Saturday, January 22, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

Emotion and Commotion
(Recent release)

Jeff Beck
Atco R1 523695 180g LP
Produced by: Steve Lipson
Engineered by: Steve Lipson
Mixed by: Steve Lipson
Mastered by: Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering
Lacquer cut by: N/A at GZ Digital Media



 Beck's Back On Album Meant For Light's Off Listening

by Michael Fremer
January 01, 2011

Clearly a fan, producer Steve Lipson places Jeff Beck's guitar in a distant reverberant space that decreases its solidity but increases both its size and its mystery, evoking a God-like presence hovering above a lush, string-drenched orchestra. Or you could see Beck playing perched on a craggy, windswept rock surrounded by white-capped water. The album very much has a Pacific Ocean vibe.

What to do with a guitarist who doesn't sing? Beck and the producers brought in guest vocalists Joss Stone, Olivia Safe and Imelda May for five of the album's ten songs. The others mostly luxuriate Beck in a foamy orchestral sea in which slow ballads allow Beck to linger and then tug on long, delicate feedback drenched lines. The ethereal, feedback laden guitar sound Beck and the producer create is bubble-like, delicate and soft on the ears, even on the edgy Joss Stone take of "I Put a Spell on You."

Side One opens with Britten's Corpus Christi Carol that many may have first encountered on Jeff Buckley's Grace album and ends with a dramatic reading of "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's opera "Turandot." Even your dog is familiar with the theme by now. The heavily orchestrated version here is just on the non-kitsch side of Liberace and I say that as a compliment. An "Over the Rainbow" gets the same treatment and it's equally effective.

Side One's upbeat instrumentals "Hammerhead" add buoyancy. "Hammerhead" leads with wah-wah and breaks into a huge synth string section then evolves into something that would fit nicely on Blow By Blow. That's followed by "Never Alone" a gorgeous ballad co-written with keyboardist Jason Rubello. It's got a heavy longing of a gorgeous melodic line.

Side two continues where side one left off. It opens with "Serene" and closes with "Elegy For Dunkirk"—not exactly "Celebrate Good Times." "Serene" is a Bolero-like piece reminiscent of you know what from way back, but of course mellower, with Olivia Safe's operatic voice dancing in the backdrop. Jeff Buckley's "Lilac Wine" sung by Imelda May tacks into the same slowing headwind but the take maintains deliberate momentum and Beck delivers yet another stunning series of perfectly drawn lines.

Joss Stone ramps up "There's No Other Me", which yields the album's most glass shards. It's the only explosion to be found on the album and that's fine. The album ends with Dario Marianelli's "Elegy For Dunkirk" from the "Atonement" soundtrack, with Olivia Safe adding operatic vocal backdrops. Beck makes the guitar sound like a duduk, which is about as mournful as an instrument can sound.

Lawson and Beck have made a deep, reflective and daring album that skirts dangerously around kitsch but never falls in.

This album would have to deliver the sonics goods to work effectively and it does. It's very well recorded, with rich orchestral staging, dramatic imaging, particularly on Beck's guitar and wide dynamics and bandwidth. It's meant to be enveloping in every way and it certainly succeeds at that!

Surely this is a digital recording but not because it sounds like one.

The vinyl is nicely packaged and reasonably well pressed but what I don't like is that while the mastering credit goes to Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman's, clearly the producer didn't want to pay Grundman's going rate for cutting because the vinyl was clearly cut elsewhere. There's no CB identifying scribe on the lead out groove area, so the odds of a high resolution file having been used for the cut is low and whoever did it, didn't check for serious sibilant overloads in a few places—trust me it's not my cartridge that's the problem.

Chris Bellman should have cut it. He mastered the thing in the first place. That tells you the vinyl was probably just a "throw away" despite the nice packaging. Still, this is highly recommended musically and sonically in whatever format you choose. A hi-rez download would be nice.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

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

Music News, Notes & Did You Know?

We all know about the vinyl record revival.  To me, it's interesting to read about the vinyl resurgence in other parts of the world.  We are not the only ones bitten by the vinyl bug....

The beat of our beloved vinyl is still going strong down under:

Vinyl's superiority is a matter of record

John Mangan

THEY scratch, they hiss, they warp and break, but for all their faults vinyl records refuse to go quietly into the night. Two decades after compact discs and their digital offspring threatened to consign vinyl to the vaults of history, records are still in demand.

The Agraba bar in Errol Street, North Melbourne, has a blackboard out front inviting patrons to bring their own records. ''If we dig it, we'll spin it,'' the sign says.

Vinyl down under


and in the UK, vinyl has become mainstream (with a great video to boot)

Are record clubs the new book clubs?

By David Sillito
BBC arts correspondent

A growing number of music-lovers unhappy about the way album tracks are enjoyed in a pick-and-mix fashion have decided to take action.

The rules are strict. No talking. No texting. You must listen to every song on the album.

Classic Album Sundays treat our best-loved records like great symphonies and are being set up in London, Scotland and Wales.

Groups of music fans sit in front of a vinyl turntable, with the best speakers they can afford, dim the lights and listen to a classic album all the way through.

Vinyl in the UK


And in the good ole USA 5 record stores for your pleasure

Vinyl records: Five places to get into the groove

Audrey Medina, Special to The Chronicle

Purists claim it's the sound quality of vinyl records that makes them superior to tape and CDs. For those of us with impaired hearing from cranking the stereo up way too loud, it's the cover art, the liner notes, the history, or watching a club DJ that makes vinyl records more than just a listening experience. Here are hot spots where vinyl is still groovy


Even more from the NY Times about Wanda Jackson

Rockabilly Queen Prolongs Her Party

By Melena Ryzik

THE crowd was rockabilly through and through: girls in pegged jeans and crimson lipstick, boys in flattops and pompadours, shrunken leather jackets. When Wanda Jackson, 73, took the stage with her guitar for a sold-out show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn recently, it was all cat growls, howls and hip swivels — and that was from Ms. Jackson herself. The audience followed suit, with a chorus of fans joining in on her song “I Gotta Know.” She first recorded it in 1956, not long after she met and began dating Elvis Presley.


Screeching Weasel Release Album Cover Art & Track List

Chicago punk rockers Screeching Weasel have just released the album cover and track listing for their first new album in more than 11 years, 'First World Manifesto,' which is due out March 15th on Fat Wreck Chords.

The band will then embark on a short tour immediately following the release.

1. Follow Your Leaders
2. Frankengirl
3. Beginningless Vacation
4. Dry Is The Desert
5. Totem Pole
6. Creepy Crawl
7. Three Lonely Days
8. Friday Night Nation
9. All Over Town
10. Fortune Cookie
11. Baby Talk
12. Come And See The Violence Inherent In The System
13. Bite Marks
14. Little Big Man


Green Day Side Project The Frustrators To Release EP 'Grillers' In February

The Frustrators, an outfit that features Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt, is set to release an EP 'Grillers' on February 18th. The band previously released the album 'Achtung JAackass' way back in 2002. For this release, Dr. Strange Records will be handing 7" vinyl, while Adeline Records will handle digital and CD formats. Check out The Frustrators Facebook Facebook  account for more details.


Yes, the 2011 edition of Record Store Day  is quickly approaching. I wonder what kind of goodies we will see and if the past is any indication, this year's Record Store day will continue to build upon the others and be a pivotal event for collectors worldwide!

 this courtesy of

Record Store Day 2011 Vinyl Pressing Info

The folks at Record Store Day have set a deadline of February 1, 2011 to provide them with information on the commercial vinyl pieces that you would like to release. You can contact Carrie Colliton at  with such information, or if you have questions.

We would love to press your vinyl releases for RSD, so here is a general timeline of when you need to order from us to have product in time for your distributor, or for directly to retailers:

RSD Vinyl Pressing Orders submitted 2/1 should ship by 3/15

RSD Vinyl Pressing Orders submitted by 2/7 should ship by 3/22

RSD Vinyl Pressing Orders submitted by 2/14 should ship by 3/29

RSD Vinyl Pressing Orders submitted by 2/21 should ship by 4/5

RSD Vinyl Pressing Orders submitted by 2/28 should ship by 4/12

* Please note that delays in test pressing/art approvals/other circumstances can alter these timelines.


Did You Know?

On this date in 1959, Buddy Holly made his last recordings alone with an acoustic guitar and tape recorder. The songs were released posthumously.

The Beach Boys recorded "Wouldn't It Be Nice" in 1966.

That in 1969, the Beatles entered Apple studios in London to record the 'Get Back' album.

The late Michael Hutchence (INXS) was born in 1960.

Steve Perry, of glam rockers Journey, has a birthday today.

The term "rhythm & blues" was coined in 1948 by a young Billboard reporter and future Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, to replace the negative term "Race Records".

In 1977, Peter Green, who had earlier left Fleetwood Mac, was institutionalized after firing a pistol in the general direction of a delivery boy who was attempting to deliver a $30,000 royalty check. Green had renounced Rock and Roll in 1970 and didn't want the money. He later worked as a hospital porter and a gravedigger, but came back in 1979 to record "In the Skies", which did manage some moderate success.   Worked out well for Fleetwood Mac as well....

Interestingly, the term "rock and roll," which was black slang for sexual intercourse, appeared on record for the first time in 1922 on Trixie Smith's "My Baby Rocks Me With One Steady Roll."  I looked in the Jerry Osborne Rockin Records price guide and see that she has a couple of 78 rpm records that are worth a couple of hundred.

And in 1991, twenty-three years after it was released in America, the LP 'Elvis' Gold Records'  was made available in China on cassette only. 

On his 25th birthday, Sam Cooke switched record labels from Keen Records to RCA, even though he had a string of hits with Keen that included "You Send Me," "Only Sixteen," "Everybody Likes to Cha Cha Cha" and "Wonderful World." The switch was beneficial to all as Sam continued to crank out the chart busters until his death in 1964 (he was born in 1935).