Sunday, October 21, 2007

Adventures In Sound...
It may or may not be a "sound" investment; who knows?
CONSUMER NOTE: This is a post about MUSIC. As such, it rambles extensively. You've been warned.

I tuned into PBS tonite, and saw a rerun of a program I saw last night, but since I was intrigued then, I decided to watch it again. It was "Austin City Limits", the concert show, and on it, I heard some pretty wild sounds from a group called "Explosions In The Sky". They play all-instrumental stuff, and they're pretty intense. And in between moments of intensity, they would play quiet passages and it was a case where the music took its own course, it seemed, and just "went places". The closest thing I've heard to what that group was doing, was on some old Pink Floyd stuff; the old Floyd song, "Careful With That Ax, Eugene" comes to mind. In both cases, with "Explosions In "The Sky" and Pink Floyd, the music, at any given moment can/could be loud, soft, beautiful, ugly, sedate and uncivilized. When hearing music like that, the journey is the thing. The Grateful Dead used to play that way, and so did Phish. I have Phish's "IT" DVD, and the telepathy between the band members is truly something to marvel at. (Phish, huh? They're fairly recent. I guess I'm not such a stick-in-the-mud after all.)

At the end of "Austin City Limits", after "Explosions in the Sky" was done, on came a small short ad (ad on PBS?) for the new album by Neil Young. "Huh? What?", I thot, "a new Neil Young album?" And I went to Ebay and bought it, sight unseen, and ear-unheard. I didn't read any reviews of it until after I ordered it. And what caught my eye was the review's mention that Neil's new album contains an 18-MINUTE song. Hmmmm. Intriguing. I always liked long songs. "MacArthur Park" at 7 minutes, 20 seconds. "Hey Jude" at 7 minutes, 11 seconds. Grand Funk's "Live" version of "Inside Looking Out" at 12 minutes, 22 seconds. Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" at 17 minutes, 5 seconds. When the music stretches out, things can get interesting. I've read that the Beatles, during their madcap "White Album" sessions, once cut a 22-MINUTE version of "Helter Skelter". Their "White Album" edited version, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 minutes, is wild enough. I'd LOVE to hear the 22-minute version! So, anyway, I've bought Neil Young's new album. A "sound" investment? Don't know yet. I'm just glad Neil continues to crank out music; I must have over 30 of his albums by now, maybe closer to 40. Neil, the ageless wonder.

Here's the front cover of Neil's "Chrome Dreams II" (a "Chrome Dreams I" was never formally released, tho songs which were supposed to be on that album ended up on such '70s Neil Young albums as "American Stars and Bars", according to what I've read.) I do hope I like this album more than I did "Living With War", his previous album. I thot that album was just a bit too spontaneous and sloppy. To me, it sounded like Neil went thru a couple takes, taught the song to his backup musicians in a coupla minutes, and off they went. Spontaneity is a good thing, but there's a fine line sometimes between 'spontaneous' and 'just kinda sloppy'. But hey, it's NEIL YOUNG. And the sloppiest Neil Young is still better than a lot of refined stuff by other artists.

As I'm typing this, I'm listening to a CD I made which consists solely of Paul McCartney B-sides. He's never stopped recording albums and singles; he goes like a musical Energizer bunny. Just keeps going. And, on probably 95% of his singles, Paul will place on the "b-sides" songs which are NOT available on any album! Paul seems to just dash off songs, and maybe the ones he thinks aren't so good, go on the B-sides. Well, over the years, Paul has made more singles than the total of John Lennon's, George Harrison's and Ringo Starr's combined. (Of course, Lennon and Harrison both have a pretty good excuse for not recording anymore.) Thing is, I've made an 80-minute CD of nothing but McCartney B-sides, and actually, some of his B-sides are pretty good. On the Capitol records CD re-issues of some of his '70s albums, solo and with Wings, can be found non-album McCartney "B"-sides which have been included as bonus tracks. This is how the record company gets us all to buy CD issues of albums we already have; they dangle a couple of 'bonus tracks' at the end of the CD, and we plunk down our moolah just so we can GET those extra tracks. And that's the way it goes in the record biz. At least on the 'buying' end.


I had someone tell me recently I should write more about music, since I seem to know my way around the topic. So I did that here. It may appear 'slapdash', but I bring about 30 years of listening and collecting to the table. That's not saying my opinion counts or anything, but I guess I always wanted to be a record critic. What a great job to have. The record companies send you free music, and then you write about it and get PAID for it. Yep, that would be my dream job.


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