Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wendy Carlos - The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969, LP)

First, let me say that I am ashamed that this is the only Wendy Carlos album I have in my collection. But, during my record-buying heyday I didn't have the resources of the internet at my disposal, nor did I have anyone to mentor me and tell me about artists I might be interested in. I had to find my way as I went along, and sometimes I strayed in the wrong direction. Also, one can't buy everything.

Above is the cover of the album I have, which is the original and was purchased second-hand. To the right is a thumbnail of the modern cover. Yes, there is one notable difference, but this post is about her music and not her life choices, which some may find objectionable but as far as I'm concerned are irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Wendy Carlos was, and is, a pioneer of electronic music. I'm sure this doesn't mean a lot to anyone who isn't a fan of electronic music, but this album and its predecessor (Switched-On Bach) were a revolution in the field of electronic music, not to mention the field of audio engineering and the art of creating new sounds electronically.

Wendy Carlos was far ahead of everyone else in all of these fields, and I don't think anyone else on the planet has ever been more expert than she was (is) at wringing such a wide variety of timbres from the Moog synthesizer.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the liner notes:
Something went wrong. "Switched-On Bach" was meant to be an artistic experiment, a learning and testing vehicle, an example of a contemporary composer trying to find himself--not the marked commercial success it has so clearly become. And one year later, here we were, faced with deciding the content of a follow-up album. Walter wanted to attempt an orchestration of an ambitious 19th-century work, but insufficient multitrack facilities prevented that. And doing one of Walter's own works seemed untimely and best left for another year. Finally, the public's enthusiasm for more electronic Bach supplied the answer, and the result is this new switched-on baroque album.

Something went wrong. Several critics and a lot of interested musicians and music lovers started to ask "How does the Moog do it all?"--implying that the machine was somehow responsible for the artistry and creativity to which our "Switched-On" audience has responded.

And so the myth was perpetuated that led to the unique situation in which we now find ourselves where, in effect, a Steinway piano can receive curtain calls for a performance by the eminent Mr. Horowitz (or, yes, even Mr. Gould).

But at this point in time, the synthesizer is really nothing more than an embryo. And, just as the pioneers of electronic music established the groundwork with what they had available, Walter has carried on, within the limitations of the current device (and there are frustratingly many), the task of bringing the medium (electronic music) out of associations with but one style (contemporary, aleatoric, serial, etc.) in the music mainstream. Walter is uniquely qualified for such a task, for in him are combined the hybrid talents of composer, performer, conductor, instrument designer and builder, piano tuner, acoustician, recording engineer--and tireless worker.
This was written in 1969, when electronic music was still new, strange, and perhaps mistaken as faddish. It was exciting and different, but would it last? The Moog, the first portable synthesizer that was affordable by individuals rather than major studios and corporations, had begun to make serious inroads into music, but it seemed so limited. After all, it was monophonic, for one thing. And this is monophonic not as opposed to stereophonic, but monophonic as opposed to polyphonic. It had a keyboard, but it played only one note at a time! Those who derided it for this "limitation" apparently chose to selectively forget that many instruments are monophonic: take the sax or the trumpet, for examples. Some derided the synthesizer as "not real music" because the sounds were produced electronically rather than acoustically, but this is a typical reaction to all things new, in the same way that some acoustic guitarists derided the first electric guitars, and I'm sure somewhere back in the dim mists of time someone did the same thing the first time someone put two bows of different sizes next to each other so he could pluck out a rhythmic perfect fourth.

For the sake of completeness, I have included a fairly high-res scan of the complete liner notes. Click to enlarge and you may be able to read it all.

Throughout the 70s and into the 80s, most people knew the Moog only as "that fat sawtooth lead they use in all those rock songs." But Wendy Carlos had already proven that the Moog was capable of so much more than that.
No attempt was made to imitate any existing instrument, and it presented some rewarding challenges in the final mix to insure flexible solo, accompaniment and tutti balances. As in the Monteverdi and some of the Handel, I was concerned that the results have a breadth and depth more typical of so-called "live recordings," so I evolved several hybrid echo-reverberation techniques.
Carlos was working well beyond the cutting edge in this and her previous album, and in my opinion other more popular musicians who came along later would have done well to pay much closer attention to the work she had done.

Ripping results: Perfect, which is almost unbelievable, since this record had to knock around in someone else's collection for at least 20 years before I bought it.

If you are a fan of electronic music, this album or her previous one, Switched-On Bach, should be in your collection (probably both). I can easily see myself buying anything she has released.

Woo hoo!

I noticed at work today that I had made the list of those who got 10 or fewer mistakes for the month of March (our "reading month" officially ended last Friday). This is the first time I've ever made that list since I got hired. I had six. The main reason this is good is because if I hadn't made the list at least once this year, I would have gotten a "failed to meet expectations" on my next year's evaluation. It also means I get a $50 accuracy bonus on my next paycheck.

I've gotten close to 10 or less several times, but I'm usually somewhere in the 11-15 range. You may think 15 mistakes a month sounds terrible, but considering I read about 12,000 meters per month, it's really not that bad.

Monday, March 30, 2009


No album post today. I'm going to try to write one, but I have resolved not to publish any such post until at least one day after I think I've finished it. This is because I always think of extra stuff to add. I've updated that last Residents post three or four times since I published it. Gotta let 'em stew for a while.

Woo hoo!

So that's how it works. I clicked the "down thumb" on a stupid, ignorant comment and poof! It was buried. I guess 5 down thumbs buries it.

Record Store Day

The original idea for Record Store Day was conceived by Chris Brown, and was founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.

This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Franscisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April.

Record Store Day is currently managed by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Scott Register, and Carrie Colliton. Folks wanting to contact Record Store Day are encouraged to email us at information@recordstoreday.com

A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation. (In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths).
Read more about it and get ongoing updates at the Record Store Day website.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Residents - Meet the Residents (1979 re-release, LP)

I don't feel that I'm really very qualified to comment on avante-garde music, because I'm not that big of a fan. I dabble in it, a little, just as a curiosity, but much of it is rather hard on the ears (my ears, anyway).

The liner notes say, in part, "Let the strangeness wear off through a couple of plays." Well, I've listened to this one many times and the strangeness hasn't worn off yet.

I had the curious experience recently of trying to backtrack through my memories and recall how I first learned of The Residents. I felt like I was wandering through a hedge maze: now and then I could see another avenue through a gap in the growth, but the ultimate goal was still unknown. But finally, I think I remembered.

Back in the 80s and early 90s I used to get periodical catalogs from (primarily) booksellers Loompanics and Amok. It may have been in one of those catalogs, or maybe in something I bought from one of them, that I first read about The Residents. Or, it may have been something in The Book of the SubGenius or High Weirdness By Mail. I think High Weirdness is the most likely, because it might have listed Ralph Records. Anyway, my curiosity eventually convinced me to buy this album, which I had to order directly from Ralph Records. Music stores around here just don't even know who The Residents are.

Re-release notes:
MEET THE RESIDENTS was originally released in 1974, on the Ralph Records label. The tapes were monaural recordings on home equipment and suffered further fidelity loss in the mastering and pressing states. In 1976, The Cryptic Corporation came into legal possession of the The Residents recordings, and began working on how to restore these original tapes to studio quality. Using the master tape as a directive, the album was disassembled, reprocessed, and reconstructed into this true stereophonic version. No re-recording was employed. The artists who appear on this recording have personally approved this as an authorized realization of the original LP.


The cover above was not the original cover, it is the version I have, which was made for the 1979 re-release of the album. The original cover is to the left. The cover art and the faux names of the band members is as far as the parody goes, however, the music is nothing in the nature of parody, but is all original.

I'm sure there are many things that set The Residents apart from most groups, but one big thing is that the individuals have intentionally sought anonymity. There is a lot of speculation as to who they are, and I have read a couple of good theories about their lead singer at least. [My own pet theory is that "they" are not a group at all, but a single individual.] But to the general public at large, their identities still remain unknown, although they have been active for 40 years and this, their first record, was originally released in 1974.

If you've read this far and haven't gotten bored, take a minute to read the liner notes below. Click to enlarge.

So, how much of this is true and how much is fabricated? Only The Residents know for sure.

I have a few other things of theirs, a mixture of records and CDs. I'll get around to all of them later, I suppose.

If you look this album up on Amazon, or click through the link at the end of this post, they have song samples that you can listen to.

Track list:
Side One
1. Boots
2. Numb Erone
3. Guylum Bardot
4. Breath and Length
5. Conseulo's Departure
6. Smelly Tongues
7. Rest Aria
8. Skratz
9. Spotted Pinto Bean

Side Two
1. Infant Tango
2. Seasoned Greetings
3. N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues)

The first six tracks of side one are throughly enmeshed into each other, breaking them into individual tracks would have been impossible, and I don't think they were ever meant to be heard apart from each other anyway. So my final version of them resulted in 7 mp3s instead of the total 12.

Ripping results: One faint pop on N-ER-GEE that I wasn't able to dig out, which may not even be noticeable to the casual listener, although I don't know if it's possible to "casually" listen to The Residents.

As time went by their music became more accessible, more "pop" oriented, and they even have a few songs that I could envision being played on some small college station late at night. I could see myself buying more of their stuff, just for the adventure it would be to listen to it. I would especially like to get their compilations Heaven? and Hell!

If you are not into the avante-garde/experimental side of pop or rock, I wouldn't recommend this one for you. I think the compilations I mentioned (which I have heard some of) would be a better starting point. The music on this record is a combination of singing, speaking, chanting, instrumental playing and found sound that is at times hypnotic, sometimes scary, and sometimes yes, there is a melody that you can whistle. I have to admit that I still don't completely get it, but I'm closer now than I once was.

It looks like this record is now out of print, you can't even get it new from Amazon but maybe you can find a used one if you really want to, and you might get lucky and get one from Ralph Records if they can find some, but don't count on it. I hadn't realized it was so hard to find these days. I guess it's a good thing I got it when I did.

A Uriah Heep fan hit

From Japan!

Saturday random 20

1. Kitaro - Beat
2. Miles Davis - Portia
3. Alan Jackson - Wanted (what the...?! oh yeah...)
4. Husker Du - I Apologize
5. The Who - New Song
6. Jim Croce - These Dreams
7. Devo - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
8. Duke Ellington - Sophisticated Lady
9. Hawkwind - Waiting for Tomorrow
10. Johnny Cash - Orange Blossom Special
11. Pink Floyd - Sheep
12. America - Sister Golden Hair (always reminds me of someone I used to know--hey Brer, remember Vicki?)
13. Monk's Choir of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin, Beuron - Third Christmas Mass
14. Little Texas - You and Me Forever (same compilation as Alan Jackson above)
15. Yes - It Can Happen
16. Ticon - On the Rocks
17. Suzanne Vega - Knight Moves
18. Henry Purcell - Prelude to Dido and Aeneas
19. The Jaye Consort - The Song of the Ass
20. Andres Segovia - Sarabande (by Handel)

Spent a good deal of time today getting the old Win98 machine back on the internet, but only temporarily so my daughter could do some church-related online activity. Discovered that the CD drive in that computer won't read CD-RWs that I wrote with this machine, but it will read regular CD-Rs. Yeesh, what a pain. Downloaded some freeware antivirus that still works on Win98 from Sourceforge. That machine isn't critical, and I can always use the "restore" disc that came with it to start it all over again, which I actually did just recently because it was still totally bogged down from when I used to use it as my main machine a few years ago. But, I thought it was a good exercise for the kids to learn the importance of keeping your computer protected. Ripped one more record and edited a couple others that I had previously ripped but not broken down into individual tracks yet. I was reminded yet again of the error of trying to do too many things at once--I got a skip on one track because the computer got too overworked and there was a lag in the recording, so I had to do that track over again. Heh, one of the other records had a real skip but I was able to clean it up better and remove the skip that was caused by a stubborn speck of dust.

And of course I downloaded all my regular weekly security updates and ran my weekly scans. I read recently about the Conficker worm that's supposed to hit April 1. Make sure you're anti-virus is up to date before then.

The playlist above may look strange, but that's how I like to listen to music. I see nothing at all odd about Johnny Cash and Pink Floyd playing back to back. I remember back around 1980 or so, maybe a little earlier, one of our local AM stations (KONO) ran a program where they asked for listeners to send in their three favorite songs, in order of preference. Song #1 got 3 points, song #2 got 2 points, song #3 got 1 point. They tallied everything up and played The Top 860 Songs of All Time (because they're on 860 AM). I don't remember what the #1 song turned out to be, but I do remember that somewhere near the top they played "El Paso City" by Marty Robbins and "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin back to back. I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever heard on the radio.

Freeze warning tonight! But April is coming and it will get hot soon. I figured out how to pack an extra 24 ounces of liquid plus two sandwiches into my ice chest for work. Now I can carry:

One, 24-ounce bottle filled with water and frozen.
One, 20-ounce bottle filled with water and frozen.
Two, 20-ounce bottles filled with refrigerated water.
Two, 12-ounce bottles filled with refrigerated "gatorade."
Plus two sandwiches and maybe a couple of granola or candy bars or a banana. I also like to carry Little Debbie brownies because they pack an enormous amount of carbohydrates and they taste good. I don't like bananas, I really only tolerate them, but I eat them when I'm working because they are so rich in potassium and carbohydrates. The frozen bottles help keep everything cool, and by the time I'm out of the other liquids they've thawed enough that I can get more water from them if I need to. If it's really hot, like torrid, I'll even carry one of the 12-ounce bottles in a fanny pack. But usually I just carry a Camel-Bak and some Sqwinchers in my pocket.

So when it gets really hot, I'll also be carrying a two-liter Camel-Bak of water to keep me going until I get back to my truck where my main liquid stash is. I'll also have several extra packets of Sqwinchers in the truck so I can mix more "gatorade" if I want to. Sqwinchers are small packets of concentrated syrup that you mix with water--if you're on foot somewhere you can just pull one out of your pocket, tear off the top, fill it with water from any available hydrant, and have a 6-ounce shot of "gatorade." (I use the quotes and lower case because it isn't made by Gatorade). That's something they supply us with at work.

Never believe anything until it's officially denied

There are no vampires here:
BOSTON (AP) — Apparently, it's not the bloody truth. After stories spread that vampires were strolling the campus of Boston Latin School, the headmaster of the prestigious college-prep school put a stake in the rumors. Lynne Mooney Teta sent a notice out Thursday to faculty, students, and parents denying the presence of bloodsuckers. She declined, however, to offer details about the rumors.

Boston Police spokesman Eddy Chrispin said police were called to the school Wednesday after hearing of the vampire tales. Chrispin said he didn't know if the alleged vampires were among the student body or hiding in old corners of the building.

The school was founded in 1635, and its students have included Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Louis Farrakhan, and Sumner Redstone.
But as a precautionary measure, the school went into vampire lockdown anyway.  Furthermore, students have been prohibited from possessing wooden stakes, garlic or crucifixes.  Such items are authorized only for specially trained security personnel, who are mere minutes away while your throat is being ripped out.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I decided that I would also re-rip the albums that I had previously ripped from duplicate cassettes, since that should improve the sound quality. At one time I couldn't tell the difference between a cassette and an LP, but now I can. The vinyl rips are brighter, punchier, the cassettes are sort of squishy. I don't know how else to describe it. And this goes for commercially produced cassettes as well, most of which (in my collection) don't sound as good as my old duplicate tapes.

I just did an evaluation of my recent rip of Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the first Alan Parsons Project album. It was almost perfect except for a bad pop/skip on "The Fall of the House of Usher." So I went back and listened to that track from my tape rip, and it was perfect. Since that record hasn't been played since I made that recording all those years ago, the damage to the vinyl that caused the skip must have somehow happened in storage. My entire record collection has been moved a few times in the past 20+ years, so I must conclude that some speck of dirt got into there somehow during a move and caused a tiny scratch in the vinyl. I don't know how else that could have happened.

So in this case, I'll have to keep the tape-rip version for that track, even though it is noticeably different. Well, it's noticeable if I'm paying attention.

P.S. The high-res (like 256 kbps and up that I download from Amazon) mp3s also sound different, even brighter and punchier than vinyl, and also sort of brittle. The ones saved at 128 kpbs sound just about identical to vinyl. Or maybe I'm imagining the whole thing.

Uriah Heep - Return to Fantasy (1975, LP)

Are there any Uriah Heep fans left? Critics hated this band. I have four (I think that's all) Heep albums that I used to listen to all the time, and this was one of them. I hadn't heard it for many years until I ripped it the other day. I was somewhat worried about that. What if I had changed so much that what I remembered as a favorite album no longer seemed so great? Would it tarnish my memories of how much I had enjoyed this album? Would the music finally seem--the ultimate curse!--ironic?

I need not have worried. I still think this is a great forgotten album (like much of their stuff was), and I found myself once again singing along with songs that I hadn't heard in more than a decade.

I first became acquainted with this group via my first-year college room-mate, who had a battered old LP of The Magician's Birthday. I played that album over and over. Later on when I was back home again, I bought the LP for myself, but unfortunately it had only a regular jacket instead of the original gatefold jacket with lyrics and extra graphics. Still, the music was the same.

Being one of the great overlooked rock bands of all time, most of their stuff was hard to find in record stores, except for the nearly ubiquitous Demons & Wizards and The Magician's Birthday. I always kept an eye open for their stuff, though, and one day I ran across Return to Fantasy. It doesn't have the epic scope of Demons or Birthday, but in my opinion it's still a solid album with plenty of good music.

Special favorites: "Your Turn to Remember," "Why Did You Go?" and "A Year or a Day."

Ripping results: perfect. Perfect!

As I was looking it up at Amazon just now I learned that someone actually put together a tribute album to Uriah Heep (Return to Fantasy: A Tribute to Uriah Heep). Imagine that.

Zydeco humor

At Real Life Comics.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


the view through my windshield at about 1:30 this afternoonSo, did any of you S.A. folks get to see any of that awesome lightning today? I did, a little too close. I had to seek refuge on someone's front porch for about 15 minutes while I waited for the lightning storm to slack off in Alamo Heights. I just about evacuated myself at least once. There were a couple of really close strikes.

The Cult - Love (1985, LP)

I'm sure this one is familiar to just about everyone. I don't remember why I bought it, because it wasn't the kind of thing you would hear on any of the radio stations around here, but I know I got it at Hastings. I really liked it back then, but hadn't heard it for years until I ripped it recently.

Way back when, I even hunted down one of their earliest albums (I'll get to it later) to get a feel for their history. Later I bought their Electric on CD but was disappointed with it; somewhere along the way, they had lost something.

This album was apparently quite popular with the goth crowd, although I didn't know it at the time I bought it. I guess I do empathize with much of the goth philosophy, I just never felt the need to die my hair black.

Ripping results: One skip on "Revolution." I gave the record a close examination and it appears to be a manufacturing defect that left a tiny bump in the vinyl.

Favorites: I like the whole album but special favorites are "Brother Wolf, Sister Moon" and "Black Angel." I even wrote a song of my own many years ago that was inspired by/ripped off from "Black Angel."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Public Bulletin - Broke from the Sound (1987, EP)

This is an interesting one. Public Bulletin were a local area band formed in the mid-80s by a group of friends who all went to San Marcos High School in San Marcos, Texas. This was about the time I was spending a lot of time in that city, working, going to college and for a short time living there. I bought this record at Sundance Records in San Marcos. The SWTSU newspaper had a piece on them back then that I still remember a little of. If I recall correctly, they had all gone to an Elton John concert together, and upon leaving, they decided that they could form their own rock band. None of them had any previous experience with music, and whoever could scrape the money together first got to buy whatever instrument he wanted to play, as long as someone else hadn't already taken it. That's about all I remember of the article.

Broke from the Sound is a four-song EP, and is undated but I'm pretty sure it's from '87 (possibly '86). Track list:

Side One
1. Victim
2. Green

Side Two
1. Killing Us
2. May

The album was recorded in Austin and I think they may have cut one other record, but I'm not sure. I have always enjoyed listening to it. The music reminds me of the Smithereens and R.E.M., although in my opinion Glenn Gary, the lead singer, had a much more pleasant voice than Michael Stipe. Here's a photo from the back cover that shows the whole band and their instrumentation (click to enlarge).

Most of these guys later formed the core of another group called Hey Zeus, and I think they were all active in music for several years in the mid-80s to early 90s. I don't know what has become of every one of them, but in trying to find information about them I did learn that Rob Thomas (second from right) is now better known as a writer for television and the creator of two TV series': Cupid and Veronica Mars. He has a website at Slaverats.com where you can listen to a great many songs recorded by the various bands of which he was a member, including Public Bulletin.

Ripping results: Perfect, after I manually smoothed out a couple of pops. If you can find it, buy it.

Let's hope they don't discover the gasoline-like smell next to the school bus refueling station

A North Side high school has been evacuated as a precaution after a chemical was found in the school Monday morning.

A Level 1 HazMat situation was called about 10:45 a.m. at Senn High School at 5900 N. Glenwood Ave., according to Fire Media Affairs spokesman Quention Curtis.

The school was evacuated as a precaution after a chemical believed to be chlorine was found near the pool, Curtis said.
No injuries have been reported but crews remain on the scene as of 11:05 a.m.
via A Trainwreck in Maxwell

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nothing today

I got rained on today so I'm extra tired. I don't know why, it's just something that happens. I even collapsed and took a nap when I got home, but I'm still feeling kind of wasted. Also I have to go to my daughter's choir concert tonight, so no posting.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Teresa Brewer and the Dixieland Band (1959, LP)

When I started digging into the big vinyl collection I was hoping, and partly expecting, to find the odd hidden gem. And by that I mean a record that I would enjoy hearing and hearing again, but also a record that would be in very good condition for being so old and having come to me second- or third-hand. This is an "inherited" record that turned out to be one of those hidden gems.

Jacket notes:
Teresa Brewer, the girl with that special sparkle, has become a household familiarity to young and old by singing songs both old and new, with an approach that is always fresh and delightful.

She is as American as apple pie, and so is Dixie.

The combination of Brewer and a Dixieland setting might at first seem ill-advised, considering how she has been presented on records in the past. However, in the listening, the bounce of Teresa and the beat of Dixieland is indeed a joyful one.

The tunes: Dixie evergreens; the musicians, conversant with this kind of music. Yank Lawson, in particular, something of a giant of Dixie trumpet. The final component: Teresa Brewer, very much at home with all that Dixieland, and as always, fun to hear.
I still think that pose on the cover makes her look slightly maniacal, but I was surprised at how much I liked the music. I think I should say that I was already a fan of Dixieland jazz, but I had never heard much vocal work in that genre, and I had never heard of Brewer before.

Wikipedia says that she "was one of the most popular female singers of the 1950s." Before my time. She passed away in 2007 and appears to still have an enormous fan base, based on my cursory searchings around the internet.

I read that she never learned to read music, and learned all her parts by ear. Still, her voice is as agile and precise as a professional gymnast (if you forgive the metaphor), and she sounds like she is about to break into laughter at any second.

Track list:
Side One
1. The Dixieland Band (click to download a sample)
2. Georgia on My Mind
3. Everybody Loves My Baby
4. Basin Street Blues
5. When My Sugar Walks Down the Street
6. Alabama Jubilee

Side Two
1. Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home
2. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
3. Is it True What they Say About Dixie
4. Weary Blues
5. Mississippi Mud
6. When the Saints Go Marching In

Like many older albums, this one isn't dated, but Answers.com says this one was released in 1959. Her vocal style may not be for everyone. I think a good word for it would be ebullient.

Ripping results: Completely perfect. Not a pop, not a skip. And this is a 50-year-old record! It's truly amazing.

I had to p-shop the cover art to remove some permanent marker that my late mother-in-law wrote on it with. According to her notes, this one had been taped. I never would have thought that mom-in-law liked Dixieland. By the way, this isn't the only one--I plan on writing about another Dixieland record in a few days that is really remarkable. I have only started going through her old albums, and I have already learned that she and I had a lot more in common than I ever thought. If I had known she owned records like this, it might have given us something to talk about on the uncommon occasions that we were together.

Some local cover art

Thanks to LP Cover Lover, who unfortunately didn't provide a date. You can read about the Usurline Academy at the Handbook of Texas Online.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Birthday gift

I got something interesting for my birthday today.

It seems strange to me that someone is publishing books like this. Going by that "look for all" blurb on the back cover, this must be only one of several such Pufnstuf activity books. Printed by Modern Publishing, which is apparently licensed to print such books featuring a lot of different kid & cartoon characters. This was found in one of those big "odd stuff for a dollar" boxes at Dollar General. This book doesn't seem to be in their current catalog.

Syd Barrett art book on auction

See it and read some very interesting notes about it at Syd Barrett's Book: 12 Experimental Artworks from 1965. Fascinating, and the bid is currently nearly $38,000. It is being sold by someone who knew him, and this isn't a commercially released book, it's something Barrett did as a one-time thing (printed on cardboard and bound with "sellotape").
There is a view that Syd was a doomed hero who went too far and got lost. As I see it, he was only just beginning. He was an explorer but not a survivor. He didn’t know how to protect himself. He wasn’t tough or careful. He was an innocent who tried one thing too many and it did him in. I wish I could say more – but there isn’t any more.
I think I'll have to save this whole page for my own reference. Should be of great interesting to any Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd fan.

Sunday video: Kate Bush - Babooshka

In keeping with previous video posts, we go on to Kate Bush's next album, Never for Ever, which was released in 1980. "Babooshka" was the biggest hit single from that album.

First time I've ever heard of that problem

click to enlarge

Saturday, March 21, 2009

No random 20 tonight

I'm in a mood for something more certain than randomizing the big playlist. Just did an evaluation listen to Nena's 99 Luftballons, which I just ripped, to see how it sounded. Not good. It was an old album that I barely rescued from the used book & record store. I'll have to get it, or at least a couple of my favorites from it, on CD or download them from Amazon. Never have understood how some people can abuse their records like that.

Now playing is Crystal Ball by Styx. The title track is one of those FRAG songs: favorite regardless of artist or genre.

I started playing around with Tumblr. I don't know if I'm going to do anything with it, but it looks like it might be a decent alternative to Blogger, at least for the kind of blogging I do. They also have a way to audioblog with your cell phone, which looks very interesting. Also I can upload sound clips over there, which I can't do here. So I might use it for crossposting now and then when I want to share some sound samples. I added the feed to the right sidebar just for kicks.

Today has been a lazy, lazy day. Ripped four records, played with the kids, and not much else.

Tomorrow I turn 45. Hard to believe.

A hilarious Daisy Owl

About computers. I have to remember Daisy's response in panel 3. That's a line I can actually use.

I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me...

Via Cryptomundo, here is an mp3 you can download about the Chupacabra, sung to the tune of The Eagles' "Desperado."

The Kingston Trio - Here We Go Again! (1959, LP)

The Kingston Trio is so famous and so much of their stuff is still available that I don't have a whole lot to say, but this is one that came from my late mother-in-law's collection. I have always loved this kind of music, and I keep looking out for a really good compilation of this group, like maybe even a 2-CD set (or more).

Side 1
1. Molly Dee
2. Across the Wide Missouri
3. Haul Away
4. The Wanderer
5. 'Round About the Mountain
6. Oleanna

Side 2
1. The Unfortunate Miss Bailey
2. San Miguel
3. E Inu Tatou E
4. A Rollin' Stone
5. Goober Peas
6. A Worried Man

This is an old record that wasn't well-taken-care-of, so I can rate the rip as only fair, with one skip on Side 2, Track 1. Favorites are "Molly Dee," "Oleanna" and "A Worried Man," but the whole album is great if you like this kind of stuff.

The cover of my album is not exactly the same as the above graphic; mine doesn't have the band at the top that says, "FULL DIMENSIONAL STEREO," although mine is in stereo. I just grabbed that graphic off the web somewhere because it's close enough and it saved me the trouble of scanning and stitching the cover. Also interesting to me is that the guy in the middle is playing a baritone ukelele.

I would like to hear this album

See it at LP Cover Lover:  A little Rusty?You don't see the curved-style soprano sax too often.  That longest drone on the bagpipe is as tall as the little man!

That's Mr. Knight to you

Makes sense. I always prefer the vigilante types. I thought it would be easier to just post a screen shot instead of messing with all their wonky formatting.

via Cowboy Blob

Friday, March 20, 2009

How do you say, "Then don't do that" in Latin?

From Mail Online:
A Cambridge academic has uncovered a book of jokes which casts the Romans in a new and less serious-minded light.

Dating back to the third century and written in Greek, Philogelos (or Laughter Lover) is believed to be the oldest work of its kind.

The book contains 265 jokes, which inevitably vary in their appeal to modern readers. The collection of gags debunks the popular myth that the Romans were 'pompous, toga-wearing bridgebuilders', according to Professor Mary Beard.
A barber, an absent-minded professor and a bald man go on a long journey together and have to camp out overnight so they decide to take it in turns to watch the luggage. The barber volunteers for the first watch while the other two sleep but soon gets bored so he decides to pass the time by shaving the professor's head. When his shift is up he wakes the professor who pats his head and exclaims: 'God, that barber is a real idiot, he's woken up baldy instead of me.
And (which gave me the title):
'Doctor,' asks the patient, 'whenever I get up after a sleep, I feel dizzy for half an hour, then I'm all right.' The doctor replies: 'Then wait for half an hour before getting up.'
So yes, those jokes really are more than a thousand years old.

UPDATE: Brer emails me evidence that this collection has been "discovered" before.
Attached is a page from Maria Leach's 1961 book, Noodles, Nitwits, and Numskulls. In her notes she, er...notes, that she collected it from W. A. Clouston's 1888 volume A Book of Noodles, who credits it as an ancient Greek "noodle story".

GTR - GTR (1986, LP)

I was surprised to find this in my collection, because I have no recollection at all of buying it, even though I know I must have. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it in 1986, when it was a new release. It must have been at least a couple of years later.

I doubt if I can say anything about them that you don't already know. They were a "supergroup," that is, a group mostly formed from members of other famous groups. One interesting thing is that the two founding guitarists (Steve Howe of Yes and Asia and Steve Hackett of Genesis) got top billing over the lead singer. They even got bigger photos on the back cover, where the singer only got a small picture on the bottom row along with the bass player and the drummer. By the way, Jonathan Mover, the drummer, also played for Marillion at one point. Wikipedia has some interesting trivia regarding the lead singer, Max Bacon.

Well, one of their big ideas was to use guitar synthesizers instead of just electric guitars, but their idea may have been greater than the technology of the time.

Track list:
Side One:
1. When the Heart Rules the Mind (their big hit single)
2. The Hunter
3. Here I Wait
4. Sketches in the Sun (instrumental)
5. Jekyll and Hyde

Side Two:
1. You Can Still Get Through
2. Reach Out (Never Say No)
3. Toe the Line
4. Hackett to Bits (instrumental)
5. Imagining

It's the kind of very tight, polished, technically brilliant stuff you would expect from the progressive rock crowd.

Ripping results: Perfect.

This was their only album, except for a live recording from the King Biscuit Flour Hour which I think was bootlegged. I discovered that there are a lot of collectible editions of this album floating around, although they all appear to be various CD versions. Also notice the unusually high "best price" at the obligatory Amazon link below.

An essential album? No. Enjoyable listening and a good example of 80s prog rock? Yes.


A few days ago I accidentally discovered a new trick for erasing pops that the filters can't handle. I've been pondering over how far I would want to go with it since then, because it's relatively painstaking. But today as soon as I got home I made a new rip of the last track from the Fiona album. That was one that was almost perfect except for one muted pop on the last track. Well, it took me a few minutes to isolate the split second where the pop occurs, but once I found it I made short work of it. I can now upgrade the ripping results from "almost perfect" to "perfect."

It's amazing what you can do with modern technology and just the right amount of obsession.

Good thing it wasn't a pineapple

Thursday, March 19, 2009

They're gonna think it's poop!

Last night I noticed Caddyshack was on, so I clicked on it and it was right at the beginning of the "caddy day" scene where all the caddies pile into the pool and make nuisances of themselves. I called the kids to watch.

As soon as that Baby Ruth hit the water, my son started yelling, "Oh no! They're gonna think it's poop!" By the time Bill Murray took a bite out of it and the old lady fainted, my daughter was laughing so hard she could hardly breathe.

The classics are timeless.


Barack's teleprompter is blogging:
What really blows is that there are some folks in this place who are pushing for Barack to go out there alone. Sans me. With no wing screens.

Are they insane? With this rabid press corps constantly looking to pin Him down for every friggin detail about obscure legislation like the TARP funding? Or the economic stimulus bill? All that kind of detail can't be fit on little note cards. Or even 5x7s. Sure, He rehearses, but nothing can compare him for those white, hot interrogation-room-style kleig lights, or those razor-sharp questions from the likes of Ed Schultz and that bag lady in the front row.
It's pretty funny, and it's a brand new blog. Check it out.

City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band - Scottish Pipe Band Music (1970, LP)

Jacket notes:
Here at last is a pipe band album featurning a wide selections of Scots tunes known to everyone the world over, interspersed with piping "evergreens" and played by one of the world' leading combinations, THE CITY OF GLASGOW POLICE PIPE BAND. This is a record designed not only to please the world's thousands of pipe band enthusiasts, but also to appeal to the legions of laymen who know little of the finer points of this music but who love to hear a good pipe band playing good tunes which are familiar to everybody–Scots or otherwise.
I have heard there are people who don't like bagpipe music. You may be one of them. If so, stop reading right now.

The City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band has a long and distinguished history, winning many pipe band world championships. Why yes, there is a world championship, didn't you know? They are now known as the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band and you can read all about it at their website.

This is another record that I bought second-hand and found one day at Yesterday's Warehouse. If you are wondering why I would pay for a used record of bagpipe music then you must be one of those people who should have stopped reading two paragraphs ago.

The album is comprised mostly of traditional pieces, but with some originals that were written by band members. Every track but one are medleys of two, three or four pieces, which will explain the complicated-looking track list.

Side One
1. Quicksteps
Scotland the Brave
Nut Brown Maiden
Jenny's Bawbee
2. 6/8 Marches
Midlothian Pipe Band
MacDonald's Awa' Tae the War
Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre
3. Strathspeys & Reels
Heilan' Whiskey
Hot Punch
Raven's Rock
Inverinate House
4. Slow Air & March
The Dark Island
5. Quicksteps
A Man's a Man for a' That
My Love She's But a Lassie Yet
Corn Riggs
6. Gaelic Airs, Hornpipe & Jig
The Waters of Kylesku
Mull of the Bens
Mary with the Witching Eyes
The Boys of Blue Hill
Paddy's Leather Breeches

Side Two
1. 2/4 Marches
Highland Laddie
2. Scottish Airs
Bonnie Galloway
The Rowan Tree
3. 6/8 Marches
Kenmure's Up and Awa'
March of the Cameron Men
The Campbell's are Coming
4. Strathspeys & Reels
Because He was a Bonnie Lad
Louden's Bonnie Woods and Braes
Tail Toddle
Fairy Dance
5. Slow March, Retreat Air & Quickstep
The Road to the Isles
When the Battle is O'er
The Earl of Mansfield
6. Drum Fanfare (agh! a drum solo!)
7. Pibroch Variation 1
Hail to My Country
8. Scottish Air & Quickstep
We're No Awa' Tae Bide Awa'
Happy We've Been a' Thegither

Ripping results: This is one of those "not bad, considering" albums. Nothing too bad except for a skip on side one, track two. Other than that, turn up the volume, put on your kilt, stick a knife in your sock and dream about the old country.

I had assumed this one was out of print, but boy was I wrong. You can get it on CD from Amazon, although it now has a different cover. Isn't that amazing.

P.S. My own extraction is mostly German and Scottish. On the Scottish side I am a member of Clan Gilley, which is a cousin clan of Clan MacPherson.

News from my home county

From Wilson County News:
During the Wilson County Commissioners Court meeting March 9, commissioners voted unanimously to support a resolution in opposition to H.R. 45, introduced to Congress Jan. 6. The resolution was initiated by County Judge Marvin Quinney after a few concerned citizens had approached him on the subject of the bill.


Although the signing of the resolution in commissioners court March 9 can’t prevent the passage of H.R. 45, it should send a clear message to Texas representatives in Washington about where Wilson County stands on the issue. Quinney said his office sent a copy of the resolution to other counties, and he hopes they follow suit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I guess it depends on your definition of "parallel"

I didn't think the sign would be legible when I took the picture, but I took it anyway. That little sign says "PARALLEL PARKING ONLY." Not only did no one parallel park, but they didn't even all park parallel to each other!

This was at something and N. New Braunfels, but I don't remember exactly which cross-street.

Beatles digital bootlegs

A very interesting piece at Collecting Vinyl Records: Where Are the Beatles Reissues? Enterprising Fans Take Matters Into Their Own Hands.
At least three different entities have now issued sonically upgraded versions of the Beatles catalog, usually using pristine vintage vinyl editions as source material for their digital upgrades. The most ambitious is a virtual “label” known as “Purple Chick” (the moniker is part wordplay on two notorious bootleg labels, Great Dane and Yellow Dog), which issues continually upgraded editions of each original Beatles album that include not only its officially released mono/stereo mixes and period singles, but every available alternate mix and studio outtake as well. Some PC editions are only two CDs in length, while their White Album sprawls over a dozen virtual discs.
And this is because...
...the culprits for the Beatle catalog’s perpetually sorry state of affairs seem to be the surviving band members and the heirs of John Lennon and George Harrison themselves.
For example...
Typical of the situation were last year’s rumors — purportedly floated by an EMI insider — that the band was preparing a deluxe 40th anniversary edition of their monumental White Album. Instead, eager fans were eventually directed to the band’s official website, where they were offered a commemorative White Album fountain pen — for $395.
But these digital versions are not for sale. They are freely released into cyberspace, and if you hunt for them you can find them.

Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead (1984, LP)

From The Official Cirith Ungol Website:
The being called Ungol is dead, its resurrection is doubtful. But heed its teachings oh faithful, for on these memoratic disks contain, the wisdom of the ages, and by your iron fists, the horror, of false metal be extinguished.

As you now join the swelling ranks of the Legions of Chaos, together we will drive before us, the cringing herd of false metal, crush their spineless lackeys, and purge the world of their mutant plague!!!
(Too many commas, but they said "lackeys!" Hee hee!)

It was sometime in the mid-80s that I bought this one, and there were three reasons why. Actually, there were probably four. The fourth, and lesser, reason was because this was released on the Enigma label. Enigma was a smaller record label in the 80s that carried a lot of artists I liked, and I got the habit of keeping an eye out for the label as I was browsing the racks. Anytime I saw their logo I would pull that record out for a closer look. So that may have been another thing that convinced me to buy it. But the three main reasons were these:

1. The group's name is Cirith Ungol.
2. Awesome cover art by Michael Whelan that is suitable for framing.
3. Bach's "Toccata in Dm" among the track list on the back cover.

This was not the kind of music I usually listened to back then, or even now, although I must say that for some reason I like it more now than I did when I was younger. According to the info on their website, all the members of the group consider this to be their best album. I never bought any of the others, but then, I never saw any of the others anywhere, either.

What is it? Well, it's "doom metal." And it must still be quite a popular album, because it has a sales rank of around 45,000 on Amazon. My only real complaint about this stuff is the screamed vocals. I have always thought that any singer worth his salt should be able to somehow still sing, even if the musical form demands screaming doom. Everything else about it I like: the speed, the guitars, the energy, the atmosphere.

The record itself has an unusual presentation; the center label of side one has all the information ("this side" being side one and "the other side" being side two), while side two's center label is just a big Enigma logo.

Track list:
Side One:
1. Atom Smasher
2. Black Machine
3. Master of the Pit
4. King of the Dead

Side Two:
1. Death of the Sun
2. Finger of Scorn (this is the "mellow" track)
3. Toccata in Dm
4. Cirith Ungol
Try to run, try to hide.
If you don't, you'll surely die.
Screaming in terror, there you'll lie.
In Cirith Ungol, Tower of Fire.

Gorgons are shrieking their bestial cries,
Their piercing cry, burns you inside.
Screaming in anguish, there you'll lie,
In Cirith Ungol, Tower of Fire.

Demons circle the smoky skies,
Your fate hangs before you on a wheel of fire.
As you stand revealed to Satan's eye,
in Cirith Ungol, Tower of Fire.*
Yes. Yes, I think I can empathize with that.

The lyrics are influenced by various works of fantasy literature: Tolkien (obviously), also the Eternal Champion works of Michael Moorcock. I like it. So if anyone were ever to ask me, "Say Alan, can you recommend a good doom metal album?" I would say without hesitation, "Yes: King of the Dead by Cirith Ungol."

Ripping results: No skips, no pops. As perfect as a vinyl rip can get.

By the way, if anyone were ever to put together a bootleg mix CD of nothing but metal bands doing their own versions of baroque and classical pieces, I would be willing to pay for it. Just so you know.

*Cirth Ungol was "the pass of the spider," not the "tower of fire." Someday we will drive before us, the slouching herd of the false Tolkien fans, crush their spineless lackeys, and purge the world of their ignorant posing.

"Everyone just walked away"

At Sweet Juniper!
A few months later and I find myself stealing again. I am in what must have been a records room for a K-6 elementary school built in the 1920s. The floor is covered in paperwork that dates back to the 1940s. My flashlight on the attendance records highlights a name "Kermit Nowicki" [last name changed] born in 1946. A baby boomer. I flip through the rest of the names and wonder where these people are today, old now and off in some suburban life so far from the 1950s city they once knew with backyards and alleys full of neighborly noise and activity and white kids in all the streets, milk bottles on the porches. Kermit missed a few weeks in January for the mumps. Would he find it strange to know I was sitting in the dark with the history of his body pressed against one of these chairs, the history of his warmth missing from these rooms?
"[D]ocumenting the waste at recently-vacated, unsecured Detroit Public Schools..."

I have never seen anything like that happen around here, and it all seems very alien, strange and sad to me.

via Billy Beck

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The 3 M's (1970 or so, LP)

Another record that I bought second-hand, and I'm pretty sure I got it at Yesterday's Warehouse, which was my source for lots of obscure, oddball records back in the 80s.

The 3 M's were Marilyn Blume (vocals, guitar & piano), Marlin Weedler (vocals) and Mary Knudson (vocals). According to the jacket notes, they were all sophomores at a small college in Forest City, Iowa called Waldorf College. Some quick internet searching reveals that the college still exists, and is a small (about 600 students) undergrad-only college founded by and affiliated with the Lutheran Church.

They were not professionals. However, they were very talented and well-trained amateurs. Actually, it sounds to me like the two women were most likely trained singers, whereas Marlin was just a good singer who--possibly--didn't have formal training. I base this opinion only on how they sound to me. The women use very "operatic" pronunciation, while Marlin just sounds like a normal person singing. I'm sure the women's singing styles went over well in choir or in church, but they sound kind of odd singing folk music.

The 3 M's were heavily influenced by folk trios of the time, especially Peter, Paul & Mary. This record is a collection of popular folk songs interspersed with various Christian songs. Most of them are covers, but there are three originals written by Marilyn Blume.

Track list:
Side One
1. Moon Shadow (the Cat Stevens song)
2. Early in the Morning
3. Bamboo (this and #2 were Peter, Paul & Mary songs)
4. Wedding Prayer (possibly a cover, but I don't know where it originated)
5. Amazing Grace (the hymn)
6. Marvelous Joy (another Peter, Paul & Mary song, but I thought it was called "Marvelous Toy"--click to download a sample)
7. Lovely Jesu (another hymn)

Side Two
1. Follow Me (the John Denver song which was also covered by Peter, Paul & Mary)
2. Away in a Manger (the carol)
3. When I Am Down and Out (original written by Blume)
4. Benediction & Lord's Prayer (another original)
5. One Tin Soldier (the pop song and theme from Billy Jack originally recorded--I think--by the group Coven)
6. Joy in the Morning (another original by Blume)

It was recorded at a studio called Artronics, Inc., in St. Paul, Minnesota. I haven't been able to discover anything about this place--if it still exists, I don't know. The date of 1970 is my best guess. Jacket notes state that they were all sophomores who were going to graduate in spring of 1972, so I'm guessing it was recorded in '69 or '70. I think it's fairly safe to assume that this record saw a very limited release, probably being sold only locally.

Ripping results: Not too bad, considering. A few minor pops that aren't distracting, and few worse pops that happened during periods of relatively low music volume so I was able to manually zoom in and excise them with surgical precision. The only bad part is on "Follow Me." Apparently the outside track of side 2 got dinged at some point, because there's a bad skip and couple of loud pops in this song that I couldn't do anything with. But other than that one track, it turned out pretty well.

Technical quibbles: the sound is too dark, it could have done with a little more treble; the guitar tends to overwhelm the vocals; the room they recorded in had too much echo. Still, it's an interesting album, a trio of good and honest singers, and a decent snapshot of that era. If anyone reads this who is willing to supply any more information about it or the members of The 3 M's, please leave a comment or email me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Walt Disney's Merriest Songs (1968, LP)

This is a record I've had since 1968, when it was released as some sort of promotional thing by Gulf--the petroleum company which no longer exists. When I was a kid, we bought all our gas, oil, etc., from Gulf. Here's a track list.

Side A
1. Chim Chim Cheree
2. Whistle While You Work
3. Work Song
4. Lavender Blue
5. Siamese Cat Song
6. Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

Side B
1. Ten Feet Off the Ground
2. Give a Little Whistle
3. Work Shop Song
4. The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers
5. I Wanna Be Like You
6. I'm Late

Some of these are taken from original soundtracks, some of them are re-made versions. Also the record is monophonic. Unfortunately, this one hasn't weathered the years well. There is a lot of noise, pops, clicks, and skips. However, I am pleased to report that my two favorite songs did survive without any skips, and they are "Ten Feet Off the Ground" and "I Wanna Be Like You." "Ten Feet" is sung by Louis Armstrong (he also plays a trumpet solo), and was from a movie which I never saw called The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. "I Wanna" is of course from The Jungle Book, which was an utter travesty of a rip-off if you've ever read the real book, but this is still a cool song and credits as performers Louis Prima, Phil Harris and Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French!).

I played the snot out of this record when I was 4 years old, except for that "Siamese Cat Song" which I often skipped. It always creeped me out when I was a little kid, and I still don't really like to hear it. But of course since I used to skip over it so often, it's now the best-sounding track on the record.

Click here to download a sample of "Ten Feet Off the Ground." The link will take you to another website where you can download the sample. Sorry, but I can't use esnips anymore.

Music trivia

From Collecting Vinyl Records:
It was 60 years ago this month when a country crooner from the South released the first-ever single to spin at 45 rpm.

Issued in green vinyl on the RCA label, the 7-inch "Texarkana Baby" by Eddy "The Tennessee Plowboy" Arnold became a No. 1 hit and enjoyed the sort of sales that today's artists can only dream of.
The main body of the article is about how vinyl record collecting is becoming very popular--especially in Japan, and about how some artists and companies are going back to vinyl.

It's mostly about 7" singles, which I personally was never very interested in. I was always more album-oriented.

This part is just stupid, stated by "Seez Records President Chikara Yoshida":
Because vinyl is something that'll never die," he says. "I think the way people listen to analog and digital forms of music is different. On one side of a 45, you've only got room for one song. If you want to listen to the flip side, you've got to physically get up, turn the record over and put the needle on again. I think that's really important. There's no fun in listening to CDs or whatever, where you're just pushing a button.
When I want to listen to music, I want to listen to music. I don't want to have to get up and flip a record every 3 minutes. This is one reason why I always used to put my favorite albums on tape: so I wouldn't have to get up and flip a record every 20 minutes. I wanted to sit there undisturbed and listen to music. I even had a dual-cassette deck that would automatically play both sides of two tapes in a row before I had to get up and change anything.

Everyone I know who had some 45s also had one of those stacker things that would automatically drop a new record after each one finished. I still have one myself, and my 45 collection is tiny. And that's because getting up and flipping a record constantly is freakin' annoying.

People are getting back into collecting 45s because they are quaint and nostalgic, and some old 45s have proven to be valuable--some more than others--but if you take care of them they can be worth some money someday because they are naturally fragile and don't preserve well. That's all it is.

"A reckoning is unavoidable"

UPDATE 18 MARCH: The decision has been reversed. I am surprised.

Original post below.


The Shooting Wire:
No Longer Just Paranoia

For months, anyone who's proffered the position that the Obama Administration was anti-gun has been dismissed as being a variety of things, from sore loser to rampant paranoid. Nonetheless, since assuming office, members of the Obama administration have steadily- and stealthily- moved against firearms and ammunition.

Their only public blunder was Attorney General Holder's saying the "assault weapons ban" needed to be reinstated. Quickly, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi - no friend of gun owners - went on record as opposing Holder's suggestion. She went as far as to parrot the words of pro-gun groups, saying the government should enforce the laws on the books today, rather than introducing new laws.

At the same time, the State Department notified Canadian authorities of plans to issue an export ban on "military caliber ammunition" to Canada. That proposed action would prevent the sales of .223, .308 and other military calibers.

When Canadian authorities protested - and notified several members of the American media, the U.S. State Department suddenly went silent. But they quietly reinstated other rules and charges firearms exports-retroactively.

While it seemed they had been headed off on one proposal, they had actually drawn attention away from other actions. If you're into incrementalism, that translates as a win.

Anything passed brings the ultimate goal that much closer.

Last Friday, the anglers and hunters were notified that the National Park Service planned to make all lands under their control totally lead-free by 2010. No lead in ammo or fishing tackle.

As we report in today's Outdoor Wire, that decision has kicked off howls of protests - and questions about the NPS trying to usurp states' rights by issuing their unilateral decision with no prior notification. It's definitely not going to be a decision without some serious discussions. That still doesn't mean the NPS will back off on their decision.

All these things are racing along on parallel tracks. Now, many observers - and not just those on the pro-gun side of the discussion - believe the country is hurtling toward a confrontation.

The catalyst might be any one of several flashpoint issues, but both groups seem to believe a reckoning is unavoidable.

For months, I've gotten reports of everything from re-tasking of military heavy assault units for domestic violence scenarios to calls for "committees of correspondence" designed to spread news the way word was spread by citizens of the then-British colonies.

In each instance, I've discounted the reports as internet hysteria that has produced breathless notices of "the real-deal on the new assault weapon ban"- or references to HR45 - a gun registration bill that is a prime example of "eyewash legislation". It's purpose has already been achieved.

Part of that discounting has been due to the fact that hot-blooded rhetoric seems to run along with firearms ownership.

To the chagrin of industry officials, there's never a shortage of people willing to go on camera, get red-faced and spout "from my cold dead hands" phrases.

Admittedly, those people concern me, but more for their reinforcement of a negative stereotype to people who have no opinion one way or the other on firearms.

Today, however, a report that has nothing to do with rhetoric, hyperbole or rumor.

A very disturbing report that points to a very real assault on ammunition supplies.

The Department of Defense has issued a directive that bans the sale of military brass to ammunition re-manufacturers.

Without that brass, a very large dent is put into civilian ammunition supplies.

New Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) requirements call for the "mutilation of shell casings". Mutilation, incidentally, is the destruction of the property "to the extent that prevents its reuse or reconstruction".

Government officials will determine what constitutes "sufficient mutilation" but it's safe to say that it will no longer be suitable for remanufacturing.

The first word of this latest decision came over the weekend when Georgia Arms' Larry Haynie released a letter notifying him of the new requirement.

For a company with an order in for 30,000 pounds of expended military brass in .223, .308 and .50 BMG, that was not a pleasant notification.

Georgia Arms was remanufacturing more than one million rounds of .223 ammunition monthly; selling that ammo on the civilian market to resellers and to government agencies all over the country.

Tomorrow, Georgia Arms will start sending cancellation notices for .223 ammunition to law enforcement agencies across the United States. Haynie says he may have to layoff half of his sixty-person workforce.

The message is simple. The implication is chilling.
A new welcome page posted on Georgia Arms' website (www.georgia-arms.com) says simply "Due to new government regulations concerning the purchase of surplus brass, we are removing sales of all 223 and all 308 until further notice."

>From there, it directs visitors to the government website for contacting elected representatives.

All of us need to start contacting our elected representatives -and telling them, quite directly, that we're not going to put up with a move that not only curtails access to ammunition (nearly all .223 and .308 manufacturing capacity is tied up to satisfy the needs of the military) for civilians - but wastes taxpayers' money turning usable surplus into scrap metal.

Reducing the ammo brass to scrap reduces the value of the metal/surplus by nearly eighty percent. It also means that recast brass - in shippable form - may be shipped to China, one of the largest markets for U.S. metals on the world market.

If this is allowed to go unchallenged, anyone who owns a modern or traditional rifle in .223 or .308 calibers will see the impact- probably sooner than later.

"Anyone" in this context means everyone from recreational shooters to law enforcement trainers.

Pulling military brass out of the consumer supply chain means that all the manufacturing capacity being dedicated to meeting the military need will effectively become unavailable to civilians - forever.

Export rulings, lead bans, and brass mutilation orders from separate areas of the federal government look coincidental - on the surface. I'm not big on conspiracy theories - partially because I doubted the new administration would have gotten its collective act together so rapidly.

Seems I've been wrong on that one - and mistakenly using the word "hoard" when talking about the nearly-insatiable demand for ammunition that continues across the country. Today, laying up of ammunition might be better described as prudent preparation for possible problems.

States are beginning to serve notice to the federal government they will not enforce laws that violate individual rights. The federal government seems intent on creating a society with increasingly higher numbers of people dependent on the government for either sustenance or employment. Average citizens are beginning to grow tired of being asked to "tote the note" for others' irresponsibility.

These are, indeed, uncertain times.

Today, it's important that every reader take time to notify Congress that we - taxpayers - oppose this latest DOD move- and all the other not-so-subtle moves against gun owners.

You can contact your elected officials in Washington by going to this webpage http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and following the links to your respective Senator or Congressman.

One key member of the United States Senate is Montana's Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus could make a call to the Pentagon and let them know their budgets might be reexamined if they don't reconsider this latest directive. At that point, the directive might labeled a "misunderstanding" and rescinded.

But it is important that we keep pressure on Congress.

If that means phone calls, e-mails, and letters, let's get that done. If that doesn't produce results, we need to look beyond symbolic gestures like sending tea bags or bringing hundreds of thousands of gun owners to Washington and state capitols to protest.

These are, indeed, uncertain times. But the time for uncertain actions may be passing.

We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, maintain situational awareness.

--Jim Shepherd
Mr. Shepherd has nailed it this time. They are going to do everything they can to ensure that the American people are disarmed. A outright ban on weapons was too obvious. So they try back door methods. A rule requiring the destruction of surplus brass--surplus brass which is essential in keeping any kind of supply going at all--has the effect of destroying what was already a meager supply.

Don't believe for a second that this was just bureaucratic stupidity. This was an intentional, calculated act of aggression by a government that is out of control, and is just going to get worse.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kate Bush - Hammer Horror demo

I thought I'd just keep working my way through the Kate Bush canon for the Sunday afternoon video, and this time I've selected a double feature. The first one is not really a video. The "video" part is just a collection of pictures of her that cycle through during the music. However, when I first bought The Whole Story, which was the first album of hers I ever bought, I was struck by all the different "faces" she had as shown on the inside jacket. She has always been very theatrical and is able to portray an amazing range of moods--sometimes not even appearing to be the same person. I think this collection of slides does a pretty decent job of portraying her many faces.

As for the music itself, it is very interesting to me because this is the demo version of one of her singles, "Hammer Horror," from the Lionheart album (her second). The audio is rough, and it's just her singing and playing the piano (she is also a very accomplished pianist).

And here is the "official" video, with the finished song as it appeared on Lionheart.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday night random 20

I thought about doing this kind of post regularly a while back. I'll see if I can keep it up this time. Not like it's a lot of effort.

Rules: load up the whole collection in Winamp, randomize the list, here's the first 20.

Elton John - Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting (coincidence!)
Captain Beefheart - Sugar 'n' Spikes
Suzanne Vega - Gypsy
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky
Psychedelic Furs - Sometimes
Carl Maria von Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 2, movement 1, Allegro
ZerO One - pOssibilities
Allman Brothers Band - Ramblin' Man
Denis Haines - Bloodguard (from that D&D album)
Linda Ronstadt - Love Has No Pride
The Residents - The Touch
Uriah Heep - Gypsy (two Gypsies!)
Dr. Lew Childre - Big Rock Candy Mountain
Toubab Krewe and DJ Equal feat. Umar Bin Hassan, Youssou N'Dour and Nenah Cherry - Wake Up and Let It Go… (open remix)
Melanie - Lay Down
The Jaye Consort - Rege Mentem
Indigo Girls - Scooter Boys
Ultravox - Passing Strangers
Choir of the Moine et Moniales - Kyrie Eleison (17th Mass) (Gregorian chant)
Dartz! - St. Petersburg

Not a bad selection. Vega's "Gypsy" is a favorite.

You come from far away
With pictures in your eyes
Of coffee shops and morning streets
In the blue and silent sunrise
But night is the cathedral
Where we recognized the sign
We strangers know each other now
As part of the whole design

Oh, hold me like a baby
That will not fall asleep
Curl me up inside you
And let me hear you through the heat

You are the jester of this courtyard
With a smile like a girl's
Distracted by the women
With the dimples and the curls
By the pretty and the mischievous
By the timid and the blessed
By the blowing skirts of ladies
Who promise to gather you to their breast


You have hands of raining water
And that earring in your ear
The wisdom on your face
Denies the number of your years
With the fingers of the potter
And the laughing tale of the fool
The arranger of disorder
With your strange and simple rules
Yes now I've met me another spinner
Of strange and gauzy threads
With a long and slender body
And a bump upon the head


With a long and slender body
And the sweetest softest hands
And we'll blow away forever soon
And go on to different lands
And please do not ever look for me
But with me you will stay
And you will hear yourself in song
Blowing by one day


Fiona (1985, LP)

Not all the music coming out of 1985 was washed-out, bland pop. Some of it was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, the unwashed masses tended not to notice it very much.

Fiona Flanagan was one of those who turned out some good stuff but got missed. This was not your typical 80s pop music. Call it power pop--something on the heavy side of pop or the lighter side of hard rock. Fiona had a powerful voice, although I think it was slightly weaker in the higher ranges, but her voice was still very nice to listen to and had a way of skidding in the gravel now and then. Think how Kim Karnes' voice sounded, like she was always walking through the gravel. But Fiona just stepped off the pavement and had it crunch under her feet at all the right spots.

I think another thing that may have hurt her was that another very popular, famous and already-established singer named Stevie Nicks had a single at the same time by the same title, "Talk to Me." By the way, an odd coincidence had both songs with saxophone solos, which as you may remember is something that usually catches my ear. Other than that, the songs are nothing alike, and Fiona's voice is nothing like Stevie Nicks'.

I really enjoyed listening to this album back then. It was one that I taped and played until I wore the tape out. My current vinyl rip was almost perfect except for one muted and almost unnoticeable pop on the last track, "Na Na Song," which is actually my favorite song from this album.

She was another singer who it was hard to find anything about back in 1985. I saw her perform once on "American Bandstand" or some show like that, and other than that I knew nothing that wasn't on the album. Now, of course, she has an entry in Wikipedia, and Heavy Harmonies has an entry with a later and more mature photo of her (she aged well). She released three more albums after this one (her first), the last one coming out in 1992. But although I kept an eye open, I never saw anything else from her in any of the local record stores, so this is the only one I ever got. Fiona has since been released on CD.

It's a good one.