Friday, February 27, 2009

Two More Virgin Megastores To Close

A Call To Action- Support Your Record Stores!

The six-unit Virgin Megastore chain announced that it will close two more stores, the Union Square location in New York City (end of May) and the Market St. store in San Francisco (end of April). As previously reported, the company had announced that the Times Square store will close in April.

In August 2007, the Virgin Entertainment Group North America was acquired by two real estate companies - the Related Cos. and Vornado. Since then, the chain has been reduced from 11 units - with the industry awaiting word of the fate of the three remaining stores in Denver, Los Angeles, and Orlando, Florida.

If you are lucky enough to have a record store in your area, get out and support them, buy vinyl- and whatever merchandise they have to offer, it's up to us to keep these stores solvent.

Classic Rock Videos

Beatles - Girl

Album Cover Art

Let's continue our feature about album cover art and take a look at a great cover released in 1975 by the Marshall Tucker Band.

Old West dreams meet Southern memories in the tracks of Searchin’ for a Rainbow, The Marshall Tucker Band’s fourth album. Released in 1975, this song collection found the group refining its multi-faceted sound into an appealing country-rock essence. Still present were the jazz and blues-based elements that had always made Marshall Tucker a distinctive unit. By dressing up their music in Western garb, the band found a way to reach a huge new audience—all it took was a little "Fire On The Mountain" to light the way. "We’d found a bit more direction on how to design songs for a record," says lead singer Doug Gray. "Our record company Capricorn had always said, ‘Try to give us something that would work on the radio.’ We tried to do that, and at the same time please each other. We were known as a jamming band. This was the first time we really tried to give them Marshall Tucker’s interpretation of what a hit song was." Helping to spur things on was "Fire On The Mountain," the lead track off Searchin’ for a Rainbow. Released as a single in the fall of ’75, the tune reached #38 on the pop charts. A vivid, Old West, lyric-storyline combined with bluegrass-tinged instrumental licks and an ear-grabbing chorus brought Marshall Tucker its first Top 40 hit.

Vinyl Review by Michael Fremer

I am very proud to continue our new feature (look for this every Friday), music reviews that are written by the senior contributing editor of Stereophile magazine- Michael Fremer. It has been a pleasure to speak with Michael and learn more about audio sound and equipment. In fact, his new DVD, "It's A Vinyl World, After All" has hit the shelves and is selling out very quickly. This is a must have for anybody who loves vinyl, it is a true masterpiece.

Additionally, make sure to stop by his site, and bookmark it for further exploration. I certainly want to thank Michael for the exclusive rights to reprint his fantastic material.

Long-Awaited The Doors Vinyl Box From Rhino Arrives
The Doors (new reissue)

Michael Fremer

The long awaited faux lizard skin clad, seven 180g LP The Doors box set has finally arrived, two years late, at a higher than originally announced cost, and for now (May, 2008), in very short supply.

Was it worth the wait? I anxiously broke open my edition (03631 or 12,500) to find out, armed with originals (including the rare mono first album), the Mo-Fi first album, the DCC reissues, now more than a decade old, and some Japanese Warner-Pioneer reissues from the 1980's.

First of all, for the most part, the box set's packaging is truly D-luxe and the labels and inserts accurate to the originals. Only Morrison Hotel misses the mark by not reproducing the original's textured, matte-finished cover material.

The insert containing notes by Elektra founder and president Jac Holzman and Doors engineer Bruce Botnick, provide welcome background and perspective on both LP history in general and production of the originals, as well as a discussion of how these reissues were produced.

By now, almost everyone knows that because of the delicate condition of the now, in some cases, more than forty year old (!) tapes, Holzman and Botnick chose to digitize the reels at 192k/24 bit resolution in order to preserve both their physical and sonic integrity and to allow them to manipulate and deal with sonic problems in preparation for the final cutting without compromise.

What constitutes an original of the first three albums is not as easy as a gold Elektra label. The first two were first mastered, as Botnick points out, by Sydney Feldman at Mastertone Sound in New York City (did he really spell it with a 'y,' which is usually used for the woman's version, or was that a typo?).

I have four gold label copies of Strange Days, but only one has an 'MMatrix' stamp and the date (10-3-67) inscribed on the lead out groove area and it is, by far, the most detailed and dynamic (and brightest) sounding of the four. I assume it's the original cut by Mr. Feldman. It's the one I first enjoyed back in the fabled summer of 1967.

The first two dark and mysterious albums were The Doors' creative peak for me, though in retrospect, Waiting For The Sun, the third album issued summer of 1968 (and originally mastered by Bernie Grundman at Contemporary), though flawed, holds up rather well. Songs like 'The Unknown Soldier,' 'Summer's Almost Gone,' and 'Five to One,' soundtrack selections for many boomers that summer, still pack a punch.

Soft Parade shows a rock band unsure of its direction and wallowing in the distractions of jazz rhythms, busy horn arrangements and stale riffs, then and more so now. The Doors sounding like Chicago? Who needs that, although the string-tinged three minute 'Wishful Sinful' makes some magic and the extended, oddly dichotomized Zappa-esque/Broadway title tune is entertaining in retrospect, but it clearly shows a band following, rather than leading trends.

When the band attempted to find the magic formulas of the first two albums, they found the formulas but not the magic. The mystery and magic of the first two albums, softened on the third, are gone completely on Soft Parade. Even the recording, though competent, lacks the high style and sonic depth of the first two and to a lesser degree the third. Leave it to the public to elevate the lame 'Touch Me' to near the top of the charts. At the end of the tune Morrison spits out the Ajax (the foaming cleanser) advertising slogan 'Stronger Than Dirt,' both because the song's end riff mirrors the slogan, and, it's often said, as Morrison's editorial comment on his band mates' attempts to commercialize 'Light My Fire' by allowing its use in a television car commercial. Morrison vetoed the idea.

1970's Morrison Hotel nudged the Doors toward their bluesy roots (despite the psychedelic trappings, the blues was at the band's core) and returned credibility to the band after The Soft Parade— though the band never had any with a certain segment of the rock audience and among certain critics who thought Morrison and the boys were hokey pretenders.

With so much to prove and so much hanging on its success, Morrison Hotel has a bit too much nervous energy for its own good. In retrospect, it's a good album but not a great one and it doesn't contain any truly 'classic' tracks.

The same can't be said for the final Doors album, issued just two months before Jim Morrison's death in Paris on July 3rd, 1971. How much changed in the world and in The Doors' music between the first and last album! L.A. Woman finds The Doors in richer, more credible blues territory and includes era-defining classics like 'Love Her Madly,' 'L.A. Woman,' and 'Riders on a Storm.'

Morrison had traded his psychedelic mystery voice for a hard-edged bitter blues, asking in 'Been Down So Long,' to be set free. 'Let the poor boy be,' he implores. Though the song is set in a prison, Morrison clearly is asking to be let out of his own prison, the one in which his self-created 'Lizard King' image had bound him. The Doors liked to exit an album with an extended epic and though they might not have known it at the time, going out with the brooding 7:14 long 'Riders on the Storm,' proved a fitting end cap to the group's studio recording history.

Drugs and sex, an Oedipal epic and Kurt Weill made the first album memorable and powerful, while the second album captured and fed back to aware fans the 'Strange Days' that were creeping upon America and the unsettled world just four years after the assassination of JFK, not that Morrison and crew were against an escapist 'Moonlight Drive.' The second album's combination of psychedelia, sex and woozy confusion, aided by the late photographer Joel Brodsky's iconic cover, make it the quintessential Doors album—the one that put the sound, the vibe and the performances together to truly define the group. Unfortunately, there was no recovering from the second album jolt and nothing the group did later can compare. However, with the luxury of time (a lot of it!) the group's rich output has only been enhanced, both artistically and with this box set, sonically as well.

As the albums originally came out, the sound quality seemed to deteriorate along with the artistic integrity. The first two albums were steeped in a dark, rich and definitely unsettling atmosphere. My college roommates (one of whom went on to become the superintendent of a school system!) won't mind, I assume, if I divulge that one of our great pleasures at the end of the school week was to unearth our 'stash' carefully hidden in the garage next to our basement apartment, roll up a number, smoke it as the Ithaca winter darkness settled in late afternoon and then listen to Strange Days on my hi-fi, then consisting of a Dynaco PS-3x, stereo 120, Dual 1009SK/Shure V-15 Type II and a pair of AR-2ax speakers.

Once suitably toasted, it was easy to sink into the bubbling psychedelia of 'Strange Days,' and remain suspended, each in our own little purply haze, until the end of 'Moonlight Drive.' 'Horse Latitudes' may have been silly but it was creepy and evocative and conjured up perfectly grotesque images upon which adventurous minds could feed for that short minute and a half before the liberation of 'Moonlight Drive.' When the side ended it took a genuine effort on all our parts to return to a state of consciousness that could fairly be described as 'aware of our surroundings.' We wouldn't have had it any other way. It was a state of mind no computer speaker/MP3 system could hope to induce, you can bet on that!

Another few hits and we were ready to go back from whence we came with 'People Are Strange' and the rest of the side, ending appropriately with 'When the Music's Over.' For us it wasn't, as we sat there in the dark for a few more hours of listening before the munchies got us.

Listening straight through this box set now, in 2008, it's fascinating to find that the music is still compelling, that after a thousand or so plays Strange Days is still the best and most unnerving Doors album, and that the records that followed were not nearly as good. However, time has treated them kindly, and even the worst of the lot, The Soft Parade holds interest, if only because the perspective of time adds an unexpected contextual richness.

The sonic picture slides in reverse, however: while the records seemed to slide downhill sonically over time, in fact, it turns out that it was the mastering and/or production that did them in. You have to remember that rock LPs in the mid 1960's had yet to become a mass consumption commodity. That happened quickly between 1967 and 1971 and as the numbers rose, the quality of the product declined as it had to accommodate mass consumption playback gear. Remember: the '60s took RCA from the heights 'Living Stereo' to 'Dynagroove' to the sonic and physical depths of 'Dynaflex'!

Whatever the reasons, whether a purposeful effort to degrade or the belief that progress was being made, the sound of the Doors albums seemed to slide down hill over time. Comparing the originals of the first two albums to the reissues demonstrates both how good the originals sounded and how close Holzman, Botnick and Grundman have come in re-creating the original magic, digital or no digital. In fact, it could be argued that these new reissues of the first two albums sound bigger, more dynamic, detailed and tape like compared to the commercial originals. They surely are somewhat brighter but not harder (though demagnetization really smooths them out), and they are more dynamic, bigger and more detailed by far.

My only quibble about the second record is that the elasticity of the toms and the other drums has been hardened somewhat, there is a slight loss of immediacy and transparency compared to the cut from the fresh tape and the bass is somewhat less supple and extended, but only by a small degree and overall the reissue smokes all of the gold label copies I have save for the one with the date etched into the lead-out groove area. The mono first album comparison was as close to a dead heat as it gets. And these new reissues are far superior overall than the Japanese, Mo-Fi or DCC reissues. The DCCs may sound more pleasant but they are also more distant, and far less detailed, particularly in terms of sustain and decay. The new reissues sound more like analog tape by a considerable margin.

Interestingly as you listen through the records in chronological order, whatever your opinion of the artistry, you will be surprised to find (especially if you have originals) that the sound actually improves compared to the originals or the previous reissues. This box restores the recordings to whatever original greatness they originally had. A greatness that was lost in the mastering, plating and pressings of the originals, including Bernie Grundman's original cut of Waiting For the Sun. You've improved with age, Bernie!

Overall then, I'd say the wait for The Doors box set has been well worth it. I got my money's worth in one long sitdown with the entire set and I know I'll be listening happily for a long time to come. So thanks to everyone involved in this long, arduous process. The packaging is swell and the pressing quality is uniformly excellent though a few sides exhibited greater eccentricity than I like to see.

The Doors Vinyl Box is sure to become a collector's item, though you can be sure the 192k/24 bit masters will eventually be sold as internet downloads. Somehow, I'm sure the vinyl will still sound better. There's some kind of magic in the grooves and I don't care if it's additive. It's certainly addictive!

SOURCE: Reprinted By Permission

Pick up Michael's DVD's Here:

Music News & Notes

Beatles/Stones Pics

A collection of over fifty previously unseen photos of the Beatles and Rolling Stones from the years 1964 -1966 will be the opening exhibition at the new Not Fade Away Gallery in New York. The photos were chosen from over 3,500 taken by photographer Bob Bonis during the groups' first tours of the U.S. The pictures have been in storage for over forty years with Bonis' family.


Rick Springfield sings for children and their mothers.

Springfield wrote about his upcoming album, "My Precious Little One," (which is due March 10), on his website:

"I wrote these original lullabies for my two sons during the heady days of brand new fatherhood. As a songwriter, I wanted to do something to commemorate the birth of our children. Since neither of them were good sleepers, it seemed like a good idea to write some lullabies. I rediscovered them last year, stuck in the back of a drawer in my music room. They brought back so many good memories of our kids when they were babies, that I decided to rerecord and share them."


Rhino Records to Release Jane's Addiction Box Set

Rhino Records is the label for giant old bands with rarities to burn, so Jane's Addiction have linked with the label to release a three-CD, one DVD box set, A Cabinet of Curiosities, that collects a boatload of unreleased material, the band's music videos, and live cuts.

The set includes all of the band's unreleased demos, a bunch of covers of the likes of Grateful Dead, The Stooges, Led Zeppelin, and Sly and the Family Stone's "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" which features Ice-T, and a mash-up called "Bobhouse" that features the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" over the music from Bauhaus' "Burning From the Inside."

On Arpil 18, aka Record Store Day, Rhino will also release 180-gram vinyl reissues of Ritual De Lo Habitual and Nothing's Shocking.


U2 in rooftop performance rumour

Reports circulating this morning of a "secret" rooftop performance somewhere in London (it's on the roof of the BBC radio studios) by U2 early this evening.

It is rumoured that the band who release their eagerly awaited new album 'No Line On The Horizon' on Monday, will follow in the footsteps of The Beatles whose legendary rooftop session was interrupted by the Police. Fingers crossed Bono and the boys don't fall foul of the law this evening.


Official Cover Art of Britney Spears' 'If U Seek Amy'

Britney Spears has revealed an official cover art of her controversial single 'If U Seek Amy' from her sixth studio album 'Circus'.

Having a tag read "BritneySpears If U Seek Amy" being attached on it, the artwork features a close-up picture of the singer staring at something in the distance.

"If U Seek Amy" was announced as the third single off Britney's sixth major studio album "Circus" on January 7 after receiving 26% of total votes during a poll on her official website. It recently got a warning from the Parents Television Council (PTC) over its lyrics "If U Seek Amy", which sounds like "F*** Me" when sung quickly. Despite its controversy, the track peaked at number 61 on Billboard Pop 100 and sold more than 107,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.


Classic Rockers Pool Their Resources

To help fans, Tickets For Shows Are Reasonibly Priced

Styx, REO Speedwagon and .38 Special will hit the road together starting May 13 in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the "Can't Stop Rockin" tour. What makes the tour unique is that the musicians feel their fan's pain and have made the tickets affordable.

“Both bands have always tried to keep our ticket prices low so that none of our fans get left out. It’s our own personal rock ‘n’ roll stimulus package," explained Styx member Tommy Shaw. It’s been nine years since the Arch Allies tour and it just seemed like the right time to team up with our friends in REO and hit the road again.”

REO's Kevin Cronin added, “The world is going through a weird phase and everybody needs music now more than ever. We all need to join our friends, pool our resources, combine our energies, because there is power in people coming together. That spirit has brought REO and Styx together to write, record and tour together and celebrate it all with the greatest fans in America.”

To celebrate the tour, Styx and REO have teamed up to record a new single with the same name as the tour, written by Cronin and Shaw. It will be available to radio and for download next month.

The tour is being presented by VH1 Classics and Rock Band.

Also going the package tour route this summer are Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick, who will hit forty cities starting June 23 in Camden, New Jersey.

Def Leppard's Joe Elliott said, "We're gonna be touring with some new friends and some old friends and can guarantee it will be the Rock Tour of the summer."

“We’re going out with three bands, which limits’ the amount of time we can play to about 90 minutes," Elliot told Billboard. "When you do your greatest hits and some new material or extra stuff you might throw in, you have got to push and shove and clamp down. No big long speeches from moi. You have to do the AC/DC thing and just bang through everything.”

Poison's Bret Michaels concurred, stating, "There is nothing better than an epic summer concert and this tour is a dream come true for rock 'n' roll fans. It will be a night of a thousand hits with three hard-charging rock bands on the road together."

Some of the Styx / REO Speedwagon / .38 Special Shows:

05/13/09 - Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Casino Amphitheater
05/15/09 - Phoenix, AZ - Dodge Theatre
05/16/09 - Las Vegas, NV - Thomas & Mack Center
05/17/09 - Fresno, CA - Save Mart Center
05/21/09 - Ontario, CA - Citizens Business Bank Arena
05/22/09 - Los Angeles, CA - Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE
05/23/09 - Kelseyville, CA - Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa - Amphitheatre
05/24/09 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre
05/27/09 - Kent, WA - ShoWare Center
05/30/09 - Sandy, UT - Rio Tinto Stadium
05/31/09 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Some of the Def Leppard / Poison / Cheap Trick Shows:

06/23/09 - Camden, NJ - Susquehanna Bank Center
06/25/09 - Cuyahoga Falls, OH - Blossom Music Center
06/26/09 - Darien Center, NY - Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
06/28/09 - Scranton, PA - Toyota Pavilion At Montage Mountain
06/30/09 - Mansfield, MA - Comcast Center
07/01/09 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
07/03/09 - Saratoga Springs, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center
07/04/09 - Toronto, ON - The Molson Amphitheatre
07/07/09 - Hartford, CT - New England Dodge Music Center
07/08/09 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon At Jones Beach Theater


Bison b.c. to Release Limited Edition "Quiet Earth" Vinyl

Metal Blade Records will be releasing a limited edition gatefold vinyl version of Bison b.c.'s "Quiet Earth" on April 14, 2009.

Also, more Bison b.c. tour dates have been confirmed for North America. Dates are as follows:

Apr. 09 Saskatoon, SK - Amigo’s Cantina
Apr. 10 Regina, SK - The Distrikt w/ Fucked Up
Apr. 11 Winnipeg, MB - Royal Albert Arms
Apr. 12 Winnipeg, MB - The Park Theatre
Apr. 14 Dekalb, IL - Ottos
Apr. 15 Buffalo, NY - Mohawk
Apr. 17 Worcester, MA - The Palladium (New England Metal & Hardcore Festival)
Apr. 18 Brooklyn, NY - TBC
Apr. 20 Montreal, PQ - Il Motore w/Barnburner
Apr. 21 Ottawa, ON - Babylon w/NoMeansNo
Apr. 22 Toronto, ON - Annex Wreck Room


Doghouse to Re-release Chamberlain LP

Doghouse Records is re-releasing 1996's Fate's Got a Driver by Chamberlain on limited colored vinyl. Five unreleased and rare tracks are also included on the LP.


Blur, Oasis Steal The Show At NME Awards

Oasis was crowned best British band, but the decision was met with loud jeering and booing from the ticket-holding section of the audience. The band didn't even attend the ceremony with Noel Gallagher accepting the award from British comedian Russell Brand in a pre-recorded video.

Earlier in the evening, Blur's Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon performed onstage together for the first time in nine years.

U.S. winners included the "Killers," for best international band and "Kings of Leon," who took home the best album award for "Only by the Night." Brooklyn duo MGMT scored a double with best track for "Time to Pretend" and for best new band.

2009 Shockwaves NME Award winners:

Best British Band

Best Album
Kings of Leon - "Only by the Night" (Hand Me Down/RCA)

Best International Band
The Killers

Outstanding Contribution to British Music

Godlike Genius Award
The Cure

Best New Band

Best Live Band

Best Solo Artist
Pete Doherty


4th Annual Pitchfork/Windish Austin Bash Announced

Pitchfork is teaming with the Windish Agency to bring you a party in Austin, Texas! On March 20 at Emo's (603 Red River St.), 12 bands will take over both the main outdoor stage and the Emo's Jr. indoor stage from noon to 6 p.m. You should go if you're in the area...we hear several other bands are playing in Austin around the same time!

The Windish Agency exclusively represents all artists listed on their web site for live music bookings in the USA and Canada and are devoted fans of all of the musicians appearing on their site. Carefully selecting artists of the highest musical quality, The Windish Agency prides itself on long term relationships with its clients. They strive to develop and maintain lasting and rewarding live performance careers for everybody they represent.

The party features performances from indie disco queen Little Boots! Brooklyn fuzz-poppers the Pains of Being Pure at Heart! A-Trak and Diplo DJing at the same time!

The full schedule:

12:00 - Girls (Emo's Jr.)
12:30 - The Mae Shi (Emo's)
1:00 - Little Boots (Emo's Jr.)
1:30 - Max Tundra (Emo's)
2:00 - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Emo's Jr.)
2:30 - Woods (Emo's)
3:00 - School of Seven Bells (Emo's Jr.)
3:30 - Wavves (Emo's)
4:00 - Dirty Projectors (Emo's Jr.)
4:30 - King Khan & the Shrines (Emo's)
5:00 - A-Trak/Major Lazer [ft. Diplo] (Emo's Jr.)
5:30 - Department of Eagles (Emo's)

Vinyl kills the digital star: Records make a return in a downloading world - News

Vinyl kills the digital star: Records make a return in a downloading world - News