Saturday, August 28, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Glitter and Doom Live (new release)
Tom Waits
Anti 87053-1 2 180g LPs + MP3 download
Produced by: Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Engineered by: Karl Derfler
Mixed by: Karl Derfler
Mastered by: Gavin Lurssen at Lurssen Mastering
Lacquer cutting: ??????



Waits Live In Ten Cities

by Michael Fremer

If you go for Waits’s “Louis Armstrong meets Screamin’ Jay Hawkins meets Captain Beefheart” blues/jazzbo thing, obtaining it live or recorded live is probably as pure as it gets and arguably the best way to consume an artist energized by the crowd’s adulation and an adept touring backup band capable of creating thick, churning atmospherics.

Waits inhabits a mythical 50’s waterfront circus tent filled with sailors, longshoremen, midgets and freaks. He’s part Kurt Weill and part Tod Browning. And part Vaudeville and Tin Pin Alley too. His fans eat it up on this set recorded during his sold out “Glitter and Doom” international tour.

He sings movies on stage here backed by a superb band capable of painting effervescent backdrops that break free of the instrumental confines and spring to life. I don’t how he puts his throat though such torture and comes out singing on the other side.

He abandons the deep growl occasionally to reveal a rich upper register and certain vibrato unharmed by the clenched throat antics. On “I’ll Shoot the Moon,” he manages to hit the high parts, descend into the deepest two-dimensional gravel (sometimes sounding like Robbie Robertson) and come up sounding like Bert Lahr!

He’s part field hand, part city slicker, part Mr. Sincerity and part bullshit shtick seller. Sometimes it sounds as if he’s just doing a cutting Bruce Springsteen parody, as on “Falling Down.” Of course Springsteen appropriately covered Wait’s “Jersey Girl” originally on his 1980 release Heartattack and Vine.

Waits combines the over the top impish humor and occasional darkness with heartbreaking sincerity as on the tender closer “Some Lucky Day.” If you want to hear Waits at his heartbreaking best though, listen to “Day After Tomorrow” from Real Gone.

The double live album was culled from performances recorded in Tulsa, Atlanta, Knoxville, Jacksonville, Milan, Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris. Call me prejudiced but I simply don’t think of Tulsa when I think of Tom Waits.

Waits is “an acquired taste” as they say about over the top artists. He sounds as if he’s burping up the songs as much as he’s singing them and the sense that he’s goofing all of it occasionally finds its way to the surface. He’s certainly having fun and the audience is too. His rap about buying Henry Ford’s last breath on Ebay is hilarious.

The sound is consistently cavernous, dark and echo-y, as if the band is playing at the back of the stage and you’re sitting near the back of the room. There’s not much air and not much sparkle and while that may be because of technical limitations, the sonics are perfectly suited to the subject matter, though even the hand claps sound thick.

I’m sure this was recorded on a computer, hopefully at high resolution and transferred to lacquer from those files. Given the wide range of venues, the sound is remarkably consistent, though “audiophile quality” it’s not. For that go back to the superlative Small Change album recorded live to two track analog by either Wally Heider or Bones Howe. I can't say which because I've misplaced my original promo copy. Damn. Where’s the all-analog reissue of that gem?

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

Music News & Notes

Bon Jovi to Release New Greatest Hits Package

Bon Jovi has recently announced a new greatest hits collection to be released on November 9 via Island Records.  There will actually be two different packages. Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits will be a single-CD/16-song collection with big hits like "Livin' on a Prayer," "Always" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." Two of the songs on the set are new, including "What Do You Got?" which is set to hit the radio by next week.

Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits: The Ultimate Collection will be two-CDs with 28 songs, the 16 from the first set plus 12 more from throughout their career like "Bed of Roses," "Blood on Blood" and "These Days." Two additional new tracks are part of the set.

"Music marks milestones in all our lives," said frontman Jon Bon Jovi. "These songs have stood the test of time and they remind us all where we came from, even as we keep our eyes towards the future.


Lennon Music News

As previously reported, Yoko Ono has been working in conjunction with Lennon and the Beatles' label EMI to release and re-release a number of Lennon-centered albums, in an initiative called the "Gimme Some Truth" campaign.

Eight of the songwriter's post-Beatles albums will be remastered from the original mixes and re-released on Oct. 9."John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" (1970), "Imagine" (1971), "Some Time In New York City" (1972), "Mind Games" (1973), "Walls and Bridges" (1974), "Rock ‘n’ Roll" (1975), "Double Fantasy" (1980) and "Milk and Honey" (1984) will all be repackaged with digisleeves, featuring the original artwork and new liner notes.

"Double Fantasy" is also getting a "Stripped Down" version, with Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas co-producing a rawer edition of the album.  There will be four albums of "Gimme Some Truth" themed compilations, and a two-volume "Power To The People: The Hits."  And then there's "The John Lennon Signature Box," a "deluxe 11-CD and digital collection of the eight remastered albums, a disc of rare and previously unreleased recordings, and an EP of Lennon’s non-album singles."


This from the "I thought I heard it all" bin and

Company presses your ashes into vinyl when you die

Music lovers can now be immortalised when they die by having their ashes baked into vinyl records to leave behind for loved ones.

A UK company called And Vinyly is offering people the chance to press their ashes in a vinyl recording of their own voice, their favourite tunes or their last will and testament. Minimalist audiophiles might want to go for the simple option of having no tunes or voiceover, and simply pressing the ashes into the vinyl to result in pops and crackles.

The company was founded by Jason Leach, who co-founded the techno group and record label Subhead in the 1990s and has since founded a number of other labels, including House of Fix, Daftwerk and Death to Vinyl.

Leach explained to that there were a number of factors that made him launch the service, including thinking that he was “getting a bit old” and “might not be invincible”. His mother also started working at a funeral directors, which brought the whole funeral process closer to home. A third prompt was when he saw a TV programme that showed someone in America putting their ashes into fireworks, which made him think about how he might want to be remembered. And, he says, “It’s a bit more interesting than being in a pot on a shelf.”

How does it work?

The process of setting human ashes into vinyl involves a very understanding pressing plant. Basically the ashes must be sprinkled onto the raw piece of vinyl (known as a “biscuit” or “puck”) before it is pressed by the plates. This means that when the plates exert their pressure on the vinyl in order to create the grooves, the ashes are pressed into the record.

The site has a very irreverent style and operates under the strapline "live on from beyond the groove". One of Leach’s family stories, he tells, suggests why he has a practical attitude to people’s ashes.

He explains how he went out on a boat with his family members to sprinkle the ashes of his grandfather into the sea. His uncle “released them on the wrong side of the boat and so the ashes went all over us." Apparently the same thing happened to his father, too!

And Vinyly also offers personalised RIV (Rest In Vinyl) artwork -- the simple version just carries your name and your life span, or you can have your portrait painted by artist James Hague, using your ashes mixed into the paint.

The basic package costs £2,000 and comprises of the standard artwork along with up to 30 ash-flecked discs with whatever sounds you choose, lasting a maximum of 24 minutes.

Extras include "Bespook Music", where artists from The House of Fix and write a song especially for you and global distribution of your record in vinyl stores.

The main challenge is choosing the music. Leach says: “It’s difficult to think of what to put on your record because you want it to be the best album you can imagine.”

What would he have on his own record? “I would definitely have a recording of my own voice as well as some 'sound photos' of places that are important to me and then I would have some of my own music on there. It’s something I’m working on.”