Saturday, January 17, 2009

End of the Road: iconic music store closes

MUSIC FANS and well-known musicians yesterday expressed sadness at the decision of Road Records, an independent Dublin music shop, to close after 11 years in business.

Owners Dave and Julie Kennedy told customers they were “sad to say” they had to close. They cited illegal downloads, online CD sales and declining footfall as among the reasons it had been losing money.

Successful Irish acts such as The Frames sold their early music in the shop, which is well known as an outlet for independent musicians. Acclaimed Idaho singer-songwriter Josh Ritter said it was the first place in the world to sell his debut album. He told The Irish Times that he would not be where he was today if it were not for the shop’s support.

“It is a tragedy they are closing down. There is nowhere else like it. It is like a combination of a pub, a record store and a therapist,” he said. “Road Records is like a symbol; their philosophy is too good to keep like a light under the bushel. I hope it’s not over yet and something else happens for them,” he said.

Singer-songwriter David Kitt, whose first single was released in Road Records, said it was more than a shop but “a centre to congregate, exchange ideas and put stuff out”.

The store on Fade Street was busy before the weekend and regulars leaving with vinyl-filled bags spoke sadly but fondly of it.

Lorina Rush said she was “heartbroken” as the shop had introduced her to so much new music. “It’s a really sad day and a huge loss to bands,” she said. “You feel like you are coming into someone’s sitting room and they are just short of giving you a cup of tea.”

Jamie Farrell, who has a small vinyl-only record label, said it was one of his main sellers. “It’s a community space for people to go in and chat about what’s going on,” he said.

“It’s a social experience, it’s unquantifiable,” said regular Glen O’Brien.

Dave Kennedy said he was “blown away” by the “amazing reaction” to the closure decision.

“We have always tried to be as supportive to local music as possible, mainly because people in this country make music as good if not better than anywhere else,” Mr Kennedy said. “Now local music scene bands are scared there will be no outlet for them.”

He appealed to people to support the city’s remaining independent music shops. “It’s only when they are all gone that you will then miss them,” he said.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

Classic Rock Videos

Heard It Through The Grapevine- Creedence Clearwater Revival

Music News & Notes

Sonic Youth Staying Weird On Matador Debut

Thurston Moore promises "heavy ass weirdo hooks" aplenty on Sonic Youth's as-yet-untitled Matador debut, due this summer.

"When I started writing, I was immersed in listening to the Wipers," he tells Billboard. "'No Way,' the first song we recorded, has a total Wipers vibe, if the Wipers were a No Wave band."

Moore says lyrics have been inspired by black metal bands, although he promises he's not mimicking their delivery. Other tracks include "Leaky Life Boat," which compares being alive to being in the aforementioned sinking ship, and "Burning Shame," a tribute to the late Fred "Sonic" Smith.

"We're super inspired to make a fresh start," says Moore. "We're glad to be dealing with a label that loves songs." Beyond that, not much has changed. "It's rock-centric, but still experimental," Moore promises. "We're still Sonic Youth. I still don't know how to play the guitar."


Ramblin' Jack Elliott Readies Album of Depression Country Blues

Ramblin' Jack Elliott will release his long-anticipated follow-up to his 2006 ANTI- Record debut "I Stand Alone" this April, entitled "A Stranger Here." Working with producer Joe Henry, the 77 year-old Elliott sings and plays acoustic guitar, and will be backed by a stellar collection of musicians handpicked by Henry, among them Van Dyke Parks and David Hidalgo (Los Lobos).

Revered for his interpretive take on traditional American music, on "A Stranger Here," Elliott steps out of the country-folk arena that has shaped his legend, 50+ years in the making. Haunting and evocative landscapes crafted by Henry construct a mood that is enhanced by Elliott's world-scarred voice. Together, musician and producer examine a carefully selected number of pre-WWII blues songs in a wholly unique way.

From the liner notes of "A Stranger Here," Henry writes: "I pitched the idea that he interpret country blues music from the Depression era of his birth... songs as dark, funny and strange as is he and the times that produced them, and also ones that still resonate in these turbulent days: songs from the blues masters Jack had known during their latter-day resurgence - and his own ascension - in the early sixties (Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis); songs that share shape and subject with many folk songs of the same period but speak with a particular poetry to struggle, love, justice and mortality - off-handedly and all at once... I needn't have pitched so hard. Jack seemed intrigued by the notion from the start, and had no trouble reading the songs as pertinent to him. He pounced on each one as it came up during the four days of recording in my basement studio, gave each a face of suave cunning, and was as unexpectedly arch as Bob Hope might've seemed strolling through a Fellini tableau. He's using an old language but always speaking in the present tense."


U2 releases new single and Horizon tracklist

Apparently it's no longer cool to record an album all in one place, or even in one country for that matter. U2 got her done international-style, from Morocco to Ireland and several countries in between, for the forthcoming No Line On The Horizon.

The album will be released on March 3 and is currently available for pre-order. The first single, "Get On Your Boots," drops Jan. 19. A digipak with lots of goodies will be available with the album and it will also be released in vinyl.

No Line On The Horizon tracklist:

"No Line On The Horizon"
"Moment of Surrender"
"Unknown Caller"
"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
"Get On Your Boots"
"Stand Up Comedy"
"Fez - Being Born"
"White As Snow"
"Cedars Of Lebanon"

The cover art is a image of the sea meeting the sky by Japanese artist and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.


Death Row Assets Auctioned For $18 Million

The assets of Death Row Records, said to include master recordings of Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, were auctioned yesterday (Jan. 15) for $18 million to Canadian development company WIDEawake Entertainment Group.

Because of the less-than-expected acquisition price, the only creditor likely to capture a return after lawyers and other Chapter 11 administrative fees are paid is the Internal Revenue Service.

That means other creditors, including unsecured ones like co-founder Lydia Harris, will be left out in the cold. Harris isn't content with the verdict.

"This was all a scam from the beginning," a disgruntled Harris tells Billboard. "Everyone wanted me to bring judgment down, and so I brought on the case. But now I'm not getting paid because I'm an unsecured creditor? Yet, administrators are getting paid and Suge [Knight]'s bills are still getting paid? If it wasn't for me no one would be getting money. They made sure it happened this way because I was the biggest creditor. There must be some internal thing going on and I'm obviously not in on it."

According to Harris, Conquest Media, an online marketing and branding company, made an undisclosed bid yesterday, but the judge overruled it because it wasn't filed on time.


Mott Reunion

It looks like Mott the Hoople are back together, at least for two nights. The original lineup of Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Dale Griffin and Overend Watts are scheduled to play London's Hammersmith Apollo on February 2 and 3 to celebrate their 40th anniversary, although there has been no word on the potential for further gigs.


Radiohead's first three albums to go collector's edition

As great as some of Radiohead's latter day albums have been, it's still tough to topple the trifecta of its first three: Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995) and OK Computer (1997). Those three albums alone cemented the band's place in rock history, spawning the band's biggest singles "Karma Police" and "Creep."

In a move that will no doubt please completists to no end, Capitol/EMI records has announced it will release collector's editions and limited special editions of the band's first three albums on March 24. The swagged-out special collector's edition comes packaged in a lift-top box that includes a DVD and a series of collectible postcards. No word on prices for either edition, but there's nothing like spending your hard-earned cash on collectibles in a recession, right?

The full features for each edition are listed below:

Pablo HoneyCollector's Edition: album on disc one; demos, rarities, live recordings and a '92 BBC Radio One session on disc two.
Special Collector's Edition: both audio discs; DVD with four music videos, "Top of the Pops" TV performance from '93 and nine live recordings from the band's London Astoria concert in '94.

The Bends
Collector's Edition: album on disc one; EPs with rarities and a '94 BBC Radio session on disc two.
Special Collector's Edition: both audio discs; DVD with five music videos, '95 and '96 TV performances from "Top of the Pops," "Later with Jools Holland" and "2 Meter Session," and eight performances from the band's '94 London Astoria concert.

OK Computer
Collector's Edition: album on disc one; EPs with rarities and live recordings and a '97 BBC Radio One "Evening Session" on disc two.
Special Collector's Edition: both audio discs; DVD with three music videos and a '97 TV performance on "Later with Jools Holland."

Rock & Roll Tidbits

While the Beatles were still struggling to establish themselves, they were turned down by five different British record companies.

Rock and roll fakers Milli Vanilli had a problem during one of their “live” performances. Apparently, the tape-loop jammed and kept repeating the same line over and over again. The boys danced a few steps and then both bolted from the stage to fix the malfunctioning equipment.

Cher was a background vocalist on the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".

When Stu Cook and Doug Clifford reformed CCR as Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995, former band mate John Fogerty won a court injunction to prevent the use of the name and the live performance of CCR's hits. The pair toured as Cosmo's Factory until the injunction was overturned on appeal.

Pat Boone spent a total of 21 weeks at the top of the Billboard Pop chart with six different number one hits spread out between 1955 and 1961. His daughter Debby had only one hit, "You Light Up My Life" in 1977, but it stayed number one for 10 straight weeks.

"Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin was based on a song called "Le Mer", written by Louis Charles Augustin Georges Trenet in 1945. Bobby used the same melody, but the English words are not a translation of the original French lyrics.

When United Artists was preparing to release Electric Light Orchestra's debut album, a company representative tried to place a call to someone connected with the band to find out what the LP should be titled. The caller, having failed to reach the desired party, jotted down the notation "no answer," a phrase which was mistaken for an album title and assigned to the U.S. version of the LP.

In 1967, CBS-TV attempted to turn Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant into the next Tom Jones. In fact, Plant recorded a lushly orchestrated Italian ballad called “Our Song.” It actually sold over 800 copies.

The longest title of an album that actually made the Billboard chart is by Fiona Apple. Made up of 90 words, the album is called -
"When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right"

The motel that was the scene of Janis Joplin's death in 1970 was right across the street from where Bobby Fuller died in 1966.

1950s crooner, Pat Boone is the great, great, great, great grandson of American frontier hero Daniel Boone.

Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page played as a session guitarist on Tom Jones’ 1965 hit, "It’s Not Unusual".

The world's first jukebox was installed at the Palais Royal Hotel in San Francisco on November 23rd, 1899. At a nickel per play, the machine earned nearly $1000 during the first six months of operation.

While upset about a girl who had just left him, Joe Rock wrote most of the lyrics to The Skyliners 1959 number one hit, "Since I Don’t Have You", while sitting in his car between stoplights.

In 1931, George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker designed and built the world's first electric guitar. Because of its odd shape, it was nicknamed 'Rickenbacker's Frying Pan'. The pair were granted a patent for their invention in 1937.

Paul McCartney originally wrote the first two lines of "I Saw Her Standing There" as "She was just seventeen, Never been a beauty queen." When he sang it for John Lennon, both realized that it was a poor rhyme. Finally, it was John who came up with "She was just seventeen, you know what I mean", which they knew was a perfect sexual innuendo for the song.

PS Audio GCPH Phono Preamplifier

I want to thank John over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this great review!

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION focuses on recordings of interest to audiophiles and collectors, with an accent on surround sound for music, and on all hi-res disc formats. Over 100SACD, DVD Video/Audio and standard CD reviews are published during each month, and our archives go back to January 2001.

PS Audio GCPH Phono Preamplifier

Definitely worth your consideration if looking to spend around $1000 on a phono preamp.

Published on January 11, 2009

PS Audio GCPH Phono Preamplifier
SRP: $1000

PS Audio
4826 Sterling Drive
Boulder, CO 80301
720-406-8946 (voice)
720-406-8967 (fax)

Basic Description

Phonograph preamplifier for MM and MC (gain 48/54/60/66 dB, 100/500/1K/47K impedance); front panel output gain adjust; mono switch; balanced design with balanced and single ended outputs; polarity switch; passive RIAA curve +/- .1 dB; auto subsonic filter; remote control (volume, phase, mono, mute); three-year warranty; 8.5” W x 2.75” H x 15.5” D (including knobs and jacks); 8.6 pounds.

Associated Equipment

Marantz TT-15S1 Turntable, Krell KAV-400i Integrated Amplifier, Whest TWO Phonostage (for comparison), Bowers and Wilkins 803S speakers, Audioquest cabling.

Setup, Testing and Description

As I mentioned in my Whest phonostage review, this preamplifier was one of the pieces that a friend had used to convert analog to digital and burn a comparison CD between four phono preamps. The Whest and the PS Audio were clear favorites. The PS Audio is $900 cheaper, built like a tank, offers remote control, switchable gain and loading right on the back of the unit, balanced outputs, polarity reversal and a mono switch. For those who intend to play older mono records (especially old jazz LPs) with a stereo cartridge the mono switch is a huge advantage and will produce better sound. Since reversing the polarity is so easy, you can always find out which way sounds best with each record and keep a record (pun intended) for the next time you play it My friend suggested reverse polarity on Harry Belafonte’s Belafonte at Carnegie Hall for instance.

The level control on the front of the unit allows the GCPH to be connected directly to an amplifier. As I was using an integrated amplifier I did not try this configuration although the amount of gain offered is more than sufficient to make this an option for some listeners.

The manual warns against locating the preamp near power amplifiers and other pieces which may induce noise in the component. I didn’t have any problems in my setup where the piece was positioned to the side of the turntable. If noise is an issue, try moving the preamp to another shelf away from the offending component.

When the unit is first powered up the volume control rotates to the lowest position to prevent any loud bursts of noise. After that it remains in its set position. At the recommendation of the manual (and my friend who experimented with volume setting) I left the control at the half way position. Halfway or the upper three quarters of the range are the recommended positions for the lowest noise levels. When doing comparisons between phono preamps it was convenient to be able to set levels using the control.

Connection of the input and output cables can be a bit confusing if you don’t pay attention to the labeling on the back panel of the GCPH. The channels are grouped together rather than by inputs and outputs. Also, the left output has a red ring around the connector and the right input has a white ring around the connector (usually signifying the reverse channel). I thought it might be a mistake on my unit, but I see in the manual that the back panel is pictured the same way—weird. The ground post is heavy duty and centered between the input jacks.

The gain and loading knobs are near the bottom, but it was easy enough to set them before and after the input and output connections were made. With the moving magnet cartridge that comes with the Marantz turntable (reviewed in November) I used the 48 dB setting and 47K ohms.

There is a power switch on the back, but I left the unit powered continuously during the time I listened to the PS Audio. As mentioned earlier, be forewarned that every time power is disrupted from the unit the volume will return to 0.


I used some of the same recordings I listened to with the Whest and I must say it was a very enlightening experience. Some of my initial impressions with both units changed as I listened to record after record.

With the same Eagles’ cut “One of These Nights” there were more high frequencies than with the Whest. This was not by the way of extension or air, but a sizzle, a shimmer, edge and/or grit to all the instruments. I wouldn’t go so far to call it an obvious distortion although it wasn’t there with the Whest. Some of these characteristics may have helped give the piece more presence and better vocal response. Bass was deeper/more powerful. Transient response was almost overdone and I struggle with the best way to articulate this characteristic as it wasn’t the improvement wrought by a good moving coil cartridge that makes things seem quicker even when they are not, but more of a change in dynamics and loudness. The definite areas of improvement were in image size and focus. It had more rock and roll and rhythm but in a way that many would term “hi-fi.”

With “Landslide” from Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled LP the PS Audio offered a richer presentation on guitar. Voice was bigger, more present/up-front and more focused. This cut sounded so good I wanted to sing along. There was no disguising any imperfections on the record including crackles, pops, and noise. The Whest is much more forgiving in this respect.

With “I’ve Seen All Good People” by Yes from The Yes Album and the Earl Klugh cut from Blue Note “Las Manos De Feugo” a pattern was starting to develop. The PS Audio was not as sweet or smooth, but offered deeper bass, more punch, and more drive. Images were more present and there was more distinct separation between them. The sound was more ‘there’ but lacked the ease and delicacy of the Whest. Another track that exhibited some of the same qualities was “Good Times” from Chic’s Greatest Hits. I wrote in my notes next to the GCPH—“good punch, bass, nice rhythm, clean voice, something added.” With the Whest the sound was lighter in weight; voice was laid back and blended more with the background sounds. It was a less involving sound, but less fatiguing as well.

I listened to a few tracks from The Beach Boys Endless Summer starting with “Surfer Girl.” The PS Audio had more bite and voices were more distinctive. With the Whest the tone of the music was served better—the sound was relaxed and I swayed with the music imagining my self on the warm sand. On “Don’t Worry Baby” it was just the opposite—voice was more remote on the Whest and it just lost the vibe. Here, the PS Audio’s more forceful sound was more along the lines how I believed the music should sound.

With newer recordings like the Pure Pleasure remaster of Keb’ Mo’s self-titled record, the PS Audio made the sound more alive and vocals had a greater sense of realism. There was an added richness to the sound across the entire band giving the impression of improved bass response, more prominent voice and strings, more edge, and a heavier/thicker sound. There is definitely something being added to the recording, but not enough to preclude a recommendation.

When I listened to “Material Girl” from Madonna’s Like a Virgin record through the PS Audio I couldn’t stop thinking how mediocre this LP sounded. It was compressed, edgy and flat. Bass was good, but overall the sound was crunchy and somewhat gritty. The Whest rendered the voice mellower which was an improvement with this record. High bell-like sounds were pleasant and tinkly (like they should be). Crackles, ticks and pops were not nearly as noticeable.

The Krell amplifier used in this review has never been thought of as a soft sounding amplifier A lot of people consider it to be on the brighter side of neutral and that contributed to some of the sound quality of the PS Audio. However, it just helped to bring into light some of the limitations with the GCPH. With “Low Down” from Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees record the sound with the PS Audio had too much sizzle and the music was just not entirely convincing. The Whest was much more relaxed and enjoyable to listen through. The cymbals had a chick-a, chick-a sound as opposed to the tick, tick, tick with the PS Audio.


Up to this point you might think I really hated the PS Audio, but that is not the case! While I had this unit under review one friend borrowed it for a couple of days and bought one soon after--he was that impressed. There is no denying its ease of use (remote, mono switch, polarity reversal, volume control, gain and loading knobs on the back, etc.) Build quality is excellent for its price and it shone in more than a few areas sonically. Bass response, dynamics, and presence were always impressive. Soundstaging was solid and dimensionality, focus, and depth were very good.

However, there was an artificial quality that would raise its ugly head and pull me out of my listening pleasure with some recordings. It would manifest itself as a thickness or make the music come across as forced and even sound like it were emphasizing particular frequency extremes. Ultimately (with an unlimited budget) I would not be happy with either the Whest or the PS Audio as they both have limitations, but given the price of the PS Audio you have to expect some shortcomings. In comparison with the lesser priced phono preamplifiers it clearly surpassed them. I haven’t heard anything at its price that sounded even close, so I continue my search…

-- Brian Bloom

Matador rep praises blogs, vinyl as business strategies

Matthew Blackwell

In this troubled economy, when just about every industry in America is on the verge of collapse, any scrap of sound business advice is worth savoring. And that goes double for the music industry, which also has to deal with the increasing obsolescence of its product. CD's are caught in a strange middle ground, with more convenient portable music devices on one side and better quality vinyl records on the other. So what are the options for a record label in this scenario?

According to Matador's Patrick Amory, its quite simple. You embrace the interactivity of Web 2.o, you embrace the quality of vinyl, and you stop pushing CD's so much. According to Amory, Matador's blog has doubled traffic to its website, and therefore increased business at its webstore. And if any labels out there are still stuck on the brick and mortar concept, Amory advises to go for vinyl. If customers are going to pay for a record, they want a quality product, and vinyl will beat out compact discs every time. So all those purists proselytizing about the resurgence of vinyl may have been making sound business sense after all.