Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Game Theory - Blaze Of Glory

In one of the earliest posts I made on this blog back in the far off land of 2006 I lamented the sad state of Game Theory's catalog. A lot has happened since then, including sadly the untimely passing of Scott Miller, but one thing hasn't: Game Theory's albums remain ridiculously hard to obtain legitimately and fetch absurdly high prices among collectors.  Fortunately, thanks to Omnivore recordings, that will not be the case much longer. They have just announced a series of expanded reissues of the much loved Davis, CA group's albums.

The first reissue, appropriately enough, will be the band's debut album, Blaze Of Glory. This looks to be something special because it hasn't been available since its initial release in 1982. (It was kinda reissued on CD by Alias years ago, but that version was remixed and some songs were later re-recordings). In all my years of record collecting I've never once seen a copy of this record in a store, and even I, Game Theory devotee that I am, do not own a copy. Omnivore's reissue will be remastered from the original master tapes.

The album will be reissued on CD, limited edition pink vinyl LP (black to follow), and as a digital download. It will feature 15 bonus tracks, including recordings from Scott's pre-Game Theory outfit, Alternate Learning. Omnivore promises reissues of Real Nighttime, Lolita Nation and other Game Theory favorites are on the horizon. Thank you Omnivore!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music Remaster

It's not often you see a remastered CD that is quieter than the original CD. But that's the case with the new reissue of The Jayhawks' 2003 album Rainy Day Music.

Waveform for "Tailspin" from Original CD (2003)
 Waveform for "Tailspin" from Remastered CD (2014)

Kudos to the Jayhawks and remastering engineer Vic Anesini for getting it right this time. The music really does sound much more natural now. The quieter remastering suits the gentle grace of the music better than the louder original mastering.

The album was originally recorded and mixed to analog tape by Ethan Johns and (from what I understand) the upcoming 2 LP reissue will may or may not be cut from analog tape. In the meantime, the new CD sounds really nice, and has 6 bonus cuts.

The vastly underrated Smile and Sound Of Lies have also been reissued on CD with bonus cuts, and will also be subject to 2 LP reissues. Just don't expect the same substantial sonic upgrade as with Rainy Day Music.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

R.I.P. - Tommy Ramone

Rest in peace Tommy Ramone.

I loved how I was able to record all three albums to a single 90 minute cassette ("Why Is It Always This Way?" got cut off just before it ended if memory serves). No records ever spoke more directly to my own sense of misfit-ism than these three, and that cassette became a constant traveling companion.

A couple memories: I used to wait on Johnny pretty regularly when I worked at Kim's Underground (video store in the Village). He didn't say much and rented exactly the kind of movies you'd expect: Z-grade horror films mostly. One day I found myself standing in line at Bagel Bob's next to Joey. He was impossibly tall and thin and frankly didn't look all that healthy. I never met Tommy or Dee Dee.

Generally when in the presence of famous people I leave them alone. I figure that's what they want. And that's how I treated Joey and Johnny. Just left them alone. I wish now that, when I had the opportunity, I had just said "thanks" to them. Their music changed my life. As a young person just knowing there were people like the Ramones out there made me feel better, and recognize there was something beyond the world I had experienced up to that point.

Tommy, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Sauce

New mix up on Mixcloud. Full track list below.

1. "Everybody's Talkin'" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
2. "Não Vou Chorar" by Os Diagonais
3. "Mentira (Chega de Mentira)" by Marcos Valle
4. "Stereotype/Stereotypes, Pt. 2" by The Specials
5. "lemon firebrigade" by Haircut 100
6. "Burning Desire" by Orange Juice
7. "Drumbeat for Baby [12" Version]" by Weekend
8. "Berimbáu" by Os Ipanemas
9. "Samba De Uma Nota So" by Os Cariocas
10. "Delicado" by Percy Faith & His Orchestra
11. "Send Me No Flowers" by Nellie McKay
12. "Way Down In The Hole" by Tom Waits
13. "Mã" by Tom Zé
14. "Panis Et Circenses" by Os Mutantes
15. "August Day Song" by Bebel Gilberto
16. "After Sunrise" by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77
17. "Casa Forte" by Edu Lobo
18. "So Nice (Summer Samba)" by Astrud Gilberto
19. "Love To Know" by Marine Girls

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Yoko Ono With Yo La Tengo - Live At Glastonbury

Yoko Ono performed with Yo La Tengo at this year's Glastonbury Festival. Apparently this video is getting a lot of hits from sites calling it the "worst live performance ever."

Here is a sample commentary from a site I won't link to:

Oh my god. This is bad. John Lennon is surely turning in his grave, because Yoko Ono just had the worst live performance ever.

When the Plastic Ono Band took stage at Glastonbury, fans gathered all around the stage to watch Yoko perform, but there’s no way they could have predicted the ear-splitting squeals that she "sang" into the microphone.

I don't even know where to start with such ignorance. First off, I'll admit that Yoko Ono is not for all tastes. That is no secret. But the idea that John would be "rolling over in his grave" at this performance is laughable. John loved Yoko and respected her as artist. A lot people never understood that, or simply refused to accept it. But the fact is he was an enthusiastic participant in her musical projects, some of which were actually a lot less accessible than this performance (I've heard Yoko sound way more out-there than this).

And the idea that there is no way fans at the festival could have predicted her "ear-splitting squeals" is equally absurd. Maybe if they were "fans" who had never heard of Yoko Ono and thought they were attending a Miley Cyrus performance they'd be confused, but this is pretty much exactly what anyone with even a passing familiarity with Yoko would expect. And frankly, the audience looks to be very much enjoying what Yoko and Yo La Tengo were laying down.

Yoko Ono doesn't need me to defend her. She is a strong, brilliant woman who for over 80 years has blazed her own path in this world. And she's done so in the face of tragedy and the kind of hostility that would shatter the ego of all but the strongest among us. I salute her.

Also, does anyone know where Ira got that shirt? Because I want one.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Musicians React To Pono: What Are They Hearing?

There is a real medicine show quality to this Pono promo video featuring famous musicians (David Crosby, Sting, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Tom Petty, etc.) testifying to the life altering impact of Ponomusic. Each one has just been apparently blown away by a comparison between a hi-rez Ponomusic file and either a CD quality file or an MP3, or maybe an iTunes file (it's not totally clear what they've been listening to, and no context is given).

I never want to put myself in the position of saying what other people do and do not hear. I especially don't like to suggest that someone has been taken in by the power of suggestion. So let me be clear: I have no idea what these guys did or didn't hear, and I am not trying to imply their reactions are anything but 100% genuine. I'm also not saying they were suckered into believing they heard things that weren't real.

But as someone who has spent a lot of time comparing the sound quality of various digital resolutions, it is hard for me to accept that these reactions resulted solely from listening to music files with increased sampling frequency and bit depth alone. I have to believe something else is at work here. Quite possibly the different versions they heard were represented by different masterings. I don't  know, and it's not like Pono provides any concrete details.

All other things being equal, the difference between hi-rez (24 bit) digital and CD quality digital (16 bit/44.1 kHz) is just not that profound. I'm not saying there aren't differences (there are) and I'm not saying those differences can't be heard (they can under the right circumstances). It's just that the difference is very subtle and difficult to hear, even for extremely experienced listeners with excellent hearing.

Don't believe me? Here's three different music files, each the same 30 second sample of Nick Drake's "Hazey Jane II." The first is a 24 bit/96 kHz version that I downloaded from Universal music. The second is a CD quality (16 bit/44.1 kHz) version that I generated from that same hi-rez version.* The third is a 192 kps MP3 created from the hi-rez version. Listen to each of them (preferably using some sort of ABX tester to make the test blind). Make sure whatever device you listen on is capable of 24 bit/96 kHz resolution (you might have to change the MIDI settings on your computer). Decide for yourself if the differences between them match the hype you see in Pono's video. Personally, I do not hear it.

"Hazey Jane II" (24bit/96kHz)
"Hazey Jane II" (16bit/44.1kHz - aka "CD resolution")
"Hazey Jane II" (MP3 192kps)