Audiofile Quality

Too clever by half.

I am the crow of desperation
I will effect your validation
I spin relentless variation
I scramble in the dust of a failing nation
I was concealed
Now I am stirring
And I have waited for this time.
The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
I remember King David,
With his harp
And his beautiful, beautiful songs;
I answered his prayers,
And showed him a place
Where his music belongs

It's not too far from here;
Come get up off your knees
If you're looking for ways to please...

Sing me no psalm;
You're not King David.
Sing me no high,
Hushed Glory Be:
Sing it to one,
One of the broken
And brother you're singing,
Singing to me

Sing me no deep
Hymn of devotion;
Sing me no slow
Sweet melody:
Sing it to one,
One of the broken--
And brother you're singing,
Singing to me.
Act Now!
Monday, July 31, 2006
I often call R.E.M my "spirit band", because I can map more than a decade of my life by which of their albums I was playing ten times a week. I wasn't hip enough to catch them in the days of Chronic Town, though I have a dear friend who saw them in those early days. I caught "Radio Free Europe", their first Hit Single, in the early days of MTV without being especially impressed; but I became a fan when my best friend in high school sent his copy of Murmur home with me so I could add "Talk About the Passion" to a compilation tape he was working on.

There's no chance I'll refrain from posting a great deal more about R.E.M. in times to come, but my purpose here is to alert anyone who might care to the posting of 6 live tracks from 1985. The files are 128 kb "audiofile quality", but I like what I'm hearing right now. (Of course, I am additionally biased by having seen the same tour in my hometown exactly 5 months later. It was the fifth anniversary of the death of John Lennon...but that's another story altogether.) The songs have been posted at The Smudge of Ashen Fluff, a very fine resource for music writing as well as files. I will note that they very responsibly remove files in just a few days, so Act Now... I will also note that googling "werchter R.E.M. 1985" may yield clues as to other, even more complete recordings; let me know if you've got them yourself, because I'm lazy.

From quick research I learned that headliners U2 played to 60,000 people at that year's Festival, though I expect the R.E.M. crowd was somewhat smaller. I was amused to discover that Lloyd Cole and the Commotions played that year. I could have seen the two bands I listened to most in college on the same stage--if only I'd gone to Belgium. Google didn't find me any cool pictures from Werchter, but I did find a couple of good 1985 images. Hooray for obsessives! (I like my iTunes to have pretty pictures whenever possible.)

So yeah, get your ears around this vintage performance. These are the days when Stipe still had floppy hair and a tendency to hide behind it; he's a little uncertain wrapping his voice around some of the songs (they did an insane number of shows that year), but you can already hear them evolving beyond the much-vaunted "jangle" that they carried out of Athens.

And for any who've followed this ramble, here's a couple teasers from my modest stock of rarities: the song that made me Talk about the Passion (from a 1984 radio gig; collected on a great blog that doesn't seem to have archived the post), and a song they generally refused to play on the 1985 tour--after the dude in the dozenth row yelped "Radio Free Europe!" about eight times times at the show I saw, Stipe finally looked right at him and said flatly "We're not going to play that song. I hate that song." Apparently he learned to live with it; the recording I have is probably from 1992 and may be from the 40-Watt Club (bootlegs don't carry the kind of detail I go for), and Stipe was quite emphatic (and clearly sincere) in saying it was "a privilege" to play the song for the last crowd I saw the band among (2004, outdoors & pissing rain; but that's another story altogether again).
posted by Rah @ 8:48 PM   0 comments
Close your eyes
Sunday, July 23, 2006
I completely understand why my opinion of the 1987 film Siesta is in the minority. I liked it. In my defense I'll note that this was some time ago. How long? Well, I watched it on Beta.

The film has flaws I'll readily recognize (though I shouldn't discuss them in detail since it is, after all, a suspense thriller). I'm susceptible to rich atmosphere and stunt casting, and Siesta has both. The film was shot in Spain, with lots of golden sunlight, dim shadowy rooms, and all you might expect; and the cast includes Ellen Barkin; Gabriel Byrne (in one of his first major film roles); Julian Sands; Isabella Rossellini; Martin Sheen; Grace Jones (who counts as both "stunt casting" and "rich atmosphere" all by herself); Jodie Foster; and the redoubtable Alexei Sayle as a maniac cab-driver.

Keep in mind that the film comes from the screenwriter who gave the world 9 1/2 Weeks and more than a dozen installments of Red Shoe Diaries, and was directed by Mary Lambert, whose subtlety was honed creating early music videos for Madonna. The apparent apex of Lambert's career since: Pet Sematary (unless Urban Legends: Bloody Mary turns out to be a lost classic). Stay away--unless you have a star-crush on at least one of the principals and a very high tolerance for pretentious symbolism. I had both, so there you are.


I will brook no dissent from my opinion that the soundtrack is some of the loveliest cinematic music of the 1980's. Created by Marcus Miller and the incomparable Miles Davis in a mere two weeks, the music is at once lush and stark. I've deleted three attempts to describe its beauty; I give up. Open the windows, lie back and close your eyes. You'll find yourself in your own dream-movie, almost certainly better than the original; and if you borrow some of Siesta's stunt-casting for your own fantasy, that's your own affair.

The files are from my cassette copy, cleaned up as best I can; since the pieces tend to glide into one another, I decided against splitting them further than by album side (which still mattered in 1987, but that's another post). You can split the files yourself if you like, or better still get your own.

Siesta: Side One

Siesta: Side Two

By the way--the next post will be all-digital, I swear. No whining, or I won't post the tracks I've got from David Byrne that have never been released on CD.
posted by Rah @ 9:34 PM   0 comments
The Boss
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Jefitoblog always has the best bootlegs. He's got connections and apparently a lot of free time, and he's a nimble and engaging writer, um, to boot. (Sorry.) And he's laid hands on more live Springsteen than you can shake a stick at. Personally, I wouldn't shake a stick at any Bruce; as much as I like the complicated tunes, I respect the pure force that is The Boss.

When I first heard Springsteen, it was in The AM Years. There was FM in the world, of course, but there was only AM in the carpool. That's how we rolled. I had no idea who Bruce Springsteen was--AM's idea of edgy music was "Only the Good Die Young"--but I still recall puzzling out the torrent of words in the infamous 1977 #1 single from Manfred Mann's Earth Band. I can't really say they did justice to the Boss; but that doesn't mean I wouldn't be pleased to hear it again, because I'm a sentimental fool.

Anyway, once I had my own radio it was AOR in the afternoons after school. There Bruce was already a fixture, mostly years-old cuts from Born to Run (1975). Darkness at the Edge of Town was out by then, but AOR was always very conservative in its concept of mass taste; it's hard to sell soft drinks to a kid who's just heard "Something in the Night". For all that it's a minor song, I still love "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" for letting the horn section rock the whole song. I was never a big fan of Springsteen; I'm afraid the next few years involve collecting the complete works of Pink Floyd, along with dark musical secrets not to be revealed here.

Ah, but then came Born in the U.S.A. (1984). It may be impossible to imagine the impact of that album from the present day, when Bruce has become a kind of rock elder (oxymoron of the week?). At the high-water mark of the Reagan Administration, this earnest young progressive was pleased to see a powerful, patriotically American figure who refused (out loud) to pretend Reagan was some sort of messianic Gipper To Us All. The deal was sealed for me when I saw The Boss play one of his patented marathon arena concerts; despite the massive rock sound, the stories Bruce told between songs seemed as unforced and intimate as listening to a cousin from out of town over beers on the back porch. Best arena performance I've ever seen.

Of course I can't guarantee that these 2005 recordings will convert you if you don't already care. But if you care at all, care now; the files won't last forever!

I'll whet your appetite with a pair of live tracks I picked up on the internets, recorded 10 years apart before hometown crowds in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The first is unplugged, the second is from the ongoing and apparently incredible Seeger Sessions Band.

Atlantic City (Asbury Park 1996)
I'll post an edit (with the intro at the end removed) later.

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? (Asbury Park 2006)
Turn it up and prepare to man the barricades, I mean levees, I mean barricades.

posted by Rah @ 10:30 AM   2 comments
Work in Progress
Friday, July 21, 2006
After substantial fretting, I'm finally going to rejoin the ranks of the underemployed! There are ways to get paid better, but I'm confident the operation can be improved by my participation. That matters to me a lot. Also it beats digging ditches.

In honour of which, a brief meditation on work from my library.

Write if You Get Work
This jaunty curiosity is not actually a Warren Zevon recording; apparently the singer/guitarist on this track was the guy who replaced Zevon. But this wasn't released on a special recording of the work of Wayne Erwin, now was it?

Working Class Hero
Hey, it's something to be. Marianne Faithfull tears it up on her incredible Blazing Away album, recorded live in a former church. In case there are any guitar snobs out there, that's Marc Ribot.

Honest Work
From Todd Rundgren's A Cappella, every sound on which was produced originally by Rundgren's own voice. This is now available on CD; but I'm a poor man, so this file is recorded from my years-old cassette. I ran it through the mp3 editor for noise reduction, though, and it turned out acceptable to me.

Working on a Building
Trying to track down the songwriter may be impossible; I got little help from googling around. Bill Monroe apparently recorded it long ago, and John Fogerty more recently, but there's no indication either of them credited a songwriter other than "Traditional". The Cowboy Junkies recorded The Trinity Sessions in a former church, too, but I'm not reading into coincidence...or am I?

Finest Worksong (Mutual Drum Horn Mix)
This song rules me. Literally, in that it blares from my speakers whenever I have to arise at the ass-crack of dawn (okay, before ten). If I can sing through this whole song, I know I'm in good enough shape to take on whatever comes. You shouldn't buy this if there's any chance it might prevent you from buying everything R.E.M. recorded for I.R.S. O.K.?

Working Is No Problem
Pylon were the band R.E.M. looked up to; the hippest band in Athens, Georgia, when Athens was the white-hot center of musical creation. I never got any of their stuff when it was in print, and now it's too freakin' late, but I've collected a track or two on the internets. The singer's personal history of the band is a great read, by the way.

Wild Sex (In the Working Class)
I'll just draw a veil across this one, shall I? A concert arrangement recorded in-studio for Boingo Alive. I'll be in my bunk.
posted by Rah @ 10:54 PM   0 comments
To My Ear... Volume I: What Do You Call This?
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Note: I'm reposting the track for a week because it was really foolish for me to think anybody would find this little corner of the internets right away.

After picking through the 1974 Eno & Cale in the previous post, I decided to hang out in the era for a while. Immediately I ran across this 1974 recording, a demo featuring the early influences of an act that went on to make its own waves some years later. Despite poor sound quality (improved fractionally with the aid of a fine editor I can almost manage properly) there is a marked Eno influence. To My Ear.

But what happens when songwriting and performance grow beyond the scope of early influences? I'll sing the praises of any who can recognize where the music's going.

No fair asking for clues to the future identity of this act; I've given you one already. Plus the approprate hometown is among the counties pictured, right. It's blue (or yellow, or red, or green).

Drop me an email or post a comment if you recognize the sound! If anyone cares, I'll post the answer (and 5 more demos!) before this link expires:

Do You Really?
posted by Rah @ 2:34 PM   0 comments
Wrong Way Up
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Unsurprisingly to those who know me, I spent some little time dithering over how to inaugurate this blog. I've been collecting music since I got my first tape recorder some 25 years ago; I used to lean the (monaural) recorder against one of the speakers on my stereo clock radio. Seriously. Being an archivist (read: craphound) by nature, I made dozens of compilations on as many Radio Shack cassettes as I could afford.

For some reason I never labeled those tapes, as a result of which more than one song appeared in multiple compilations. So that you, dear Reader, will feel appropriately warned of my taste in music, I will confess here the identity of one song I recorded at least three times. Mercifully, I came up too late for the disco years.

I always tell friends that my taste runs to clever, pretty music. Doesn't have to be pretty if it's clever enough, and vice versa.

Down the line I'll have more to say about Wrong Way Up, the 1990 collaboration of Brian Eno and John Cale. At the moment, though, I'm trying to determine whether I've mastered the process of arranging remote-hosting for tunes. So here's an essay about the album from Chicago-based critic Jim deRogatis (a man unafraid to stand by his opinions). The lyric, which you can see quoted in the left sidebar, is reproduced with my own correction (unless I'm wrong) from enoweb.

I'm just a little obsessive about cataloging in iTunes, by the way; I hope the information is preserved in the file transfer, but I'm pretty ignorant about such things. Feedback is welcome, unless you have stock tips or pills for sale.

Brian Eno and John Cale: Lay My Love

Brian Eno and John Cale: Empty Frame

If you like the tracks above and are tempted to buy the album, be aware that I haven't posted my favorite song. How's that for the hard sell? (The art to the left is from the 2005 reissue, by the way. With two bonus tracks I haven't heard. I'm just sayin'.)

While I'm about it, here are a pair of representative moments from two 1974 solo recordings: Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets and Cale's Fear. There's no point in my blathering about similarities of sound or style; you can hear them as well as I can describe them (also Eno co-produced the Cale album, so it would be cheating anyway). Just sit back and gaze out the window...

Cale - You Know More Than I Know

Eno - Needles in the Camel's Eye
posted by Rah @ 11:31 AM   0 comments
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