Archive for Music
Negotiations between Apple Records, The Beatles, and Apple’s iTunes have been ongoing since the day iTunes opened its digital doors. More than once, over the years, rumors were rampant that a deal was imminent, only to learn that talks had once again fallen apart. Well, the day has finally come. Ten years on, Apple has, at long last, secured the rights to the music of The Beatles, and it is now available for download on iTunes.
In a joint announcement, according to The New York Times, Apple, EMI, the band’s record label, and Apple Corps, the band’s company, said the Beatles’ 13 remastered studio albums, the two-volume “Past Masters” compilation and the classic “Red” and “Blue” collections were on sale on iTunes as complete albums or individual songs. “I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes,” Ringo Starr said in a press release. “At last, if you want it — you can get it now — The Beatles from Liverpool to now!”
The Beatles have held on to blockbuster sales four decades after breaking up — it has sold more than 177 million albums in the United States alone, according to the Recording Industry Association of America — and still commands untouchable cultural prestige.
Each album downloaded from iTunes comes with iTunes LP, which features lyrics, photos, and more. The Beatles Box Set includes the band’s entire catalog, plus mini-documentary features on each album, and the bands’ Live at the Washington Coliseum performance from 1964.
If you didn’t bite on last year’s remastered box sets, here’s yet another opportunity to bring your Beatles library into the 21st century with downloaded digital remasters of their entire catalog. I can almost see your iPod salivating at the prospect.
But I couldn’t pick just one.
My first recollection of Barbra Streisand is the 1964 release of the Columbia LP, People. That was her fifth album. Her first, the original cast recording of I Can Get It For You Wholesale, was released in 1962. She has been a recording artist for forty-seven years, a performer for fifty, a star for almost all of it, and her voice still has a stunning capacity to move your emotions to wherever she cares to take them.
Streisand’s newest release, Love Is The Answer, is a collection of, you guessed it, love songs. After forty-seven years she’s still recording for Columbia, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation, but they’re still smart enough to know that you hold onto franchise artists like Streisand no matter how long they take between new releases, because it’s almost always worth the wait. This album is no exception.
This time out, Streisand collaborated with another of my favorite artists, jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, who not only played piano on five of the thirteen tracks, but also served as co-producer for this project with Tony Li Puma. Diana recruited her extremely talented backup trio, bass player John Clayton, guitarist Anthony Wilson, and drummer Jeff Hamilton, to serve as the foundation for these sessions. When Ms Krall was not at the piano, that post was ably filled by Tamir Hendelman or Alan Broadbent. Once the tracks were recorded to everyone’s satisfaction with the quartet, legendary arranger Johnny Mandel applied the finishing touches with a deft and delicate arrangement for string orchestra.
The songs are mostly familiar standards from the likes of Jerome Kern, Michel Legrand, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Jule Styne and others. The backing quartet artfully stays out of Streisand’s way while providing a beautiful canvas for her to work on. Diana Krall’s piano solos are delicate and generous, seeking only to complement, not to distract. And the orchestral arrangements by Johnny Mandel wrap the whole package in a soft, airy gauziness, that is intimate and never smarmy or overdone.
The result is Streisand’s best effort in years, possibly my favorite since 1974’s The Way We Were. At 67, Streisand’s voice doesn’t quite have the angelic purity it did 25 years ago, but it has been augmented by a maturity of understanding, and a feeling that she knows from whence she sings; that these are not just lyrics, but first-hand emotions that have been captured on tape.
These recordings were obviously put together by people who know, and love, what they’re doing. It comes through on every note of every track. This is the perfect CD to put on when you have some time alone, maybe on a cool rainy day, to sit back with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee or a bottle of scotch, and relax. And listen to the warm.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Since writing this review, I have learned that there is also a two-disc Deluxe Edition of this CD. The second disc is comprised of 12 of the 13 tracks with only the quartet backing Streisand’s vocals, before the orchestra was added to the mix. The 13th track was already piano only accompaniment. I haven’t heard the deluxe version, but since I tend to prefer jazz quartet accompaniment over orchestra, I intend to get it soon. I’ll post an addendum to this review after I’ve had a chance to listen to the quartet version.
I was right. I do like the second CD in the Deluxe Edition better than the first. But that doesn’t surprise me. Because these sessions were initially recorded with the quartet (piano, bass, drums, and guitar) and the orchestra was added after the fact, there is absolutely no difference in the performances. Disc One has an orchestra, Disc Two does not. The vocals and the instrumental quartet are the same.
So it’s entirely a matter of taste. If, like me, you prefer trio and quartet jazz, you will appreciate the second disc more. If you like orchestral backgrounds, you’ll prefer the second disc. But there is absolutely no reason to buy the Deluxe Edition if you prefer the orchestra. You can buy the standard version for five or six bucks less, and have exactly what you want.
I have excerpted Bob Gendron’s excellent and thorough review of the upcoming EMI/Capitol reissue of the Beatles catalogue from his column at TONEAudio. His article has me very excited to hear all of this old and familiar material again through the ears of 21st century mastering technology. The remastering engineers at Apple Records have not added anything to the mix, nor taken anything away. They have allowed us, for the very first time, to hear what has always been there but has been inaccessible with previous mastering and playback technologies. If you’re a Beatles fan, then September 9, 2009 is a day to look forward to.
Stereo and mono box sets
EMI/Capitol , CD
Please Please Me: The Beatles Remasters
TONEAudio Exclusive by: Bob Gendron
The cost of owning a good-sounding Beatles record just got significantly cheaper. Arriving 22 years after the band’s catalog was originally issued on compact disc, Capitol’s long-awaited remasters of the Fab Four’s 12 studio albums, Magical Mystery Tour, and the Past Masters collections—as well as the label’s limited-edition Beatles in Mono box set, comprising 10 studio records in their original mono mixes plus the Past Masters set—sound, as a whole, uniformly fantastic. It’s clear that the team of engineers responsible for the four-year project ensured that the world’s most important and famous pop catalog finally received the care it’s always deserved no matter what mix is heard. While hardcore fans will want both the mono and stereo editions, the general populace is almost guaranteed to be content with the widely available stereo versions. Not that everyone will be happy. All accomplishments aside, it’s a foregone conclusion that no matter what the results indicate, certain parties will complain, criticize, and nitpick. Those curmudgeonly detractors and obsessive freaks are better off waiting for the second coming of Christ; rumor is that the payoff will be a lot better.
For the majority of listeners, however, any temptation to spend hundreds of dollars on rare vinyl pressings should erode as they become acclimated to what often resembles hearing familiar records for the very first time. Such are the near-miraculous improvements in the key areas of information retrieval, hidden details, palpable physicality, expanded midrange, transient presence, and frequency response. As expected, the mono and stereo editions have their share of positives and negatives. Yet the benefits of the mono mixes reign supreme through Revolver, no surprise given that original producer George Martin intended for the Beatles’ records to be enjoyed in mono. With Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the tide begins to turn, yet efforts like The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) remain toss-ups for myriad reasons.
Read Bob Gendron’s review, in it’s entirety, at TONEAudio
Since the original post, I have had the opportunity to listen to the mono box set, as well as most of the stereo remasters. In my opinion, up through “Rubber Soul” everything, almost without exception, sounds better in mono. The Capitol stereo releases were never actually stereo anyway. All vocals were on one channel and the music on the other, because they were recorded on two-track equipment, and intended to be mixed only for mono by EMI in England.
George Martin, who signed The Beatles to Polydor Records (an EMI label), and produced all their recordings, recorded for what he called “high impact mono.” By keeping the vocals and instruments on separate tracks, he felt this gave him maximum control over how “out front” the vocals were in relationship to the music. EMI, at the time, reserved stereo recording for classical music only, but Capitol was at the beginning of their “Full Dimensional Stereo” period, and would not issue any new release without both a mono and a stereo version. So, we got what we got. The resulting stereo versions, released only in America, were anything but “full dimensional.”
Later, as The Beatles began recording on four-track equipment, they were still recording for mono, but the attempts at stereo mixes got a little better. So beginning with “Revolver” I recommend having both the mono and stereo versions. You can then pick which songs really sound better, and choose that one for your iTunes library. This will take you a little time, but is worth the trouble, I think.
The mono box set does not include the “Yellow Submarine” “Abbey Road” or “Let It Be” CDs as they were originally recorded for stereo. “Yellow Submarine” is not worth buying separately, in my opinion, as there are no really good songs on it, and the title song also appears on the “Revolver” CD.
So, the mono set ends with “The White Album” and “Mono Masters” (a two-disc album which was originally released as “Past Masters”). You may recall that “Past Masters” was a collection of all the songs that were released only as “singles” in Great Britain, and were not included on any album there. You may want to pick this one up in stereo as well, though most of the songs on it sound better in mono. Interestingly, the mono discs of “Help” and “Rubber Soul” also include the 1965 stereo mix on the same disc, so this makes comparison very easy.
One last caveat - Some people just don’t like the sound of mono. It’s dated, and old-fashioned sounding, but the first half of The Beatles catalogue sounds much better in mono. You’ll still get the new dynamic range of the remasters. Every instrument really pops out, as well as each vocal within each harmony. It truly is amazing how much better these new discs sound than the 1987 releases, which are the masters we’ve been listening to since they were first released to CD. And you’ll probably realize how bad the fake stereo you grew up with really sounded. If not, the stereo box set is also available, and includes all of the albums.
If you’re a Beatles fan, and you still listen to them regularly, you’ll find it well worth the cost of updating your library with these newly mastered recordings. If you haven’t listened in a while, and are just curious, start with “Abbey Road.” You will be surprised by what you hear, and may find The Beatles sprinkled into your playlists all over again.
Stereo and mono box sets
EMI/Capitol , CD
Playing for Change is the organization that produced the wonderful international music video “Stand By Me” which can also be found on our site. This followup is the great Bob Marley song, “One Love” recorded with many of the same international artists who participated in the first project. Their mission is to promote peace and awareness through music.
NOTE: Once you’ve clicked the “Play” button, to view this video in full screen mode, hover over the lower right corner of the picture, and click the full screen button.
Visit Playing For Change at their website to see their other Peace Through Music projects.
On This Day -
1954, Elvis Presley released his second single on Sun Records, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” a song made popular in 1948 by Wynonie Harris.
1964, The Temptations begin recording “My Girl” which went on to be their first number one and the first of fifteen Top Ten hits.
1965, “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire topped the charts and stayed there for a week.
1967, The Beatles record “Fool On The Hill” in London at Abbey Road Studios.
1968, Welsh singer Mary Hopkin was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with “Those Were The Days.” Hopkin had signed to The Beatles’ Apple label after appearing on the UK television talent show Opportunity Knocks.
1970, Ringo Starr releases his solo album “Beaucoups of Blues”
1970, the first episode of The Partridge Family premiered on television, featuring Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce.
Born On This Day -
1943, Gary Alexander, guitar, vocals, The Association, (1967 No.1 single ‘Windy’).
1945, Onnie Mcintyre, Average White Band, (1975 No.1 single ‘Pick Up The Pieces’).
1946, Jerry Penrod, bass player, Iron Butterfly. Their 17-minute ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ became a Top 30 hit.
Died On This Day -
1980, John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin, died at age 32.
Something You Didn’t Know -
In 1967 the BBC banned The Beatles “I Am The Walrus” from any airplay on radio and TV, convinced the song contained a drug reference somewhere in the lyric. Wow, ya think?
This guy has never taken my order at Taco Bell, but this just goes to show that there’s always hope.
I’d never heard of Rob Ickes until hearing a snippet of Road Song on radio a few days ago. (Yes, some people still listen to radio.) Ickes is the long time dobro player for Blue Highway, a contemporary bluegrass group who’s work had also escaped my attention before now. Road Song is Ickes’ fifth solo release on the ResoRevolution label and is strikingly unconventional, at least as far as I’m concerned.
When you think of instruments that might accompany a jazz piano, your mind doesn’t necessarily jump straight to the dobro. But that is Road Song in a nutshell; jazz for dobro and piano. In truth, Michael Alvey’s piano is the accompaniment here. While it is an almost equal collaboration, the dobro is the focus of this album. The only other addition to the mix is the voice of another artist I’d not heard of until now, RobinElla, who sings on three of the ten tunes included here. Her roots are also in country and bluegrass, but she brings a subtle Billie Hollidaylike touch to the ballads on this release. The other seven tunes are strictly dobro and piano, and they work beautifully together.
In fact, listening to this music strongly reminds me of the first collaboration between French jazz pianist Claude Bolling and classical flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who’s album Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio broke new musical ground in 1976 and stayed on the top of the charts for two years. While Road Song is not quite that profound, it is still a fresh and innovative treatment of a handful of jazz classics, and even an old Hank Williams song, You Win Again, which includes RobinElla’s vocal. The dobro, in place of guitar, on Wes Montgomery’s classic West Coast Blues, is a little disorienting at first but quickly feels right, and swings just as hard. The same goes for Duke Ellington’s Take The A Train. Rob Ickes clearly knows what he’s doing, no matter the genre.
I happen to be an avid jazz fan, but you don’t have to be to love this music. Something about the unusual juxtaposition of dobro and jazz piano takes it to a place that even non-fans will appreciate. While this is still jazz, to be sure, it’s crossover potential is ripe and it should have broad appeal outside the genre. This album is available as a CD or a download on Amazon, although the CD for this title has a 1 to 3 week shipping window. Do yourself a favor and sample a few tracks online. You’ll probably decide that it’s something you need in your library.
The inventor of the solid body electric guitar and multi-track recording, Les Paul, died today at the age of 94. Because of his hundreds of inventions and innovations, he is also considered the father of rock and roll which, if it existed at all, would certainly not have been the same without his contributions. He was still performing up until June of this year. He will be missed.
CLICK HERE to read more about Les Paul, his music, and his contributions to the instrument he helped to perfect.
If you haven’t seen the wonderful international music video “Stand By Me” you must click the link and go there now. Yes, it’s the old Ben E. King song, but it was recorded by dozens of artists all over the globe, and then cut together into a really creative and moving piece. Thanks to Lia Carmody for sending this to me.
You can CLICK HERE or use the link in the sidebar.