Robert Baird

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Robert Baird Posted: Jul 20, 2007 0 comments
Now that we're perched upon the precipice of the Simpson Movie opening—at least a decade too late—I, by chance, I caught the Hullabalooza episode with the Smashing Pumpkins this week, the one where Homer becomes part of the "pageant of the transmundane," by being shot in the stomach with a cannonball.
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Robert Baird Posted: May 04, 2012 3 comments
Just the other evening, a friend, co–worker and fellow old record enthusiast, Brian Laboe, and I were saddled up at our neighborhood watering hole, sipping overpriced craft beer and talking about funk bands from the 70’s which happens to be a passion we share.
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Robert Baird Posted: May 10, 2007 1 comments
Reissues. Hey, I don't care who you are, everyone has a guilty pleasure that's now been reissued on CD, possibly with bonus goodies. What's gonna happen to reissues in the big, new, all–digital, all–download, all–the–time world is an easy one: listeners will do the same thing they do with new records, download the tracks they want and leave the lesser tracks as scraps. Funny how it's now possible to think of cuts of meat and record albums in the same breath: bites of choice flesh you eat surrounded by bone, fat and gristle you leave. It must make musicians feel real good to see their collection eviscerated in this way. You can say it serves them right for filling out albums with lesser tracks but then there's that creeping alchemy that happens upon further listening when some of the tracks deep into the record become essential. How many album tracks have you grown fond of after repeated listens versus those that jumped out at you the first time you dropped the needle or pressed play?
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Robert Baird Posted: Sep 15, 2010 4 comments
Seeing John Prine the other night on Governor’s Island with Stereophile's Stephen Mejias was a fairly profound experience, owing to Prine’s strange, elegiac tone. It may be that he wasn’t down with the venue (a windy island at night) or that he was simply tired (he looked it), but almost everything he sung, even the fun ones like, “Please Don’t Bury Me,” had an odd sadness clinging to it. I tried not to think about how Prine beat cancer back in 1998. The first time I saw him backstage after the cancer had been cut and radiated out of his throat, he cracked a smile and chirped, “Well Robert, this is what happens when you start smoking when you’re 14. What did I expect?” Thankfully his voice and his irascible disposition returned undiminished by the illness. He’s lost some tissue in his neck and his voice did indeed get a little growlier, but overall he was extremely lucky. I prefer to ascribe his lonely tone last Friday to the fact that he’s been singing some of those songs for 40 years and just decided to give them a different emotional bent in New York. Truly though I have never seen a Prine show that wasn’t laced with jokes, spot on wisecracks and sly references to the current world history. And never have I heard one of his signature songs “Donald and Lydia,” done so beautifully, its chorus lines turned into a near prayer: “But dreaming just comes natural Like the first breath from a baby, Like sunshine feeding daisies, Like the love hidden deep in your heart.”
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Robert Baird Posted: Mar 02, 2012 2 comments
Photos by Mark Sheldon

Last week, I had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing Bill Frisell in front of an audience—in what’s called a “Jazz Conversation,”—at this year’s edition of the Portland Jazz Festival. Held at the Art Bar in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), our chat was podcast by the Oregonmusicnews.com and can be heard here.

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Robert Baird Posted: Jul 30, 2010 0 comments
When Sound + Vision splashed Tom Petty’s still remarkably vital mug across a recent cover it caught my attention. Inside, across 12 pages, they basically anointed his new record Mojo, as disc of the year. So Petty’s blues record, one that was a long time comin’, is the best album of 2010? No offense to Mike Mettler and Ken Richardson, both of whom I consider friends, but the whole thing seemed like a stretch to me.
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Robert Baird Posted: Mar 22, 2011 2 comments
Pinetop Perkins at SXSW 2011

Many years ago, when all of the South by Southwest seminars and panels were located inside the Hyatt Hotel across Town Lake from downtown Austin, I tottered in from a long night of music and revelry, and stood waiting for one of the glass elevators that ran up and down one side of the hotel’s giant atrium. When the car arrived the doors swung open to reveal Mississippi blues piano player Pinetop Perkins who according to my math had to be in his early Eighties then, and who, with a mixture of teeth and gold in his mouth, was flanked by two beautiful and much younger white women luxuriously dressed in fur coats. Far be it from me to cast aspirations but these looked to me like working girls. The dapper Pinetop shot me the most mischievous grin you can imagine while slipping his arms around each woman’s waist.

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Robert Baird Posted: Jun 30, 2010 3 comments
One of the weirder NYC boozing trends as of late is the faux speakeasy. Yes, that would be a room, usually subterranean, that for some unknown reason—perhaps every other cheeseball concept has been exhausted—tries to recapture some of those long lost flavors of the salad days of that joyous time in American history called Prohibition. You remember that grand social experiment perpetrated by the far right of American society that like all right wing idiocies, ignored reality and plowed ahead regardless of the damage it might have caused. Instead of stopping alcoholism, it spread the making and distribution of booze into the hands of criminals who got fabulously rich and turned horribly violent. Give those regressive social engineering types credit though; they sure know a good idea when they see one.
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Robert Baird Posted: Sep 21, 2007 1 comments
To those who say the Bush Administration hasn't added anything meaningful to American society I say pshaw. He and Cheney have turned lying into an artform. Not lying exactly but a finer, more refined version of not telling the truth. It's still completely self-serving and wrong but now, if you have little or no education and/or sense of any kind, and you’re easily scared, these pronouncements sound vaguely plausible. It's all about the spin. The truth, in that view, is now relative. Everything is shaded and prismatic. Move several steps to the left and everything seems to look different. Looks like the truth. Sounds like the truth. There's a victory to be had in Iraq! Is it any wonder that we've become a more polarized society under the great decider.
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Robert Baird Posted: Oct 17, 2009 1 comments
It’s that kind of place. Despite it’s economic distress, the empty streets, the half–assed Bourbon Street mess that Beale Street has become (goddamned is it bad!), and what seems to be a full on crime wave in certain parts of town, in Memphis you cannot keep the music out of your head. It may be the wash over that comes from being so close to the Delta, but I couldn’t keep, “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohen or the words to one of John Hiatt’s greatest songs, (and that my friends is truly saying something because John Hiatt has written a shitload, okay, like 25 genuinely great songs) “Memphis in the Meantime” out of my head. “If we could just get off a that beat little girl Maybe we could find the groove At least we can get a decent meal Down at the rendez–vous” Needless to say, I wasn’t in town half an hour and I was at the Rendezvous (www.hogsfly.com), down in the basement as it were, wolfing down chopped chicken, pickles, big hunks of cheddar cheese, cole slaw with vinegar and cumin, sweet tea, fries, red beans and rice (laced with sliced mushrooms?) and the best ribs I have ever tasted. The best. All covered in that secret shake mixture of spices that makes this place world famous. My God it was good. It’s so damned nice to find a “legendary” restaurant that actually lives up, or in this case exceeds its billing.
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Robert Baird Posted: Oct 16, 2006 2 comments
My apologies that this blog has been so irregular recently. A situation in my personal life, namely a wedding, has been distracting me. But now that it's over…
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Robert Baird Posted: Mar 21, 2008 4 comments
In Aural Robert in the April issue of Stereophile, Amoeba owner David Prinz and I discuss his label, Amoeba Records, and his ongoing program to reissue Gram Parsons live sets. Needless to say however, I also talked with him about the ever more bizarre situation that the record business now finds itself in. As the owner of the biggest and best independent record stores on planet Earth, his opinion carries more than a little weight. Here's a sampling of what he said about the biz and the specter of iTunes.
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Robert Baird Posted: Apr 19, 2010 5 comments
Never did I think the day would come when I’d be standing in a line at 10:30 am on a chilly April Saturday to get into a record store. A record store mind you that is directly across the street from the now spacious, high-ceilinged NYU offices that were once the Tower Records on Broadway in downtown Manhattan.
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Robert Baird Posted: Apr 18, 2014 3 comments
A month ago, flying to South By Southwest 2014, the numbers on paper were grim.
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Robert Baird Posted: Apr 27, 2006 0 comments
Having heard from the good folks at Ralston Purina—sorry, "good folks" seems to be a trigger for 60's TV commercial flashbacks for puppy chow or something. Lemme try again...When I heard from the good folks at the burgeoning mini–mega empire that Concord/Fantasy Telarc has become that a new series called Stax Profiles was about to begin, I anxiously tore open a Concord box that arrived in the office yesterday.

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