...is on the air!

My blog is of anything that pops into this brain of mine as well as what pops into other bloggers brains! If I read something I find interesting, I'll add it to mine and give credit, where credit is due!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rolling Stone's Top 100 Album covers #54!

1978 - Jerry Garcia Band, Cats Under the Stars

Rolling Stone's Top 100 Album covers #55!

1981 - Toto, Turn Back

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lovers of Covers

Iconic Rock ’n' Roll Images

By Ann Taylor (Aug 19, 2010 )

Before MP3s, CDs, cassette tapes, and even 8-tracks, there was vinyl. And during the reign of vinyl, album covers were high art, often rivaling the very music they encased.

Annie Liebovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, H.R. Giger, even Andy Warhol have put their hand to the design of album covers, the large format providing a perfect canvas for some of the most well-known images in the world.
But one of the most lasting impressions has been left by Storm Thorgerson, the man behind Pink Floyd album covers since 1968 — including the iconic Dark Side of the Moon — as well as covers for Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Steve Miller Band, Black Sabbath, and the Cranberries, among others. Currently showing at the San Francisco Art Exchange’s Lovers of Covers show are more than sixty prints of his celebrated works and several originals.

While Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cover is undoubtedly Thorgerson’s most famous work, and perhaps the most famous album cover of all time, it is not particularly representative of his typical visual style — Lovers of Covers allows viewers to see that work within the broader context of Thorgerson’s overall ouevre.

Typical of Thorgerson’s work is a surreal, dreamlike quality as well as odd juxtapositions of objects in expansive landscapes, creating quite dramatic compositions, such as the cover for Disco Biscuit’s Planet Anthem. Four women, carefully wrapped in brown butcher paper and tied with string, are ranged across a sandy beach. Like packages of meat at the supermarket, their wrapped forms are inert yet promising, set off dramatically against a cloudless sky as a white sheet floats gently in the breeze.
Along similar lines is the art for The Cranberry’s Bury the Hatchet album, in which a lone naked man cowers in the desert, tiny mesas visible in the far distance behind him, a giant eye staring at him from above. The flatness of the desert and the expansiveness of the clear sky emphasize his nakedness, his vulnerability to the all-seeing eye. These Magritte-esque images seem to tap into nightmare worlds, framing them in desolation and unexpected blue skies.
Even Thorgerson’s more simple images reflect an unexpected complexity and masterful composition. The cover for Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, for instance, looks, on the surface, like a picture of the band members casually relaxing in a doorway — scruffy, barefoot rock ’n’ rollers sitting around on a warm summer day. Yet, a second look reveals that the frame to the left of guitarist David Gilmour, who is slumped on a stool in the foreground, is a repeat of the same scene, stretching on into infinity like a reflection of a reflection in a mirror.

An even closer examination discloses a subtle change in each subsequent reframing of the scene: the band members are switching positions. Roger Waters now sits slumped on Gilmour’s stool, Nick Mason has taken Waters’ old position on the floor with knees bent, Richard Wright assumes Mason’s former standing pose with arms akimbo, and Gilmour now scissors his legs in the air in the background, where Wright is in the larger frame. And so on. It is little surprises like these that make even the mundane remarkable in Thorgerson’s work.

However, his covers are not just interesting but empty images; they also tend to point to an idea, a story, or even a joke (see the Steve Miller Band’s Let Your Hair Down, Baby cover). Most, if not all, of Thorgerson’s breathtaking compositions are backed by thoughtful concepts, and depict visual representations of those concepts, such as the artwork for The Mars Volta’s Frances the Mute album or Pink Floyd’s Delicate Sound of Thunder — you can read about them for yourself at the show.

Forty years of rock ’n’ roll history is bound up in stunning visuals in Lovers of Covers, reminding us of the power of the image even in the world of music. This show is not to be missed.

San Francisco Art Exchange
Through September 15th

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vinyl Revival: Record stores selling more vinyl albums

By Jeremy Essig - Columbia Business Times Aug 6, 2010

What if vinyl records saved the music industry?

That joke, relayed by Streetside Records manager Nick Soha, has been going around the retail music industry for a few years now. As with any good joke, there lies a kernel of truth — a truth that might help an industry considered on its way to extinction.

With the rise in popularity of compact discs, vinyl records became an antiquated format. Then came the Internet music-sharing craze and online music sales, which further marginalized the old LP format at the beginning of the millennium. Through services such as Apple’s iTunes and Napster, customers could purchase music instantly from the comfort of their own homes. As a result, retail music stores saw a decline in both sales and profits.

However, rumors of the industry’s decline have been greatly exaggerated, said Soha and Slackers manager Kate Passis. Slackers was founded in Columbia in 1993 and has expanded to Jefferson City and the St. Louis area, where it has nine stores. Streetside, part of a national chain of music stores, has been in Columbia since 1980. Although both managers said sales are not as strong as they once were, they also expressed optimism for the present and future.

Streetside Records, located on Providence Road across from the MU power plant, has had one of its best summers in a long time, Soha said. Part of this success, he said, can be attributed to a revived interest in vinyl records.

Vinyl is “a big part of sales now,” Soha said.

Three years ago, Streetside only stocked about 20 to 30 records, Soha said. The medium was so marginalized that one employee, when registering a sale to a customer who brought a vinyl record to the counter, asked when the store began selling calendars.

Since that time, however, vinyl sales have made an epic comeback.

Vinyl album sales are still less than 1 percent of total album sales, but vinyl sales rose from 1.9 million in 2008 to 2.5 million in 2009, a 33 percent increase, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the entertainment industry’s data information system that tracks point-of-purchase sales. (The data doesn’t account for the used vinyl market.)

Preparing for another migration of the younger generation, Passis said Slackers is planning to place a large order of new vinyl to coincide with the return of MU students for the fall semester.

Passis said the Slackers store on Broadway is also helped by a robust trade-in business. During the economic downturn, she said customers might be less likely to hold onto old CDs and DVDs and more willing to trade them in for store credit. Soha said used media is also a strong seller at Streetside, which allows customers to receive either cash or store credit for used items.

Both managers also said video games and an expanding selection of Blue Ray discs have contributed significantly to their stores’ sales totals. The ability to carry video games and Blue Ray next to more nostalgic media such as vinyl provides what Passis said is one of the best aspects of the modern retail music store.

“We don’t sell anything people need,” she said. “We sell what people want, which is great.”

The vinyl revival is also boosting sales of another retro product: the turntable. Sam Jones, an owner of Pure Audio, said national sales of turntables have increased about 70 percent during the past few years.

Jones attributes the increase to a number of factors. Some customers are rediscovering old vinyl that was never made available in digital format. Others have inherited the record collection of relatives and are looking to play songs they heard at family occasions. The younger generation, Jones said, has also become enamored with the nostalgia factor that vinyl provides.

Top Ten Vinyl Albums in 2009

Title                                                                             Artist                                                Units Sold

Abbey Road……………………………………………The Beatles…………………………34,800
Thriller………………………………………………….Michael Jackson…………………….29,800
Merriweather Post Pavilion …………………….............AnimalCollective…………………….14,000
Fleet Foxes……………………………………………. Fleet Foxes…………………………12,700
Backspacer………………………………………….....Pearl Jam……………………………12,500
Veckatimest………………………………………....... Grizzly Bear…………………………11,600
Appetite For Destruction………………………….........Guns N’ Roses……………………...11,500
Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King……….............Dave Matthews Band……………....11,500
In Rainbows………………………………………........Radiohead………………………….11,400

Source: Nielsen SoundScan

Monday, August 16, 2010

New albums in my collection

Ace Frehley - Second Sighting and Live + 1

David Bowie - Never Let Me Down and Tesla - The Great Radio Controversy

R.E.O. Speedwagon -Nine Lives and Self-titled

Genesis - Wind and the Wuthering and Trespass

Fleetwood Mac - Future Games and Genesis - Selling England by the Pound

Slade - Keep Your Hands Off Our Power Supply and The Firm - Mean Business

Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire and ...Sings Hank Williams

Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison and The Buddy Holly Story

Nancy Sinatra - Boots and How Does That Grab You? (both mono)

Nancy Sinatra - ... in London and Country My Way (stereo)

Nancy Sinatra - Sugar (great cover!) and Movin' with Nancy (television special with "special" guests)

Zebra - Self-titled and No Tellin' Lies

Klatuu - 1st album and The Immortal Otis Redding

Sgt. Barry Sadler - ballad of the Green Berets and Soundtrack for "The Happening"

Ramsey Lewis - Dancing in the Street and Wade in the Water

Ramsey Lewis - Never On a Sunday and Up Pops Ramsey Lewis

Patsy Cline - Show Case and Ramsey Lewis - Another Voyage

Patsy Cline - Golden Hits and Here's Patsy Cline

Ravi Shankar - At the Woodstock Fest. and Six Ragas

Isaac Hayes - In the Beginning and Henry Mancini - Music from Peter Gunn

Peter, Paul and Mary - Album and Album 1700

Peter, Paul and Mary - Moving and 10 Years Together

Erroll Garner - Gems and Plays Misty

Dave Brubeck - Time Changes and Summit Sessions

Miles Davis - Miles Smiles and Prgressive Jazz Compilation

Here's Louis Armstong and Tony Bennet and Count Basie - Strike Up the Band

Oscar Peterson Trio - Stratford Shakespearean Fest. and Leon Redbone - On the Track

Sonny and Cher - Look at Us and In Case You're in Love

Herbie Mann - At the Village Gate and Monday Night at...

Portrait of Adlai Stevenson (talking record) and Jazz in the Space Age (with Bill Evans)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My son plays his first Bluesfest!

I was in Cedar Rapids Saturday night for a Bluesfest known as Bluesmore (a non-profit fest) ! It's on the grounds of the National Registry's Landmark Museum known as Brucemore Mansion (also a non-profit organization).

Not a bad shindig at all! I'm a bug fan of the blues as is most of my family. I grew up hearing it played on teh stereo from my dad, but also hearing it performed by my father and mother as well.

I play some guitar, but my 12 year old, David, is quite good for his age. He was asked by Gary "Bubba" Gibson to play at the fest on the Brucemore porch stage with another young man named Ben Bollwitt, 14, from Monticello on drums!

(Ben, 14 yrs,on left, my son, David, 12 yrs, on right)

It was a blast to see these two young men, who'd only met at three o'clock that day, gig together for the first time and learn from each other. Both of them were paying special attention to each other, to keep the rhythm chugging along. very professional characteristics from these early teens. A back-up band helped them along and filled out the sound with keyboards, bass, horn and clarinet known as Krewe Osgood, a New Orleans style Jazz band.

(David with guitar and top hat)

(David and Ben discussing music before going onstage)

On main stage were acts from all over the blues world! The Avey Brothers, from the Quad Cities, are a blues trio that had some great blues covers such as Stevie Ray Vaughn's "WILLIE THE WIMP" (one of my all-time favorites).

(David with The Avey Bros.)

Next on the stage was a band out of Wisconsin with a rather large following called Reverened Raven and the Chain-smoking Altar Boys! Amazing band with a saxophonist that could make you shake it without worry of breaking it.... Did some covers of the late Albert Collins, like "TOO MANY DIRTY DISHES" and and some original tunes as well.

Headliner was Deana Bogart. A multi-talented blues-WOMAN that my parents have seen before... Great voice, amzing pianist, and sexy sax, or as some say SAXUALITY!

(David with headliner Deana Bogart)

All in all, had a blast Saturday night at Bluesmore and David.... You were awesome!

Rolling Stone's Top 100 Album covers #56!

1973 - ELP, Brain Salad Surgery

Rolling Stone's Top 100 Album covers #57!

1970 - Grateful Dead, American Beauty

Though it all, vinyl lives!

Never-say-die format rebounds

By Laura McFarland
Rocky Mount Telegram
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They were challenged by eight-tracks, eclipsed by tapes and compact discs and almost completely overshadowed by digital downloads.

Vinyl records have had a tough last four decades, said Eric Parson, manager of Gravity Records in Wilmington. Despite the hard times, vinyl has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity prompted by nostalgic baby boomers and teens “discovering” the old technology.

“There is a reason that, since it was introduced in the ’40s, it has never stopped being made. The sound is so good. Eight-tracks went away, cassettes went away, minidiscs went away. Vinyl is the only thing that has stuck around besides CDs, and they are definitely making less and less of those,” Parson said.

Records have been such an important part of audio history that fans nationwide will honor them today by celebrating Vinyl Record Day, said Gary Freiberg, who created the event in 2002 in California. The event was designed to honor the influence that vinyl records and their cover art have had on American culture, preserving everything from music to historic speeches to radio broadcasts.

Though buying a new or used record to enjoy would be a great way to mark Vinyl Record Day, the event is more about preservation than commerce, Freiberg said. His idea was for family and friends to gather to share the music they loved and that was important to them.

It not only would draw people closer but remind them of why records need to be preserved to be enjoyed now and by future generations, he said.

“People honor their old books, put them in a bookcase and take care of them but have their old records down in the garage getting musty,” Freiberg said.
Record sales continue to be only a small part of the music business’ overall profits, but the industry has taken notice, said Ric Culross, manager of Schoolkids Records in Raleigh. In August, music companies are publishing 403 12-inch records, either new or rereleases, compared to 3,214 CDs.

“We probably have close to $60,000 worth of new vinyl inside our store now. It ranges from Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to current groups like Sleigh Bells or M.I.A.,” Culross said.

In Rocky Mount, record fans are limited on choice. Many thrift stores offer a limited older selection to choose from.

For new music, Best Buy has been carrying about 10 to 12 albums at a time for more than a year, said Chris Combs, operations manager.

“I know that a lot of people like the feel of vinyl. Everything that was old is new again,” Combs said.

This is especially true for younger people were born during the CD and MP3 eras who have discovered vinyl and think it is cool, Freiberg said. Many became hooked by one or two records and now are finding music that is not available on any other format.

“Every record collection I believe is unique. ... Within every record collection are recordings that will never be put on a digital or downloadable format. It is just economically not feasible for companies to go back and do that,” Freiberg said.

The advent of CDs in the 1980s was a dark time for vinyl because everyone who grew up with record collections ditched them to buy CDs, which were revolutionary at the time, Freiberg said. Now, the different forms of technology can enhance each other.

Many new releases will include either a code so the buyer can download the album online or a CD copy of the album in the sleeve, Freiberg said. Some bands also offer a free 7-inch record containing extra songs with a CD purchase.

“With the new artists that are putting albums out on vinyl that appeal to younger people, potentially, younger people will be more apt to go to a record store and start discovering older releases. I think it bodes very well for the future for preservation,” he said.

Since the manufacturers had sold off or destroyed most of their vinyl presses when the medium started to wane in popularity, the only way they could have them manufactured was through custom firms, Culross said. So there is a huge amount of vinyl waiting to be pressed, he said.

“They are releasing a gauntlet of titles. The problem is, since there are so few presses now, if they don’t order enough initially for the first month’s sales, it might take weeks before you get a piece back in. There is a limited quantity of this stuff when it comes out on the street,” Culross said.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vinyl Isn't The Only Retro Format Getting Love These Days

By Cory Graves Thursday, Aug 5 2010 Dallas Observer

When retailers and critics began singing the praises of digital media—namely the newly en vogue compact discs in the mid-1980s—vinyl began its slow descent into the background, fading into virtual obscurity around 1991. Or so mainstream labels and retailers would have you believe.

Despite its dwindling availability, vinyl never stopped being manufactured. And it never completely vanished. Vinyl sales topped 1.9 million units nationwide in 2008, the most in any year since 1998, and rose another 33 percent in 2009 according to Nielsen SoundScan, the official source of sales records used by the music industry.

"Most days, we sell almost as much LPs, dollar-wise, as we do CDs—pretty shocking for 2010," says Chris Penn, part owner of Good Records on Lower Greenville. "My theory is that the exaggeration of the death of vinyl was a way for the music industry to push the two main formats they were hawking at the time: the compact disc and cassette."

The incipient resurgence that niche formats like vinyl, cassettes, and 8-track tapes are currently experiencing is not without merit. For vinyl, the revitalization makes sense. Its larger packaging better accommodates cover art, making them more aesthetically appealing to both consumers and collectors. And the sound quality is known for exhibiting a great deal more warmth than the format's digital counterparts. Plus, the very idea that records will have to be changed or flipped frequently leads to listening experiences that are more purposeful—more of something that's experienced, and appreciated on a higher level, and not as something simply relegated to the background.

"There is definitely a collector-nerd quality to it," Penn says. "But I don't think the resurgence would be sustained if people were not actually diving in and making listening to an album more of an 'event' type of situation—almost communal."

This is an idea that's catching on locally as well. In the past year, many local bands put out vinyl releases—most notable among those being the Teenage Cool Kids and their much-hyped Foreign Lands, an album that was made available exclusively on 180-gram vinyl.

And it's not just bands who are championing the once dying format; local labels are also partially responsible for vinyl's sudden chic. In March, the highly influential Dallas-based music blogs Gorilla vs Bear and Weekly Tape Deck combined forces to create Forest Family Records. The label has already released seven-inch singles by New York's Cults and Colorado's Gauntlet Hair. In each case, the releases received loads of national media attention, and the label subsequently sold out of their initial pressings very quickly. For the time being, Forest Family maintains the sentiment that all future releases by the label will come on vinyl, and perhaps an occasional cassette.

"It's the quality aspect of the vinyl format that we prefer over any other medium," says Forest Family co-founder Nathan Smith. "Even driving in my car, I'll plug in my iPod or a burned CD; it's rare that I even make a CD purchase anymore."

Although the reasons for vinyl's recent rebound seem reasonable enough, the rationale behind the growing demand for cassette tapes isn't quite as clear. While the superior artwork and sound quality of vinyl give plausibility to its increased popularity, those same elements are what makes the cassette's comeback equally perplexing. Album artwork suffers on the small sized, awkwardly shaped cassette tapes—and that's not even mentioning the diminished sound quality that comes with having to cram so many sounds onto such a small strip of magnetic tape, and one which only degrades with each listen.

"With cassettes, you have all these sounds compressed onto a piece of 1/8-inch magnetic tape, says Teenage Cool Kids guitarist Andrew Savage. "The more sound you try to jam on there, the more you have to compete with tape hiss."

While it might not be for their aesthetic, several reasons exist for the renewed interest in cassettes. For one thing, they represent a bit of nostalgia for children who grew up in the 1980s. Now aged in their late 20s and early 30s, for these listeners, it's about re-creating a sentimental experience, listening to the format that reminds them of some of their earliest exposure to music.

"The whole cassette thing coming back seems like pure novelty to me," says Good Records' Penn. "I know there are some great cassette-only labels popping up, [but] it's really not convenient, as most cars are not equipped with cassette decks anymore, nor are home stereo systems."

On a more social level, however, cassette's revitalization is based on cultural implications that, in some circles, are more important than how the end product looks or sounds. Tapes are the modern-day embodiment of the underground DIY ethic that was so prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s, and led to the success of bands like Sonic Youth.

Cassettes are one of the cheapest and easiest formats to create and reproduce, which enables artists with a wide variance in skill sets the ability to record. As such, sound qualities can vary from mediocre to downright excruciating. But very few artists see large profits from cassette-only releases, or even intend to for that matter.