to say, I'm not in London waiting in line at O2 arena but that doesn't mean my thoughts, like those of about every other music fan on the planet, aren't turned to what's going to happen this evening when Led Zeppelin ends two decades of silence and lets it rip in what's being billed as a one-off show for charity.
For good measure alone, Critics, particularly the cranky ones like I've recently become, all deserve a well–placed boot up the arse once in awhile and so, much to my delight I too loved much of The Simpsons movie I prematurely sniffed at last week on this forum. I even get to add this delicious addendum: The critics are wrong! It's pretty wonderful. Many great bits. Much self-deprecation. Maggie emerging as a full–blown character. Okay, okay: I was wrong.
In the chronicles of the now absurdly revered Memphis alt rock originators, Big Star, the third record called appropriately enough, Third (or sometimes Sister Lovers) is perhaps the band’s best record. That’s only true of course if slow, often gossamer thin melodies pitched too high so that Alex Chilton’s voice couldn’t help sounding anguished and lyrics that fit under the term of “Fragile” or “Twisted,” and a pervasive feeling of doom (with several outbursts of partly cloudy pop rock) are your thing.
Last week I went to an advance screening at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) of Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, a new film about the short, creative, and ultimately kinda sad life of songwriter/arranger Billy Strayhorn. "Strays" or "Sweet Pea" as his friends knew him was part, some would say most, of the brains behind Duke Ellington's success in the forties and fifties. The film will be shown on PBS around the country in February.
Show me a music writer who has no guilty pleasures and I’ll show you someone you don’t need to waste time reading. Anyone with passion for music, which is what drives you to try to put what you hear into words, has a brain studded with funny little weaknesses. Many is the music writer who has a Bobby Sherman record stashed somewhere. I have a friend, a blues nut extraordinaire, who one dark night admitted to me under the influence of single malt that he “had a few Beatles albums” hidden away under his bed like girly magazines. And then of course there’s always the issue of hipness overload. No one can be cutting edge all the time. There are times when you just want to hear Hall & Oates or Karen Carpenter’s dusky tones and you don’t care who knows. I like Grizzly Bear fine for example, but sometimes you just gotta give in, shed that uber skin and dive headlong into some accessibleashell Whiz.