Monday, February 27, 2012

What's On Your Mini?

This is what appears when I play a file from the attached thumb drive on the Mini Cooper's media center. Mostly, you just see the track information; this graphic file surprised me the other day.

While listening to "Country Girl" from Riot City Blues, the Mini somehow knew to put up the album cover. Who knew that the Mini was a big Primal Scream fan?
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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Church Destination CD3

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, record companies didn't know exactly what to do with the now-discarded vinyl formats that they were accustomed to. Long playing records were quickly disappearing; but 45 rpm singles were another matter. They were the quickest way to sell songs to consumers; there used to be 45s available in places where they could market them and get rid of them.

When CDs came about, what could they do to keep the revenue from singles flowing? Well, the answer evolved over time.

CDs were originally packaged in long boxes so that retailers could display them in a similar upright fashion for consumers. These longboxes were an environmental concern; basically, they were just cardboard that ended up getting thrown away. Singles were marketed in a somewhat similar fashion. This particular release was packaged as a folding, slim piece of cardboard about five inches wide or so, smaller than a standard CD long box.

Released in late 1988 or early 1989 (I cannot recall), this single could more properly be considered an EP. This was, I believe, the last single from The Church's landmark Starfish album and, as a single, Destination was an odd choice. The song is slow, but builds and flows with tension. It was a great song to open the album with but it wasn't really a proper single.

This package included an acoustic version of Under the Milky Way, and showcases what has always been a unique feature of the Church as a band--their inherent ability to play anything any way they can, be it fully electrified, with a backing orchestra, or on acoustic guitars. This is what appears to be a live take recorded in conjunction with several other songs that the band cut while they booked studio time in the Minneapolis area.

I could never figure out why they slapped Tantalized on the end of this; it must have been someone's idea to try to move more copies of Heyday or it was intended to be filler so that the length of the EP could break ten minutes.

Anyway, this was an extremely special purchase back in those days, and the CD3 format did not catch on or last for very long. The disc itself, being smaller than a CD, was resurrected for the DVDs that I can put in our home movie camera. Finding a CD player with the slot designed to play this format (older CD players have a CD3 inset where this disc would fit) nowadays isn't easy since everything is loaded through a slot. But I suppose there is still a market for these out there.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammys Have Never Mattered

I'm not surprised that there were people at the Grammys who didn't care whether they were seen not paying attention to what Glen Campbell was doing. This year's Grammys were notable only because Whitney Houston died; and what's sad is that the Grammy Awards have never mattered and have instead celebrated the corporate music world and the mediocrity it still represents as it continues to fade into obscurity.

A couple of years ago, no one would have cared whether Glen Campbell or Whitney Houston were even there.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Evan Dando and the Honey Badger Don't Care

Evan Dando never really struck me as being particularly good at this thing we call life, and now we have proof that he really doesn't understand social media, either. And that's okay. If he wants to tweet pictures, let him tweet pictures. You blue hairs can judge him all you want, but he's keeping it reals, man.

I know one thing--he's having more fun than I'll ever have. Somewhere, there's a honey badger also not giving a shit.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Randy Travis and Redemption

We never talk about country music on this blog, and I think this is a good time to post on something that actually has its roots in rock and roll and youthful rebellion.

When you think of Randy Travis, you're probably thinking that here's a down-on-his-luck country music star who is getting in trouble with John Law again, shades of Merle Haggard or Willie Nelson. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, and, when it comes to musicians, it's never as cut and dried as people would like to make it seem.

Last year, Travis ended his marriage after 19 years. Was that a factor in his "celebration" of the Super Bowl? I don't know. But Travis is not your typical country music star. He's a crossover artist who does a lot of work in the gospel genre, so there are a lot of profound elements at play here. And those elements come in the way of soul searching and trying to find answers. He has sold millions of records and won shelves full of awards. I think it is safe to say that he resides in the top tier of country artists, but that his best days might be behind him. Who can really say for sure, though?

Country artists are not as disposable as pop artists, and they have careers that are similar to what independent artists often have. They have long, durable careers of respectable or sustainable sales while touring and performing in smaller venues. I don't think there's a better comparison than the sustained career of a country artist and that of an independent artist who might play rock and roll or roots rock. Their fans and the loyalty they have for these acts keep them on the circuit.

Anyway, this does lead to a little speculation and introspection. In his younger days, Travis was pretty reckless and rebellious. He had numerous offenses as a juvenile and as a young adult. He was discovered when he won a talent contest while dodging the law and trying to get his life on track. He has had a massive career, and now he appears to have hit a rough patch.

Whatever comes next is interesting to me. I'm naturally interested in how people deal with adversity and go on to create things. I'm also interested in how things fall apart, how people put things back together. Deconstruction is another thing that country artists have in common with their more independent brethren. They like to break things down and think about things when they make music.

Marty Willson-Piper and Tiare Helberg

In the category of 'geeky things that I probably shouldn't care about,' we see Marty Willson-Piper in a recent photo (courtesy of the Church mailing list) playing an f-hole Gibson guitar, probably a newish one and not a vintage one (but I could certainly be wrong).

When I saw the Church play live, Marty favored his Rickenbacker and what looked like a Fender Jaguar (could have been a Jazzmaster, but I think it was the Jaguar) and then switched over to bass for certain songs. I have not seen him play a Gibson (or this style of guitar, in the event I've got that wrong as well. You can read more about his gear preferences here.

Anyway, I wish he was touring Europe. I'm certain that this would be a killer show:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Replacements Pleased to Meet Me Cover

In 1987, everyone was a fan of the Replacements. This is the album that converted a lot of people from mere fans into rabid fanatics. After this one, it was difficult to find a reason not to like them.

Their subsequent albums would lose the immediacy and the spontaneity of Pleased to Meet Me. The follow-up, Don't Tell a Soul, was the last proper Replacements album but it suffered from a pop rock polishing that dulled the charms of the band that was too romantic to be punk, too punk to be popular, too good to be forgotten.

And, just because everything old is new again, the cover was inspired, chevrons and all, by Elvis' GI Blues.