Friday, June 29, 2007

Upcoming Releases from Eclectic Records

Our release schedule to the end of the year is as follows (although there may sometimes have to be changes in dates due to unforseen circumstances) Most will have bonus tracks and all will be remastered and repackaged.


Rare Bird-Rare Bird
Rare Bird-As Your Mind Flies By
LOVE SCULPTURE:--Blues Helping
LOVE SCULPTURE-Forms and Feelings


MAN-Winos Rhinos and Lunatics (2CD deluxe edition)
MAN-Slow Motion
CHRIS WOOD:--Vulcan unreleased studio album from early 80's feat. Steve Winwood)

If you have any queries, please feel free to email me at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sneaking gear past the Significant Other

This was posted on another site that I frequently visit. I am sure some of you are audiophiles that regularly upgrade or change out equipment. Anyone have a similar one for us vinyl / CD junkies?

We manly men think we can sneak new gear into our audio equipment rack without it being noticed by our partners. We are wrong. We cannot accomplish this feat anymore than our wives could park the car in the driveway with a dent in the hood and hope we don't see it.

Its simply not gonna happen.

But we, being the clever manly men that we are, do not give up easily and have devised many creative ways to try to pull this off. I don't want to reveal too many secrets but I can list a few tips on the matter. I must advise you to try them at your own risk. I have had some limited success with several of them.

1) The SAME COLOR, NEW DEVICE: This is where we buy a new piece of equipment and we make sure that if it is going into the rack where a silver faced piece sits currently, it also has a silver faceplate. A different color on a piece of equipment is a sure tip off. Even going from a silver to a champagne is getting risky. Remember, no matter what, never replace a silver with a black or vice versa. It may be good to make sure the power indicator light is the same color too, just to be safe.

2) The RACK RE-ARRANGE: This is an age old trick in which we shuffle all the gear around in the audio rack in hopes of confusing the opponent. We move the CD player to the place where the DAC was and move the DAC to where the Pre-amp was and on and on. And, while we are doing all this rearranging…we slip a new piece in the mix. This may actually work, but it is a temporary solution at best. Sooner or later all the rack spaces will be full…and you will be found out.

3) The LAST PIECE I WILL NEED: Well, this isn't exactly sneaking something in, it is more like telling a little fib to allow it to stay. You get that new piece of gear and are installing it when the significant other wanders in and see you. Busted! But you are quick as a fox…"Honey, this is the last piece I will need for the system. It's done now!" Who in the world do you think you are fooling? She sees through this like it was one of the veils the new equipment is supposed to lift.

4) The SHIP IT TO MY OFFICE: Nothing is more a tip off of new gear arriving than the big brown truck in the street in front of your house. If that truck is spotted, you are sunk. No problem, you have all the new gear shipped to your office! If you can't do that you have to get creative. You have to time your arrival home after the truck has dropped off the package and before the spouse gets home. If you can pull this off you may have a fighting chance. Be sure to keep ALL the equipment boxes in the garage. The spouse will sniff out a lone box out there, but if it is in a stack with other equipment boxes you may be successful with this ploy. You will have to use one of the other methods to actually get the equipment into the rack.

5) The I TRADED MY OLD ONE FOR IT: Forgetting to tell her that included along with the old gear that you traded in was a healthy check is a lie by omission. No flowers or chocolates will correct for this. Don't even try this one. It won't work. In fact, don't even think about trying this one. If you have tried this one and lived to tell, count your blessings.

6) The LET'S GO OUT TO DINNER: So, Brown left you a box and you have managed to hide it in the garage, But you can't install it, and you are just dying to hear it. Waiting for opportunity to knock is out of the question so you must create the opportunity. So you offer to take her and the kids out to dinner. Make it on a school night. After you get home the kids will need to get ready for bed and such. Let the evening play out as usual, don't make any sudden moves or you will tip your hand. Chances are she will want to go to bed early because the day has been so long. Once she is in bed…you strike like a ninja! Open the box in the garage and sneak the piece into the listening room.

7) The MISDIRECTION: Install the new gear, and then paint a wall in the living room a different color.

8 ) The IT WAS ½ PRICE: C'mon, you don't believe it when she says it. We all know how ½ price works. A CD player that has an MSRP of 2,500 dollars and normally retails for 2,000 dollars is NOT half off when sold to you at 1,250. I know it, you know it and you know who knows it. No matter anyway, even ½ off is too much…just like that skirt she got for 100 bucks at a half price sale.

9) The I HAD IT IN THE GARAGE: This one is pretty self explanatory. When the S.O. spies the new gear in the rack you simply lie through your teeth and tell them that it was one of your old pieces of equipment that was out in the garage just being put back into use. Note: This will only have even a small chance of working if you actually keep the boxes in the garage, otherwise…don't waste your time.

10) The I BOUGHT IT FOR THE FAMILY: This is a last resort as it seldom works, and it often backfires. Claiming an audio purchase is "for the family" is as bad as buying a vacuum cleaner as an anniversary present. Sure we manly men would appreciate a new power tool for our anniversary, but the same isn't so for the fairer sex. Audio gear is NOT for the family. Not even the tiniest bit. If you try this one, you'd better be ready to go pick out a new pair of designer shoes for the family too.

11) The IT'S ON LOAN: Yeah right, like it's going back. No one falls for this one, ever. Don't try to tell them it belongs to a friend either. If you use this one, you need to prepare to "return it" tomorrow.


12) The IT WAS FREE: Man, this is the bottom of the barrel, even I wouldn't believe you, and I want to.

So there they are, a few tips on how to be stealthy when introducing new audio equipment to your system. As you can see, most rely on deception or out and out lying. All will end badly. The best thing to do really is to just be up front from the get go. You can live with what you already have can't you?

As always, comments are welcome.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Compact Disc's Outlook Worsens

Compact Disc's Outlook Worsens
Louis Hau, 06.22.07, 6:45 PM ET

The compact disc, for years the music industry's dominant format, appears to be falling out of favor with consumers faster than industry observers had predicted. Digital music? Another story.

In a report, industry analysts Richard Greenfield and Mark Smaldon of Pali Research in New York said they now expect U.S. unit sales of CDs to slide 20% in 2008, a bigger decline than the 15% drop they had previously predicted. Moreover, decline would come on the heels of an expected 18% drop in U.S. CD sales in 2007.

"We are increasingly skeptical that the rate of CD decline will slow in 2008, as CDs increasingly become less relevant to the daily lives of the core music-buying population,'' Greenfield and Smaldon said in their report.

A key factor affecting CD sales: how quickly those big-box retailers such as Best Buy (nyse: BBY - news - people ) shrink the amount of floor space they devote to music to levels more comparable to Wal-Mart (nyse: WMT - news - people ). Combined with the growing utility of digital music, it could easily lead to even more rapid decline in CDs in 2008-2010, they said, pointing out that such losses will hurt their otherwise healthier music-publishing businesses.

Meanwhile Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) released data Friday from research firm NPD Group showing that the company's iTunes Store was the third-largest music retailer in the U.S. during the three months ended March 31.

iTunes finished the quarter with a 9.8% market share, putting it behind Wal-Mart (15.8%) and Best Buy (13.8%) but ahead of (nasdaq: AMZN - news - people ) (6.7%) and Target (nyse: TGT - news - people ) (6.6%). To compare Apple's mostly single-song download sales with the mostly physical sales at the other retailers, NPD converted single-song iTunes downloads into album units by considering every 12 downloads as an album.

Greenfield and Smaldon said they expect U.S. unit sales of digital music to grow 28% in 2008, slowing from projected growth of 47% this year. However, rapid growth in digital sales will still fall short of making up for the decline in CD sales.

As a result, the Pali analysts expect total U.S. unit sales of recorded music to decline about 9% in both 2007 and 2008. (For their calculations, they counted every 10 digital tracks as an album.) They also reiterated their "sell" rating on Warner Music Group (nyse: WMG - news - people ), the only major record label whose shares trade publicly in the U.S.

As always, comments are welcome.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Neil Young Recording; More On ‘Archives’ Delay

Neil Young has been recording, but there are “no firm plans on any album yet,” according to his publicist.

Young’s last album of new studio material was 2006’s Living With War, released in May of that year. A second version of that album, Living with War: In the Beginning, was released last December. Two live recordings have also been released during the past year: Live at the Fillmore East, a recording with Crazy Horse from 1970 was released in September and Live At Massey Hall, a live accoustic set from 1971, was released in March of this year.

As for Neil Young The Archives Vol. 01 1963 – 1972, the release date has been pushed back from fall of this year ; it is now scheduled for release in February 2008. “There is some new sonic upgrades to the DVD portion thatneeded to be finalized,” Young’s publicist wrote in an email in response to questions about the set and Young’s current recording activities.

In April Young’s management had confirmed a fall release for the first volume of the long-awaited multi-CD/DVD collection. The retrospective project was begun in 1989.

I have been hearing about the Archive releases since 1988. I'll believe it will happen when I actually have a copy in my hands. The question now is will they be released while there are still CDs?

As always, comments are welcome.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Songs You Want to Hear

The Songs You Want to Hear
Has audience research sucked all the life out of commercial radio?
By Marc FisherSunday,
January 21, 2007;

WEEKDAY EVENING IN SUBURBIA, a Holiday Inn at happy hour: In the lobby of this hotel near Landmark Mall in Alexandria, flight crews checked in for the night while five people clustered around the TV set, watching the president of the United States address the nation. In meeting rooms just off the atrium, the J. Walter Thompson agency put on a marketing presentation for managers from Domino's Pizza, and Northern Virginia Realtors got pumped up at a sales rally. At the end of the corridor, behind a sign that said "Music Survey," 54 people took seats at rows of tables stocked with hard candies, Cokes, brownies and palm-size, black electronic gadgets labeled "Perception Analyzer."

There was no deejay in the room; no radio station's music director was here, but on this night, these 54 people -- recruited by telemarketers and selected because they collectively mirrored this station's audience by sex (29 women and 25 men), age (ranging from 38 to 52), race (every one of them is white) and musical preference (40 percent like oldies best) -- would choose the playlist for Washington's WBIG-FM. Each person in the room was being paid $65 for 2 1/2 hours of his time. They were spending those hours listening to seven-second snippets from 700 of the most familiar pop songs from their teenage and young adult years. They weren't told which station was paying for this research, but most of them figured it out soon enough. They heard the Beatles and Carly Simon, the Supremes and Fleetwood Mac, the girl groups and the British imports, Elvis and ABBA, more Beatles and more Motown, clip after clip after clip until they thought they'd heard every song ever recorded. They were amazed that they recognized almost every one of those songs from just a few seconds' worth of music. They spun the red-capped dials on their Perception Analyzers from 0 to 100, thereby telling the station which songs they wanted to hear on the radio and which would drive them to punch up another station.

If they followed the thick clot of wires that extended out of the computer at the front of the meeting room, they might have noticed that the cables disappeared under the divider into the next room, the one with the closed door, the one where executives from WBIG sat eating club sandwiches and staring at a giant screen that tracked every twist of those dials, collecting all 54 opinions on each song in the form of five lines inching their way up and down the screen like an EKG readout, each line tracking a different subgroup of the listeners next door, the whole graph mapping the taste of the American radio listener, captured in precise metrics.

WBIG, known on the air now as Big 100.3, hires a company to conduct these tests twice each year. Another group of about 55 people was coming in the next night, at another hotel, this time in Montgomery County, and the combined results would determine the station's songlist of a couple of hundred tunes. Stations that play current top hits do this more often. But just about every music station in any big city in the country uses auditorium or mall testing -- as well as more frequent, often weekly, phone calls to listeners at home -- to pick its playlist. The stations want to deliver exactly the songs that their desired audience most wants, and they believe this technology makes that possible.

At the Holiday Inn, some of the results were obvious before the technician switched on the first clip (the industry calls them "hooks," and an enormous side business replete with psychometrics and statistical analysis goes into choosing which seven seconds of a song will be presented to the survey group). Everyone would like Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" and Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and the Beatles' "Help!" If you compared the playlists of all the oldies stations in the land, pretty much the same core of about 100 songs would be on every list. But beyond those obvious choices, there were decisions to be made about the next hundred tunes, and the people who run the stations do not trust themselves to make those decisions -- and haven't for a long time.

Since the late 1970s, the music you hear on the radio has been determined by tests such as this one; by "perceptual studies," in which listeners grouped by very narrow demographic characteristics are questioned in detail about their attitudes toward radio and music; by phone polls; and now by online surveys, as well.Whatever the methodology, the result is a pile of numbers telling station managers exactly which songs to play. Software programs such as Selector then determine the order in which songs will be spun -- plotting playlists weeks in advance -- to maximize the chance that listeners will stay tuned. Songs are matched to different parts of the day, based on their tempo and psychographic research that probes listeners' moods as they move from getting ready for work to commuting and on through each stage of the day and night.Despite -- or, critics say, because of -- all that supposedly scientific research, it's hard to find a radio executive who does not concede (at least privately, with the notebook closed) that radio has become boring and predictable, that stations sound the same no matter where you are, and that the steady decline in the amount of time Americans spend listening to radio is disturbing."We've perfected our science, but we've lost an entire generation of listeners," lamented Steve Allan, who was WBIG's program director when I observed the music test. "The only thing we have left in broadcast radio is convenience. We're there in the car. Young people don't get their music from radio anymore. They download it."

Commercial radio isn't being challenged just by iTunes, MySpace and other online music sources. Satellite radio -- the multibillion-dollar gamble by XM and Sirius -- also has forced broadcast radio to worry about the millions of customers who now shell out $13 a month for what has always been free. This year, the radio industry is pushing its answer to satellite: HD Radio, a new set of digital stations that offers more choices of music but requires listeners to buy a digital radio.

Americans still listen to an average of 3.2 hours of commercial radio a day, and more than three-quarters of the population listens every day. But radio's reliance on research prevents stations from providing the variety they tell pollsters they crave. Because advertisers want to reach a defined demographic group -- say, women ages 25 to 34 -- stations have no qualms about alienating people who fall outside their target audience. In the heyday of Top-40 AM radio, a station's success was measured by the raw size of its audience; by just playing the hits, no matter the genre, a station could win 20, 30, even 50 percent of the local audience. Today, by using research to identify the songs that appeal especially to those 25-to-34-year-old women, a station on a much more crowded radio dial can trumpet its success with a 4 percent slice of the audience. That puts all the more pressure on stations to identify the right songs necessary to deliver the right slice of listeners.

THE SCIENCE OF CHOOSING MUSIC CAME DOWN TO THIS -- five colored lines rising and falling on a computer monitor. "Just watch," Allan told me as the music survey at the Holiday Inn began. "You'll see the [expletive] that rises to the top is the same as ever." The test starts out with a few control questions, just to make sure that the station has recruited the right people to this room. A few seconds of rap, and the lines plummet to the bottom of the screen. Then Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" ("Young hearts, be free tonight") and the lines shoot back up again. A snippet of hard rock floors the lines again, and they soar on the Beatles' "Love Me Do." Okay, we're in the right place.

The songs just keep on coming: ABBA (way down), the BeeGees' "How Deep Is Your Love" (decent score but a big age split), Harry Chapin's "Taxi" (dives in all age groups), America's "A Horse With No Name" (a winner across the board), the Fifth Dimension's "Stoned Soul Picnic" ("That song never tests," Allan mopes. "Too bad -- I love it." So do you play it? I ask. "It doesn't test," he repeats. End of story.)

The easy part of the evening comes each time a Beatles tune streams through the speakers -- "Strawberry Fields," "Back in the USSR," almost any Beatles number does the trick, which is why WBIG, like most oldies stations, plays two or three of the Fab Four's hits each hour. But move forward in time, and the picking gets dicier.

Here's why: Since oldies radio was born in the 1970s explosion of niche formats, radio executives have believed that the Top-40 tunes of the '60s were America's new standards. Unlike the pop music of, say, the early 1950s -- the songs of Perry Como and Doris Day that were pretty much never heard again -- the hit songs that reigned during the heyday of Top-40 AM radio seemed to win new fans with every generation. This was the stuff that high school kids and their parents could agree on in the car. But in about 1995, the research numbers began to reveal a crumbling of that consensus. People in their 30s didn't necessarily want to hear "Surfin' Safari" or "Sloop John B." They hadn't grown up with those songs, and, therefore, their kids weren't growing up with them, either. As Dan Michaels, Big 100.3's new program director, put it, "Your musical tastes are defined when you're between 18 and 22, and you kind of lock into that for the rest of your life." But when managers of oldies stations tried to update their playlists, they were smacked in the face by the reality of what the previous three decades of radio had wrought: Modernizing the oldies format wasn't a simple matter of deleting the early '60s tunes and adding the hits of the '70s. The FM revolution had altered the musical foundation of the nation.

In the '60s, nearly everyone grew up listening to the same kind of go-go AM Top-40 stations, with happy, shouting deejays, lots of jingles and an endless stream of two-minute pop dance hits. But by the mid-'70s, as FM radios became standard equipment in cars and as home stereo systems got cheaper and better, Top 40 was dying, and young Americans headed off in all directions, to underground FM rock, to hard rock, to soft folkie rock, to disco, and on and on. Now, when oldies stations tried to bring those listeners back together again, there were precious few unifying tunes.

Kids who had grown up on Boston, Kansas and Steve Miller wanted nothing to do with the music of those who grew up on Chic, Gloria Gaynor and Parliament-Funkadelic, and they in turn had little in common with those who came up with Billy Joel, Celine Dion and Gordon Lightfoot.

"The times and the music became more fragmented," Allan said, "so the commonality isn't there. There are some songs that work, but then you hit disco in '78, and that changed everything."Songs that even hint at disco are far too divisive to reach the consensus WBIG needs among its 40- and 50-year-olds. For example, research shows that white women generally want their oldies station to play the melodic disco anthems -- "I Will Survive," "Last Dance" -- but black women hate them, preferring the '70s soft soul groups the Spinners, the Stylistics and the like.

Buried somewhere in that decade lie the hits that will offend few enough listeners to make them acceptable. The challenge at the Holiday Inn was to find the songs that might bring in younger folks without chasing away older, core listeners. (The perfect '70s song, at least according to this night's test, was Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)," which sent the EKG lines straight up like nothing but a Beatles tune. Whatever Bill Clinton's real musical taste may be, his advisers certainly knew their music testing when they chose that tune as his 1992 campaign anthem.)

Allan's task was to push the average age of WBIG listeners down from 48 without losing overall audience. "We had to move to more '70s music, because, sadly, in America, if your average age is over 50, your money's no good here anymore," he said. "Once you hit 45, American business doesn't believe you're going to spend any money." WBIG was playing 45 percent '70s music, and this test wasn't showing much tolerance for more than that. (Anything by the Carpenters: Numbers fell off a cliff. Linda Ronstadt: Every song tanked.)To make matters even more difficult, something new was happening on this night, something that surprised even the experts. Every time the computer served up a Motown song -- every time, whether it was the Supremes, the other girl groups, Marvin Gaye, the Chi-Lites -- the lines on the screen dived.

How could this be? Motown was the heart of the oldies format, every bit as essential a component as the Beatles or the Beach Boys. The appeal of the Supremes, for example, is no more dated than the new "Dreamgirls" movie. Had Oldies 100 and similar stations overplayed a handful of songs, burning out listeners on those tunes? If they mixed in some other songs, would it reconnect listeners to the infectious joy of Motown? We may never know: The rules of radio ordained short playlists of songs listeners already knew they liked. The executives saw the numbers streaming across the computer screen at the Holiday Inn, and the numbers ruled.

"Maybe we ought to rethink Motown Mondays," which were a longtime staple at the station, said Bob Karson, who was then WBIG's creative director. "They're really shooting down every one of those songs."Still, as the managers watched their playlist evolve before their eyes, Karson hesitated: "Testing brings everything to a middle point -- whatever's least offensive -- and I wonder if we sometimes miss the highs. Those musicians couldn't have imagined 40 years ago that someday researchers would be sitting in a hotel room rating seven seconds of their song. I got really angry because they stopped making my favorite conditioner because of someone's squiggly lines on a screen. I called L'Oreal, and they said, 'Thank you for your input.'"

One set of 50 song clips ended, there was a quick break, and the survey group was seated for another set, 16 sets in all. The Fifth Dimension's "Up, Up and Away" was down, down and out. "Stand Tall" by Burton Cummings fell flat. Tony Orlando's "Knock Three Times" went unanswered.

FINALLY, THE ORDEAL WAS OVER and the subjects were free to leave. But a dozen accepted the invitation to stay on and become a focus group, discussing their evening's work. Those who lingered pleaded for songs they could sing along with, songs that would "mellow me out," and, repeatedly, "my favorite songs." And then the same people complained that the stations they listen to play "the same songs over and over," that there are way too many commercials and that they are sick to death of Motown.

"You hear 'My Girl' 'til it's running out of your ear," one man offered.

"Yeah, always the same Motown songs," a prim businesswoman said.

A woman who said she loves the station admonished the researchers to "stop putting us in niches and do something different. Introduce something new. A lot of us bought these records way back when, and we know there's a lot more out there than they play on the radio. We know what's on the flip side of those records."

Finally, Steve Allan ventured to the front and announced what nearly everyone had figured out, that the station conducting this survey was WBIG-FM. "You're the taste-makers," he said. "We want to play as many favorite songs as we can, as often as we can."

Instantly, they lit into him. Why won't you play any Led Zeppelin? Why won't you play a greater variety of songs by the artists you do play? Give us something different.

"Could I really do what you're saying?" Allan asked. "All that music on one station, really?"

"Yes" came the shouted replies. "You could! Do it! Why not?"

"But would you expect me to play Zeppelin?" Allan responded. "Would you come to my station for that?"Slowly, the enthusiasm leaked out of the focus group. Nobody turns to an oldies station to hear Zeppelin -- that harder rock sound would fit in on classic rock stations, such as Washington's 94.7, the Arrow, but not among the lighter pop fare on WBIG. "Guess not," one gent said. The others came to see Allan's point. It was all about expectations and favorites. They realized they had just guaranteed themselves more of the same on their favorite station.

Except for one thing: "So Motown Monday's got to go, huh?" Allan asked.

Absolutely, the group confirmed.

NOT LONG AFTER THE MUSIC TEST, the owners of WBIG, Clear Channel Communications, decided that traditional oldies had had their day. Like many other oldies stations across the country, WBIG switched formats this past spring. Big 100 adopted an approach known as "classic hits," which consists of top rock songs from the 1970s -- Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," The Kinks' "Lola," Queen's "We Will Rock You," Styx's "Lady," and lots of the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. It strives to entertain listeners by serving up clever themed weekends of music, such as Big Decomposers (three days of songs by departed artists) or Big Ugly Rock Stars Who Score Great Chicks (Steven Tyler, Billy Joel).

So far, the new Big 100.3 is doing what its owner wants it to do. It is "skewing" younger, reaching an audience that on average is a little closer to the low end of the 25 to 54 age group than the oldies format drew. The classic hits are luring more men, so the audience is almost evenly split by sex, while Oldies 100 leaned more toward women. "This is a much more appealing advertiser demographic," Michaels said.The bigger picture, however, only grows fuzzier. As young people choose to discover, share and collect music via iTunes, blogs and MySpace, decades of music research suddenly seem irrelevant. If listeners can create their own music stations, what will radio's role be?

Wrong question, many radio executives contend: Choice is overrated; most people don't want to spend their leisure time sifting through hours of mediocre tunes in search of their new favorite. They just want someone to deliver the music they love. The trick for radio is to find a way to capture the spirit of the Web -- the interactivity, the flattened hierarchy, the sense of empowerment -- while maintaining radio's traditional authority ("The hits from coast to coast," "The hits just keep on coming").

Satellite radio attempts to find that balance by giving deejays more freedom to select songs but only within the boundaries of narrowly defined channels of music (XM, for example, has one channel for "greasy, gritty" country tunes, one for honky-tonk hits of the '50s and '60s, one for current country hits, one for country stars from the '80s and '90s, and one for country classics). The satellite services use some of the same research tools that FM radio deploys but claim to escape the resulting blandness by giving programmers leeway to create sets of music that feel as if a human hand is at work. Whatever the result of that recipe, the bottom line is that in this tough time for radio, the bedrock belief in the efficacy of music research is finally cracking.

"Everything's cyclical," Michaels said. "Research had its time, and it's still important, but now people are willing to have a gut feeling and go with it."

In the 1950s, when TV came along and wiped out most of radio's most successful programming, radio defied predictions and survived. What saved radio -- playing rock-and-roll records for a new generation -- emerged from a combination of accident, innovation and desperation. What will save radio this time is very likely a similar combination. The desperation is growing, the innovation is beginning to bubble up, and accidents are waiting to happen. What they will sound like is unknown, but at long last, most everyone in the industry agrees they won't happen in a Holiday Inn meeting room.

I think the following quote from the article pretty much sums up radio today - "You'll see the [expletive] that rises to the top is the same as ever."

As always, comments are welcome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New Releases in June 2007

Here are a few new releases for this month that are worth checking out...............

IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY (Import)“At Carnegie Hall”.
This concert took place in New York at the height of the San Francisco-based group’s popularity (1972). This band was one of the finest of the psychedelic/folk-rock acts to emerge from the fertile last ‘60s San Francisco scene. The band was led by violin virtuoso, David LaFlamme (an early member of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks), and their recorded legacy and loyal fan base has kept the group going for four decades. This CD has been long out of print and includes eight tracks with “White Bird”, “Angels and Animals”, “Bombay Calling” and more. Give Your Woman What She Wants, Hot Summer Day, Angels and Animals, Bombay Calling, Going To Another Party, Good Lovin’, Grand Camel Suite, White Bird.

GIUFFRIA (Import)“Giuffria”.
Digitally remastered import reissue of the 1984 album from Giuffria, led by former Angel keyboardist (and future House Of Lords member) Greg Giuffria and featuring Craig Goldy (Dio), David Glen Eisley (Stream) and Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot). One of the most under-rated Hard Rock albums of the '80s, Giuffria (the album) has continued to be a must-have by fans of everything that is AOR. The band's recorded legacy may not be huge, but their loyal fanbase continues to spread with each passing year. 10 tracks including 'Call To The Heart'. I know a lot of you have been waiting for this CD’s return!

GROUNDHOGS (Import, new release 6/19)“Split”.
Digitally remastered 2003 reissue of 1971 album that's unavailable domestically featuring 12 tracks including 4 bonus tracks taken from BBC in concert 1972, 'Split - Part One', 'Split - Part Two', 'Split - Part Four' & Cherry Red' plus bonus tracks.

KIM MITCHELL (Import)“Akimbo Alogo”.
2007 digitally remastered reissue of the former Max Webster guitarist's first full length solo album that was originally released in 1984. Includes the US hit "Go For Soda".

As always, comments are welcome.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Stevie Nicks says that she doesn't want to continue being a part of Fleetwood Mac without keyboardist and songwriter Christine McVie. However, McVie, who retired from the band prior to Fleetwood Mac's last album, 2003's Say You Will, has stated that she has no intentions of returning to the band.

Nicks, who is currently out on the road, was asked by Performing Songwriter magazine if she would consider another Fleetwood Mac project without McVie, to which she answered, "Absolutely not. Not in this lifetime... We already tried, and it did not work. My thing is, somebody convince Christine to come back and do this one more time. I don't think she's going to change her mind, but stranger things have happened."

She went on to explain that the band's last album and tour, which included herself, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood was an unpleasant experience for her: "It was a nightmare doing (Say You Will). It was really Lindsey's vision and it wasn't very much about the other three of us... (Christine) was the person who made it all work (for the band), so when she wasn't there, that sunk the boat... Without her it's a boys' club."

Back in 2003 when Fleetwood Mac were gearing up to tour behind their Say You Will album, Nicks explained why McVie had quit the band: "Christine doesn't want to do it, and bless her heart, if that's what she wants, then that's what she's gonna get. She moved back to England -- she wants to be an Englishwoman living in England -- and you cannot make people do stuff."

As always, comments are welcome.

The Piper At The Gates of Dawn - 40th Anniversary Edition

A special edition of Pink Floyd's debut album, The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, will be in stores on August 28th, to mark the 40th anniversary of its original release date. The packaging of the EMI Records set resembles a cloth-bound book and holds three CDs, plus a 12-page reproduction Syd Barrett notebook. The first two discs will contain both stereo and mono version of the album, newly remastered by producer/engineer James Guthrie, while the third disc includes bonus tracks, including all of the band's singles from 1967 ("Arnold Layne," "See Emily Play," "Apples And Oranges") and b-sides ("Candy And A Currant Bun" and "Paintbox"), as well as Take 2 of the original recording sessions.

As always, comments are welcome.

Hagar's livin' it up with the giants of rock 'n' roll

Hagar's livin' it up with the giants of rock 'n' roll
By Kevin C. Johnson

The only mystery surrounding Sammy Hagar selling out — in two minutes — his Wednesday night concert at the Pageant is: What took him so long?

Ever since the '70s and with continued support from outlets such as KSHE (94.7 FM), Hagar and St. Louis have nurtured a long-running love affair.

"This is something you can't invent. You can't try to do this. It has to either happen or not," the long-time rock veteran of Montrose, Van Halen and solo fame says of his appeal here, which allows him to sell out venues the size of Verizon Wireless Amphitheater regardless of what he has going on in his career.

Hagar, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee this year as a Van Halen alumnus, heads to town to debut "Livin' It Up! In St. Louis," a concert DVD filmed July 22 at the then-UMB Bank Pavilion.

A review of that concert in the Post-Dispatch said: "Hagar's shows are never flawless. He's too busy to concentrate solely on his performance, swigging tequila, signing autographs, holding up banners, and donning shirts and hats thrown to him by fans. But entertainment is the bottom line for Hagar and, on that count, he was note-perfect all night."

The DVD features songs such as "I Can't Drive 55," "Right Now," "Mas Tequila," "Heavy Metal" and "There's Only One Way to Rock," as well as interviews and videos. Its unveiling, during a red carpet, Cabo Wabo-style party, will be accompanied by an acoustic concert featuring Hagar and the Wabos. He says it's his first full acoustic show outside of Cabo.

"It's just not what we do," he says. "It's harder to throw a party acoustically sitting on a stool."

And where else would he do it but St. Louis?

"There's not that many markets as intense as St. Louis. How could I say living it up in any other city?" says Hagar, who will be a special guest at the Cardinals game Tuesday at Busch Stadium. "I've been doing it so big in St. Louis for so long.

"In a recent interview, Hagar talked about living it up here, his spirited new $80 million dollar deal and, of course, the "screw up" that is Van Halen.

Q. What's it like having "Hall of Famer" in front of your name?

A. It's really exciting, being there and standing next to Keith Richards and people I looked up to my entire career. That puts my name in the same light as my heroes, and that really affected my self-confidence and how I feel about where I am and what I did in music. It was a feeling like I'd arrived.

Q. After all you've accomplished over the past few decades, how can you talk about arriving and self-confidence?

A. You'd be surprised. There's always somebody criticizing me, ever since I reinvented myself in 1996 after I left Van Halen and stopped being that heavy metal rock guy to become the lifestyle guy. I got heat from critics and fans who thought I was too mellow and sold out. I'm always taking shots. Now you can shoot all you want, but be careful. You might hit Keith Richards.

Q. How did you feel about so many of Van Halen's members being no-shows at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony? (Only Hagar and Michael Anthony showed up; Eddie Van Halen has been in and out of rehab this year.)

A. It was a shame, the one negative in the whole giant positive thing. If Ed had been capable of being there, and if the five of us, including Dave (singer David Lee Roth), had been there, because he belongs there as much as me, and we'd thrown all the crap out the window and done four or five songs, it would've been the highlight of all inductions. Van Halen is one of the most powerful bands in the world, and we wanted to accept this with dignity and do the right thing. But Van Halen has never done the right thing. Van Halen always did everything wrong and backwards, and that was the icing on the cake. To screw that up makes all the sense in the world.

Q. What do you think of the on-again off-again nature of the Van Halen tour this year (a planned reunion tour crumbled)?

A. I pay attention as much as I don't want to. It's like watching your brothers and sisters screw up. I've told Alex (Van Halen) and others I'm not interested in a Van Halen reunion at this point in my life. They need to do one with Dave for the fans first, get that out of the way. I'm having too much fun with the Wabos and how we approach our music and lives. It's so rewarding and fun, and I can't imagine doing anything else now.

Q. Do you think they'll tour again?

A. Since I left, they've only toured twice, once with Gary (Cherone) and once with me. Other than that, they've never done it. Something's really wrong. I don't think it'll ever work. They tried again and again, and they can't do it. I don't know what the problem is because I'm not there to see it, but it must be ugly.

Q. What do you remember most about the St. Louis performance the night the DVD was recorded?

A. It was the last show of the leg of the tour, and the third show in a row, and that was hard on the band. I came to St. Louis wore out. I had been out there for 40 shows or whatever and my throat was hurting. But the fans pulled it out of us. That's how it always is with the fans. They're the reason I can keep going. It was so intense that night, one of the greatest shows I ever did. I thought about whether there was anything I could've done better, but it was just perfect, the perfect performance, audience and setting.

Q. What makes this DVD special?

A. I've done DVDs before, but nothing in high-definition. We have 15 high-definition cameras on the front of the stage, behind the stage, everywhere. Everything is captured. If you came to the show, you didn't see half the stuff you'll see on the DVD. We're partying harder behind the scenes.

Q. Why did you decide to do an acoustic show at the Pageant, where you are performing for the first time.

A. I'm not geared up to do my regular show in a smaller venue, so we're going to do the acoustic show and watch the DVD. That way, I won't have any comparisons to my regular show. Because of the way we're breaking down the show, it'll be like apples and oranges or, better yet, taxicabs and pineapples."

Q. What will your acoustic show at the Pageant be like?

A. We're stripping the songs way down, changing the keys and tempos, and fans will love it. "Dreams" by Van Halen broken down on a 12-string guitar will put goosebumps on you.

Q. Is it true you sold a major interest in your Cabo Wabo tequila brand for $80 million to Skyy Spirits?

A. It's true. I took on some partners who are some of the biggest distributors in the world. I needed someone to take it to the next level, so I made the deal for worldwide distribution. They gave me so much damn money it's stupid. But I've been a rich rock star for so long money doesn't mean that much to me. It ain't about money, and I wish everyone would believe that. I already own everything I want. And if Jimmy Buffett woke up with my money he would file Chapter 11.

Editorial comment: Yeah, right - "it's not about the money". Whenever somebody says that, it is about the money.

As always, comments are welcome.

Friday, June 08, 2007

That Warm Sound of Old in a Cold, Compressed World gin

That Warm Sound of Old in a Cold, Compressed World
Published: June 5, 2007

ABOUT 20 years ago, Roger Adler, a guitarist and keyboard player in the Chicago area, gladly gave up his antiquated record player, his collection of 2,000 albums and the ritualistic care that the vinyl records required. For years, he enjoyed the convenience of CDs and then MP3s.

But last fall, after listening to an iPod through a Fatman iTube, a hybrid amplifier made by TL Audio that uses old-fashioned analog tubes, he realized he had given up something else with the records — the warmth and richness once common to stereophonic sound.

“My kids come running in the room and say: ‘Oh, my God! That sounds great! What is that?’ ” he said. “The more you turn it up, the punchier and fatter it sounds.”

For Mr. Adler and kin, the ability to compress music so that thousands of songs fit on a pocket-size player is no longer enough. What they want even more are digital files that provide sumptuous sound. Fortunately, a pile of software and hardware is available that tries to sweeten digital sound by putting back what compression has taken out.

One easy way to get that effect is to add tube equipment to a system, as Mr. Adler did. There are even CD players with tubes, offered by companies like Jolida, AH! Njoe Tjoeb, Lector and Acute.

Choosing tubes over digital and solid-state equipment is a divisive issue among audiophiles. While tubes sound warm to some, others argue that they are less accurate.

“One thing you have to ask is what are people really going for, accurate reproduction or pleasing reproduction,” said Anu Kirk, director of product management for Rhapsody, the online music service.

Music can also be warmed with software. One such program is the DFX Sound Enhancer from FX Sound, which the company says has been downloaded more than 19 million times. DFX Sound Enhancer, available free at, “synthesizes back missing harmonics,” said Paul Titchener, the founder of FX Sound.

Part of the synthesis adds a kind of distortion associated with analog tube amplifiers, which gives it the warm, enveloping sound.

SRS Labs, which says its sound-enhancement technology is found in more than one billion devices, offers software for PCs and Macs. Because sound cannot be replaced with complete accuracy once it has been removed, enhancement software uses principles of psychoacoustics — the perception of sound.

“Our technology tricks your brain into hearing something that isn’t there,” said Doug Morton, a programmer at SRS Labs. It does it by creating a sound effect that causes the brain to fill in the gap in the actual sound.

Creative Labs has developed software it calls Xtreme Fidelity (X-Fi), which it says restores CDs to better-than-digital quality. X-Fi, which is built in to some of Creative Labs’ sound cards and external processors, is designed to improve both sound quality and the stereo effect.

Marc Lee, an audio brand manager for Creative Labs, said that the software essentially undid the compression process.

“It’s not a 1-to-1 reversal, but it is a mathematical computation that determines where some of the audio bits should have been,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s not perfect — once the data is lost, it is lost.”

Dolby Laboratories also has software that enriches sound, called Audistry, as well as one called Dolby Headphone, which simulates the surround-sound effect of a five-speaker system in regular headphones. Beyond these products, people who listen to music on portable devices can often improve their sound simply by compressing the music less. Analog music, like the tone from a violin string, is a single, smooth wave; digital music is made of samples taken from points on that wave and later reconstructed. The process is never perfect.

“Most digital compression algorithms do throw away some high end,” said Schuyler Quackenbush, chairman of the MPEG Audio Subgroup, which defines the standards for sound compression.

A typical MP3 is recorded at 128 bits per second, which captures about a tenth of the data on a CD, which itself is just part of the data from a record, tape or live performance. Most programs that convert CDs to MP3 files offer the option of using a higher data rate. “The higher the data rate, the better it sounds,” said Jack Buser, whose title at Dolby is worldwide technology evangelist.

Although 128 bits per second is standard, experts say that a setting of 160 should be enough for portable devices; 190 is better; and 256 may be too much. Mr. Buser recommends comparing recordings of a favorite song ripped at increasing data rates. “When you can’t hear the difference anymore, it’s overkill,” he said.

The code used to rip music will also affect the quality. Many programs give a choice among codes, like MP3 or AAC.

Dr. Quackenbush recommended the newer Advanced Audio Coding format, although dozens of compression programs are found on sites like ( /Audio_Codecs.htm). Dr. Quackenbush warned against “transcoding,” or converting a compressed file from one format to another (for example, from Windows Media to MP3), which further degrades sound quality.

With a good recording, the quality may be improved by tweaking the playback. Many MP3 players contain built-in equalizers, allowing control of specific ranges of sound.

Anticipating a growing market of audiophiles, new services have been opening. will offer 1,200 Super HD downloads taken from Super Audio CDs and audio DVDs, which have a higher sampling rate than standard CDs. Downloads are $20 per album. also offers 500,000 uncompressed CD downloads, for $1.29 a song.

A Warner Brothers/Reprise Web site,, offers the label’s titles on DVD-A and vinyl. The company estimates that about a million audiophiles want uncompromised fidelity, said Tom Biery, executive vice president for promotion at the company. Releases, which will include new artists as well as old, will cost $14 to $35, he said.

Meanwhile, engineers at the MPEG Audio Subgroup are working on improving ways to compress music. But as Dr. Quackenbush advises audiophiles, “Don’t throw away your records yet.”

As always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why music really is getting louder

We can only hope that if / when the Beatles catalog is remastered, that they won't ruin it by jacking up the compression.

Why music really is getting louder
Adam Sherwin, Media Correspondent

Dad was right all along – rock music really is getting louder and now recording experts have warned that the sound of chart-topping albums is making listeners feel sick.

That distortion effect running through your Oasis album is not entirely the Gallagher brothers’ invention. Record companies are using digital technology to turn the volume on CDs up to “11”.
Artists and record bosses believe that the best album is the loudest one. Sound levels are being artificially enhanced so that the music punches through when it competes against background noise in pubs or cars.

Britain’s leading studio engineers are starting a campaign against a widespread technique that removes the dynamic range of a recording, making everything sound “loud”.

“Peak limiting” squeezes the sound range to one level, removing the peaks and troughs that would normally separate a quieter verse from a pumping chorus.

The process takes place at mastering, the final stage before a track is prepared for release. In the days of vinyl, the needle would jump out of the groove if a track was too loud.

But today musical details, including vocals and snare drums, are lost in the blare and many CD players respond to the frequency challenge by adding a buzzing, distorted sound to tracks.
Oasis started the loudness war and recent albums by Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen have pushed the loudness needle further into the red.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication, branded “unlistenable” by studio experts, is the subject of an online petition calling for it to be “remastered” without its harsh, compressed sound.

Peter Mew, senior mastering engineer at Abbey Road studios, said: “Record companies are competing in an arms race to make their album sound the ‘loudest’. The quieter parts are becoming louder and the loudest parts are just becoming a buzz.”

Mr Mew, who joined Abbey Road in 1965 and mastered David Bowie’s classic 1970s albums, warned that modern albums now induced nausea.

He said: “The brain is not geared to accept buzzing. The CDs induce a sense of fatigue in the listeners. It becomes psychologically tiring and almost impossible to listen to. This could be the reason why CD sales are in a slump.”

Geoff Emerick, engineer on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, said: “A lot of what is released today is basically a scrunched-up mess. Whole layers of sound are missing. It is because record companies don’t trust the listener to decide themselves if they want to turn the volume up.”
Downloading has exacerbated the effect. Songs are compressed once again into digital files before being sold on iTunes and similar sites. The reduction in quality is so marked that EMI has introduced higher-quality digital tracks, albeit at a premium price, in response to consumer demand.

Domino, Arctic Monkeys’ record company, defended its band’s use of compression on their chart-topping albums, as a way of making their music sound “impactful”.

Angelo Montrone, an executive at One Haven, a Sony Music company, said the technique was “causing our listeners fatigue and even pain while trying to enjoy their favourite music”.

In an open letter to the music industry, he asked: “Have you ever heard one of those test tones on TV when the station is off the air? Notice how it becomes painfully annoying in a very short time? That’s essentially what you do to a song when you super-compress it. You eliminate all dynamics.”

Mr Montrone released a compression-free album by Texan roots rock group Los Lonely Boys which sold 2.5 million copies.

Val Weedon, of the UK Noise Association, called for a ceasefire in the “loudness war”. She said: “Bass-heavy music is already one of the biggest concerns for suffering neighbours. It is one thing for music to be loud but to make it deliberately noisy seems pointless.”

Mr Emerick, who has rerecorded Sgt. Pepper on the original studio equipment with contemporary artists, admitted that bands have always had to fight to get their artistic vision across.

He said: “The Beatles didn’t want any nuance altered on Sgt. Pepper. I had a stand-up row with the mastering engineer because I insisted on sitting in on the final transfer.”

The Beatles lobbied Parlophone, their record company, to get their records pressed on thicker vinyl so they could achieve a bigger bass sound.

Bob Dylan has joined the campaign for a return to musical dynamics. He told Rolling Stone magazine: “You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like – static.”

Studio sound

— The human ear responds to the average sound across a piece of music rather than peaks and crescendos. Quiet and loud sounds are squashed together, decreasing the dynamic range, raising the average loudness

— The saturation level for a sound signal is digital full scale, or 0dB. In the 1980s, the average sound level of a track was -18dB. The arrival of digital technology allowed engineers to push finished tracks closer to the loudest possible, 0dB

— The curves of a sound wave, which represent a wide dynamic range, become clipped and flattened to create “square waves” which generate a buzzing effect and digital distortion on CD players

As always, comments are welcome.