Friday, July 31, 2009

10 albums a day #5 (a digression)

Acoustic Alchemy - Back on the Case (1991, CD)
Clannad - Macalla (1985, LP), Banba (1993, CD), Landmarks (1997, CD)
Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir - Le Mystere de Voix Bulgares - (1987, CD)
Andreas Vollenweider - Down to the Moon (1986, CD)
David Lanz - Cristofori's Dream (1988, CD)
Dead Can Dance - Into the Labyrinth (1993, CD)
Enigma - MCMXC A.D. (1990, CD), Mea Culpa Part II (1990, CD), The Screen Behind the Mirror (2000, CD)

I have two sub-directories for two specific genres of music that I want to keep separate from the big collection because I often like to load them up to listen only to those kinds of music. One of these sub-directories is jazz; the other I call "ambient, electronic, new age" for lack of any better terms. Before I go any further in the big collection I need to back up alphabetically just a little and cover this stuff.

I was first introduced to this kind of music in general, and to many artists specifically, by the Musical Starstreams radio program back in the mid-80s. Some may argue that some of these groups don't belong in such a category, but I have put them there because all this music fits my mood to a certain degree when I'm going for the "chill factor."

Acoustic Alchemy doesn't really fit here, and I think I might move it out into the general collection because it is too upbeat and not spacey enough (not spacey at all, really) to fit into the "chill factor." In fact, they are listed on Wikipedia as "smooth jazz" so I think I'll put this one in the jazz directory and be done with it. NOTE: Not all smooth jazz is like K*nn* G. Clannad are an Irish group famed for their Celtic-flavored spacey folk/pop/rock that isn't new age music but a lot of new age music fans like it so it gets grouped there anyway. They started out doing much more traditional music but then went more commercial later on and they are one of my favorite groups. I would buy anything by them and I don't have enough of their stuff. Landmarks is a compilation album (a sort of "best of") but nothing from the other two albums are on it so it was all new to me when I bought it. My favorite is Macalla, perhaps because it was the first I ever bought, but also because there are a few songs on it that strike a particular chord in me.

I first heard the Bulgarian Female Vocal Choir on "A Prairie Home Companion" and took an immediate liking to this music. Listening to this CD over and over helped me go a long way toward hearing things that I had previously thought of as dissonance as just another kind of consonance. The title of the CD means "the mystery of the Bulgarian voice." This is one of the very very few groups I have actually seen in concert. Saw them at the Scottish Rite Temple in downtown S.A. in the company of my friend Brer.

Andreas Vollenweider is a harpist who plays an electric--and electronic--harp. I've heard a few other pieces of his, from other albums, on the Sirius new age channel on DishNetwork, but none of them struck me as being as good as anything on this album. David Lanz is a pianist and this album is named after Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco, who is generally regarded as having invented the piano, although the instrument he created was not exactly like the modern piano. It has an instrumental new agey version of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale." In general, it's a little too bright and happy for my usual tastes in this music, but I still enjoy it occasionally.

Dead Can Dance is just awesome. I plan on buying more of their stuff but just haven't gotten around to it. Dark, sometimes spooky music that sometimes goes back to medieval musical forms for their inspiration.

Enigma calls themselves a "musical project," rather than a group, and they have a very characteristic sound: if you hear one of their songs, you will immediately recognize them when you hear another one. They combine acoustic instruments, electronics and samples into a sound that is all their own. They are another group who I want to get more of their stuff and I will buy anything they put out without worrying about it. Besides these three albums, I have another directory of a couple dozen tracks of theirs that I downloaded from a p2p service back when I used to do that sort of thing. Sometimes I just load up the Enigma folder, put it on shuffle and let it play. They have stirred up some controversy and contempt by using some samples without crediting (or paying) the originator. Any singing is done by the former wife of one of them (she goes by the name of Sandra), who has a very svelte alto voice with an intoxicating accent (she's from Germany).

Album count: 51.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

And once I played this thing...

A scan of a not-very-good photo of myself from our junior yearbook. That year, I had been digging through the instrument room, where all the school-owned instruments were stored that nobody used, and I found a bassoon. I asked the band director if I could play it for concert season, and he readily agreed. He went and found me a synthetic reed--he apologized because it wasn't a "real" reed, but I didn't care and I had a blast. I played it for concert season in both my junior and senior year. I tried playing a bassoon in the college orchestra, but they gave me an extremely stiff cane reed and I couldn't get any sound out of it. I told the director that I had used a synthetic reed before and did great with it. He fumed and told me that no one was going to play "plastic" in his orchestra. I told him he better get me a real wooden bassoon then, because the one they issued me was made from plastic. He turned red and ignored me. I quit orchestra.

I loved digging out those low notes, which is probably why I also really enjoyed the baritone sax.

I had to buy my own straps for this bassoon, and I probably still have them around somewhere. The bassoon uses two straps, one neckstrap just like a sax neckstrap, and one seat strap that cups the bottom of the horn and which you sit on the other end to hold the horn up. Bassoon fingerings are quite complicated compared to the sax.

Tonight's work

Felt a little off today, kind of queasy in my stomach, but I did some sax practice anyway. I'm still very new at this, getting back in the game and all, but I think one thing I've figured out is that Rico Plasticover reeds don't work for me. I'm getting a bad raspy sound with them. Rico Royals are better. I still want to try Rico Jazz Select and Fibracell. And I definitely need to replace my lost Rovner ligature. The stock metal lig that came with this horn stinks. It puts too much pressure on one side and makes the reed skew to the left.

I'm getting a $75 accuracy bonus on my paycheck tomorrow. I'll have to do some mouthpiece shopping.

10 albums a day #4

The Big Sound Authority - A Bad Town (1985, EP)
The Essential Bill Monroe & The Monroe Brothers (1997, CD)
Blue Oyster Cult - Some Enchanted Evening (1978, cassette), The Revolution By Night (1983, cassette), Imaginos (1988, CD)
Bjork - Debut (1993, CD)
Blood, Sweat & Tears - Child is Father to the Man (1968, CD)
Big City Orchestra - Animal Religion (late 80s, cassette)
Benjy Davis Project - Dust (2008, mp3 download)
The Beach Boys - Best of (1988, CD)
The Band - Best of (1976, CD)
B-52's - Good Stuff (1992, CD)

No matter which direction I go, my roots will always be in old-time (real) country, which is why compilations such as the Bill Monroe CD will turn up in the list sometimes. As for BOC: Evening I bought because it was cheap, Revolution because it has my favorite BOC song, "Shooting Shark," and Imaginos because it looked cool and it turned out to become one of my favorite overall albums.

I still really like the old Sugarcubes* albums, so I bought Bjork's first solo album. Her voice is something you either love or hate. I never got anything else by her. The Blood, Sweat & Tears album was their first and best album; after that one, founder Al Kooper went his own way and the rest of them recruited a new "singer" and kept bulldozing ahead. Forget you ever heard stuff like "Spinning Wheel" and buy this CD if you want to hear what they really sounded like.

Big City Orchestra was an avant-garde project from Ralph Records using electronics and found animal sounds. Not so much musical as soundscape-ish. The Benjy Davis Project was a free download from Amazon, it's sort of alt-rock leaning toward Americana and it's really good. The Beach Boys was my wife's purchase, but I have nothing against them. The Band CD was one of my filling-in-the-blanks purchases and it's a good one to have if you don't already have their other albums. The B-52's CD had a couple of radio hits that I liked, so I bought it. That's the only one of theirs I have, and I don't really plan on getting any others.

Album count: 40.

*Once when I was delivering pizza, I stopped at the red light in the middle of downtown Seguin and an old beat-up truck with two black African-American dudes wearing cowboy hats stopped next to me. We both had our windows rolled down, and they could hear the Sugarcubes playing on my cassette deck. "Is that country?" one of them asked. Odd question, I thought, since it obviously wasn't. "No, it's the Sugarcubes," I answered, "a rock group from Iceland." "We only listen to country," he answered back. "I listen to country too," I said, "just not right now." They nodded, a sort of respectful acknowledgement as the light turned green and we went our own ways.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not a photoshop

More pix and an explanation at Slightly Warped, via There, I Fixed It.

10 albums a day #3

The Alarm - Electric Folklore Live (1988, CD)
Alison Kraus - Now That I've Found You: A Collection (1995, CD)
Amber Dust - Without Windows (2006, mp3 download), Good Things Bad Timing (2008, mp3 download)
America - Greatest Hits (1975, CD)
Angelo Badalamenti - Soundtrack from Twin Peaks (1990, cassette)
Annie Lennox - Diva (1992, CD)
Anthony Phillips - The Geese and the Ghost (1977, LP)
Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant (1967, CD)
Asia - Asia (1982, LP)

I still want to get The Alarm's Declaration, which a co-worker of mine had long ago and which I listened to several times. It's a great album. The Alison Kraus compilation is made up of her earlier stuff, some of which when she was still with Union Station. Her original version of "When You Say Nothing At All" is still the best. All the cover versions are just hatchet jobs. The two Amber Dust albums were downloaded from their website; next time they release a CD I'll have to buy it so I don't feel like such a freeloader (or freedownloader). The soundtrack from Twin Peaks has some great music, although I will admit it probably isn't for everyone--full versions of tracks of which often only a snippet was played on the show, and the album that introduced me to Julee Cruise.

The America CD was another fill-in-the-blanks purchase, all their big radio hits. I've always liked Annie Lennox's voice, even when she was with Eurythmics. I bought Alice's Restaurant so I would have my own version of that song on CD. I got the Asia album used and it's one of my 80s nostalgia records. I have their second album also but I haven't ripped it yet.

Album count: 28.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And they adopted Twiki

Oh man, that's horrifying.

10 Albums a day #2

All by The Alan Parsons Project, all on LP except where noted.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976)
I Robot (1977)
Pyramid (1978)
Eve (1979)
The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980)
Eye in the Sky (1982)
Ammonia Avenue (1984)
Vulture Culture (1984)
Stereotomy (1985)
Ultimate (2004, CD)

That last one is a compilation I bought during the time when I didn't have any way to rip & burn LPs to CD, and I wanted some APP to listen to in my truck (which has a CD player but not a cassette player). I guess I first noticed APP in 1980 with the Friendly Card album and the songs "Games People Play" and "Time," both of which got played on the radio quite a lot. The first one of theirs that I bought was Eye in the Sky as a new release in 1982, then I worked my way back from there and bought the remaining ones as soon as they were released. Back in the 80s, finding a copy of Tales was quite difficult. I think the one I have was a re-release (with a different cover from the original) when they were all over the radio around 1984, which was the year that their two best-selling (I'm guessing) albums were released.

I never got Gaudi because I was disappointed with Stereotomy, but having since read comments about it, I'm planning on getting it eventually, and I'll buy anything else they put out if they ever put out new stuff. Both Parsons and Woolfson are still active and in fact I've been following Eric Woolfson's updates to his newest recording project on Facebook, and Alan Parsons' updates on Twitter*.

So The Alan Parsons Project has long been a favorite of mine. Things I especially like about them: Woolfson's voice, frequent recording of instrumentals, use of electronics, and the frequent use of a saxophone on many of their instrumentals and instrumental bridges of their songs. Several of their songs are among my overall favorites.

Album count: 18.

*As you know, I use Twitter just to list what I've recently ripped. Back when I ripped all those APP records, I noticed that I had picked up a "follower," and was amazed upon investigating that it was Alan Parsons!

Monday, July 27, 2009

10 Albums (or so) a day #1

Since I have not had much inspiration to post anything lately, and I don't want the blog to go completely dead, I'm going to steal and slightly alter my friend Brer's shtick and simply post 10 albums a day from the digital collection. To begin with, these are only albums which I have ripped, from CD, cassette or LP. And then perhaps later, if necessary, I'll get into the LPs which I have not ripped or am not planning on ever ripping. Links provided for the albums I've posted on specifically.

The 3 M's - The 3 M's (1970, LP)
4 Non Blondes - Bigger, Better, Faster, More (1992, CD)
10,000 Maniacs - In My Tribe (1989, CD), MTV Unplugged (1993, CD)
808 State - Ex:el (1991, CD)
Agent Orange - When You Least Expect It (1987, CD)
Air Supply - Greatest Hits (1984, CD)
Al Stewart - The Best of Al Stewart (1992, CD)

I used to like 10,000 Maniacs a lot. I grew out of it. I originally purchased In My Tribe on LP, then later got the CD. 808 State is sort of techno-dance, and I'm not certain why I bought it. I think I heard one track playing in the music store that made me curious. Agent Orange was a sort of surf-punk group that I learned about from a sampler CD. Air Supply was one of my favorite groups when I was in high school, I grew out of that, too. My wife actually purchased this CD, but I am not averse to hearing them turn up in the shuffle, as long as it isn't too often. Everyone should have an Al Stewart compilation. "Time Passages" is another saxophone song.

Album count: 8. Like I said, 10 or so. There will be 10 next time.