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September 21, 2007

MusicTAP's George Bennett has written an essay on the current state of music, a personal review. We hope that you'll enjoy it.

A Personal Review of the State of Music

I absolutely loved SACD, and to a lesser extent, DVD-Audio.  So many pop and rock classics were given a new life, a rebirth in stunning new clarity.  To my great dismay, and sadness, neither of those formats have survived (at least in the USA. There are stil many imports available.  Across the pond, SACD was embraced and is going strong, and some audiophile labels are still doing the SACD thing here in the States.)

It seems to me a double blow to the gut that, as SACD and DVD Audio were gasping a last breath, music, in general, was also suffering.  Suffering a loss of the storied greatness that had reigned for some 40 years -from the British Invasion, circa 1964, on through the last great year of music, 2004.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Since 04, there have been some marvelous releases by some very talented artists.  But, alas, far too few when compared to the previous four decades.  Music, in these last few years, seems to have become the anti-music, a bland copy (at best) of the greatness that preceded it (ie, the overly-polished "country" music of today as compared to that genre's past greatness.  Just one glaring, obvious example).

As I prepared to write this tome, my mind drifted back to some of the great leaps forward in music since 1964:  The British Invasion, the USA's answer to same, the first stirrings of folk-rock and country-rock, the singer/songwriter troubador, psychedelia, garage-rock, the Summer of Love, the Woodstock generation, prog-rock, the guitar-rock gods, glam-rock, the '70's journeyman rock, experimental rock, So-Cal rock, power-ballads, arena-rock, punk-rock, New-Wave, goth, Kraut-rock, grunge, shoe-gazer swirl, the list goes on and on...and from then on, an amalgam of these styles, culminating in the last great era that combined, somehow, and in every way, to move music forward, always forward, always demonstrating a reverance for the progenitors.  Power-pop, punk-pop, alternative-country, the singer/songwriter, emo-pop...the list goes on and on yet again.  (I've purposely left out disco and rap/hip-hop in this incomplete list.  If I've overlooked one of your personal favorites, I apologize.  There are just SO many sub-genres.)

The dearth of good music in the last three or four years has left me disheartened (allowing for a few exceptions), but even this dark cloud has a silver lining.  I have been forced, willingly, to go back and revisit so many great artists and albums from those wonder-years, and Lord knows I have a seemingly endless collection at hand - some 3,000+ vinyl LPs well over 300 45 rpm singles, easily more than 2,000 CDs, and some 200+ SACDs and DVD-As.  It seems to be a blessing and a curse to be a music lover/collector/reviewer.  As we are always buying or receiving free demos of the next hopefully great discs, we tend to lose track of the marvelous music that has long ago overwhelmed our shelves, drawers, even entire rooms, in stacks and piles, and, as we try, usually in vain, in some sort of alphabetical or
genre order.

Lately, then, I have been listening to a few new releases, discs that I find interest me by reading MusicTap and other sites and magazine reviews - but mostly, I find myself having the time to rediscover great music that I already own - even in re-reading my own reviews!  Discs that I loved and raved about, but passed thru my collection too quickly as the next new thing attracted my attention. 

My player has lately been occupied by some relatively new stuff (Ian Hunter, Brandi Carlile, Jesse Malin, Patti Scialfa), but mostly by discs from the recent, and far, past:  foregoing the obvious (Beatles, Stones, etc...), I've been enjoying (for your perusal) The Allman Brothers, The Searchers, The Zombies, Marmalade, Manfred Mann, The Dave Clark 5, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Bee Gees, The Mamas and Papas, The Animals, The Beau Brummels, John Mayall, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Yes, Dream Academy, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Maria McKee, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Pere Ubu, Mazzy Star, Love, Procol Harum, The Grateful Dead, Phish, Mose Allison, Jimmy Smith, Faces, Scott Walker, Guided By Voices, Leonard Cohen, Gene Clark, Townes Van Zandt, ELO, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Al Green, The Jayhawks, The Old 97s, Delbert McClinton, The Moody Blues, Santana, and on and on...the list is truly endless. 

I suggest that you, dear reader, delve back into your catalogue of discs that haven't been heard in too long a time, and rediscover the magic.  A magic that is sadly missing from most of today's music.  That being said, I also encourage you to search out the new stuff that's worth your hard-earned dollar.  There is some very good new music out there, albeit sparse and often hard to find.

I haven't totally given up on the new stuff yet, and I hope you won't, either.  In the meantime, you have some breathing room to pull out those older discs that you loved when you bought 'em, and to rediscover why you fell in love with music in the first place. Everything is cyclic, and new music is bound to grab us again, sooner or later.  For now, I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting dear friends that have too long been MIA...

(Please take advantage of the marvelous re-issue packages available from labels such as Rhino, Hip-O, and Shout!Factory, among others.  They, thankfully, offer compilations and re-issues of much of the great music of the past that might otherwise have been lost or forgotten.)

George Bennett

As we go into the weekend, we have a new As The Disc Spins from Lindsay Planer. In it, he reviews several recently released Pink Floyd titles that include the Limited Edition of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and an in-depth DVD set called The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story.

Enjoy the weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday!!

-- News Elsewhere --

There IS NOT a new entry in The Guitar Diaries [September 21].


I'm having troubles with figuring out how people develop great sounding strums such as the intro to House of the Rising Sun by just using chord shapings.

Please send all of your words of encouragement, suggestions, contributions, and derision to The Guitar Diaries.

Michael Bolton will release his Christmas collection called A Swingin’ Christmas on October 9Bolton, whose sales are in the stratosphere as well (with over 53 million albums sold), will add soul to his traditional Christmas package.  Releasing from Concord Records.

Watch for Seven Second Surgery from Vancouver band, Faber Drive, to be available on October 9.

Moving into 2008, Sparrow plans an as-yet-untitled disc for Keith Green, an unsung singer/songwriter from the early years.  Peg this one for February 12.

Universal Republic will re-release Extreme Behavior, the best-selling 2006 release from Hinder, as a 2-disc Deluxe Edition.  The added material includes 2 previously unreleased songs, “Born to be Wild,” a cover of the Steppenwolf classic, and a piano version of “Get Stoned.”  The second disc is a bonus DVD that includes 1 hour of live Hinder performances from Green Bay and Madison, WI shows including backstage footage.  In addition, the DVD will contain all of their videos including their newest of “Born to be Wild.”  This reissue will be released on October 9.

Did we tell you that The Black and White Album from The Hives will street on October 9?  Yes?  Here it is again…lest you forget, only this time notate your calendar to the new date of November 13.  Also, watch for a planned release of The Best of The Hives in March of 2008, including an expanded version.

The vinyl LP version of In Our Nature (Jose Gonzalez), originally planned for October 2 has been delayed until October 23.  This does not impact the expected CD release of the title, which is still on track for September 25.

Vanessa Carlton’s new 11-track album, Heroes & Thieves, is an anticipated release that is scheduled to be available on October 9.

Fuel Records will release a digitally remastered Family Matters with selections from John Lee Hooker and cousin, Earl Hooker on October 9.

Watch for several more Christmas releases, one from Patti LaBelle and one from The Isley Brothers, both slated for release on October 9.

New music is coming from She Wants Revenge (This is Forever), and Puddle of Mudd (Famous).  Both albums are scheduled for October 9.

Ahhhh, the Back Street Boys are back.  On October 30, they will release Unbreakable in both standard CD and a Special Deluxe Edition (with digipak casing, bonus tracks, a pull-out poster, and more photos.  The tracks are still being toyed with and so there is no definitive listing for either selections as of yet.  Thanks to Jive Records for this new album.

The Columbia Performance Series is releasing The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan – Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965.  This digipak, single DVD will feature over 80-minutes of performances, many that have not been seen other than the Festival’s original attendees.  This classic and historic DVD will fill out many Dylan aficionados’ collection.  The 1965 segments show electric performances of “Maggie’s Farm,” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”  The video and audio have been restored with a remaster of the audio portion mixed to 5.1 sound.  Bonus features include some performances by Joan Baez, and Johnny Cash.  There is also an interview with filmmaker, Murray Lerner, the director.  This will be available on October 30.

September 19, 2007

Whilst I was visiting in Chicago, I picked up several old “free” magazine pickups, two that I had regularly read when I lived in Illinois.  The first is Illinois Entertainer, a collection of articles, upcoming music, reviews, ads, etc that I had always liked.  The second is a beefier read, but still available in the same way (a fold like early Rolling Stone), called The Chicago Reader.  It is filled with ads, reviews, upcoming music, ads, movies, singles/couples looking for:, and more ads.  Both were enjoyable reads, Illinois Entertainer more, and both were basically unchanged from the time that I started reading them some 25 or more years ago.

The current issue of Illinois Entertainer had an article in it commenting on some of Chicago’s better independent record shops, one of which I was close enough to stop at.  I spent all of 20 disappointing minutes in the store – I was disappointed in the array of available music (too much bulk on certain artists leaving little room for the more obscure artists.)  It came off feeling a little too safe – a “hip” shop for the masses that need a “hip” shop.  The store was Rolling Stones, btw.  The article in the IE made me wish for a bit more time so that I could visit them all.

We have three reviews for you that include James Hrivnak evaluation of Once Upon a Time in the West by Hard-Fi. I chime in with two of my own that include the remastered, reissue of Cold from Lycia, originally released in 1996. I also provide my thoughts on the new band from San Diego, Grand Ole Party, whose new album is called Humanimals. The CD is expected to be released sometimes in 2008 however the album CAN be purchased via iTunes now.

We have some links of interest for you, some that include some music. The first is for the upcoming Led Zeppelin 2CD 'best of' called Mothership, as well as their expanded reissue of The Song Remains the Same, which includes songs not found on the original release.

The next is the upcoming Ramones DVD, It's Alive -1974-1976, expected on October 2. This DVD will be 2 discs full of Ramones performances, some previously unreleased. Click on the link for a YouTube video of "Blitzkrieg Bop." Click on the DVD cover for a YouTube trailer.

Finally, Rhino plans the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Chicago with the 2CD 'best of' slated for October 2. Click on the album cover for a listening party of the album.

Be sure to come back on Friday where we'll have a new As The Disc Spins with a review of Piper at the Gates of Dawn and a Syd Barrett documentary. We also have a few more reviews for you. AND, we have a look at The State of Music Today written by George Bennett. That will be the front page Today content. There's plenty of release information to inform you too. We'll see you then!

-- News Elsewhere --

There IS NOT a new entry in The Guitar Diaries [September 19].


I'm having troubles with figuring out how people develop great sounding strums such as the intro to House of the Rising Sun by just using chord shapings.

Please send all of your words of encouragement, suggestions, contributions, and derision to The Guitar Diaries.

On October 16, Geffen, in conjunction with Experience Hendrix, will release all of the available known footage from Jimi Hendrix’s Monterey Pop Festival appearance on June 18, 1967, in a set that will be known as The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at Monterey.  Taking the original 16mm tapes and creating HD transfers, this set will be available on DVD (with fantastic bonuses) and CD, and vinyl LP, all with enhancements.

The DVD will contain not only the Monterey performance but also a new documentary called American Landing that has new and unreleased interview footage from The Experience as well as Jimi Hendrix.  Other bonuses include A Second Look, which is a multi-angle view of the performance, two live songs from an earlier performance at Chelmsford, England on February 25, 1967 of “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Stone Free,” and an inside look of the Festival with Lou Adler, Festival co-founder.  The DVD is bolstered by new 2.0 and 5.1 aural mixes from noted engineer, Eddie Kramer, DTS and Dolby Digital.

[Sidenote: The Pepsi/Coke commercial with Jimi Hendrix as a young child trying to choose between the drinks, with one leading to a guitar shop and another leading to a different instrument, would be a classic Easter Egg inclusion for this DVD release, or any Hendrix disc.  My thought.]

The CD and LP versions, which will be released simultaneously with the DVD, enjoy new Stereo mix enhancements.  No one should be dissatisfied, especially devout Hendrix fans.

This eluded me a month or so back but I’m glad that I “stumbled” back across its path.  Caroline Records is re-releasing Boulders (1973) from Roy Wood on September 25Roy Wood has some history with stints in The Move (with Jeff Lynne), a brief residence with ELO, and then solo/Wizzard projects.  Boulders was an excellent album and I’m quite glad to see it resurrected.  Snag it if you’re so inclined but hurry as the run is very, very slight (800 in production/200 the first week).

The latest Duran Duran disc, Red Carpet Massacre, will be released on November 13. Thanks to Craig for bringing it to our attention.

The previously mentioned reissues of classic Bob Seger titles have been date-moved to November 20 from their original release date of November 6.  Make your changes on your calendar.  The titles affected are Against the Wind, Beautiful Loser, Night Moves, Nine Tonight & Live Bullet, and Stranger in Town.

Of course, every Beatles fan knows this news by now, but just in case you haven’t heard – Capitol will release the Beatles’ film, Help! on DVD.  It will be available both as a standard 2DVD release and as a 2DVD Deluxe Edition.  Both are on the calendar for October 30.

The CNK will release their next album, L'hymne à la Joie, on November 20 (US) and November 12 elsewhere. The release will be a digipak with gold foil. You can check out their MySpace page here.

Asrai will release their new album, Pearls in Dirt, on November 20 (US), November 12 elsewhere.

The Warlocks' new album, Heavy Deavy Skull Lover, on October 23. The album will release through Tee Pee Records.

The upcoming Glass Hammer release, Culture of Ascent, will be helped by Jon Anderson (Yes). This should prove interesting. Culture of Ascent will be released on October 23. Pre-orders are being accepted through the band's website.

12 years ago, Toby Keith sold 85,000 copies of his holiday album.  That’s wildly impressive considering many upstart bands cannot even get near unit numbers like that.  But this 2CD set is coming from a guy who has sold more than 30 million CDs worldwide.  On October 16, ShowDog Nashville (Keith’s own label) will release the two volume, 20-song collection of traditional holiday songs called A Classic Christmas.  Watch for a special holiday TV show to be aired.

A DVD is being issued from Olivia Newton-John called Olivia Newton-John with the Sydney Symphony.  This DVD is scheduled for release on December 4.

Rounder’s HeartBeat Records will release Another Dance – Rarities from Studio 1 for Bob Marley and the Wailers, recorded between 1964 and 1966.  This collection features 18 tracks, including originals, alternate takes, and original single mixes from the period.  Most of the songs here were released as singles in Jamaica and are collected here for the first CD appearance.  This set is scheduled for release on October 16.

HeartBeat Records will also release The Gladiators: Studio 1 Singles on October 9.  This collection will reissue their singles and dub versions recorded in Jamaica between 1969 and 1978.  There will also be 12” singles included that were recorded after 1978.

Alter Bridge is a band made up of 3 members of Creed.  Their new album, blackbird, will be released by Universal Republic on October 9.

AYO is a Europe phenomenon that is coming to America in her US release of her Euro debut, Joyful.  Joyful has already notched over 550,000 units sold.  Her music is compared to that of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, and Sade.  You can get a lead by navigating over to www.ayomusic.com and listen to what lots of European already know.  If we have some Euro readers that’d like to comment, let us know what you think of AYOJoyful is scheduled to be released on October 9 by Interscope Records.

September 17, 2007

Well...it looks as if Death is taking no vacations. Bobby Byrd, a James Brown friend and musical collaborator, as well as a recording artist in his own right, died last Wednesday of cancer. He was 73. Admittedly, I know little concerning Bobby Byrd although Lindsay Planer, our resident Brown fan, could likely offer up far more of a fitting writeup than I, regardless, still acknowledge his passing. RIP, Bobby.

Bobby Byrd
1934 - 2007

Thanks for your flurry of email concerning the comments on MP3 and CD engineering. They were appreciated. As we all already know, music is not only changing in style but it is changing in sound and distribution. Guess progress will not be stopped.

The weekend didn't leave me much to write about. We have been extremely busy with flurries of releasing music and have filled up our pages more than we usually have. But today, we're in the small news department. But I'm sure that Wednesday will bring a ton of news.

Today, we have several reviews that include the promised Mehida review from John Dunphy of their Blood & Water release. In addition, we have a bonus As The Disc Spins column from Lindsay Planer. Actually, this was sent while I was on vacation and we're squeezing it in between regular posts to catch it up. In this issue, Lindsay centres on recent David Bowie titles that includes The Best of David Bowie: 1980-1987 CD/DVD, the CD/DVD reissue of Young Americans, and the DVD/2CD Edition of Glass Spider.

Coming up on Wednesday, we have a review of the recently remastered Cold ambient masterpiece by Lycia. In addition, we have a review of Once Upon a Time in the West by Hard-Fi, written by James Hrivnak.

Congrats to the White Sox's Jim Thome for smacking out his 500th homer in dramatic fashion.

I have a review that I am treating in a different way than the usual posting.  I’m placing it on the front page for everyone to get a glance at and to consider.  It’s the Appleseed Recordings release of a charity CD filled with great music and full concern for the homelessness of those that wish not to be but circumstances had put them there anyway.  The group that is being supported is Give US Your Poor.  It is appreciated if you take the few moments to read it, and if so moved, to purchase the CD.  Thanks for your tolerance of this front page placed review.

Nothing details the plight of the downtrodden more accurately than a blues song or a folk tune.  Much of that music is rooted in unfortunate hardships.  In this day and age, homelessness is one of the harsher realities that we have given the state of changes developing in our world.  In the US, it is partially propagated by downturns in family economics, which makes it all the more tragic.  Social programs, although in place, are widely inadequate in addressing long-term needs and help, much that would put the recipients in a better position to help themselves, and then, in turn, help others.

All of this requires large sums of money and dedication that extends beyond our usual giving moods.  Thankfully, we have alliances that are formed, which will bring assisted relief toward agencies designed to bring personal relief, even if only short term, to those in dire need.  Appleseed Recordings, a stalwart independent label dedicated in bringing folk/world music to the fore, teams up with UMass Boston’s Give US Your Poor organization in a fund-raising effort to funnel cash into the coffers of Give US Your Poor by assembling a collection of songs from big name artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Madeleine Peyroux, Pete Seeger, Keb’ Mo’, and Jon Bon Jovi.

This collection is well assembled with some excellent songs.  The CD begins with a 4-minute audio documentary that uses brief statements from homeless people, wherever they may have been solicited.  It turns into a brilliant Mighty Sam McClain duet with Jon Bon Jovi.  The lyrics reflect heavily on the once homelessness of McClain in a traditional blues/gospel song.  Keb’ Mo’ along with song-writer, Eagle Park Slim, adds a Mississippi blues track in the genuine “Baby Don’t Let Me Go Homeless.”   There’s a great story in this disc on the selection process for Natalie Merchant’s contribution to this set.  Her song inclusion (with Nichole Cooper, 15 at the time of writing the revealing, and heartfelt song) is a powerful blast of accusation and outreached arms, spiraled by a blues music track.

Some of the songs on this single-disc collection are new such as Madeleine Peyroux’s recording of Randy Newman’s excellent “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” and Bonnie Raitt (with Weepin’ Willie Robinson) on the old classic, “Walkin’ The Dog.”  The set is rounded out with songs by Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger (“Hobo’s Lullaby”), the previously unreleased “1,000 Miles Away” by Jewel, and other contributions by Michelle Shocked, Sonya Kitchell, and more.  Added tracks include spoken lyrics with music by Danny Glover and Tim Robbins.

The booklet is literally packed with lengthy commentary of the formation of each song, and an in-depth explanation of Give US Your Poor and their activities.  The fact that you get a selection of great, timeless music on a single disc, but that you also help monetarily in your purchase of it, makes this an important purchase; everybody wins.  It isn’t a high-profile charity effort like “We Are the World,” or Geldof’s “Feed the World” were some decades back, but it is nonetheless important.  As a community of man – and we are that – our help is essential.  With Give US Your Poor, the 17-song charity album from Appleseed Recordings, we take another step in linking arms with humanity.  And the collected music is excellent.

We’ll see you again on Wednesday.

-- News Elsewhere --

There IS NOT a new entry in The Guitar Diaries [September 17].


I'm having troubles with figuring out how people develop great sounding strums such as the intro to House of the Rising Sun by just using chord shapings.

Please send all of your words of encouragement, suggestions, contributions, and derision to The Guitar Diaries.

R.E.M. will release their first Live album called simply, R.E.M. Live. It will be available in a 2CD/DVD config and will contain 22 songs and will be presented in a digipak setting. Vinyl LP fans will get two LPs in a Stoughton (manufactured and prionted by Stoughton Co - a stylish, old-style jacket) double-gatefold jacket. The recorded live set stems from a show in Ireland (The Point) on February 2005. It is scheduled for October 16.

Here is a new list of Greatest Hits reissues expected on October 23:

  • Gerald Albright - The Very Best of Gerald Albright - Atlantic
  • Tevin Campbell - The Best of Tevin Campbell - Rhino
  • Deee Lite - The Very Best of Deee Lite - Elektra
  • Miki Howard - The Very Best of Miki Howard - Atlantic
  • Stacy Lattisaw - The Very Best of Stacy Lattisaw - Atlantic
  • Mass Production - Firecrackers:The Best of Mass Production - Atlantic
  • Patrice Rushen - Haven't You Heard: The Best of Patrice Rushen - Elektra
  • Take 6 - Take 6 Greatest Hits - Rhino
  • Grover Washington, Jr - Anthology of Grover Washington, Jr - Elektra
  • Zapp & Roger - All the Greatets Hits - Rhino

Warner Brothers will release We Will Live and Die in These Towns by Enemy. This set will come with a bonus CD attached and is expected to be released on October 23.

Watch for the second album by Cobra Starship, slated for release on October 23. The album is called ¡Viva La Cobra! and has 11 tracks. Check them out at their MySpace page. The album is being released by Fueled by Ramen records.

Dusty Rhodes and The River Band will release their first album, First You Live (OC (Anaheim), CA band), on October 9. The releasing label is SideOneDummy Records. I do like 'em, I must say. Here...'ave a listen on their MySpace page.

Island Records will release a 3CD Box called Fruit Tree that contains 42 tracks from Nick Drake. This set is scheduled for release on November 6. An 3LP Box set is also planned for release, scheduling for November 20.

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