Tuesday, March 26, 2013

(Non-Swedish) Pop Music Break

So simple, so brilliant. It might as well as be Swedish.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Transportation for the Soul

Recently I picked up a few soul jazz albums at a flea market in Berkeley. Listening to these albums has transported me to some imagined life, living and growing up in Oakland in the 60s and 70s and listening to these albums deep into the night. I know books and movies can transport you to a different time and place. I’m discovering with these albums, that music can do the same. Surface noise on a record usually bothers me, but with these records it only adds to the illusion of a different life. I’m not listening to this music on a fancy hi-fi in my suburban house; I’m listening to it on a humble turntable that’s tearing up the grooves with each play in some smoke-filled apartment in Oakland. I’ve grown particularly fond of Willis Jackson’s Please Mr. Jackson, which is the last piece of music I’ve listened to before going to bed each night since I got it. There’s one song on the album that sounds like a party that’s broken out in the middle of a church service. It’s not something I’ve ever experienced personally, but I connect with it somehow. It brings me comfort, like it was a part of my imagined past.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Coming Soon to a Record Store Near You: Bernstein's Mahler 2

I've marked March 31 on my calendar, because that's the date Leonard Bernstein's recording of Mahler's 2nd Symphony ("Resurrection") with the New York Philharmonic will be reissued on vinyl. This is my favorite performance of one of my favorite works of art. I have the CD, but missed out on the vinyl when it was originally released in 1990. The original vinyl pressing reportedly sounds better than the CD pressing, which doesn't make much sense since it is a digital recording. I would love to have found out, but original pressings sell for hundreds of dollars. Now my curiosity will be satisfied for a lot less with this vinyl reissue.

The reissue, according to one source, is being produced by a Korean company. Multiple sources confirm it will be cut at Emil Berliner Studio, which was the in-house mastering facility of Deutsche Grammophon, the label that issued the original recording of the performance. The reissue will be pressed at Pallas in Germany, one of the world's best record pressing plants. Needless to say I have high hopes. This is the most exciting reissue in years for me.

Bernstein, the over-the-top conductor, was the perfect match for Mahler, the over-the-top composer. Here he is conducting the finale of the 2nd with the London Philharmonic in crappy YouTube fidelity:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New New Acquisitions

Instead of keeping up with Alabama Shakes and A$AP Rocky and all the hot new bands, I tend to discover new (for me) music from the past.  There's so much of it.  Here are a few albums I've picked up recently by musicians who, until now, weren't represented in my record (or cd) collection and I hadn't heard much of:

The Soft Boys, Underwater Moonlight (Armageddon, original UK pressing, $10).  No, it's not an album recorded by the first test group for Viagra. This album, released in 1980, pretty much set the template for all the slightly off-kilter jangle pop of the 80s (e.g. REM, Smiths) I was listening to back in the day.

Popol Vuh, In the Garden of the Pharaohs/Aguirre (Celestial Harmonies, German reissued DMM pressing, $15).  What do you get when you combine a spacey moog synthesizer and primitive drumming?  Werner Herzog bait.  After Popol Vuh released their first few albums in the early 70s, including In the Garden of the Pharaohs, Herzog tapped this band to score a number of his films, including Aguirre the Wrath of God.  This double LP reissue combines two of their earlier albums.  It sounds stunning.  I first heard of Popol Vuh a few years ago at Amoeba, where I over-heard a record store clerk tell a fellow clerk that it's becoming really hard to find Popol Vuh on vinyl.  That's the kind of comment that sticks with a record collector.  And it turned out to be true.  While I've come across a handful of albums by other krautrock bands, this is the first one I'd seen by Popol Vuh.  Of course, I snapped it up.

Ben Folds, Songs for Silverman (Epic, 2-LP, $10).  Is Ben Folds the male Tori Amos?  Maybe.

The Dells, Love Is Blue (Cadet, original pressing, $5).  One of my record-buying excursions turned out to be a splurge on soul records.  The Dells are not exactly obscure, but this is the first album I've heard by them.  You just can't go wrong buying a soul album from the late 60s/early 70s.

Charles Earland, Black Talk! (Prestige, original pressing, $15).  I've been looking for this album ever since I read Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, in which it's mentioned.  I suspect one of the main characters in the book, Cochise Jones, is partially based on this seminal soul jazz organ player.  Earland shows even a Beatles tune can be made to sound funky.

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Columbia, 2-LP, $13).  How did I miss this album the first time around?  Absolutely brilliant.  Note to self:  I have to listen to less music by mopey, uptight white guys and listen to more music by soulful black women.

Scott Walker, Scott Walker 3 (Smash, white label promo original pressing, $30).  Scott Walker is a prime example of the mopey, white guy I should be listening to less.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bonus Song

Some vinyl albums include bonus songs not found on the CD, either on a 7" single included with the LP or on the LP itself. Ben Folds' Songs for Silverman LP, which I recently picked up, includes this cover of a Dr. Dre song not included on the CD version of the album. Feel free to karaoke.