Friday, May 30, 2014

PIRATES OF HOLLYWOOD AND VINE

I get tired of artists who are past their prime blaming piracy for their declining sales.

“To everything there is a season”

Remember that passage? Or the song lyric?

All you 80’s hair bands, you had your day in the sun.

Your record sales are not down because people are downloading your new material instead of buying it.

Your record sales are down because your audience is driving their kids to soccer practice and has a Miley Cyrus album in the minivan CD player (if it even has a CD player).

That's right-instead of buying your CD, they're buying Lorde CD's for their kids.




They don’t even know you have a new album out. They're too busy shuttling their kids back and forth to their activities.





Sure they’ll shell out $100 bucks to see your concert, but they want to hear the hits from thirty years ago. If you want this soccer mom to throw her panties on stage, you better play that old power ballad!

Or didn’t you notice how everyone went for the exits when you said, “We’re gonna play a new tune?

The only people who still bother to illegally download music these days were never going to buy it in the first place.

They’re the same crowd that taped the album when FM radio played it in its entirety in the seventies, or got their friend to tape it for them, or got their friend to burn it, or borrowed the CD to rip it.

Since iTunes and Spotify came to prominence, people who are buying music are only buying the songs they want, not the other nine cuts that bookend the hit.

That’s why recording revenues are down-as it  turns out, most people don’t want the whole album, they just want the single. 




You know, like it used to be when there were 45's.




As much as this reality saddens me (an album buff),  a look at YouTube confirms this- the singles have a bazillion views, and the “deep” album tracks only show the handful of hits from the BOTB readership.




The fact that most people do not want to consume most of your music has nothing to do with piracy.

Stop blaming Napster.




If you want to win the recorded music game, you better either be writing hits or partnering with someone who can.

The young people of America, who are still the primary music-buying demographic, have got non-stop media stimulation competing for their attention, and they have immediate access to infinite audio and video options. And they have an attention span rivalling the life of a gnat.

So that thirty second clip of your band playing it’s 30 year-old hit that some guy uploaded onto You Tube is not cutting into you sales.

That guy, by the way, liked your band enough to shell out one hundred times the cost of the song download for a ticket to watch you play it live.

His video upload is not cutting into your sales.

You’re old.

The industry was afraid of home taping, then afraid of used CD stores, then afraid of digital audio tape, then afraid of CD burners, then afraid of file sharing.




Instead of embracing technology, the industry fights it.

The industry is afraid of the future, so it cries wolf (piracy).

The essence of popular music is creating something people want to hear. That will never change.

Think of how powerful the Internet is. Would the United States have heard Lorde without it? Technology has made music far more accessible.




But the inevitable fading fortunes as artists (and their audience) age has always been there.


The fact that people will pay more than ever to see you perform live should be some consolation.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 29, 2014) NIKKI LANE



I ordered Nikki Lane’s Walk Of Shame (can’t beat that title!) based on some sound clips I heard-they had a bluesy, rootsy sound, although I have since heard this album described as outlaw country, which has traditionally been a male province.

After getting the disc and listening to it, it definitely should be filed as country, but Nashville-via-South-Carolina singer Nikki Lane at least comes by her drawl honestly (as opposed to country singers from Boston or Toronto who seem to lose the northern accents for the y’all factor). 




While I still am not a huge fan of the guitar tuning in country music (don’t like the twang), the songwriting on this disc is excellent, and I thought the title track was worth the price of admission. 



Lane breaks stereotypes on this moody record, with lyrics of of misbehaving and moving on, one-night stands and shady ex-boyfriends. 

On songs like "Coming Home To You," the album is pure country...a little too "yee-hah" for me.



Her follow-up album was released by New West and was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 28, 2014) WHAT'S WITH ALL THE BOB SEGER?

Maybe when I said "here ends my trip through the early years of Seger's career," you thought I was done with Bob Seger.

But you would be wrong.

While there have been whispers for a few years of a forthcoming album, Face The Promise, released in 2006, is Seger's most recent studio album, and was his first in more than a decade.




It proved Seger still had his songwriting chops, and his keen sense of blue collar yearning, and earned him a platinum certification, a top ten album (#4), a top twenty single (#16) with "Wait For Me," and a spot for the same song at #52 on the country charts.




The album currently in the works is reported to be Seger's swan song, so if you were a fan back in the day, you may want to pick this one up while it's still in print.











Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 27, 2014) STILL MORE BOB SEGER

I’m going to finish off my Seger series with a virtually unknown album.

That statement is probably not 100% accurate.

Most people know of the album I’ve been listening to, they just don’t know they know it.

On the live version of “I’ve Been Workin,” Seger introduces the song with “This is from back in ’72.” And on the radio staple “Turn The Page,” he says “This is also from ’72.”

I always thought these were songs he wrote in 1972 and never released. As I am sure most radio listeners though-but Bob was telling all of us to check out another album, and we didn't know it!

Unbeknownst to me and most of America, in 1974,  Seger released an album called Back In ’72 that featured the studio version of these songs.

Featuring appearances by JJ Cale and the Muscle Shoals Band, Seger has reportedly refused to release it on CD due to dismay over the mix and his own vocal performance.

His voice sounds great to me, and the album features some stellar songs, not the just fan favorite, "Turn The Page."





The album version, while quite good, does not stand up to the live rendition, primarily because of the saxophone in the live version. 

On the studio track, it is there, on the live track, Alto Reed reaches out and grabs you (I believe it is Alto Reed on the studio cut as well, but on the live cut, the sax manages to be epic despite its short bursts).

The rest of the album has some standout tracks, the ballad “I Wrote You A Song,” the title cut, covers of "Midnight Rider," "I've Been Workin" and "Stealin," and this song, "Rosalie." 



The album did penetrate the nether regions of the album chart (#188), but has since faded into obscurity. 


Someone posted the album in its entirety should you have a half hour to spare, and the interest...



Vinyl copies of other early albums (Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Mongrel) were readily available in the late 70’s, but I never knew of this album’s existence until I picked up the compact disc, which as an import, could be of questionable copyright legality. 




As noted above, Seger is reportedly unwilling to allow three of his early efforts (Noah and Brand New Morning in addition to this album) to be reissued. 

Which probably means I purchased a bootleg copy, although I purchased it from a reputable online retailer.





So here ends my trip through the early years of Seger's career. Hope it brought back as many memories for you as it did for me!

Monday, May 26, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 26, 2014) MORE BOB SEGER

Today continues the theme of yesterday’s post, my revisiting a few gems by Bob Seger from the days before he became a household name.



From Beautiful Loser, I moved on to its follow-up, Live Bullet, which was the world’s introduction to the Silver Bullet Band. 

The opening song is a “burn the house down” rendition of Ike and Tine Turner’s "Nutbush City Limits," and that sets the stage for the real deal of concert albums.


While Peter Frampton gets all the press for the best live album ever, this one should be in the conversation.

Similar to Frampton, the studio versions of Seger’s early material lack often the punch of the live takes, and a song like “Travelin’ Man” really….forgive the unintended pun…comes alive here.



This album showcases the tour that followed the release of Beautiful Loser, and it should be no surprise that that album is featured,  with five of it’s nine cuts represented here. 

The album dips into Seger’s earlier catalog, which sadly was never really revisited by the labels after his mainstream success.

Everyone has heard “Turn The Page,” but few know the album it comes from (although I’m gonna talk about it next).



Seger had seven albums prior to Beautiful Loser that are sadly unavailable even though they have many songs worth hearing, and at a minum deserve a compilation devoted to them. 

Anyone from Capitol reading this?

Why this album was not the one that broke Seger is beyond me-as good as Night Moves is, this is one live album that kicks some serious butt!












Tomorrow, I'll conclude this series with a Seger album you probably have never heard of, although you have heard Seger tell you about it more times than you can count!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 25, 2014) BOB SEGER

Somehow, this has turned into a Seger Sunday.



Yesterday, while continuing my never ending project of uploading music to the cloud, I came across Bob Seger’s Beautiful Loser album. 

Two albums later would come Seger’s massive breakthrough with Night Moves, but you can see where this album had the signs of something big coming. 

I played it through twice (last night and this morning), am on my third spin, and it really is an amazing album.

In his Amazon review, Stephen T. McCarthy refers to Beautiful Loser as a “lost classic,” and I think that term captures the album perfectly. 



It is a great album that, for some reason, did not get the exposure that “Night Moves” did, although the title track still gets radio play some forty years on.

This album certainly set the stage for Seger’s massive success, and is paced well, with driving rock anthems, bluesy rock cuts and the obligatory ballads. 

Speaking of ballads, why a song like “Jody Girl” was overlooked by radio is beyond me. 

Again I’ll quote McCarthy-this “is not just one of the most tender ballads ever written, it's one of the saddest.”

“Katmandu” and “Travelin’ Man” were Philly radio staples (in addition to the title track), but only after the success of “Night Moves,” although Katmandu did just miss the top 40 (#43) and received strong airplay in markets other than Seger’s home town of Detroit.

As I type this, I am finishing my third listening, with the closing notes of “Fine Memory” accentuating these keystrokes. And while this album brings back a lot of memories, it still stands up.



If you don’t own this one, and you like rock and roll, you should grab it while it’s still in print.





I have more Seger to talk about, but I think I'll save it for tomorrow and give you all time to listen to these cuts.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 22, 2014) HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN OST

When a CD collection as large as mine comes up in conversation, one silly question that almost everyone asks is, “do you listen to all of them?

Well obviously not all at once.

Way back in 1991, there was a "B" action film that kind of came and went.



Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man was a buddy film starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson, and it was a critical and commercial failure.

I only heard of it because the soundtrack featured a song from a new partnering of Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton that I had to have.

Frampton/Marriott's The Bigger They Come was a preview of the new album that the duo was working on.






Sadly, Steve Marriott died before the project was completed.

Anyway, the film was silly, but the buddy scenes had their moments and it has always been a guilty pleasure for me.




I used to own the soundtrack, but it was either stolen or sold during a moment of weakness.

Since then, the soundtrack has gone out of print, and commands upwards of $100.

Recently, I saw the Japanese edition offered $30 and decided "what the hell." After all, I've been looking for the thing for fifteen years. And $30 is not the most I have paid for a CD. 

Besides the Frampton/Marriott song (The Bigger They Come), the other gem on the album is a song by Waylon Jennings called  "Hardline" that I do not believe is available anywhere.

And it really is a gem.



And that's what I've been listening to!

Hey Stephen T-howzabout dat? 

Waylon Jennings featured on my blog!






Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NEW RELEASES COMING IN JUNE

Some veteran bands return with new material...




Iconic arena-rockers Night Ranger are set to release their eleventh studio album, HIGH ROAD. Produced by the band, HIGH ROAD will be available in two formats – a standard CD version and a deluxe version which includes two bonus tracks and a DVD featuring a background look at the making of the album along with video clips.




“Simplicity” is TESLA’s seventh all original studio album which follows a 6-year break from the release of the previous album “Forever More”.


The band has certainly not been lazy during this period, as they have made several successful laps around the world. The band went back into the studio in early 2014 and came out with a new album, which goes straight back to their roots.




Rock and roll veterans Uriah Heep debuted in 1970 and still play up to 125 shows a year. Somewhere in between those shows the band found time to add to their catalogue with a new album featuring eleven new tracks in the classic “Heep” style.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

STILL GOING STRONG

Chicago­, one of the longest running, successful and iconic rock bands in American musical histor, ­is set to release their 36th album “Now” in Europe on July 4 and in the U.S. July 8 via Frontiers Records. 



Featuring 11 original songs, album XXXVI was written and recorded on the road during the band's rigorous, never-ending tour schedule. 

Produced by founding members Robert Lamm (keyboard, guitars, vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet, guitar, percussion, vocals), James Pankow (trombone, percussion, keyboards, vocals), and Walter Parazaider (woodwinds, backing vocals), along with Jason Scheff (bass, vocals), Tris Imboden (drums, percussion), Keith Howland (guitars, vocals), Lou Pardini (keyboards, vocals) and Walfredo Reyes, Jr. (percussion)­, the album was recorded on “the Rig,” the band's customized mobile recording system. 

Each songwriter oversaw the production of their compositions, and the band collaborated as a cohesive unit throughout the writing and recording process.

Originally formed as the Chicago Transit Authority in 1967, the band found almost immediate success and have become a bona fide institution of American music. 

Their signature sound of solid rock songs augmented by the best horns in the business has endeared them to several generations of music fans. 




Track listing: 
Now
More Will Be Revealed
America
Crazy Happy
Free At Last
Love Lives On
Something's Coming I Know
Watching All The Colors
Nice Girl
Naked In The Garden of Allah
Another Trippy Day.





Saturday, May 17, 2014

THE ALBUM (AKA L.P.)-REST IN PEACE




On my April 19 post, I vented about my inability to find a copy of the Record Store Day exclusive title “American Beauty,” a four song vinyl EP from Bruce Springsteen that was produced in limited quantity (7,500 copies). The store I frequent had two copies, and they were gone before I got inside the doors.



As a music industry wannabe, I have subscribed to Billboard (the trade publication), off and on, since the late 1980’s. 

It’s an expensive magazine (used to be six bucks at the newsstand and $250 per year to subscribe), and I’d let the subscription go in recent years due to the high price tag. 

The last two years saw some killer subscription offers, one would imagine due to the same phenomenon happening with magazines as has happened with newspapers (the internet killing their circulation). 
So I am a subscriber again.

But I digress.

When I started this blog, my goal was to promote the idea of keeping the album format alive. I’d heard that the CD was dead, the album was dead, individual downloads were the future, and the sales figures certainly seem to support that.

But I further digress. Or do I?

Back to Bruce.

Unbeknownst to me, Sony released that exclusive EP, Record Store Day's Holy Grail, as a digital download a week later on iTunes and other formats. 

This week, it entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at number 31 with 7,000 copies sold.

Hold on there, Baba Looey!

7,000 units gets you number 31 on the charts?

I had NO IDEA how irrelevant the album format had become.

7,000 albums is me on a drunken bender with Stephen T. McCarthy's charge card at the Tower Record’s liquidation sale!







Back in the day, Bruce would have sold 7,000 copies at midnight of the day the album was released. In ONE STORE!



I get that his fan base has aged, and many of my contemporaries do not consume music, so this is not so much an indictment of how far Bruce’s star has fallen as it is total shock of how few album sales it takes to get on the charts.

If 7,000 units gets you number 31, how many units gets you number 200?

Number 200 last week was Darius Rucker’s “True Believers,” and I am wondering if the copy his mother bought at the checkout line at Target was enough to make the list (it’s been on the chart for 47 weeks).

I wish this blog had more followers so I could orchestrate an experiment. 

I’d love to be able to get a thousand people (in the US-different charts for different countries) to all buy the same obscure CD title to see if it would make the chart (and at what position).


One of you bloggers with a couple thousand followers-how’s that for a project?

A lot of people confuse the term "album" with a vinyl record. An album is a collection of songs. Also known as an LP, for "long play,"
although LP was really coined for the 12 inch 33&1/3 licorice pizza disc.

And the charts are telling the story...Americans do not want to buy collections of songs anymore.



The album may not be quite dead yet....but you may want to pay your respects.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

BOTB: THIS MASQUERADE


It's the fifteenth of the month and you know what that means!

No, put away the checkbook, I'm not from the finance company-it's time for another installment of Battle Of The Bands!

Started on the Far Away Series, and joined by the bloggers noted below, I've been somewhat of a scab player (not really following all the union rules...)

Far Away Series

Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends

Tossing It Out

Your Daily Dose

The way it works is, I put up two versions of a song and you tell me which one you like better.

Simple right? If you look at past comments, some people agonize over this decision, but I'll let you in on a little clue.....there's no wrong answer! Whatever you like IS the right answer!

Where I fail to follow rules is, there's supposed to be a post in five days or so where I tally up the votes and disclose my preference.

Well usually I disclose my preference in the comments, I assume anyone who can get to this site can also count, and I'm generally not motivated enough to do that second post. Plus, I stink at following rules!

Anyway, this song was inspired by one of the choices on Far Away Series' last BOTB post.

Ya see, I love Leon Russell-have always dug his voice, and could listen to his Carny album every day for the rest of my life (in between spins of Todd Rundgren's Nearly Human, of course).

So here's my song-Leon's original composition, "This Masquerade," from Carny. It was released as the B-side to his single "Tight Rope," which peaked at number 11.




5/15 update (9:10 am MST) It looks like the label pulled this video-I am sure it was costing them millions of album sales...all I could find was this live version-thanks ABFTS for pointing it out...






Facing off against Leon is George Benson's version from his 1976 signature album, Breezin'.




The song has also been covered by such acts as The Carpenters, Helen Reddy, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers. The Carpenters performed it on TV with Ella Fitzgerald, but it was George Benson who hit gold with it, making the top ten and taking home a Record Of The Year Grammy.

So now that you've heard 'em, which one do you like better?


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

COMING UP EMPTY

A quartet of hitmakers from the '70s is looking to get back to the garage...



The Cars' Elliot Easton, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, Romantics lead singer Wally Palmar and Chesterfield Kings bassist Andy Babiuk have formed the Empty Hearts, enlisting the assistance of Faces pianist Ian McLagan and Ramones producer-engineer Ed Stasium on their debut album, "The Empty Hearts," which will be released on Aug. 5, followed by an October-November tour of the U.S.

Read the Billboard article and check out a song preview HERE.


Monday, May 12, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 12, 2014) NATALIE MERCHANT; BEN HARPER; MICHAEL SWEET


When a CD collection as large as mine comes up in conversation, one silly question that almost everyone asks is, “do you listen to all of them?

Well obviously not all at once.

Lately, I have been picking a handful of discs at random each week (or so), in an effort to make sure I get to some of the titles I may not otherwise pick up. 

So here's what I'm listening to...

This post is not about hitting the archives for music-I still buy way too many CD's. Here are a few I picked up this week.




New in stores last Tuesday was multi-platinum singer Natalie Merchant's self-titled album, her sixth solo collection (and her first of entirely original songs in 13 years).


Natalie’s music brings me back to a lady I dated during the early 90’s who loved (and turned me on to) the music of 10,000 Maniacs, and I kept following Merchant long after I stopped following my lady friend (who shall remain nameless in this post).




Also new this week was a new disc from Ben Harper, a collaboration with his mother Ellen (and a far cry from his last effort, where his partner-in-crime was Charlie Musselwhite). 




If you are looking for a rocking affair, this is not it, mostly serving up folk songs in an acoustic style.




Finally, a solo album arrived from Stryper frontman Michael Sweet. Stryper is another band whose music makes me think of someone from my past.




They were also the first Christian band I liked on their musical merits-although I have since come to begrudgingly admit that my sister, who for a stretch listened exclusively to Christian rock, did have some gems in her collection.

Michael has had a roller coaster ride these past few years, losing his first wife, singing lead for Boston, reforming Stryper, meeting and marrying his second wife-makes me tired just thinking about it.

This album does not veer too far from the Stryper path, and fans of the band or of Michael's previous efforts should like this one.





Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO (MAY 7, 2014) THE ZOMBIES; KATIE MELUA

When a CD collection as large as mine comes up in conversation, one silly question that almost everyone asks is, “do you listen to all of them?

Well obviously not all at once.

I was asked the question recently, and I found myself wondering how do make sure each CD has a fair chance of making it into the CD player?

I decided to pick a handful of discs at random each week (or so), in an effort to make sure I get to some of the titles I may not otherwise pick up. And at the end of the week, I would post about what I have been listening to. Hence the title.

So here's what I'm listening to...

THE ZOMBIES
LIVE AT THE BLOOMSBURY THEATRE, LONDON


Unfortunately, the Zombies had disbanded by the 1968 release of what would be their signature album, Odessey and Oracle. Four decades later, founding members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent revisit that album's "This Will Be Our Year," "A Rose for Emily," and "Time of the Season." 

This 25-song live set is worth the listen, although the presence of songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Chris White is missed.

Blunstone’s voice sounds almost as good as it did 40 years ago, and gives a glimpse into what might have been.



KATIE MELUA-PICTURES

Katie Melua is a star in Britain, but somehow fame escapes her on this side of the pond. With a few albums in her back pocket, Melua shows more confidence on her fourth release, creating an album that is equal parts pop, folk and blues.