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!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bass amps - is older better?

I know a thing or two about bass amps. Older IS better. Made In USA is the way to go. Don't forget this simple fact and you'll never go wrong. I've been playing bass for 37 years, you'd think I'd have learned at least this (and other important facts as well) after nearly 40 years in the bidness.

I bought my first real bass amp back in 1975, the year I started playing bass. I was as green as money, only I had no money with which to purchase something that could last. I knew Fender, but didn't know that a Fender Bassman 50 was a better guitar amp than a bass amp! Commission salespeople don't help when they will sell anything to anyone for any application, then try to convince you that you're making the best decision ever made! Scum of the earth, they are...

I bought the Fender Bassman 50, knowing that I had no speaker cabinet to complete the "piggyback"
setup (that's what they called it back then), so I began cobbling together anything that I could hook up to that head in order to get something to produce sound of some sort. Of course it was inadequate, insufficient, every negative applied, no matter what I tried. All I knew was that Peavey Sucks (some things NEVER change). Good start, but still not enough to propel me into the ranks of the greats.

I started collecting good instruments and borrowed amps for gigs. I got a Gibson Thunderbird Bicentennial limited edition commemorative bass, a Fender Precision (sunburst w/rosewood neck), and a Rick 4001, all the heavy hitters of the day. I was bound and determined to move straight to the top but had one stopoff... I bought (rather charged) an Acoustic 370, knowing that I was only one rung from the top, the mighty (still the industry standard) Ampeg SVT. When I stopped working (always hated jobs), the 370 got repoed, and I was secretly glad. This opened the door for my first real SVT. I saved my sheckles, bought it, and once again realized I had no cabinet. I had the greatest bass amp ever made and I had no speaker! They were 360 watts of pure tube power, and six 6550's to boot (the most powerful tube amp tube ever made, for THE topdog bass amp of the time, and of all time). By the way, the new state-of-the-art models are nowhere nearly as brutal and gutpunishing as the genuine article from 1969 through the 70's.

In my world, my gear was (and to an extent still is) my bank account. It usually represents my most valuable possession, and it's usually the first to go when/if I have an emergency I can't cope with otherwise. This was the first real realization of this cold hard fact, and I started consolidating to make the cabinet that matched the SVT behemoth head appear. Consolidation always means loss. Even in today's world where vintage rules, trading always means coming out behind, it's just a matter of how much, and it's a commonly-known fact that cash talks and bullshit walks (or trade value can be subbed into the place of BS).

So, I had another unique situation working against me. If my father (who was and still is my landlord) didn't approve of my job or my ability to make rent money he would give me ultimatums (ultimatums are never good). Get a job or I throw you out. That was his favorite. I fought long and hard to form bands and the minute everything gelled, my dad was right there to destroy my efforts.

This was supposed to be about bass amps, right? Sorry if I got off the track! I eventually had 2 SVT's and 2 cabs, as pictured above, and it went a long way toward fueling my local success in bands. Clubs hire equipment, not bands, and bands hire equipment, not musicians. So, let's review. It doesn't matter if you can play, as long as you have gear that doesn't sound like shit. It doesn't matter if you spend six months building a repertoire and following, there's always someone ready and willing to sweep it all out from under your feet at any given moment for any arbitrary reason. And finally, commission salespeople who charge tax suck when you can get anything you want, tax-free, online (if you buy out-of-state, never a gamestopper).

The moral of this story??? 1) Get a job in music retailing (cost + 10%! This afforded me the biggest wall o' Ampeg in the entire midwest before Ampeg moved from St. Louis to China and ruined the brand!), 2) Buy your gear online (new fix to an old problem), and 3) Buy low, sell high, no trades! 4) Rent is rent, a basic fact of life, unless you have a sugar mama.

The things about tubes and antennas still apply as well. See you tomorrow!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Planning a formal recording session

A recording session doesn't casually fall together, unless you own every single last item to accomplish everything that the project demands in terms of instruments and electronics. I happen to be running around at the last minute trying to set up every last detail so I can prepare in advance and record when the time comes. I hate to even plan an event and struggle with the fine points right up until the "red light goes on".

The best laid plans always get screwed around by unforseen trouble, or gremlins in the works, so short of that we can tie down some details without fail. First of all, unless you're using a drum sampler or some other other rhythm machine/source, a drumset, sticks, cymbals and stands, and a full complement of dynamic and condenser mics are essential to applying the spit and polish that comes from choosing to use a real drumkit as opposed to plonking buttons for rhythmic emphasis on a song. I much prefer the sound of real drums on a recording, they are undisputably the go-to choice for my kind of music. For deep reggae or hip hop you might purposely go more electronic, but for my recording dollar the real drums are my ticket to ride.

Next, there must be a quality multitrack recorder, whether analog or digital, to capture the raw tracks to be blended and combined correctly and without introducing noise to the system. Ever since the digital revolution some engineers have preferred digital over analog recording gear, while others still use the large 2" reel recorders to great effect, and wouldn't switch to digital if they were given the gear. Others recognize the sheer ease in which the most modern digital gear responds to the demands of the studio, in the heat of the session, cutting down wasted time and clutter. It really is half and half, those having a specific preference know digital excels at silent, distortion-free capture of tracks with little or no crosstalk as the tracks are separated and combined. There are countless ways to combine the two processes so as to get the best of both worlds as the session progresses.

Having the right effects is essential if your tracking session is magically going to transition into a mixing session. Having easy-to-use, high-qualty effects puts the wonderland of enhancers and additives at your fingertips, and the easier they are laid out the more of that precious time can be saved as the sweetening process takes place.

I usually try to have one serious vintage guitar to be my go-to instrument in a rock and roll/singer/songwriter-type session, which comprise the majority of my recording efforts. Sometimes when I sit down to demo some ideas, songwrite or just noodle to see what combinations are going to permeate my songs, I like to play a vintage guitar that's well-set-up and in tune. I have a number of others, one for each major need but I prefer to use a timeless, iconic axe. It can be particularly inspiring to the process.

Finally, vocals need serious attention as they get recorded, as the instrument has a human (read imperfect) connection to the creative process. The voice must be maintained over the space of a long hurry-up-and-wait session full of fits and starts, and it's as sensitive as the latest processors (and maybe more). Proper maintenance and common sense care of the pipes is a big element of finishing a project with just the right amount of vocal flair, regardless of style. The overall success of the entire project hinges on the proper synergy of all these variables, and more.

I'm in the songwriting phase now, as all the gear procurement has taken place, at least what I can afford at the time! Long, arduous and expensive are these undertakings, and they get more planned and complicated as time goes on. People can record an album in a home recording studio, where 20 years ago, this would have been impossible. Put more variables in their hands, at their disposal, and the details can mount to a staggering level if not kept in check. That's why it's good to have a third party to do the engineering of the session, and even a fourth to try to take most of the logistical strain off the talent. Not always possible, as desireable as it may seem!

More tomorrow on the continuing progress. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Beam video projector/smartphone!

Samsung has confirmed that the Galaxy Beam smartphone, which sports an integrated projector, will go on sale in the UK today.

The Samsung Galaxy Beam phone was revealed at Mobile World Congress earlier this year but Samsung has only today announced it will go on sale in the UK.

Capable of projecting a 50in image on any nearby wall, the 'smartphone projector' is just 12.5mm thick and has a 4in screen.

It runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) OS, it has an 8GB internal memory, SD card slot and 1GHz dual-core processor.

The projector is a 480 x 360 resolution, with 15 lumens brightness and capable of beaming images taken on the 5 MP camera to any nearby wall.

As well as your own pictures and 720p video, it can project content from the likes of YouTube and games from Samsung's own 1000-strong Game Hub.

The Samsung Galaxy Beam is on sale today in the UK.

This is a gamechanger for me. I've resisted the smartphone rage until now. This is SERIOUSLY enticing me to cross over. I just need to resist until the price becomes affordable enough! In the meantime I may plan a conventional projector purchase, I'm just not that into conventional movie fare to justify an immediate purchase. This is simply amazing, sort of like when I first heard of Dick Tracy-style wrist communicator devices as a kid. To be able to have a phone conversation with an image of a person or place projected on a blank wall, larger than life, (in HD???) just seems totally desirable to me! I never thought something like this could actually come to pass, and now it's getting to the point that if you can imagine it, someone can/will actualize it. What an exciting, brave new world we live in! I can't see being enslaved by technology, but to be convenienced by such innovative, life-enhanceing gadgets is a total buzz and a thrill! Skype and a bigscreen is close to that capability, but the portability factor is just too cool. What could posssibly be next? I simply can't wait to see...

We will be interested to see what devices that were out of the realm of physical possibility yesterday might end up on the shelves of your local Walmart tomorrow, so stay tuned to find out. If it amazes me I'll cover it. In the meantime, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!