Wednesday, April 25, 2007
CDs vs. MP3s
Has the CD already become obsolete?
Recently I wrote about my most essential albums; what CDs I would first replace if all my music suddenly disappeared. One response I got brought up an interesting point; with the capabilities of downloading individual songs from iTunes and others; are albums really necessary anymore?
The ability to download individual songs from albums has been both the greatest boon and largest detriment to the music world. While all sorts of "singles" can now be created, albums on the whole can now be ignored. Indeed, what is the point of an artist releasing an "album" or CD if his or her listeners are going to select certain songs and discard the rest? Ideally the songs on an album compliment each other and flow together to create an over all experience, and certainly some artists are better at this than others. But with the creation of the MP3 file, listeners can now create their own albums and personalize their music even more. So does the artists' original intent (and by virtue, the CD as a format) become obsolete?
I admit that there are very few albums that I like all the way through. Often I've complained of (especially newer artists') CDs that seem go on for one or two too many songs, and wish it had been paired down or varied up a bit more. And who hasn't had a "greatest hits" package that had all that artist's best songs, save the one you really, really liked? And everyone's bought a CD or album because they really liked one song, and the rest turned out to be garbage.
Yet, the idea of songs existing purely as a computer file is somewhat uncomfortable to me (and yes, I'm a bit of a technophobe); your computer crashes and *poof!* no more music! And while you can burn your own CD and even create your own label and artwork for that CD, the concept still bears the stigma of the horrible "home mix" tapes that were so popular in the 80's.
My CD collection is vast and continues to grow and I worry that I have too much; but I still like the concept of the professionally made, professionally recorded CD. Perhaps it's the physical presence of the CD, the booklet with all the musical information that comes with a professionally produced CD that keeps me holding on to this format. I'm sure one day my kids will look at my CDs the way kids today look at their parents' LP records; relics from a bygone era.
With "playlists" and iPods and other portable MP3 players, has the CD already become obsolete?
5:17 pm ET ·
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Thursday, April 5, 2007
The Return of the Cover Tune
Another list of great and not-so-great re-makes
When I first started writing for the PO,I made a list of fifteen songs
that I thought were some of the best cover tunes ever made. Time goes by, and while I still agree with most of my choices, I realize that there are a lot more cover tunes that are noteworthy, some which a lot of listeners may not even know about, so here is a new list of fifteen great cover tunes, and again five that are truly awful.
- "Hotel California" – The Gypsy Kings. My Spanish is still sub par, but from what little I know, I'm pretty sure the Gypsy Kings do a literal translation of the Eagles' classic. Imagine it as a flamenco song and you pretty much get the idea. Great in any language.
- "That's All Right" – Rod Stewart. Another great cover from Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story album. Early in his career, Stewart covered a few Elvis Presley tunes, some good, some bad; this is one of his better efforts.
- "You Shook Me" – The Jeff Beck Group. Speaking of Stewart, he, Ron Wood and Jeff Beck turn this Blues classic into a song that could melt your speakers. This is much better than Led Zeppelin's cover of the same tune.
- "Nobody's Fault But Mine" – The 77's. One of Christian Rock's best bands rips Led Zeppelin almost note for note (who of course ripped this song from Blind Willie Johnson).
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" – Tomorrow. As I mentioned in another article, Tomorrow's version of the Beatles' classic is just as good as the original. Keith West, lead singer, does as good of job as John Lennon; he is one of the great lost talents of the 60's. And let's not forget a young Steve Howe on guitar!
- "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)" – Manfred Mann. A lot of people don't know it, but Manfred Mann (the group) went through several major changes in their line-up during the sixties, to the point where fans of the group refer to them in stages (much like the Byrds). This is "Manfred Mann II" with Mike D'Abo on lead vocals of a then unrecorded Bob Dylan tune. Also, like the Byrds, Mann II had a reputation as one of the better Dylan interpreters.
- "John Sinclair" – Blind Melon. Best known for "No Rain," Blind Melon took this obsolete John Lennon protest song and gave it a folky-blues spin that somehow makes it more relevant than when it was first recorded.
- "The Seeker" – The Smithereens. The B-side of the single "Only A Memory," the Smithereens did a great job with this Who classic.
- "Stop Breaking Down" – The Rolling Stones. I thought this was an original Stones tune, until I saw it on a Junior Wells album released three years prior to the Stones. I guess I figured by the 70's they had stop doing covers. A great version of a great blues number.
- "Crazy" – Alanis Morissette. I hate to admit it, but Morissette's version of the Seal tune made me appreciate the song more. And got it stuck in my head all over again.
- "Smooth Criminal" – Alien Ant Farm. That a punk/metal band would remake a Michael Jackson tune is pretty remarkable in the first place; that AAF did it so well is truly phenomenal. And if you've ever seen the video accommodating this song, it is one of the best parody/tributes to all things Michael ever.
- "Some Other Guy" – The Beatles. Though they never officially recorded it, the Beatles made Ritchie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" a staple of their early days. A live version exists on The Beatles at the BBC, so I've included it on my list.
- "Gone Daddy Gone" – Gnarls Barkley. At first I thought this Violent Femmes tune was an odd inclusion in their debut album, but then everything about Gnarls Barkley is a little odd. Some people hate it, but this version just grew on me.
- "Baba O'Riley" – Blue Man Group & Tracy Bonham. Again, this is not officially on any Blue Man Group CD, but it is part of a DVD of one of BMG's performances. To hear this Who classic on BMG's unique instruments made me appreciate the complexity of this song all over again.
- "I'm Down" – Aerosmith. One of the best covers of a Beatles' tune, Aerosmith does a great job on their Permanent Vacation album.
Well that's some of the best, now for some of the worst:
- "Helter Skelter" – Pat Benatar. Normally I love Pat Benatar; she has is one of the best female voices in Rock, but she should never have tackled the Beatles' "Helter Skelter." And neither should anyone else for that matter.
- "Demolition Man" – Sting. Is it possible to do a bad cover version of your own song? Years after the Police broke up; Sting re-recorded "Demolition Man" as a quasi-heavy metalish song for the Sly Stallone movie of the same name. Note to all recording artists, if you're asked to remake a song for a movie soundtrack, it will most likely suck.
- "Brown Eyed Girl" – Everclear. Everclear tries to remake one of Van Morrison's signature songs. Just awful!
- "The Real Me" – W.A.S.P. W.A.S.P. takes the Who's great song of teen angst and identity crisis into a god-awful tune about rebellion of authority. Stupid.
- "A Apolitical Blues" – Van Halen. I thought this was okay until I heard the original. Eddie Van Halen may be a great guitarist, but he can't play the blues. And Sammy Hagar can't hold a candle to Lowell George.
Any you want to add to either list? Let me know…
3:38 pm ET ·
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Monday, April 2, 2007
My Essential Albums
Ten albums from each decade that must be part of my collection
Because even I am beginning to realize my music collection is getting out of hand, I began thinking about weeding out my CDs. This led me to think; what would happen if a fire wiped me out of all my music, what would be the first ones I would replace? I then thought about my "essential" music, albums that I have to have to feel my collection is complete.
I have decided to break it down by decade, allowing myself 10 picks per decade. This is especially difficult for me for the sixties; I could fill it pretty much on Beatles' albums alone (yes, I'm that big of a fan.) But I will try to limit myself to a maximum of two albums per group.
This is not a list the critics' best, and I will probably have some "glaring" omissions, (I don't own any Jimi Hendrix albums, okay?) but this is my personal "essentials," not the critics, and not yours.
- Revolver – The Beatles
- The Beatles ("White Album") – The Beatles
- Beggars Banquet – The Rolling Stones
- Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones
- Odessey & the Oracle – The Zombies
- Bringing It All Back Home – Bob Dylan
- Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. – The Monkees
- Arthur – The Kinks
- Younger Than Yesterday – The Byrds
- Meaty Beatty Big & Bouncy – The Who
- Who's Next – The Who
- Every Picture Tells A Story – Rod Stewart
- IV – Led Zeppelin
- Fragile – Yes
- Sailin' Shoes – Little Feat
- Hooligans – The Who
- Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones
- The Yes Album – Yes
- Manassas – Stephen Stills & Manassas
- Band On The Run – Paul McCartney & Wings
- Synchronicity – The Police
- Abacab – Genesis
- The Joshua Tree – U2
- Sticks & Stones – The 77's
- A Letter From St. Paul – The Silencers
- Graceland – Paul Simon
- Freedom – Whiteheart
- Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
- Kick – INXS
- The Miracle - Queen
- Doubt – Jesus Jones
- Achtung Baby – U2
- Change Everything – Del Amitri
- So Be It – The Silencers
- Stunt – The Barenaked Ladies
- Chupacabra - Imani Coppola
- The Sky is Crying – Stevie Ray Vaughn
- Full Moon, Dirty Hearts – INXS
- Sheryl Crow – Sheryl Crow
- More Miserable Than You'll Ever Be – 7&7 is
Since the 2000's are not over, I reserve the right to make that list until the end of this decade.
Well these are my essentials, what are the essentials of your list?
8:49 am ET ·
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Another Spin is a reworking of an older music column of the Partial Observer, written by my alter-ego, "Dr. Spin."
In Dr. Spin's column I often addressed reader's musical questions, whereas Another Spin will be entirely my thoughts and observations on Rock music and popular music in general, occasionally reviewing albums that I think are worth noting and artists who I feel have been overlooked in the past. Of course, as with any other blog, people can still leave comments. I love to know if you agree or disagree with me."