If There Were No Sun, You Would Have This Song

Like many perpetually adolescent, emotionally-stunted hipsters, I had a radio show at the campus station back in the day. Crafting a show that had flow was an arcane art—one that is virtually impossible to experience on commercial radio stations with limited play lists. Therefore, it was an art that, once mastered, would be of almost no practical use. It certainly wasn't going to get you a good paying job.

But some of us were seduced by it anyway. Matching tempi and even keys was elementary, but a really masterful mix would link music that you never thought of as having commonalities and make you understand the unfamiliar stuff better and let you hear the familiar material in a new way.

The masters at this have huge ears, encyclopedic record collections, and, it goes without saying, way too much free time on their hands. Last year, long time Stereophile reader Keith Spring sent me a pair of free-form CDs because I'd once said some nice things about a band he was in. They were a revelation. Mixing together all kinds of music, from J-pop to contemporary chamber music, jazz, gut-bucket R&B, and motion picture soundtracks, the discs covered a lot of ground—but best of all, they were logically constructed (it was a strange logic, but logic it was) and the song to song flow was masterful.

It took me a while to realize that I missed making those kinds of musical connections, but as time went on, I realized that, lacking a radio show of my own, creating "program" CD-Rs was, perhaps, even better than having a weekly show—no travel involved, after all.

Here's the first in an erratic series of virtual mix CDs, I intend to offer. If you feel like playing along at home, you can download the songs (most of 'em) and see if I succeeded in getting the flow right. Or you can check out the samples of the music and see if any of it interests you. Just so you know how I chose the links, first of all, they have to be legit. When the songs are available without DRM, I preferred that, so Amazon beats out iTunes, all other things being equal. Finally, I always chose the highest resolution available.

Without further ado, here's a collection I call If There Was No Sun, You Would Have This Song:

1. Rahsaan Roland Kirk: "Theme for the Eulipions"
2. Jon Hassell: "Caravanesque" (Unavailable online, but his "Blues Nile" is available from the iTunes Music Store and works almost as well. "Caravanesque is from the glorious CD Fascinoma from Water Lilly Recordings.)
3. Paul O'Dette: "de Murcia: Tarantelas"
4. Hans Reichel: "The Flight" (Not available online or on CD, but there's much pleasure to be had at Reichel's Daxophone website.)
5. Bjork: "Who Is It?"
6. Begoñia Olavide: "Paseabase el rey moro" (Not available as a download, but you can download another track (free!) by this fabulous musician here.)
7. Keith Jarrett: "Kuum" (available from iTunes Music Store)
8. Eddie Vedder/Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: "The Long Road"
9. Duda da Passira: "Casa de Tauba"
10. Claude Chalhoub: "Don't Wake Me Up"
11. Ry Cooder/Manuel Galbon: "Caballo Viejo"
12. Dengue Fever: "Tap Water"
13. Sera Una Noche: "Taquito Militar" (Not available as a download, but you can download another track (free!) by these remarkable musicians here.)
14. Ed Harcourt. "In the Bleak Midwinter" (Available solely on Mojo's 2004 Blue Christmas CD, AFAIK.)
15: Astor Piazzolla: "Tanguedia III"

Trey's picture

I used to make mix tapes like that. I would even record something off the TV, like an episode of Northern Exposure, and put clips in between the songs to tie things together. The epitome of that was a three volume set of mix tapes with Twin Peaks between each song.I don't do ANY of that any more. I blame my iPod. My access to music has so increased that I no longer want to make mix tapes. I want to do more 24/96 scans of my vinyl, I want to finish putting my cds on my terabyte drive at full rez, but I have no interest or energy in making mix tapes.I feel a certain nostalgia for those days, but having my music available at the touch of a button, and enjoying the random changes is enough for me now. The iPod just shifted from Get On THe Good Foot to Wolves (lower) by REM and I am happy.Anyone else had this happen?Trey

Dave_c's picture

Nice Wes!Loved your column AND the music selections. Great stuff!Your articles in Stereophile are always my favorites. I really dug that you mentioned Hiromi's latest in the current issue; that's a smokin' release.Kudos.