Saturday, September 29, 2012

Richard Vandersteen at St. Louis Stereo

Today was the day we'd waited for and anticipated for weeks now, since events rarely take place in an audio wasteland such as St. Louis. Richard Vandersteen, of Vandersteen Audio fame, addressed a small polite crowd at St. Louis Stereo, 2020 Washington Avenue, in the high-rent loft district downtown.

Richard spoke at length about how he started from modest means, his parents being immigrants, and how he made the transition from a small-time speaker designer into one of the most recognizable names in high-end audio. We auditioned his $6000 Treo speaker, a three-way design featuring a transmission line behind the tweeter to absorb "garbage frequencies" (to quote the man) and a midrange to simply die for. Explaining how most small speakers are best utilized with subs to add the lower octave, he also gave us detailed info on how he developed fused balsa/carbon fiber midrange cones to create the effortless sound produced by these beautiful instruments, as well as his innovative cabinet design and construction. These exclusive cone material design elements will eventually trickle down from the more expensive models, and he made it a point to mention that his main objective is to utilize this new development (balsa/carbon-fused mids) in his lesser-priced models.

We listened to Holly Cole (piano, female voice, sparce percussion and scant bass), then some classical, and about that time, things dissolved into various individual discussions as the group somehow started to split apart.

We had some short intimate exchanges, as he took plenty of time to personally speak to each and every one of us as we enjoyed beverages and pastry. One that I particularly relish was when he and I discussed left and right brain function as it pertains to the average high-end audiophile and his listening preferences. His theory, which I wholeheartedly agree with, concerned who has a more discerning ear, a left-brained objectivist, or a right-brained musician-type who can listen to any system and enjoy it. I suggested that most musicians spend their discretionary monies on instruments and amps to perform with, and he suggested that the musicians who gravitate over time to better systems are generally jazz and blues players. To which I replied, that I'd thought that was true because those musicians are more intimate with their acoustic (rather than heavily amplified music that rock players utilize) instruments than the average rock player, and he agreed. I mentioned that I was the exception in that I am right-brained all the way but like good reproduction. He acknowledged that I was different (I haven't figured out if that was good or not!)...

Great day all around! We listened to Dire Straits and The Beatles on a second system featuring Vandersteen 2's ($1500/pr) and Audio Research preamp and power amp combo (Well-Tempered Simplex TT?). Maybe it was the choice of music, I seemed to like that sysem as well as the main one in the big room.

It was a beautiful day, there were thousands of well-to do-types on Washington enjoying their brew, expresso or just each other in the idyllic setting of the typical early fall Midwestern Saturday afternoon. If not for an excellent audio event for St. Louis audiophiles who can't attend the CES's and the Rocky Mountains, it would have been a great day to be at a ball game or just outside. We got a taste of the better gear currently available and enjoyed the superb hospitality of St. Louis Stereo, first-class all the way.

Keep your tubes hot (Richard swears by tubes!) and your antenna up! (he probably listens mostly to records!) He did mention that his wife was the audiophile in the family, and can tell when he swaps amps! Lucky DOG!!! See you next time!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vandersteen to host event at St. Louis Stereo

Richard Vandersteen will be the speaker at an event hosted by St. Louis Stereo (2020 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, MO) this Saturday at 1:00 pm. I'll be covering the presentation for mind's eye music, as the event is already capped.

More after the gathering! Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Will Beach Boys reunion end on a sour note?

From the LA Times:

Even on a day designed to celebrate 50 years of the signature harmonies of the Beach Boys, the notoriously fractious group couldn’t avoid striking yet another discordant note amid all the good vibrations.

A day before band members gathered at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles to take in various accolades, singer and lyricist Mike Love caught his fellow band members by surprise in announcing his decision to resume touring with his latter-day incarnation of the Beach Boys -- minus creative leader Brian Wilson or original members Al Jardine and David Marks.

The move by Love, who legally controls the Beach Boys name and who has sued Wilson and Jardine over various issues throughout the years, raises major questions about any future for the reunited edition of the quintessential California band. It's played more than 70 performances this year on four continents and released a warmly received new studio album for the first time in more than two decades.

“The 50th anniversary tour was designed to go for a year and then end,” Love said at the Grammy Museum just after he, Wilson, Jardine, Marks and Johnston were presented with triple-platinum awards signifying more than 3 million copies sold of their 2003 hits compilation, “Sounds of Summer -- The Very Best of the Beach Boys.

The framed awards were presented by EMI/Capitol Records executives Bill Gagnon and Jane Ventom in front of the Grammy Museum’s new Beach Boys exhibit, “Good Vibrations -- 50 Years of the Beach Boys,” which will run for the next year. Record label executives would love to keep the reformed band going as the reunion album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” gave the Beach Boys the highest chart debut in its history when it entered at No. 3 in June with first-week sales of 61,000 copies.

Love indicated that he’s being protective of the Beach Boys’ legacy.

“You’ve got to be careful not to get overexposed,” Love said. “There are promoters who are interested [in more shows by the reunited lineup], but they’ve said, ‘Give it a rest for a year.’ The Eagles found out the hard way when they went out for a second year and wound up selling tickets for $5.”

That left other band members confused and disappointed.

“Brian is very bummed,” Wilson’s manager, Jean Sievers, said Tuesday.

Wilson himself said this year’s tour, which includes two final performances later this week in London, has been “very tiring,” but he added, “I’m really looking forward to doing another album.”

Love said that he sees recording and touring as separate matters, and that his decision to return to touring without Wilson, who is his cousin, or Jardine and Marks, who started the Beach Boys when they were teenagers growing up in Hawthorne, wouldn’t preclude more recording together. “I’d be interested [in making another album] if I could write some songs with Brian,” Love said.

Love’s announcement generated dozens of mostly critical responses on Rolling Stone’s website when the news appeared Monday.

The shift in the touring lineup also has caused some confusion outside the group itself. Texas club Nutty Jerry's had booked a Beach Boys show, which has since been canceled. Love's manager Jay Jones said it was Love's decision to halt the show because it was being inaccurately promoted as part of the reunion tour with the original members.

Nevertheless, group members smiled for photos during the platinum award presentation and genially answered questions from the museum's executive director, Robert Santelli, before an enthusiastic crowd of about 200 people, including a few who flew in from Florida, New Jersey and Kentucky.

Following a Q&A session, a stripped-down version of the touring group using acoustic instruments performed five songs. The set showcased the distinctive, multilayered harmonies that propelled hits such as “California Girls,” “Surfer Girl,” “Help Me Rhonda” and “I Get Around” up the charts in the 1960s.

Wilson has his own group, the Brian Wilson Band, which has been accompanying him on tour and in the studio since 1999, and with which he has made several new solo albums. Love and Johnston have continued touring as the Beach Boys with their own support musicians, two of whom -- guitarist-singer Scott Totten and drummer John Cowsill -- were part of the 50th anniversary tour, along with several members of Wilson’s band.

The Grammy Museum exhibit includes various pieces of musical and personal memorabilia from over a half century of the band’s existence, including the surfboard once owned by drummer Dennis Wilson, who drowned in 1983. (The third Wilson sibling, Carl, died in 1998 of cancer.) The surfboard was pictured on the cover of two Beach Boys albums.

The exhibit also includes a high school theme paper Brian Wilson wrote outlining “My Philosophy,” in which he stated that he hoped to make his mark in the world through music. “The satisfaction of ‘a place in the world’ seems well worth a sincere effort to me,” the 17-year-old future architect of the Beach Boys sound wrote.

That fucking Mike Love could fuck up a steel ball. What an ass.

More later after I settle down a bit. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up. See you next time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wilson Audio Alexia superspeaker

Wilson is one of those companies that wears their love of music on their sleeve. Dave lovingly describes his yearly pilgrimage to Austria to sample live music, so as to recalibrate his already discerning ears to the live experience. His approach is the safest way that he can insure that every design characteristc of the Alexia (as well as any product that carries the Wilson brand) lives up to the live experience, as much as is humanly possible at any given time, with sourceable design, components and materials.

From The Wilson press release:

This looks to be a total gamechanger. I dream of audio this exacting, that shows flaws in front end components, flaws that can only be rectified by replacing the offending member(s) with more refined, esoteric components. I love music and have decided long ago that, although I'm severely limited in funds, I can practically continue to dream of a world where this level of playback can be achieved in an average household. Someday...

Here's another press release entry:

And more...

And yet again, as if you weren't already blown away:

This is a review fueled with anticipation that may never be fulfilled. I've yet to audition any Wilson product, but it's high on my bucket list, as it's well-known that I live for these experiences.

Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Topless photos of Kate Middleton!!!

There, that got your attention! I think that it's pretty lame that our country is so fixated on the royals and their attempts to live a normal life in the 21st century that they have nothing better to do than clamor for boobie shots of the future queen of England! Lame-o, lame-o, lame-o.

Olympics snowboarder/X Gamer Shaun White (The Flying Tomato) was arrested last night for public intoxication and vandalism after he allegedly set off a fire alarm after a drunken altercation with another resident of the hotel. When he tried to leave in a taxi, a hotel guest told the driver that police were en route and White allegedly kicked the guest and ran. The guest gave chase and, when White turned around, the two collided. White fell and struck his head on a fence. White appeared intoxicated and refused to sign misdemeanor citations, Nashville police said. That was the act (or lack of same, as it was) that earned him a trip to the pokey! He may be in his middle 20's but he's just a kid. Did you ever get fucked up and do something REALLY stupid? I sure did.

So, this blog is turning into the National Inquirer? Definitely NOT. I just wanted to live up to my description as it reads above! Nothing like a bit of scandalous crap to get the week rolling!

I promise my next post will be about music or audio! Promise! So, don't forget!

Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Beatles "Help!"

Help! is the title of the fifth British and tenth North American album by The Beatles, and the soundtrack from their film of the same name. Produced by George Martin for EMI's Parlophone Records, it contains fourteen songs in its original British form, of which seven appeared in the film. These songs took up the first side of the vinyl album and included the singles "Help!" and "Ticket to Ride" The second side contained seven other releases including one of the most-covered songs ever written, "Yesterday".

The American release was a true soundtrack album, mixing the first seven songs with orchestral material from the film. Of the other seven songs that were on the British release, two were released on the US version of the next Beatles album, Rubber Soul, two were back-to-back on the next US single and then appeared on Yesterday and Today, and three had already been on Beatles VI.

In 2012, Help! was voted 331st on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

The album features Paul McCartney's "Yesterday", arranged for guitar and string quartet and recorded without the other group members. John Lennon's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" indicates the influence of Bob Dylan and includes classical flutes. While several compositions on 1964's Beatles for Sale, as well as "I'll Cry Instead" from A Hard Day's Night, had leaned in a country and western direction, McCartney's "I've Just Seen a Face" was almost pure country, taken at such a fast tempo that it might have been bluegrass if not for the absence of banjo and fiddle.

"Ticket to Ride", also released as a single, was felt by Lennon to be "heavy" in its sound compared to the group's previous output and daring in its reference to a boy and girl living together. McCartney called the arrangement "quite radical".

George Harrison contributed "I Need You" and "You Like Me Too Much", his first compositions to be included on a Beatles album since "Don't Bother Me" on 1963's With The Beatles.

The record contained two cover versions and a few tracks more closely related to the group's previous pop output, yet still marked a decisive step forward. The record sleeve-note shows that Lennon and McCartney made more extensive and prominent use of keyboards, previously played unobtrusively by Martin. Four-track overdubbing technology encouraged this. Lennon, for his part, made much greater use of acoustic guitar, forsaking his famous Rickenbacker. All these developments can be traced to the previous Beatles for Sale, where they were less obvious because that album had been recorded more hastily, lacked chart hits and contained many cover versions.

The original LP's format of featuring songs from the soundtrack on side one and non-soundtrack songs on side two follows the format of A Hard Day's Night.

In later years, Lennon stated that the album's title track was a sincere cry for help; he regretted changing it from a downbeat, piano-driven ballad to an uptempo pop song, which was done only as a result of commercial pressures.

Help! was the band's final album to feature any cover songs until 1970's Let It Be (which included a performance of the traditional folk song "Maggie Mae").

Rejected songs
A few songs that were intended for the film were not used because of The Beatles' suggestions. Lennon and McCartney wrote "If You've Got Trouble" for Ringo Starr to sing, but the song was rejected and Starr sang "Act Naturally" instead. "That Means a Lot" was written for the film, but The Beatles were not satisfied with their performance of the song and they gave it to P.J. Proby, who released it as a single. Lennon said "Yes It Is" was "me trying a rewrite of 'This Boy', but it didn't work"; it was released as the B-side of "Ticket to Ride" and was also on Beatles VI. "You Like Me Too Much" and "Tell Me What You See" were rejected for use in the film by its director, Richard Lester, though they did appear on the album (and also on Beatles VI).

Much later, in June 1965, the song "Wait" was recorded for the album. However, "Wait" (with some newly added overdubs) ended up on Rubber Soul when another song was needed to complete that album.

Album cover
The album cover features the group with their arms positioned to spell out a word in flag semaphore. According to cover photographer Robert Freeman, "I had the idea of semaphore spelling out the letters HELP. But when we came to do the shot the arrangement of the arms with those letters didn't look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with the best graphic positioning of the arms."

On the UK Parlophone release, the letters formed by The Beatles appear to be 'NUJV', whilst the slightly re-arranged US release on Capitol Records appeared to feature the letters 'NVUJ'.

The Capitol LP was issued in a "deluxe" gatefold sleeve with several photos from the film and was priced $1 more than standard Capitol releases at the time.

The original photograph used on the UK album was reverse printed. Holding it up to a mirror reveals the letters LPUS - "Help Us".

Spooky, eh?

North American release
The North American version, the band's eighth Capitol Records album and tenth overall, includes the songs in the film plus selections from the orchestral score composed by Ken Thorne and performed by the George Martin Orchestra, which contains one of the first uses of the Indian sitar on a pop album. "Ticket to Ride" is the only song on the American release in duophonic stereo (also known as "fake stereo") reprocessed from the mono mix. This album is available on CD as part of The Capitol Albums, Volume 2 box set. This set also includes the mono version of the American release, which is purely a stereo-to-mono fold-down mix, including the "fake stereo" duophonic "Ticket To Ride" folded down to mono, despite Capitol already having the mono mixes for the single releases of both that song and "Help!".

The American version of "Help!" reached the number one spot on the Billboard album charts for nine weeks starting on 11 September 1965.

Revised Track Listing

All songs written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.

Side one

  1. "Help!" (preceded by an uncredited instrumental intro) – 2:39
  2. "The Night Before" – 2:36
  3. "From Me to You Fantasy" (instrumental) (Lennon–McCartney; arranged by Thorne) – 2:08
  4. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" – 2:12
  5. "I Need You" (Harrison) – 2:31
  6. "In the Tyrol" (instrumental) (Ken Thorne) – 2:26
Side two
  1. "Another Girl" – 2:08
  2. "Another Hard Day's Night" (instrumental) (Lennon–McCartney; arranged by Thorne) – 2:31
  3. "Ticket to Ride" – 3:07
  4. Medley: "The Bitter End" (Ken Thorne)/"You Can't Do That" (instrumental) (Lennon–McCartney; arranged by Thorne) – 2:26
  5. "You're Going to Lose That Girl" – 2:19
  6. "The Chase" (instrumental) (Ken Thorne) – 2:31

This LP and motion picture is noteable in the Beatles' tome in that, for the first time, an aroma permeated the shoot that was identifiable as marijuana. Maybe that was why the Beatles had such fun making "Help", and John was getting his munchies on! (this was, in fact, his "fat Elvis" period!) By their next LP ("Rubber Soul") they'd be fully psychedelicized with the aid of LSD.

More pontifications at a sooner than later date...Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

David Akers ties NFL record with 63-yard field goal

I rarely cover sports; this warranted attention.

The San Francisco 49'ers kicker pulled a rabbit out of his foot yesterday on his team's season opener.

The line drive kick had just enough distance, took a fortunate bounce off the crossbar and earned David Akers a piece of NFL immortality Sunday.

The historic 63-yard field goal by the veteran 49ers kicker at the end of the first half matched a league record shared by three others.

"It was kind of one of those miracles," said the 37-year-old Akers, whose successful field goal gave the 49ers a 16-7 lead over the Green Bay Packers. "I didn't think I hit it great enough. I made 61 in pregame and felt pretty good that I could get it there if I just struck it right. But when I hit it, I felt like I missed it."

The attempt began with two seconds showing on the clock. Akers' left-footed line drive was on target as it spun toward Lambeau Field's north uprights, hitting the crossbar and bouncing up and over.

The Packers' Randall Cobb leaped to try to swat it away -- a football version of goaltending -- but whiffed.

After initial hesitation, officials -- replacement referees at that -- signaled the field goal was good.

"As a kicker, when you hit the goal posts at any part, it usually makes that horrific noise and usually bounces back," Akers said. "This time it got the sweet bounce. It was definitely a once-in-a lifetime type of deal.

"After 14 years of active roster play it's just one of those things you'll never forget."

Akers, who said he's never had a field goal attempt ricochet in his favor, also successfully hit 40- and 43-yard field goals plus three extra points in the 30-22 season-opening victory.

Kyle Williams helped set up the attempt with a 20-yard punt return to the 49ers' 38-yard-line with 18 seconds left. Colin Kaepernick came in for a single play at quarterback and uncorked a 17-yard run to the Packers' 45.

After two Alex Smith incomplete passes, the 49ers set up for Akers' successful try as holder Andy Lee took a clean snap.

Asked what Akers' range is, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh quipped: "Well, it was 63 yards, today."

Harbaugh then noted Akers made a 60-yard attempt in pregame warm-ups to instill further faith in the 63-yard try.

"With David Akers, talk about the greatest kicker in the history of our game," Harbaugh said. "The odds were in our favor."

New Orleans' Tom Dempsey hit a 63-yard field goal on Nov. 8, 1970, in the final seconds of a 19-17 victory over Detroit at Tulane Stadium.

The next two occurred in Denver 13 seasons apart. The Broncos' Jason Elam's successful 63-yard kick closed the first half against Jacksonville on Oct. 25, 1998. The Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski also hit on the final play of the opening half against the Broncos on Sept. 12, 2011.

The previous record was set in 1953 when the Baltimore Colts' Bert Rechichar hit a 56-yarder against the Chicago Bears.

Now in his second season with the 49ers, Akers produced an NFL-record 44 field goals and was perfect on extra points with 34 last season. He spent 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and started his NFL career in 1998 with the Washington Redskins.

When you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not. Just think if his tubes were hot and his antenna up, as prescribed, what could have happened? He would have broken the wood-foot-dude's (Tom Dempsey, and two others') record!! Word to the wise. See you next time!
Copyright 2012 San Jose Mercury News. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vinyl rules!

I know, either you get it or you don't. I have moments when I go back and forth on records versus high definition downloads, and on some days it pays to sit back with a wireless mouse and pick and choose songs and entire albums from my hard drive. And then the sound of the Luxman (or alternately, my Thorens) starts calling my name, ringing my bell, and it demands I answer. Yesterday was that day, and it's expanding into another day of strictly vinyl.

It's a problem I'm plenty glad to have. I have a seat between my speakers for when I'm not at the couch, and between the speakers is my television. I should, in the interest of full disclosure, admit that it is my television/computer monitor/movie screen/multipurpose visual stimulation apparatus. Here I can blog, watch YouTube (another guilty pleasure, although the sound quality is spotty), flip records from side to side (like in the olden days), surf the web, shop for gear, sort my LP's (stored in two glass-doored cabinets that house my television, tuner, radio, tube amp, tea, DAC, PC and modem right in front of me), and adjust my receiver/preamp (Sansui 8080DB). I have a nice leather office chair on wheels that serves a utilitarian purpose, and if something starts sounding really good, I can retreat immediately to my rear and sit on the sofa! Life is good.

Last night, speaking of YouTube, I ran across a concert film (generally the only feature-length things I'll watch, that or the occasional biopic or documertary, as long as it isn't blatantly partisan. I hate politics...) I saw in its original release in the 70's, from one of my then-favorite bands. Yessongs was a triple LP that I literally wore out two complete copies of, and never got to see the movie but at the Kirkwood Cinema in the 70's. Now that YouTube has no limit on program length I could , and did, watch Yessongs again, after all these years, in its entirety.

The performanes were inspired, the playing of course was superb, and it was as amazing as it originally was as a 16-year-old, just discovering rock and roll in depth (I had always had a radio under my pillow ever since I was 5, so that's a bit of a stretch to say), and progressive rock was my implement of enjoyment, before punk hit hard. Yes, ELP. Triumvirate, Genesis, King Crimson, and the deeper hard rock was my favorite styles.

We had 3 or 4 record stores within striking distance, and everyone collected vinyl at the time. Some kids had tapes but I had a stereo that my father bought from Radio Shack (upon my demand) and all it had was a receiver and cheap BSR turntable that wrecked records. I cut my teeth on a Western Auto all-in-one, then moved to the amazing esoteric Realistic component line! (hehe)...Dreaming of Sansui and Dual, I tuned in FM and thought I'd gone to heaven. Shortly thereafter I discovered that The Beatles weren't the only great band from the United Kingdom!

Getting back to vinyl has been a great experience, and to be honest if I never own an ipod I won't lose sleep.

We'll see what we shall see the next time we contravene. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Luxman PD277 comes home!

I have slowed down considerably when it comes to purchasing used vintage audio gear. Not from a change of heart about how it wipes up the modern competition in so many ways, but I have some really good combinations of receiver/turntable/CD player/speakers. And they all sound great when playing PC files through a quality DAC.

A Luxman PD277 recently became available from a good friend of mine, and he let me know that if I wanted it, he'd let me have it on approval/credit for 30 days. How do I pass that up??? I don't!

I picked up the table, transported it back to the ranch, and proceded to set it up. It had recently been serviced at AlphaTech in St. Louis, and that put my mind at ease. I basically had to get it in an isolated spot and leveled so that the cart and stylus could do its job properly. Once that was done, out came the records, one after the other.

Here's the fine print, from Vintage Audio:

Driving System: Direct-Drive System
Motor: DC-servo brushless & slotless motor
Turntable Platter: 30cm aluminium die-cast (weight 1.8kgs including platter-mat)
Rotation: 33-1/3 rpm, 45 rpm (2-speed)
Adjustable Range of Rotation: ±4%
S/N Ratio: No less than 60dB (IEC-B)
Wow & Flutter: no more than 0.03% W.R.M.S.
Tonearm: Straight Arm of static balance type
Effective Length: 240mm
Tracking Error: +2° 13', -1°08'
Overhang: 15mm
Cartridge Weight: 4g-11g
Cartridge Height: 16mm-19mm (by use of spacers)
Stylus Pressure: 0 — 3g (direct reading)
Accessories: Anti-skate Adjustment, Tonearm Elevation
Dust Cover: Detachable with semi-freestop hinge
Stroboscope: Mirror-reflex type.
Automatic Function: Auto-Start, Auto-Repeat Cut-Off
Power Consumption: 12W
Dimensions (W x H x D, mm): 472 x 152 x 348
Weight: Net 10kgs (22 lbs.) Gross 12kgs (26.4 lbs.) photo courtesy of AudioKarma

The Luxman is a direct drive model, from between 1976 and 1980, and features auto start and return. This is my first fully functioning table, as well as my first direct drive with strobe speed control. That feature (speed control) is a blessing, as some of these older tables are less than reliable, speed-wise. This one, other than a slightly swirly dust cover, is really well-made, well-kept and perfectly set up. The Grado Prestige Black 1.5 does duty, and comes well-reviewed, I was glad to note. It sounds well-defined, not too hot on the treble side (as I like), and has a nice wide frequency response on the whole, nice and flat across the entire spectrum.

Batman knows his shit, Robin. Dummy up!

Next time, with heroics, we'll uncover another superb audio product from the days when Adam West and Burt Ward ruled the prime time airwaves. Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Alesis DM8 pro - first impressions

I recieved the kit yesterday, and it took less than an hour to assemble (I studied the contents beforehand). It was an easy set-up, no tools needed, and the rack itself was preassembled. I didn't have to mess with the clamps individually, which was a huge timesaver. They were all oriented correctly, and I would have fiddled with the thing for hours if I had a pile of unassembled stuff!

The sounds, as I predicted, were stunning, and the kits were well-voiced. With 100 preset kit sounds, there were maybe 10 kits I may never use as entire kits (maybe individual sounds as accents, perhaps). This is a HUGE percentage of useful patches, as many ekits are pretty loaded with useless patches. With 750 undividual sounds, I'm really anxious to explore the potentials of the DM8 Pro.

My only setback (and so far I might just need to get into the manual further to rectify my problem) is with the hi-hat pedal controller. This is such an essential element of the kit that if it were anything else I'd overlook a shortcoming. I can't accurately (and consistently) open and close the cymbal action on the hat. This is more than my lack of finesse on the instrument, it indiscriminately stays closed as I try to open it as an articulative tool. I need to explore further before I return the pedal, or complete the ebay feedback process, which is still pending my complete satisfaction. The communication with the seller before delivery was spotty.

At first I had no idea if I would have the room, considering my studio is my bedroom as well. Turns out it's fairly compact, and everything's postioned tightly in the familiar pattern of a five-piece kit with two cymbal arms. If I can program a tom pad as a second cymbal I'll feel like the versatility this kit provides will be perfectly adaptable to my playing style and configuration preferences. That and the hi-hat pedal problems are my only real concerns. Everything else works flawlessly.

The pads are hard rubber, the older sets had provisions to swap out mylar heads for mesh heads. Personally I'm glad of this, I'm not really a tweakhead. If presented with the potential for improvement I'll usually try the adjustment but this time I'm glad to save the money and trouble. The action is accurate and responsive, and the touch-sensitive feature is nice for a bit of dynamics overall.

So far, this is a go. If I can't adjust the hi-hat, that would be a big letdown. Sad to say, I may just eat the entire purchase and build an acoustic hi-hat (with mic for recording) if it gets too difficult. Repacking this kit would be a total nightmare! If I could return the pedal alone I'd be set. The sounds included are just too damn good.

More later, after the recording process progresses. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Back from a grueling week of...further preps for recording! My drum set fell through, to last minute obligations, and I ordered a set to alleviate the problem in the future. Also a benefit, I went electronic to save my neighbors and housemates the agony of my voluminous drumming!

This is the Alesis DM8 drumkit, with 750 drum sounds! World-class snares and kicks, cymbal samples to die for, and features that emulate real drums to a T. It has a fully operable hi-hat, a bass pad that's big enough for a double kick pedal if that's your style, and a cymbal action that emulates a choke articulation (hitting the cymbal and grabbing it to mute it). That I've NEVER seen in electronic kits! (****EDIT**** See my next blog for a more accurate picture of the DM8 with white rubber snare and black rubber toms. NO metal rims or removeable mylar heads!).

The DM8 also carries play-along tracks, which is fun for rehearsing, a metromone, and easy set-up, as the rack comes pre-assembled. I've seen the demos on YouTube, and the sound (which is the key element, and the reason I chose Alesis) is superb for a kit that comes in under $400 ($390). I should see it by Friday, and day by day I'm getting more and more excited as the days progress. This better not be a scam, I'll be blogging about that, and how to avoid it if it in fact is!

This is not just another purchase, a missing piece of my home recording studio. I've wanted to play the drums since I was 9 years old, and actually played drums in my first rock band Max Load (we released a single in 1979, I played drums and keys on one side, bass and background vocals on the other). I'll be blogging about Max Load shortly, as we have an album of our unreleased music coming out on locals BDR Records. They are an archival label featuring bands from St. Louis in the late 70's/early 80's. Mostly punk, some wave, it was a time in St. Louis when progressive/classic rock ruled, and we were the antithesis of the prevailing style. Good thing is, the bands that were famous from the time have all had their time in the spotlight, ours will come again very soon!

Here's the brains of the operation (thought I was, eh?!)...
More later when the recordings progress...keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Phillis Diller dead at age 95

Phyllis Diller, whose sassy, screeching, rapid-fire stand-up comedy helped open the door for two generations of funny women, died on Monday at her home in Brentwood, Calif. She was 95.

Her agent, Fred Wostbrock, confirmed her death.
Ms. Diller, who became famous for telling jokes that mocked her odd looks, her aversion to housekeeping and a husband she called Fang, was far from the first woman to do stand-up comedy. But she was one of the most influential. There were precious few women before her, if any, who could dispense one-liners with such machine-gun precision or overpower an audience with such an outrageous personality.
One chestnut: “I once wore a peekaboo blouse. People would peek and then they’d boo.”
Another: “I never made ‘Who’s Who,’ but I’m featured in ‘What’s That?’ ”
Ms. Diller, a 37-year-old homemaker when she took up comedy, mined her domestic life for material, assuring audiences that she fed Fang and her kids garbage soup and buried her ironing in the backyard. She exuded an image that was part Wicked Witch of the West (a role she actually played in a St. Louis stage production of “The Wizard of Oz”) and part clown.
In her many television appearances she would typically sashay on stage wearing stiff, outsize, hideous metallic dresses (she did this, she said, so she could lie to her audiences about the state of her body, which was really trim and shapely), high-heeled shoes or boots studded with rhinestones, and a bejeweled collar better suited to a junkyard dog or a fur scarf she claimed was made from an animal she had trapped under the sink. Slinking along on skinny legs, her feet invariably pointed outward, penguin-style, she originally carried a long bejeweled cigarette holder that held a make-believe cigarette from which she continually flicked imaginary ashes. (Ms. Diller, who did not smoke, later discarded the cigarette holder.)
Her hair was the blond flyaway variety, sometimes looking as if it was exploding from her scalp; her eyes were large and ferocious, her nose thin and overlong (she ultimately tamed it through plastic surgery). And then there was that unforgettable, ear-shattering voice, which would frequently explode into a sinister cackle that seemed perfectly matched to her image as the ultimate domestic demon.
Among Ms. Diller’s few female predecessors was Jean Carroll, sometimes called “the female Milton Berle,” who made numerous appearances in nightclubs and on Ed Sullivan’s variety show, where she mined her marriage and family for laughs. There were others: Minnie Pearl got laughs as an outrageous Southern spinster, Moms Mabley as a raunchily outspoken black philosopher.
But Ms. Diller’s hard-hitting approach to one-liners — inspired by Bob Hope, who became an early champion — was something new for a woman. Her success proved that female comedians could be as aggressive or unconventional as their male counterparts, and leave an audience just as devastated. She cleared the way for the likes of Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres and numerous others.
Although Ms. Diller used writers to help create her act, she estimated that she wrote 75 percent of the jokes herself. Her approach to humor was methodical. “My material was geared toward everyone of all ages and from different backgrounds, and I wanted to hit them right in the middle,” she explained in her autobiography, “Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy (Tarcher, 2005), written with Richard Buskin. “I didn’t want giggles — I could get those with my looks — I wanted boffs, and I wanted people to get the joke at the same moment and laugh together. That way I could leave everything to my timing.”
She liked jokes that piled on the laughs in rapid succession. A favorite of hers was this one: “I realized on our first wedding anniversary that our marriage was in trouble. Fang gave me luggage. It was packed. My mother damn near suffocated!”
Phyllis Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver on July 17, 1917, in Lima, Ohio, the daughter of Perry Driver, an insurance executive, and the former Frances Ada Romshe. As a child she developed a strong interest in classical music, became accomplished on the piano and other instruments and sang well; by the time she got to high school, she also had an interest in writing and dramatics. In 1935, her last year at Central High School, she was voted the school’s most talented student.
After briefly attending the Sherwood Conservatory of Music in Chicago, she entered Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, near Lima, with thoughts of becoming a music teacher. She met Sherwood Anderson Diller in her senior year in college, and they were married in 1939.
She never taught music. The Dillers moved to California, where he was an inspector at a Navy air station and later held various other jobs — none, by Ms. Diller’s account, for very long. They struggled financially, even with Ms. Diller working too. She wrote a shopping column for a newspaper in San Leandro and advertising copy for a department store in Oakland, then moved on to a job as a copywriter, continuity writer and publicist for a radio station in Oakland before joining a San Francisco station as director of promotion and merchandising.

Sad. Truly funny, she set the stage for many a wannabe comedienne, in my book.

More later! Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you again!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Max Load LP due fall '12

We're anxiously awaiting the imminent release of our long lost vinyl LP, covered some time ago in these pages. I recently got a visit from Terry (Max Load lead singer/songwriter) and Jason from BDR Records, who assures me all is well and that things are moving according to schedule on the Max Load LP. Here's a communique' from Jason Rerun, former KDHX "Scene Of The Crime" host and head cheese for BDR Records, based here in St. Louis, solely responsible for reisssuing local bands from the late 70's:

"Spent the day with Terry Jones of Max Load. We finalized all art work and liner notes for the Max Load-LP/CD. We also stopped at fellow Max Loader Mike Yaffe's for a couple quick stories. Terry gave me the full tour of Belleville. (Hey, remember I didn't grow up around here and I'm excited easily!) I saw where Dave Reeve's studio was, saw where Max Load practiced and played live, where the 3-D Monster Fear Factory once existed and all the other Terry X n' gang historical markers. This Max Load release is gonna be a doozy!"-Jason

Plans are going forward for sessions for my new solo LP as well...Stay tuned, it's tentatively entitled Omnipresence (that could and does change hourly!). Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you later.

Friday, August 17, 2012

In pursuit of tone

In preparing for recording my next album, I decided I'd better get up to speed on what kinds of sounds are being produced by the different pedals and amps on the market in mid-2012. I've been out of the retail music store gig scene for quite a few years now, and only recently have I decided to start assembling sounds for use on my latest recording project.

This is a common-type layout for a modern, versatile studio/live guitarist in the 2010's. It involves distortion, modulation, delay, reverb, equalization, and compression elements, and usually your amp plays a larger-than-you'd-expect role in tone shaping. In the studio nowadays, no holds are barred, and cost is no object in that quest for tone. It can easily spend you broke, and make your search for the best combinations lengthy and arduous, as one might suspect. Time and time again the consensus is that the ultimate amp is the best thing to base your tone on (based on the less-is-more theory and the maxim that the shortest signal path is the cleanest), but, like everyone, I like a bit of variation and some different, unusual, unique elements. Nothing too extreme, mind you.

The best distortion effects tend to have architecture much like an amp itself, with channel switching capabilities (2- or 3-channel settings) so that in some cases they can be used directly inserted into the input of a recording console instead of in conjunction with a mic'd amp. A minimum of two switchable settings seem to be the optimum for obtaining a solid rhythm sound (on which your overall song sound is based), and a separate lead option (with that extra bit of grease to give you a subtle dynamic change, and/or a boosted level to set your solos apart).

Modulation is the wiggly-sounding part of the signal that emulates the tremolo circuit on a vintage Fender tube amp, or the machine gun-like stutter of a solid-state Vox Super Beatle. It is like a repeater that can be set to fade the sound in and out at an adjustable rate, speedwise. Intensity can turn it from a slight wobble to a more pointilist, staccato effect.

Delay gives you an echo effect, with repeats (usually labeled and controlled by the amount of feedback) or a slapback 50's style tone. back then, when it was first developed, it was tape-based, and was physically built into amps. It can be set to run away into the night or, alternately, to add a bit of added presence depending on how it's used. It's good to have a little bit on all the time to widen the tone, so that it's not really thin (unless narrow/thin's what the song calls for. That's the mandate, what the song demands).

Reverb is that guitar-amp-in-a-cave sound that diffuses the tone and gives it a sense of time and space. It can start as a room sound and expand both in size, and in amount of time before the sound travels from its source to its destination, your ears. It can be dark, bright, soft, harsh, or any variation or combination of those elements. Its components include attack, delay, sustain, and release. It, like all outboard instrument effects, can come in a pedal, an amp or at the FOH from the sound man to influence the overall house mix.

Any effect for that matter can be triggered either/and/or at the vocal mic via pedals and switchers by the artist, by the instrument tech behind the amps onstage, or by the live sound engineer through the house sound system for live applications. Some artists prefer to adjust various predetermined parameters (morphing two effects, changing delay time, reverb size, wet/dry levels as examples) via expresssion pedal.

A (tracking) recording engineer generally won't trigger effects as he records individual/live tracks, but a remix engineer can and usually does as he performs a proper remix. The artist isn't the only one getting in on all the switching, but it's usually at his direction that the switching takes place, often as one portion of the function of his/her artistic vision.

The live sound engineer usually requests the artist send a direct signal (with varying degrees of effects, as requested by the LSE) via direct box to the PA so he can flavor it with compression, reverb and delay for the entire audience, especially if he chooses to have some artistic say over his domain. The guitarist's settings may differ significantly from the sound man's, especially when the FOH guy is a house sound guy. The sound guy that travels with the band can usually trust the artist to send him an effected signal that's compatible with his overall sound design, since they've worked together extensively prior to the performance in rehearsal. A house sound guy might/probably will have a different (read jaded) view, not being intimately aware (or even interested) of or in all the artist's specific cues! Needless to say, rehearsal aids the smooth operation of everything related to a well-thought-out performance, and it's usually not logistically possible in one-nighter situations. It always pays for a band to carry their own guy (who knows the cues in advance), but it's not always affordable/feasible/possible to do that....

Equalization is bass, midrange and treble, and there are a couple ways it can be controlled (graphically, parametrically, or manually by wah wah pedal by the artist). Compression reduces dynamic range of an individual instrument or overall mix so that multiple tracks can occupy the same amount of overall gain space and not exceed what's known as unity gain, but (for this article) we're not going to make this any more difficult by expanding our discussion on that topic. We'd be getting into describing the various aspects of gain structure, which would be best saved for a more technically-oriented session.

These are only a start, as many instrumentalists have MANY layers (to say the least!) of these devices that also make their tones individual, as well as the amps (tube or solid state), instruments (down to the kinds of wood used) and the pickup configurations themselves play a huge role. It can be as easy as plugging a guitar, instrument or mic into the right amp, or as difficult as a lifelong quest for tone and the perfect combination of effects, instrument and amp. These types of devices are not necessarily exclousive to guitarists. They can be employed with any instrument that carries an eletrical pickup and is accessed by the jack used on the pedal or device, whether it's either of the common unbalanced 1/4" cable or TRS (mic) balanced cable.

This is meant to simply be an overview, it can easily become very complicated, especially in figuring out what order in which to place the effects. This too has an influence on how the amp hears the effects, and whether or not the effects actually change the inherant amp tone (which can be viewed as an effect in itself) instead of just being a tonal additive to that amp sound. The amp itesf can be (most often IS) a discrete tonal choice on its own!

Effects can be placed before the input of an amp, into the effects loop of the amp, or directly into a channel strip of a mixer if recording. All these variations produce a slightly different, desireable (or not; one's trash is another's tonal heaven) tone. It's not cut and dried, but there are some tried-and-true orderings that can make the job of tone perfection easier in some cases. It's really as hard or as easy as one makes it, as nothing (well, almost nothing, you absolutely need electricity!) is set in stone.

Following some rules goes a long way, but remember, as guitar tone specifically originates in the hands, two people can sound completely different playing through the exact same configuration of instrument, effects and amp. The human element is the factor that will never be replaced as the most criticial, most potentially gamechanging part of the equation. Optimum musical articulation still originates in the brain no matter what you're plugged into.

We'll tackle other aspects of music production as it applies to recording and performing live (it's always a production, even when singing a capella!) another day. Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preparing for upcoming recording session...

I have less than a week before I setlle in for a week's worth of concerted songwriting, recording, mixing, and generally and specifically getting down to the business of creating my next album for mind's eye music, my record label. I have a few titles, a lyric, some sound design ideas, and not much else specifically. If I can let everyone know that I'm not to be interrupted unless absolutely necessary I can get on with the tasks of getting this done.

This is a grab from Google Images, but I sure wish I had the room this cat does. I plan to use almost every square foot of a room that's 15 x 24, that's drums and control room included! I have only what I need gear-wise, just enough mics, a couple effects for each instrument, and generally what's built in to my Tascam DP24. I should have all the bases covered.

To sort of run down the various devices I have at my disposal, I'll try to list the particulars:

Tascam DP24 multitrack digital recorder
SansAmp RBI bass preamp
dbx120A subharmonic synthesizer
Alesis MidiverbII multiFX
Lexicon pcm41 digital delay
Yamaha GC2020B compressor/gate
dbx 215 dual 15-band EQ
BBE 482i sonic maximizer
Line 6 KB37 keyboard/computer interface
Line 6 GearBox
Line 6 Pocket Pod
tc electronic Nova System guitar processor
vintage Echoplex
Boss DS-1 Distortion, BF-2 Flanger, PH-2 Super Phaser
DOD FX25B Envelope Follower
vintage Morley Power Wah Volume pedal
Squier Affinity Strat
Squier Telecaster
Squier 70's Modified Precision Bass
Dean Metalman Z bass
Dean Metalman V bass
2-valve mellophone bugle
valve/rotary soprano bugle
casio cheapo keyboard
purple ddrum set with oversized 22" bass drum
6 Shure SM 57 dynamic mics (drums, guitar)
2 Shure Beta 52A large diaphragm bass mics (drums, bass)
4 MXL 993 condenser mics (overhead, hi-hat)
Sterling condenser mic (vocals)
2 Fostex PM0.5II powered monitors
vintage Panasonic headphones

Picture me, like the chap above, crowded around a bunch of stuff, wires everywhere, spilling liquid into my console (hopefully not!!) and generally wishing I had an engineer. Hmmm...maybe that's not such a bad idea??? I really need to invite some Rastafarians over totin' ganja... That'll lube me up.

That's it for now. More this week as the time leading up to the sessions gets smaller. If I dissappear next week you'll know why! Till next time, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Monday, August 13, 2012

I like headphones, but...

Am I the only one that hates being interrupted? I could just keep my eyes closed and ignore it, but it's a bit like pain. Without it, serious damage or injury could result from not responding to interruptions or distractions while listening!

I mainly listen to conventional loudspeakers (although interruptions and distractions are still a PITA with them as well as having to cross the room and turn down the volume to conversate. Problem is, I don't use remotes with my vintage receivers.).

The recording studio is different and worse in every respect. Not only are headphones required for recording vocals (and for avoiding leakage into the mic from monitors), interruptions ruin a take completely when it's an unwelcome, abrupt stop during a take. It always seems to be (finally) the perfect take till this happens. I'm also The Man Of A Million Takes, which further exacerbates the problem.

Am I the only one? If I had complete isolation from distraction I might really explore expensive phones and a TOTL headphone amp. Not as long as I can't avoid distractions and inconsiderate family members. I might also be able to complete a recording session in my home studio if I could finally (simply) be LEFT ALONE FOR ONCE!!! It's a touchy subject to approach, sort of akin to putting locks on interior doors and actually using them (tends to isolate you at bad times like dinner!)... I'd rather make my own dinner than have to rip my phones off my head one more stinking time, listening or tracking for that matter!

Next time I'll try not to be so full of the old piss and vinegar, unless someone barges in on my next 'phones session in the meantime! I just may have to use my AK if that happens (and I don't mean AudioKarma!!)!!! It won't be such a nice day if that happens! Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Welcome to all the musos out there in cyberspace!

I've been touting my blog in various places on the interwebs, and have been getting some nice responses since starting it back in May of 2012. I want to thank all those who have taken the time to follow along, especially those who have commented, and responded to my posts in various cool places over the years (here as well as the forums). I never have really made a list of the places I hang out online, and now's a good time to actually review the various places one can go to talk about audio and learn a thing or ten in the process. I've been seriously spending lots of time everyday on the internet trying to learn as much as I can about music, audio, systems, components, and all related things, for the better part of the last two years in a more concerted way than before the www's existance. Everyone knows that I've been a musician since 1967. At the age of 9 I started on my life's journey with music as my focus...

My main hangout is a place where there are over 100,000 subscribers, There are some of the most intelligent diy-ers in the entire world there. A common thread title subject there is the "scroe". What is a scroe, you may ask? A scroe is when you have just returned from your local thrift store or secondhand audio salon with an incredibly unbelieveable bargain on old or new audio, frequently donated to these stores who are usually affiliated with charitable organizations (common ones include Goodwill, Salvation Army, Veterans Villiage, Amvets, etc.). They receive donations and offer merchandiseable goods at a mere fraction of retail going rates. Some have smartened up over the years and do their own online auctions (hence more revenue incoming!) but deals can still be had, by and large. The term "scroe" (acknowledged as such by major encyclopedias as the correct spelling) is actually a typo on the word score, by someone who is in the throes of euphoric rhapsody over an excellently priced purchase, and the excited poster misspells "score" in a feverish rush to brag about his or her good fortune! I've also followed threads there for years as someone actually services a receiver or turntable in cyberspace with experts! Amazing in itself... Lots of posts about pictures of puppy dogs and kitty cats around listening rooms (and killer listening rooms without puppy dogs and kitty cats) are there as well. Just a really nice homey kind of place. All audio, no attitude (except from the likes of me!). It was because of them that I started this blog! I don't piss and moan there as much as I used to.

Then there is They are hardcores, less manners and more attitude. You go there to get the real scoop on what to plan your purchases around, and no holds are barred there. Other sites are run more tightly but this place is refreshing for a change. Not so much a put-on of politeness and a bit more edgy conversation. They also have a Classified section that rivals the best of them, including audiogon and ebay.

Next comes a place to hang out if you can afford it. sports the richest audiophiles on the planet, with the bling bling audio jewelry, and they aren't afraid to willywave it in your cyberface. This was my first stop on the cyberaudio trip, and I quickly found out that they were totally out of my league.'s where you go to see how the other half lives, and many there sport multinational setups the likes of which could comfortably fund a large third world nation. Ostentatious and garish are the systems reviewed and actually owned there. Rumor has it that the site was started by expatriots from who were ostracized for their extravegant audio obsessions (and homes and automobiles and recording studios and get it). You know what they say...audiobirds of a feather flock together...I blew that popstand quick-like.

There's a guy who calls himself Romy The Cat, another expat (this time from who clearly states on his site, "Do not speak to each other, speak to the topic". He's a self-proclaimed expert. I signed up, then decided against posting, knowing that anything I would have said would have been immediately shot down with supreme authority and claims of supreme knowledge. I'm not into audio supremacy... my choice of headphones would have been viewed as a hate crime! Later on that scene.

There are sites devoted to buying and selling that also feature some forumspeak and blogosphere as well. has recently undergone some renovation and new ownership, and the jury's out on them. They never had a great rep as far as being totally honest or buyer-centric, but they have been the biggest audio-specific selling spot (online) for ages. You can buy, sell and trade there, as well as enter into discussion about whether an item is worthy of your money and attention.

Ebay has championed the buyer in its short history with its policies, and it's no wonder they rule the auction roost. They literally invented the term Buy It Now (BIN). Retail giants Amazon, Musician's Friend, J&R, B&H, and their ilk provide a quick, easy experience for whatever tickles your audio fancy (as long as your plastic's green), and Music Direct caters to those who prefer MoFi recordings (Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs) as their source of high definition analog. For years they have been the state of the art as far as audiophile recordings of familiar pop music titles go. The familiar "Original Master Recordings" are ubiquitous in the industry as the last word in high-definition vinyl. HDTracks have expanded on the idea, licensing and selling high-definition downloads of much the same material, as the costly licenses to time-homored material become available to them. Not cheap, as you can imagine! This is bigtime business on bigtime levels of the music we grew up with, and its true and perceived value rises hourly, much like any similar commodity that changes hands for dollars nowadays.

There are plenty of sites that cater to whichever set of niches (vinyl, tape, analog, digital, pro audio, consumer electronics, acoustic treatments, do-it-yourself, you name it) dominate your domain and tickle your fancy. There are literally millions (BILLIONS!!!) of these outlets for the music fan/audio junkie in all of us. Google's your friend, and BadassBob's your uncle!

Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you next time!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Today was a truly amazing day.

Today, we witnessed a few great feats of mankind, beginning with the crew at NASA.

We put a frigging rover on Mars! With sensors and cameras, a virtual flying science lab, the mission was undertaken originally to further determine if there was once life on the red planet. How this thing made it millions of miles to the predetermined location, taking eight months to complete, puts the moonwalk (sorry, Michael!) to shame. The moonwalk I refer to happened in 1969 and is rumored to have taken place inside a Hollywood soundstage!! Just like Michael's!

A South African runner can compete with ablebodied athletes in 2012. He's a double amputee, and he made it all the way to the semifinals of his event at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, currently being held:

Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius (born 22 November 1986) is a South African sprint runner. Known as the "Blade Runner" and "the fastest man on no legs", Pistorius, who has a double amputation, is the world record holder for class T44 in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ă–ssur. What an amazing human specimen, and such an inpiration to amputees all over the world.

And finally, a Jamaican sprinter ran an astonishing race today to qualify as the "fastest man alive".

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Yusain Bolt won the 100 metres gold medal with a running time of 9.63 seconds, setting a new Olympic record for that particular distance and defending his gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. He was followed by his fellow Jamaican, Yohan Blake, who won silver with a running time of 9.75 seconds. Following the race, seventh place finisher Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago declared "There's no doubt he's the greatest sprinter of all time"; while the USA Today referred to Bolt as a Jamaican "national hero", noting that his victory came just hours before Jamaica was to celebrate their 50th anniversary of Independence from the United Kingdom. With his 2012 win, Bolt became the first man to defend an Olympic sprint title since Carl Lewis in 1988.

All in all, it was a pretty kickass day here on the third rock, in London, and beyond. Tomorrow we experience the thrill of victory and skip the agony of defeat! Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Beatles' Second Album

Most chroniclers of the Beatles' works key on the British releases, for some reason they consider them to be definitive. For that reason alone I have chose to focus on the American releases! Why? Because I can, and will. Plus, I like the covers.

The Beatles' Second Album is The Beatles' second Capitol Records album, and their third album released in the United States including Introducing... The Beatles released three months earlier on Vee-Jay Records.

The Beatles' Second Album went to number one on the album charts in the US, knocking off Meet the Beatles!, the first time an artist replaced itself at number one on the US album charts.

In 2004 this album was re-released for the first time on Compact Disc (catalogue number CDP 7243 8 66877 2 2), (CDP 7243 8 66878 2 1) as part of The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 box set and was issued in a miniature cardboard replica of the original album sleeve. This album was also released in the US on 8-track cartridge in 1967, and reel to reel tape and cassette in 1969.


Unlike the contemporaneous British Beatles albums, The Beatles' Second Album is composed exclusively of uptempo numbers, and for this reason is a favourite of some Beatles aficionados and rock critics. "The Beatles' Second Album stands as probably best pure rock & roll album ever issued of the group's music" [sic], wrote Allmusic.

Songs for this album were compiled from four different UK releases. Included were the five remaining tracks from the group's second British LP With the Beatles. Those songs were left off the previous Capitol album Meet the Beatles!. Also included were "Thank You Girl" (the B-side to the British single "From Me to You"), the single "She Loves You" / "I'll Get You", "You Can't Do That" from the A Hard Day's Night soundtrack in the UK, and two new songs, "Long Tall Sally" and "I Call Your Name," both released a month later in the UK on the Long Tall Sally EP. Also, the Capitol Records engineers, headed by record executive Dave Dexter, Jr, added a lot of echo and reverb to the stereo versions to give the music more of a "live" feel. This is much more noticeable on the "With the Beatles" tracks, as they were recorded in two-track stereo.

Worth noting is the inclusion of the stereo version of "Thank You Girl," as The Beatles' Second Album featured the only "true" stereo version of the song released on any US or UK album for over 40 years, until another stereo version of the song was released on the 2009 remastered edition of Past Masters (The Beatles Second Album stereo version of "Thank You Girl" was also included on The Beatles Beat, a German release). Since some echo was added, this version remains a bit of a rarity.

The Capitol album mix is also unique in that its version contains three additional harmonica riffs, two during the bridge and one at the very end of the song. For its American-album debut, Capitol took this stereo version and transferred it into a two-to-one stereo-to-mono mixdown for the mono album release, thus creating an alternative mono mix of the song. The stereo version of "Money" also underwent the same two-to-one stereo-to-mono mixdown for this album, thus creating another alternative mono mix. In the mono version of "I Call Your Name", the cowbell comes in at the very beginning of the song, whereas in the stereo version it comes in after the beginning of the vocal. Harrison's opening 12-string guitar phrase is also different between the mono and stereo versions. In "Long Tall Sally", the stereo version has echo while the mono version is lacking it. The mono version of "You Can't Do That" is different to the one released on the British album "A Hard Day's Night" for unknown reasons.

Track listing

All tracks written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, except where noted. See also: Lennon–McCartney.
Side one
  1. "Roll Over Beethoven" (Chuck Berry)
  2. "Thank You Girl"
  3. "You Really Got a Hold on Me" (Smokey Robinson)
  4. "Devil in Her Heart" (Richard Drapkin)
  5. "Money (That's What I Want)" (Janie Bradford, Berry Gordy, Jr.)
  6. "You Can't Do That"
Side two
  1. "Long Tall Sally" (Robert Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, Little Richard)
  2. "I Call Your Name"
  3. "Please Mister Postman" (Robert Bateman, Georgia Dobbins, Garrett, Fred Gorman, Brian Holland)
  4. "I'll Get You"
  5. "She Loves You"
In the 21st century we have access to many facts about common rock albums that we might not have had in decades past. Songwriting credits now see the light of day, names that were associated but omitted for whatever reason are now included, and generally speaking, details that were previously glossed over are brought to the fore, in the ever-widening info age we currently live in. As time goes on, there will be no minutiae left unfurled for us to ponder whether there is any significant use for revealing it... Every detail will be revealed. I like it.

Next in the series of Beatles' LP reviews comes one for "A Hard Days Night", the "original motion picture soundtrack" album of the movie of the same name. It was the one that broke the Beatles worldwide in a really big way. The charm of the black and white footage is particularly endearing.

Tomorrow we return to the minutiae that surrounds me, and believe you me, there are tons of it. There's a lot of inertia to go with it, so watch out! You may get sprayed with minutiae and inertia... So, until then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!