Sunday, April 26, 2015

Forty Years Of Reviews--A False Rarity

Up till the end of 2013 for 10 years I employed something called The Top Ten Of The Week.  Which featured songs of note of that certain week and towards the end, added pictures to which most disappeared soon afterwards.  What's the point of posting pictures when they disappear giving some needed eye candy to the endless babble of the songs of the week.  Frustrated, I gave up and put up instead a playlist of the songs of the week and noteworthy news.  And the ratings pummeled.  So I did other things to pepper up Record World, the cheesecake photo of the week, which also disappeared.  The ongoing Singles Going Steady series of tributes to 45s, The ICON. Lost or Forgotten bands of the rock era.  Apparently the internet has been turned back on in Russia, I've seem to have more views over there the past couple months although I killed and renamed a blog over inflated ratings.  Have I done it that way, I could be over 5,000 views but I'd rather have 5 or 50 views and have comments rather than inflated ratings.  After all, in 12 years of blogging, it's more fun to engage in conversations with real time folks talking tunes rather than having nameless trolls under Anonymous crying over a song from overrated bands and not having valid arguments.  Which reminds me of Aunt Virginia, my mom's older sister wishing my brother a happy birthday but telling me that my birthday is meaningless to her.  To which I entertain visions of taking a dump on her grave but that would be a waste of fertilizer.  Of hoping she goes by the way of Nick Lowe's Marie Provost song, to which Aunty Gin would die, and her doggies would eat her for dinner since she alienated everybody in this family along the way.  Poetic justice?  The hippie girl didn't think so, chastising me in a reply that calling the old hag, an old hag is a reason why Aunt Gin doesn't speak to me.  To which I told Hippie Girl that it was long before she started cutting people out of her life or starting fights but it begin at a get together after Virginia made a smart comment bout me losing my hair and gaining weight.  Thus proving that the Arizona summer sun melted her brain away over the years.  Then again while trying to live a new life down there 30 years ago, she threw me out of the house since I couldn't find a decent paying job to pay rent after four and half months living with her.  But then again we were never close although I do thank her for the chance to live the Arizona dream for a short time.

When I first did the top ten, it was a labor of love to show off the songs, and I had a wonderful ally in Brooskie aka Donna who post her top ten and made comments of the songs, to which I picked up from her. But then the labor of love felt more like a chore and I eventually went back to just doing a playlist and not comment.  Whatever happened to Brooksie is a mystery too, perhaps she gave up the internet life and the computer.  Or migrated into real time life, either way she's sorely missed.

The interesting aspect of The Top Ten was to groove and educate the masses there's more than just Corporate controlled radio, which is proving that anything the Corporations bought out over the years have turn the variety into the same old shit and not in a good way.  The major labels don't promote the new artist and all they have left to make money off on is rehashing classic albums by putting outtakes and b sides and charging full price.  Once in a while Real Gone Music will issue something of value but Sony Music/Universal/Warner Music Group shows no interest outside of profit lines and autotuned dance beats and chipmunk vocals.  The return of rock and roll won't happened.  The kids today grew up with rap and nu metal and it's beginning to show in the music made. Joni Mitchell talked about getting back to the garden in Woodstock, but the garden is long gone.  It's been replaced by an outlet mall and a Subway eatery.

Forty years ago, I started the long journey of reviewing albums for the local junior high and basically they weren't much to base a career on.  It was fun pointing out on how Randy Bachman would recycled the songs off BTO's Not Fragile to make Four Wheel Drive, which at the time was pointless but fun.  Although I don't play the album much, I think it's better now than back then but that's not saying much, if you listen to modern rock music today.  Who thought that forty years on, I'm still reviewing and buying stuff I have yet to hear and blogging about it.

It was easier to review albums since money was too tight to mention and I worked a job putting Penny Savers on doors of homes and getting one cent per paper. Which came to about 7 dollars per week.  I didn't have much of disposal income so whatever was brought had to be desired.  The early ones was Deep Purple Stormbringer (nobody had the 45 so I got the album), a album with a classic title track but the rest not so much memorable. One Sunday, I found a 20 dollar bill and lived on that for about a week, buying Aerosmith's Toys In The Attic and calling that the best of 75.  Once getting a steady job, then it became a big deal, buying anything that looked interesting in the cut out bins or on sale.  Back then reissues came from Pickwick, the budget minded label that gave us soundalike bands during the hits of today or truncated albums with a track or two missing.  Although much maligned Pickwick did managed to keep some obscure stuff in print for the most time and their copy cat version of Tommy really wasn't bad.  I still have that album around somewhere as well as Stormbringer or Toys In The Attic.  Although I did submit reviews for the local school paper (most not published) and did off and on reviews, it wasn't till 2003 that thanks to the internet I was able to horned my craft as they say, sometimes going for the outrageous, especially on crappy albums for shock value but since everybody else was doing that, I decided to give at least an honest overview to see anything is worth listening.

In the final analysis the conclusion is that about 80 percent of what I heard is interchangeable  and have some songs that do stick out.  The usual grades apply A being a requirement for your collection, B for recommended, C for fans of the genre only, D you have to pay bills and eat and E Florida Georgia Line resides here. For a guy with strict guidelines and standards, I tend to have a very favorable and generous meaning when I give grades out, I do and still play a C grade album if I still have it in my collection.  And of course, trading in a A or B graded album just to clear shelf-space and to give a profit line to Half Priced Books.  I really don't see a need for OK Computer nor Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in my collection, I recommend them to you if you're hard up for something you haven't heard but they do not rock enough for me to keep myself.  To further the arguments I have never see a need for Dark Side Of The Moon, it's worthy of classic rock status and perfect to mellow out on wine and doobie. But Pink Floyd has never been one of my favorite bands and if I had to play Pink Floyd, it's usually Piper At The Gates Of Dawn or More.  Even though I traded The Wall, I still do have Animals and Wish You Were Here, simply of the fact that someday I may want to play that and imagine my surprise that I donated Wish You Were Here to charity without knowing it, but somehow found a dollar pawnshop remaster and kept in sight.

Over the years, I have seen fads and changing times beginning in the mid 70s when album rock and top forty all of a sudden started up reaction to the times.  Disco, punk, new wave, goth, the 80s garage rock movement, hair metal, grunge up till 1998 there was different styles to keep my interests going before rap came along and really change things for the worse. Or nu metal.  Since then, the music that revolved became to get stuck in the mud and been spinning its tires ever since.  People complain about Billy Ray Cyrus Acky Breaky Heart which really doesn't differ that far from Keep Your Hands To Yourself, nor the puke inducing Boot Scoot Boogie a song that started the downfall of my relationship of an ex girlfriend but compared to what is heard on Bro Job country passes for The Beatles. But then again, I have not been impressed with modern rock either, or top forty radio for that matter so the only recourse of action is just simply ignore anything that I can't stand listening to, which includes Cumulus/Clear Channel or (Townsquare Media whatever they're called) Corporate Radio.  It boggles the mind of how Baby You A Song is the catch phase and a number 1 country single for half a year or having the autotuned chipmunks like FGL mug at the camera and lip synch to a backing track on the ACA's last week.  While the old guard complain about the death of country music, what the sad fact is that this new kind of Country is the new Country and the times are a changin. It's here to stay weather you like it or not.  And most don't while some do. 

Never in our lives that we have so much out there with so little outlets to hear it from.  The Corporations bought most of the airwaves out thanks to Bill Clinton and the Telecom Act of 1996 which did more to kill music more so than the Day The Music Died in 1959 ever did.  Or the continuing of mergers of record companies that we have now just 3 dictating the rules and the airwaves.  Net Radio is nice, it does get the word out but it comes in trickles and not the Clear Channel owned airwaves. And with each merger the new releases were not ground breaking or grabbed you by the ears  Further proof is the glut of CDs from bad rap or stale grunge rock of the 1990s in the dollar bins at the thrift stores. Or Justin Bieber's last flop.  If there's no substance, there's no lasting impact, unless it's filling up the landfill with unwanted crap.  And Corporate Radio is more interested of rehashing the classic rock playlist that hasn't been changed since it's inception. So it's Foreigner all day and somewhere on the airwaves another Foreigner song is playing giving Mick Jones some more income for his retirement fund.  Which seems to include a new version of Cold As Ice or I Want To Know What Love Is.

So for reviews I had to dig deeper into the archives, much more so than the usual reissues of 2 CD deluxe classic albums of long ago and far away.  It's a rip off and a far cry from the super saver series that the majors did put out, classic rock albums for 4.99 rather than the 19.99 180 gram virgin vinyl snake oil the major labels tout.  Doesn't matter if the vinyl is recycled or pristine virgin, if it ain't mastered or recorded right it's going to sound like shit.  Just like the Ryan Adams Cold Roses 2 LP set that that a vertical scratch on one side and the record store saying too bad. No refunds, buyer beware.  And the major labels thinking buying a Crosley record player will have your records sound better?   Hardly.

That's the fun of blogging on a record site that doesn't get much views outside of the nighttime Russian crowd, finding something out of the ordinary to listen and give a opinion about it.  Or maybe write about a band that gets ignored in the press and somebody took note of it to comment.   I continue to dig and review and write and hope something can get preserved out of the bands that haven't made the big time.  And wonder if Clear Channel politics had something to do with one band getting mucho airplay while another gets ignored.  And there have been bands that I missed the first time and got the hear a second time and finding out that I did miss out when that band was out and about and trying to make it big.  And sometimes cult bands are better than the hyped bands, I tend to favor Swinging Steaks more than Wilco, or Delta Moon over Mumford And Sons.  Or Miranda over Carrie Nation. It's a matter of taste and songs. If need be, I'll take Blur over Oasis although Ride was the much preferred band to hear.  Or James McMurtry over Bruce Springsteen.  A matter of choice and taste, Springsteen is nice but not every hour on the hour with Hungry Heart.

As so it goes.  When Jerry Scott told me to dig deeper into the music instead of playing the same 20 songs over and over  I took his advice and went further out into the desert.  And still continue to drive even deeper into the archives with a new find in the cheap bins or LP section.   And I will continue to do that till my time is up.  Music has been that one constant in my life  and since I don't anything else to do, I keep searching for the elusive song or album.  If I find it then, maybe I'll quit.

But you know that I won't. 


TAD said...

Hey Crabby -- I'm still findin' new stuff, so whatever keeps you functioning. Just tonight I heard a song by Joe Bonnamassa called "Best Friend" (apparently?). It's freakin' awesome. Just when I was starting to get bored again. So I'm thinkin' I might go blow some bucks on some music this weekend, just like old times. Keep rockin....

R S Crabb said...

Hi Tad,
Joe Bonnamassa seems to put out an album every year, probably the only artist that has done so. His last two CDs Different Shade Of Blue and Running Toward The Daylight are pretty good if your looking for new music to get although I'm not a fan of his get together with Beth Hart. But the man is keeping the music alive.

The hyped bands really don't do nothing for me, people tout the new Alabama Shakes but I wasn't impressed with their first and the second one flops along as well. Slim pickings on new music for me, the only two that's worth mentioning are Blackberry Smoke and Delta Moon.

Hope ya find some decent music if you do venture out to the nearest music store and let me know what you find ;)

2000 Man said...

My son told me about a band called Wand. I guess their first album is some kind of nod to psych and folk, but the second album, which is the one I got is pretty damned heavy. I could see these guys doing this in 79, opening for pretty much anyone. it's a huge sound and I like it a lot so far. There's so many new things that I like, though. I can't imagine just listening to the same thing over and over, year after year. I've never really spent much time with Bonomassa, but I'm just not that much of a blues guy.

I thought the first Alabama Shakes was pretty good. not great, but a good, solid first album. So far what I've heard the new one just does the same thing, which is disappointing. I was hoping they'd sound tighter and take some chances, but they stuck with what worked and did it again. They certainly aren't the first, but I figured after the first record they'd be a band I ended up loving, or they'd just spin their wheels. Seems like they're spinning their wheels.

R S Crabb said...

Hi 2000 Man!

I think Joe Bonamassa is a throw back to the blues guitar singers of the late 70s; He records quite a bit, something like 12 albums the past 10 years. Really he's no different than say Robin Trower or Gary Moore, I think more of the latter artist. Blues rock can be stagnant, especially on CDs that go 50 plus minutes. He knows the blues for sure. But i also think he's a cult artist too, radio hardly plays him. The Black Country Communion band he started with Jason Bonham and Glenn Hughes were uneven at best, Hughes tends to grate on my nerves with his singing. Newbies like Bart Walker or Jimmy Bowskill have a bit more raw talent and that works to their advantage. Bonamassa tends to be all things at once. I wouldn't say he a must hear but I do believe Racing Toward The Daylight and Different Shade Of Blue are worth hearing.

I bought the first Alabama Shakes and it's different but it just didn't wow me like it did with the critics and you're right, the second album was more of the same. The overhyped press works against them and in an era of fair albums are the new classics, Alabama Shakes are just that. Nothing wrong with their music, they play it too safe. Who knows, if they get down and dirty they might have that bonafied classic record in them. But for now they're just hype.

2000 Man said...

Bonamassa always comes across kind of like Robert Cray to me. Yeah, the dude knows his shit and he can flat out play. He's so slick, though. I don't know if it's just how he's recorded or what, but all the soul seems sucked out of his music. I'd rather hear a guy that can barely play but comes across with some emotion.

But that's probably just me. I'm kind of a snob.

R S Crabb said...

I can see the Cray reference and spot on about the slick playing. Bonamassa's producer has been Kevin Shirley (Black Crowes, John Hiatt)and Shirley's production is polished. Robert Cray is a good bluesman but his albums do repeat themselves over and none have stayed on my shelf very long although Smoking Gun is my favorite song of his.

Problem with blues guitar players is that they tend to solo way too much for my liking (Craig Erickson comes to mind) I like early Stevie Ray Vaughn stuff (learn as you go albums like Texas Flood) and later day artists such as Samantha Fish or Jimmy Bowskill. Their albums come a bit sloppy but being sloppy is more original than perfect BB King or Eric Clapton leads. Which is why I enjoyed seeing Sam Fish play guitar a few years ago. It wasn't perfect but it was quite emotional. There's others I like as well (Papa Chubby, Duke Tomato) but blues rock does tend to get boring after a while and I'll go listen to something else.

There's always something else to listen to. ;)

TAD said...

Guys, guys, guys ... I was wrong, not the first time. The song I'm still raving about is the Derek Trucks Band's "Down in the Flood" (yes, the old Bob Dylan song, which I'd never heard before). It's on Trucks' 2009 CD ALREADY FREE, which I just ordered. Sorry to lead you astray. Sounded like Joe to me.... I think he's OK, I like his version of "Jelly Roll Baker," like some of his live stuff, and LOVE his song with Beth Hart, "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" -- which I was shocked to learn is an old Al Kooper/Blood, Sweat and Tears song. I'm learning a lot lately. Haven't played the rest of their duo CD yet, though....
The only Alabama Shakes song I've heard is "You Ain't Alone," and I LOVE it, but as should be obvious from all this, I am a real sucker for big dramatic productions. Cheers all!