Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mixtape Monday - not Monday edition


Hello Boys and girls, hope you're all staying warm in this wonderful winter holiday season. And what better time than to introduce yet another running segment to the blog!?

I had meant to start this Mixtape Monday piece a few weeks ago but things have been a little crazy. So here we go, just a little late (or early, depending on how you look at it)

In this segment, we'll dig through the Bieber musical archives to pull some classic mixtapes out of the vault and see how mad my skillz really were when it came to making the "ultimate" mix of music to take with you. Note that the mixtapes used herein are actual TAPES that I have stored somewhere in my collection, unless otherwise noted. I will also do my best to link to listenable versions of the tunes included so you can get a taste for the feel and the flow of the mix. The flow is very important, though some of my more complex mixes may be challenging to find all the tracks and skits and stuff. But we'll see how it goes

Also, note that my cassette of choice is and always will be Maxell XLII, 90-minute tapes. Anything longer than 90 minutes and you ran the risk of the tape itself becoming stretched, worn and flimsy and usually meant a shorter tape life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Moment Ends, Parts I & II

Ok so this is my attempt at starting a regular segment into this darn blog thinger. Rather than writing about a full album, this segment is dedicated to those brief little moments, in songs, concerts, etc, that make you step back and realize. Whether it's realize how much you absolutely LOVE or HATE a song, how much you enjoy the band, or how badly you need to go to the bathroom, it can be collected here.

I'm including two parts so that those who are not schooled in the verse of Phish can still participate.

Part I (note the classy use of Roman Numerals)
At a Phish show, during Harry Hood, right after the "Thank you Mister Miner" is repeated for the last time. They kind of draw out the "thank you mr. uhhh....." and then the tune just drifts off into a nice soft open piece, usually with Paige going on a little walk across the keys. Kuroda uses some good soft lighting and it honestly feels like what was a hot, sweaty box of a concert venue (or humid ampitheatre) suddenly has a cooling breeze blowing right through. No matter how hot it is, it feels lile someone just opened all the doors in the venue and just aired the place out. I love it. It's one of those moments during a Phish show I truly enjoy, both musically and physically cuz it's usually hot as shit in those shows. This link will take you to an example. I started it about 10 seconds early so you can see a little bit of the buildup.




Part II (yes, more roman numerals)
Stone Temple Pilots
Interstate Love Song
There are a few songs that have those catchy hooks that just totally get me. And this is one of those, big time. From the opening riff, I'm totally diggin it, and then when the chorus hits, it just makes me want to roll down all the windows and drive really, really fast (which I know I usually do already anyway). So that's why I think the name of the song is so fitting! If you aren't an STP fan, or haven't heard the song in a while, I STRONGLY SUGGEST LISTENING TO IT RIGHT NOW to see what I mean! You'll be humming the tune for the next two days.
 
Ok so those are my first two installments of "The Moment Ends". I'm sure you all have moments too, and I'd love to hear them. Drop me a line (brian dot bieber at gmail) if you have one you'd like to be highlighted here on the site in a future segment. I promise, I'll give you full credit for it!
 
Until then, enjoy the music!
 
Biz

Monday, December 7, 2009

Steely Dan: Gaucho





When I was little, I thought that Steely Dan was a man, not a band. It wasn't until years later that I realized that it wasn't a guys name. I was able to track back and figure out why I thought this, though.


My exposure to Steely Dan was again compliments of my Father, who had "Gaucho" on one side of an old Maxell Cassette (hence the old school photo). On the other side of the tape......Christopher Cross' self-titled album. Ugh. But I'll save that for another time.


So I think it makes sense that a 5-year old would think that if it's a guy's name on one side of the tape, then it would be another guy on the other side, right? Gaucho came out in 1980, so I figure that's around the age we're talking, maybe a little bit older. And in case you were wondering, Christopher Cross came out with his first album in 1979. Ahh, sailing.....


It's funny now that I look at the Track list that I only remember the first five tunes with any sort of clarity. Perhaps that old cassette cut off the last couple tracks because it wasn't long enough? (btw, when was it that you could release an album that was only seven tracks?! And it still couldn't fit on a cassette!

But what I do remember is good times. I remember my sister and I waiting in the back seat until the "shake it!" line of the chorus after the ladies voices sang the first part of the line. And I remember wondering what the hell the Santa Ana winds were.

For "Hey Nineteen" I totally have one of those " 'scuse me while I kiss this guy" moments where I totally got the words wrong. In the chorus, I had thought they were singing "The Fine Coat Run Me In". Not that I really knew what that meant. The actual line is "The Fine Colombian", which is kind of funny because there's really no way in hell I would have know what THAT meant either! Though I do credit that song with giving me the name of Aretha Franklin to look up and see who was the actual Queen of Soul. Hard to argue with that. It wasn't long after that I first saw Aretha play the angry wife/waitress in the Blues Brothers movie, which showcased her abilities with an awesome version of the tune "Think".

And I realize now while reading the lyrics of "Glamour Profession" that I had no idea what the song was about. But hey, that's what happens when you're a kid under the age of 10 listening to Steely Dan, the man or the band. Either way, they're still great tunes.

A few years ago I had the chance to go see Steely Day play at the E Center in Camden, NJ (now the Sovereign Bank Center). It was one of the most enjoyable shows I can remember. Just sitting on blanket on the lawn, listening to some musical genius played live in front of us. I was dying to try and get tickets to see the special shows they played this past year (they did a few shows where they played complete albums and then a few other all-request shows).

In later years, I became a HUGE Steely Dan fan. I still remember the day I found the ultimate bargain when I pulled a used copy of their boxed set Citizen Steely Dan. It was selling for $60 new and the used copy, with collector's booklet was only 20 bucks! I LOVE POSITIVELY RECORDS! It was one of my first real finds there. You will certainly hear that store's name again and again on this blog. If you're in the Fairless Hills, PA area, definitely check them out. Still one of the best sources for used music in the Philly area, IMO.

During the years since I purchased that set, I've worn it into almost flimsy shape from so many playings, bringing on road trips, to and from college, etc. But the music still sounds just as good as it did when we used to listen to that old Maxell Cassette. Good stuff! Go Listen!

Friday, December 4, 2009

iPod Makeover this weekend! Need your recommendations!


OK so it's time for a long overdue revamping of the musical selection on the iPod currently. I have a 60 gig unit, so I'm sure some of the standard stuff that's on there will remain. But I want to wipe it clean and start from scratch. And I'm looking for YOUR recommendations of things to add. Whether it's new and on the charts, or old and needs to be dusted off, tell me what it is and why it should be added. A special prize to all who post comments (as long as you include your email address)!

Thanks for your assistance!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold as Love


Back in the day, there used to be albums known for the uniqueness of how the sound traveled from ear to ear, right to left, rather than just what the tune was. One of these such "headphone albums" was Axis. And it was friggin' awesome!

My first memory of this album is my dad playing it for me on vinyl on his record player. With his big-ass headphones. Koss Pro 4 A studio headphones which I later took with me to college and have in my basement to this day. Great set of headphones:

We would sit in the den of our townhouse on Jefferson court in Bensalem (funny that I now live with my wife in a townhouse on a different Jefferson court), which had a pretty psychedelic-ish carpet and paint scheme. And my would introduce me to a world of music I would come to know and love. You will definitely hear more about these listening sessions in future posts, as it had such an influence on what I listened to from that time on. Axis is no exception.

One of the things that made Axis such a great headphone album was that it was recorded in Mono. That had been a standard recording method in earlier times but when stereo came along, most rock recordings ditched the mono. There were a handful of other albums recorded in this method, and you can tell the difference when you hear it. Picture like your head is the single microphone in the room and the musician is standing in front of you. You hear him in both ears. If he moves himself all the way to one side of the room, you hear him mostly out of only the one side they moved to. Then if he moves to the other side, same thing. It can be used to create a really neat effect, one that Hendrix took great advantage of from the get-go.

The first tune, which isn't really a tune, is called "EXP". It's a radio station intro/interview with Jimi in character as "Paul Caruso" and immediately launches into a guitar screech/wail that travels from ear to ear, back and forth, a number of times in a really short period. It's totally cool. If you listen to this album, you MUST listen to it in headphones. Also, I know that there are remaster versions out there and I don't know if those still keep the mono or moved to a stereo recording so be aware to look for the mono to get the full effect.

I think the other thing that drew me to this album as a young child was that the songs were short, and had stories that were easily understandable. The longest track on the album is only 5:30 and all the others are 3-4 minutes. And if you look at the lyrics to some of the tunes you can see what I mean. "Wait until tomorrow" is a cute yet heartbreaking story of a man waiting outside his true love's window but unfortunately gets shot by her father while he is waiting for her. My favorite song on the album as a child, "Castles made of sand" is a life lesson wrapped in a little package. It talks of a few different little stories where unfortunately things don't turn out the way you would hope for the characters Jimi sings about. And lastly, I liked that the title track, Axis: bold as love, listed all the colors of the rainbow (hey I was a little kid, what do you want??!!)

I think that the headphone album is a lost art. There are some great other ones I would recommend checking out, though. Dark side of the Moon is probably at the top of the list. If you have any others, please share them in the comments section below!

Now, I'm gonna pop on some headphones and listen to some Jimi before I watch the Eagles game. GO BIRDS!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Requests?

If you have any particular albums/artists/songs that you think would make for some good stories, there's a decent chance I have one! Drop your suggestion in the comments here and I'll see what I can do.... Thanks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Herbie Hancock: "Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings"



Ah, yes. Herbie Hancock. If all you know of this man is his 80's video and catchy tune "Rockit", you are SERIOUSLY missing the boat. You need to listen to some of his real jazz. Right Now!


I bought this album used at the 5 & 10 in Newtown, PA (which I believe is now a Starbucks. Figures). I was in high school, I think, a senior. I remember going and looking around with my sister Lisa, and I was pissed because she grabbed a sweet used copy of Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" soundtrack before I could. That was a real find for used CD's, as it's a double-disc AND it's got a sick songlist. I've always loved "Rain Song", and the version on that soundtrack is great. I would have paid the album price just for that tune. The funny thing is that up until that point I can't think of any moment I had ever seen or noticed my sister being remotely interested in Led Zeppelin! I didn't even know she knew who they were! And now she was snatching the bargain used CD purchase of the century right out from under me??!! WTF?! But whatever. She beat me to it. I'm not bitter.


So instead I had to "settle" for this. This fine masterpiece of musical intelligence from a jazz legend who's catalog I had only scratched the surface of. I was in band in high school (hey, I was a drummer, who were the cool ones, so SHUT IT!), and also worked as a tech for the jazz band during my junior year. That gave me some of my first exposure to Jazz, and what started my interest/passion in the genre, but I was still in Jazz 101 at that point in my life. My Herbie Hancock knowledge didn't expand much past Chameleon.


So when I put the CD on for the first time, I was immediately hit by the funky, head-bobbing beat of Wiggle-Waggle and I knew that this one was a winner. To this day, whenever I play this album, I can't help but do the head bob. Plus, how can you not smile when you say the name of the song. Wiggle-waggle. Wiggle-waggle. It's a funny word. Is it even a word? I don't know. But I digress...


Fat mama is another one that just lays on the heavy organ, with a similar feel to Deodato's take on Also Sprach Zarathustra (which I ended up buying for a quarter on vinyl at the Friends of Ithaca Library book sale. HUGE find! but that's a whole other post). It's another one that gets the head bob going and doesn't stop until you get to the end of the song.


Tell me a bedtime story is one of those songs that, if you can whistle, you will whistle for the entire day. The song gets stuck in your head. But like in a good way. It's just a nice, smooth, mellow tune.


OK so I won't go through all the songs, but I'll just tell you there's a lot more great stuff, including a song with "Fat Albert" in the title, so you know it's good! One of the things that I think Herbie does so well is makes something so intricate and complex seem so simple. If you listen to the tunes on these two discs on the surface, they're catchy hooks with a good beat. But if you listen a little more closely you can hear how much is actually going on to add texture to those simple hook lines and it makes the songs that much more enjoyable. It really is fascinating. It's the kind of music that sounds good if a jazz trio were covering it, but would sound SICK with a larger group, like 8 pieces or something.


you can tell that the designers of this collection intended to do a little bit of a contrast between the two discs. The second disc is much more mellow. I'll admit I don't listen to it nearly as much as disc 1. But it's still worth the purchase/listen. I assure you.


So at least take a minute or two and check out the audio samples in the link below, and feel free to share your thoughts on this wonderful collection.


And to my sister Lisa, I thank you again for grabbing that Led Zep CD so I was forced into getting this. without that happening, who knows how long it would have taken me to become as interested in Jazz as I am because of this album.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Phish 11/4/1994 Onondoga War Memorial Syracuse, NY




Ok So I'm a huge Phish fan, I admit that. BUT, just because I choose to do my first post about Phish don't think that this is all going to be hippie jam-band stuff. Cuz it's NOT! But this particular show holds a special place in my heart, simply because it was such an incredibly fun experience all around. Let me explain....

I attended Ithaca College from Fall 1993 to Winter 1997 (hooray for the extra semester!). Ithaca is just a hop skip and a boring-ass car ride to Syracuse (or more frequently the Turning Stone Casino and Golf spa/resort, which was a wharehouse with table games when I was there). Being that I was in college and loved Phish, there was no way we were missing this show!

Turns out that year I lived on the 5th floor of the East Tower (WOOHOO!) with a bunch of friends and Fraternity brothers all together. We really lucked out with our RA that year as he was a really nice guy. He was also on the IC concert bureau. Turns out that IC had a deal with Syracuse concert buruea that they did this sort of ticket exchange where IC students would be able to purchase a limited number of tickets from a table set up in the student union. Our RA was kind enough to give us some advance notice, and told us that he would hold tickets under our name and we just needed to show up to pick them up. I actually have a poster somewhere in my basement right now that was hanging in our hallway that tells the date and time.

Problem is, I don't think anyone realized how many Phish fans attended IC. The line was INSANELY long, out the door and around the building, with people hoping to get their hands on these tickets. I bumped into my RA and he was freaking out that he was going to get in trouble and couldn't hold all the tickets he had promised to people if they didn't show up quickly. But hey, I got there in time, and I got mine. As did most of my good friends. So it was off to the 'cuse!

The cool part about the way this all went down is that first, we got great seats. Floor, 2nd section back. Second, all of the IC people pretty much had tickets in the same general area. so it was like a huge group of people were just picked up from one spot (the student union) and dropped right into those seats. It was fabulous.

Ok so there's a little bit of the story. Now, in no particular order, here are some thoughts from the show:

- I was still a relative Phish Noob at this point, having only been to my first show back in April (4/8/94 Rec Hall at Penn State. Awesome. Bumped into Kelman outside. Never forget it), so a lot of the songs were still somewhat new to me. But I swear that the first time I heard Suzy Greenberg in the first set it was my favorite Phish song. Of course it was a little different than the version that I had heard from my big brother in the fraternity that had horns (7/12/1991http://www.livephish.com/live-music/0,497/Phish-mp3-flac-download-7-12-1991-Colonial-Theatre-Keene-NH.html), but it was damn good!
- "is he singing 'Simple' or 'Cymbals'?!" Turns out, it was both
- my first Colonel Forbin's Ascent, complete with an explanation of the Vibration of Life. Pretty friggin' cool if you ask me.
- Slave to the Traffic light is a great song to end a show.
-Loving Cup was something completely and totally new to me. And thus began a lifelong love affair with the song, in all it's iterations. In all my days seeing Phish, I have yet to see a bad version of this song (though the boys did try to play a bad one in their farewell tour leading up to Coventry, but I'll give them a pass).


All in all, a wonderful experience. So like I said, this won't be all Phish. But there will be a bunch. Hang in there. I'm sure I'll find something you have heard or like at some point. And in the meantime, why not take a listen to this show. Email me if you want a copy!

Till next time, Later.

B