Saturday, May 7, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

Wretches & Jabberers
(new release)

Various Artists
Rumor Mill Records 2 180g LPs/CD
Produced by: J. Ralph
Engineered by: J. Ralph
Mixed by: J.Ralph
Mastered by: Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering (lacquer cut by Bernie Grundman)
Co-produced by: Arthur Pingrey




Soundtrack to Autism Documentary Sounds Universal Themes
by Michael Fremer
April 01, 2011

The documentary film “Wretches and Jabberers” follows the world traveling adventures of two middle-aged autistic men. One grew to adulthood in a mental institution, the other in an adult disability center.

Misdiagnosed as children because of their inability to speak, only when the two learned to communicate by typing did they join the conversation.

While this exquisitely recorded and packaged double LP set is ostensibly the soundtrack to the movie, it feels more like a parallel “high concept” project that resembles one of Hal Wilner’s tribute albums.

The songs, written by producer, engineer, mixer and arranger J. Ralph or in some cases in collaboration with the artists who sing them, are first person accounts of feelings, thoughts and experiences these two men endured breaking through the barriers of their condition, but they will touch deeply even the most outgoing and loquacious listener.

The search for validation, respect and dignity is a universal theme that transcends the very personal efforts of the two men starring in Gerardine Wurzburg’s film and that’s what will resonate as you listen, but of course for those with autism or who have someone autistic in their family it will touch the core.

Mr. Ralphs has managed to attract an impressive group of collaborators including Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills, Ben Harper, Bob Weir, Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), Judy Collins, Bonnie Bramlett, Devendra Banhart and Martin Carthy.

Perhaps you consider it ironic that some of the world’s best communicators have been asked to contribute songs about struggling to be heard.

That contradiction didn’t escape Mr. Ralph’s attention. So, in a somewhat daring gambit, he asked the artists to run through the songs only until they could just perform them. At that point he recorded, getting fresh, unpolished but intensely deep performances.

That some of the bigger stars would allow themselves to be heard at a most vulnerable and exposed moment in artistic expression—before the polish goes on—is a testament to their trust in Mr. Ralph’s vision and of course to their desire to contribute something both to the movie and to its mission of making people more aware of autism and the struggles of those afflicted.

Working in a basic folk, folk/rock, folk/pop vein, Ralph has written or co-written a series of short, intimate, engagingly tuneful songs with strong, attractive melodies enhanced by impeccable arrangements.

The album opens with Mr. Ralph singing “The Reason Why.” If the song sounds like something from Tea For the Tillerman and Ralph sounds sort of like Cat Stevens, that’s because the tune was written for him but for one reason or another he was unable to perform it.

Norah Jones is up next with another Ralph composition and again, this guy’s ability to channel an artist’s melodic and stylistic sensibilities is uncanny. You’ll think it’s a gospely Jones composition. The bass/drums/piano backdrop suits perfectly and if you’re not yet hooked, Carly Simon’s “The Letter,” with lyrics by Ralph and Simon should seal the deal.

Simon’s vocal performance is direct and pure and here the “quick read and record” technique works perfectly. The haunting melody is accompanied by Ralph’s wistful, perfectly conceived marimba patch.

Ben Harper sounds more like Antony on “More Like You” (than you’ll ever know) —a plea for understanding that skirts but does not descend into preciousness. A pedal steel guitar floats in an impossibly distant landscape fronted by guitar, bass and piano.

The unique quiverings of Antony are up next in “Killingly Hard,” backed by Ralph on classical guitar and Danny Bensi on cello. The singer voices the demands of the two men for their dignity but of course the song has universal appeal.

Vashti Bunyan, the more recently re-discovered ‘60s British folk singer turns in a pristine vocal performance on “Flower and the Lion” that’s an appropriately nostalgic reminiscence ending with the line “I keep a locket in my pocket with a picture of a time forgotten. You know the one, we were both there.”

The insistent, uptempo Stills/Ralph collaboration sounds surprisingly like something Neil Young might have produced, with lines like “I want my own kingdom beyond this prison of silence I live in alone.”

Most surprising are the back to back contributions by Scarlett Johansson and Vincent Gallo, better know from their work in movies, though of course Gallo has been a fine artist and did have a rap/punk musical career before moving to film. Like producer/songwriter/lyricist/arranger/recording engineer Ralph, he’s a 21st century renaissance man.

Johansson’s dreamy, raspy-edged tone on “One Whole Hour” is as compelling and weighty as any of the veterans’ contributions. Gallo, close-miked and smartly processed to produce a feeling of being suspended between waking and sleep delivers a short but riveting reverie.

It’s really unfair to give any of the performers short shrift—from Judy Collins’s soaring vocal (she’s still got that voice) to David Garza’s pristine falsetto, also tastefully processed, but you’ll just have to discover the others fully on your own.

However, I couldn’t close the musical description without relating the story Mr. Ralph told me about Nic Jones. If you are unfamiliar, he’s a ‘60s folk singer/guitarist who greatly influenced Nick Drake.

You’ll hear that immediately on “Pretty Words Lie,” in both the vocals and the eerie way Ralph lays down the guitar part. It too will remind you of Drake.

Unfortunately, Jones was seriously injured in a career-ending car accident, but Ralph really wanted him for the record so he contacted Jones’s wife and made his pitch.

She was not very encouraging and told him he was welcome to try but that the odds were not great and that he should expect to be summarily shown the door despite the great distance traveled.

Ralph took the chance and Jones was so enthused, he was willing to travel to Abbey Road to record his performance. So here’s a rare Nic Jones performance to add to the richness of this record.

The album winds down elegantly with tracks by British folk veteran Martin Carthy, his Irish counterpart Paul Brady, and finally one from the Mexican singer Lila Downs followed by a reprise by alt-rocker Leah Siegel of “Birdsong” covered by Collins earlier in the set.

Musically, this is a remarkable set of performances with an equally impressive set of songs. Mr. Ralph’s melodic sensibility and the diversity of ideas he summons forth and expresses within a relatively basic folk genre make it difficult to believe that almost every song came from a single individual, though of course Mr. Ralph would be the first to point out the contributions made by a team of musicians and other collaborators.

On top of that achievement is the superb recording quality for which, the young Mr. Ralph is also responsible. The involvement of McIntosh, which provided monitoring gear as well as funding for the limited CD and vinyl production was surely helpful.

The sound is pristine, three-dimensional, dynamic and in every good sense of the “audiophile quality.” The arrangements rely upon the audio to convey musical ideas, with careful placement of instruments in the mixes. Every track is an aural as well as musical treat. Bob Ludwig mastered the 96/24 recordings and Bernie Grundman cut the lacquers plated and pressed at RTI. The vinyl sounds much more life-like than the somewhat opaque-sounding CD. It’s not even close.The vinyl limited edition is a treasure you should not pass on.

April is Autism Awareness month. I can’t think of a more direct and intimate way to become aware of this mysteriously growing problem than listening to this hauntingly beautiful album. You’ll surely return to it often for both the music and the sound.

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

©2011 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Exclusive Permission

Vinyl Record News & Music Notes

this is in my top ten album covers for 2011, beautiful!

SEPULTURA: 'Kairos' Artwork Unveiled

Brazilian/American thrashers SEPULTURA will release their new album, "Kairos" (an ancient Greek word signifying a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens) on June 24 in Europe and July 12 in North America via Nuclear Blast Records. The artwork for the effort was created by Erich Sayers, a Los Angeles-based freelance digital artist and photographer whom SEPULTURA first met at the band's recent concert at the House Of Blues in West Hollywood, California.

Commented Sayers: "I started by researching 'Kairos' for images and meaning as soon as the band gave me the title.

Read more at Blabbermouth


found this interesting

Michael Stipe Tried to Save Kurt Cobain’s Life

Russell Hall

Michael Stipe has revealed that he “reached out to” Kurt Cobain with a proposed musical collaboration, in an effort to save Cobain’s life.

Speaking to Interview magazine, the R.E.M. frontman said: “I knew him and his daughter. And Courtney [Love] came and stayed at my house. R.E.M. worked on two records in Seattle and Peter Buck lived next door to Kurt and Courtney. So we all knew each other........

Read the rest at


saw him perform once and am still impressed with his music

Nonesuch Releases New Pat Metheny Solo Acoustic Album, "What’s It All About," June 14; Pre-order with Print, Instant Download

Nonesuch Records releases What’s It All About—a solo acoustic album from guitarist and composer Pat Metheny—on June 14, 2011. After nearly 40 recordings under his name, this marks the first time there is not a single Metheny composition represented. Rather, What’s It All About comprises 10 classic songs, some very well known, that hold personal meanings for the guitarist. (The double-LP edition, pressed on 180-gram, high-performance vinyl, includes the complete album on two discs, along with two additional tracks, Monk's "'Round Midnight" and Rodgers & Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine.") What’s It All About is available for pre-order now in the Nonesuch Store with a limited-edition photographic print, a number of which will be signed, and a free instant download of the album track “Alfie,” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Following the Grammy–winning 2001 solo acoustic record One Quiet Night, Metheny began regularly playing the specially tuned baritone guitar he used on that album in the breaks between sound check and the show when he was on the road. “Almost every day as I worked through one well-known tune or another, various visitors or local crew people would come up to me and ask which record it was on, and I would have to say that I had never made a record like that,” Metheny says. “And over the years, I have had it in the back of my mind that I should do an album of some of those tunes at some point.”

As with One Quiet Night, Metheny recorded the songs on What’s It All About late at night, in his New York City home over a short period of time. In selecting which ones to put to tape, Metheny says: “I wanted to record some of the music that was on my radar before I ever wrote a note of my own, or in a few cases, even before I played an instrument. I was born in 1954 and all of these songs were in the Top 40 during my childhood and early teen years. It was a period when harmony and melody were still important and viable elements in popular music. Every one of these tunes has something going on that is just hip on musical level, no matter how you cut it. They have all stuck with me over the years.”

Most of the record was made using the acoustic baritone guitar, with three exceptions: Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence” is played on a 42-string custom made “Pikasso” guitar, Bob Spickard and Brian Carman’s “Pipeline” is played on a six-string, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “And I Love Her” is played on a nylon string guitar.

Over the course of more than three decades, guitarist Pat Metheny has set himself apart from the jazz mainstream, expanding and blurring boundaries and musical styles. His record-setting body of work includes 18 Grammy Awards in 12 separate categories; a series of influential trio recordings; award-winning solo albums; scores for hit Hollywood motion pictures; and collaborations and duets with major artists such as Ornette Coleman, Steve Reich, Charlie Haden, Brad Mehldau, and many others. His band, the Pat Metheny Group, founded in 1977, is the only ensemble in history to win Grammys for seven consecutive releases.

To reserve your copy of the What's It All About and the limited-edition print and to download the album track "Alfie," head to the now. Nonesuch Store


stop by and read the rest of this fantastic write up. as a record collector, it makes you proud to be part of the vinyl revival!!

Record Stores Revinylize OC

The vinyl boom is fueling a resurgence of record retailers


It's a chilly day at the Lab, Costa Mesa's ├╝ber-hip "anti-mall." It's the kind of place where people spend $30 on cotton T-shirts emblazoned with line drawings of birds. Amid well-heeled young couples strolling by, lattes in hand, and foodies munching on empanadas pulse the synthy rhythms of avant-garde industrial band Ashra, courtesy of a 12-inch platter of black polyvinyl chloride spinning at 33.3 rpms on a nearby turntable.

Located stage left of Urban Outfitters' towering glass doors is a small relic of the past—a baby-blue, chrome-trimmed 1957 Kenskill camper trailer. It's where local bluesman/head-banger/entrepreneur Parker Macy has chosen to house his latest business venture, a record store named Creme Tangerine. After successfully running a small LP stand located across Bristol Street (outside specialty market the Seed), he and his business partner Jonathon Staph seized an opportunity to upgrade.

Macy is just one cog in a wheel of Orange County traders and retailers whose primary ware—vinyl records—is a sonic format many declared dead decades ago. But don't try telling him that.

Read the rest at


vinyl doing well in ohio!

Record shop creates buzz downtown with vinyl collectors

By Dan Kane

CANTON — “We just brought in 3,000 more records, all brand-new and sealed,” Michael Nasvadi from downtown Canton’s Buzzbin Art & Music Shop, says excitedly. “It doesn’t sound like a lot but it is.”

Open since September on the primo corner of Cleveland Avenue and Fourth Street NW, the Buzzbin shop is finding a niche as a vinyl mecca for local collectors. “They like the vinyl sound, they like owning the vinyl, they wanted us to expand what we’re doing,” Nasvadi, a record collector himself, says of his music clientele.

“Vinyl is on the upswing in this download age. People who cherish the music are hanging onto it. People burn through it. They just buy it right away.”

Read the rest at


Jimi Hendrix Park Coming to Seattle

The City of Seattle is planning to use the legacy of one of their most famous past-residents, Jimi Hendrix, by creating a $2 million recreational facility in his name.

The area will be developed as a space to motivate youth in music and art and be available for multi-cultural gatherings.



and in music history for today:

The immortal "Rock Around The Clock" was released by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1955

In 1966, The Mamas and the Papas started a three-week run at #1 on the U.S. singles chart with “Monday, Monday.” The song reached #3 in the U.K. Reportedly, the group all hated the song, except for its writer John Phillips.

In 1966, Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" entered the Hot 100. During its eleven week chart run, it will peak at #3.

In 1971, The Rolling Stones released “Brown Sugar” in the U.S., where it went to #1. The track, recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, went to #2 in the U.K.

In 1977, the Eagles went to #1 on the U.S. singles chart with “Hotel California,” the group's fourth U.S. #1. The track went to #8 in the U.K.

In 1994, Randy Bachman led 1,322 guitarists who had gathered in Vancouver to play Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business", for 68 minutes and 40 seconds.

In 1998, singer-songwriter Eddie Rabbitt died of lung cancer, aged 56. During his career, he scored over 20 #1s on Billboard's country singles chart, including 1981’s “I Love a Rainy Night.” Elvis Presley, Dr. Hook, Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle and Lynn Anderson all recorded his songs.

In 1991, Ozzy Osbourne was cleared in a suit by a couple who claimed his music influenced their son to try to commit suicide.

In 2004, Rudy Maugeri, the baritone voice of the 1950s doo-wop group, The Crew Cuts, died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Las Vegas. He was 73. Taking their name from a popular hair style of the day, the quartet formed in Toronto and went on to have several hits in the US, including the number one "Sh-Boom" in 1954 and the number three "Earth Angel" in 1955.

In 2010, Dave Fisher, who formed The Highwaymen with four university pals in the late 1950s, died at the age of 69 after a battle with a bone marrow disorder. The quartet topped the Billboard chart in 1961 with "Michael (Row The Boat Ashore)".

celebrating birthdays today include Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead) (65) and Phil Campbell (Motorhead) (50), among many others.