Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Christmas Single and page

Well, I've finally got a track done this year! I began work on this in November, but time has been tight, lately. Anyway - it's a cheerful one - and familiar! I hope you dig it. Thanks for hanging in there with me! One New Year's resolution I have is to make more SO music. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! - SO

random pic from 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2012

As a record collector - the skipping vinyl lp is disheartening, and not very good for your stylus. As a musician, however, I am instantly intrigued by the new rhythmic groove and surprising tonality that occurs when a seemingly inert passage is stressed or repeated. Over the course of a few years I collected any skips I came across while converting vinyl to digital, and saved them. The ultimate goal was this collage; although I had no idea what the outcome would be. I was pleasantly surprised at the cohesive harmony these clips made together. - SO

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Once in a while on Soundcloud - you get "lucky" and find someone who isn't just twiddling with beats and sounds, but is actually making music. You'll like this if you enjoy the "Prisms" album by Jeffrey Lams and John Andrew Schreiner that I mention from time to time. Free downloads that are worth something. - SO

While adding tags it looks like I've posted about this already - but it warrants reposting :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mishmash a Go Go

Oscar Records OS-117
There are other blogs who will tell you all the pertinent facts about this album. So I'll stick to what I do best - the weird stuff. Like how the girl in the background is staring down the camera. Or the ghoulish font - more appropriate for "Blood Suckers" than "Block Busters". Note they are all dancing around an electronic organ - certainly the "young sound" of 1968. (?) The whole album is a hodge-podge of unlikely bedfellows: drugstore soul singers, obscure fake rock groups by cult-figure studio musicians, easy-listening orchestras...

The track below
(the famous Cuban ditty "Guantanamera") is by far the choicest, with a pretty good arrangement, a la space age pop, just without all that pesky concern about sound quality. All the orchestra instruments playing at fortissimo crammed onto one track makes for interesting, unearthly timbres. It's also sort of a sonic fun page - count all the different guitar & reverb sounds! - SO

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stereo Spectacular!


Three cheers for the Mayfair label (subsidiary of Tops records) for pressing this "on pure golden vinyl". It's dazzling! The music & dialogue are not, but oh well. I found this last minute after wading through boxes upon boxes of unpalatable junk at a thrift store in Holly Hill, FL. The sparkly gem's cover was not around - not surprising since it had a big triangle cutout in the design for shoppers to view the colored disc. Couple that with it's 1961 release date (the original 1958 release had a different cover) and you have a cardboard mess. Anywayz, in the audio player is an inside peek at a (ridiculous) recording session, 2 trains (of course!) one steam, one diesel, and the liveliest track on the disc, "Helena Polka" from George Poole and the Polka Dots. - SO

Monday, May 7, 2012

War Horse

Czerny edited by E.R. Kroeger

My crumbling copy of "The Art of Finger Development" by Czerny. While the music teacher boss was away one day, some very cool underlings - Mr. Haber & Mr. Toronto, let me loose in a collection of sheet music in the junior high school music office. I didn't really get with this book til my late 20's, but it's been my regular companion since. I rotate with Chopin etudes and Bach preludes & fugues, but there's nothing like it for developing/maintaining speed & power, and for nimbling up. The cover is long gone, and one by one pages disappear or render themselves trash-worthy; but the decay is from age & use, not neglect! :) - SO

Friday, April 13, 2012

What's In My Irulu...

That's right - for $14 on Amazon I've reached new lows in audio reproduction. Actually it sounds good, there's just no shuffle mode, and depending on the file name tag, a little hard to get the full name of the piece playing. There also seems to be no rhyme, reason or control over what order it plays the music in. But, in marvelous Chinese fashion, it says "Bye-Bye" to me while flashing red, green, blue & yellow on it's tiny screen; and it runs on 1 AA battery. I prefer this, since in FL one never knows when a storm is going to knock power out and for how long.

So what's in my Irulu? Debussy! Nocturnes, Images, Preludes, Estampes, La Mer. Can't get enough of it, lately. So much so that I'm eying box sets of his complete piano music, just to fill in the gaps...

Also on board is an album by a Floridian band called Green Hit, who label themselves on myspace as "Ambient, Experimental & Religious". It can be difficult to describe yourself, sometimes; but perhaps more accurate would be electronic, jam & fusion. Either way - it's very listenable; keyboard & groove centered with trumpet synth and regular synth featured. Good stuff, and free in exchange for your email address. There are a number of excellent songs on the release, especially "Poppy Rockwell". Scroll down on their site/blog to see the link to download the album "Purpose". - SO

Green Hit live circa 2010

Friday, April 6, 2012

Put the Label on the Record

Going the extra mile for art - something that doesn't happen often these days - when every drop of ink counts, and when a few cut & pastes, mouse-clicks and control-S's will "get 'er done".

Unlike the extravagant, elaborate recording sessions of say the 1990's, the singers and orchestras of the acoustic recording era were all basically playing into a horn. Not to say there weren't high-saleried engineers hanging around trying to get things as purty as possible; but other than the recording environment itself there was little to tweak. Printing, on the other hand, was by now centuries old and a fine art in itself. Check out some of the marvelous eye-candy on the platters below.

c. 1910 Billy Murray was the Michael Jackson of the naughts. These early Victor labels are a wonder mostly for the amount of text - the reading of which took nearly as long as the listening time on the disc!!
This is one of my favorite releases and my initiation into the very appealing style of Billy Murray. The offensive genre claim "darky song" is misleading: the track, albeit jazzy,  is performed by whites, written by whites about a silly, awkward dance performed by silly, affluent whites all over the country.

I've posted this recording before - but here is a new master I made toying around with Audacity. There's more hiss, but the instruments are much clearer and defined, as are the vocalists. Great tune!

The 'big boys' - Victor and Columbia (and to a lesser degree Edison) already had the bulk of the market, and had no need to distinguish themselves with too much fancy stuff, although they did have some paper sleeves with pictures and hype for their stars.

c. 1922

Several of the middle tier guys, and quite a few of the lower ones, however, found ways to stand out in the crowd... many of them via exceptional designing on their cheerfully colored labels. A few of them are outright works of art, the music occasionally paling in comparison. I marvel at the work it most have taken to set up the printing on them.

c. 1928 - Brunswick - the same company as the bowling balls & pianos, was actually one of the "Big Three" along with Victor and Columbia, but were often striving to create better recording techniques and shellac, with mixed results.

I picked up most of these Italian recordings at a 'house sale' across the street from the school where I taught. (Dangerous place to have stacks of shellac for an impulsive man on a budget!) Gilda Mignonette (1890-1953), was born in Naples and was known in the states as the "Queen of the Emigrants"; having a popular career singing dramatic Neapolitan songs such as the one below.


c. 1923 a charming drawing and appropriately-colored label for one of the zillion "Hawaiian" releases that were all the rage at the time, thanks not least of all to native Hawaiian Frank Ferera, steel guitarist - star of this recording and hundreds more. Proof that pretty much anything could be turned Hawaiian to appease the masses!

c. late 1950's - I know little about this record other than that it's by the Kantsone Trio (thanks, Dean!) and that the first word means "Old". Nice Greek pop love songs from the era... The Liberty label in America was much plainer, albeit in a pretty aqua pastel. Did I just say that?

Ah - the crowning jewel in my 78 collection - I've posted before but here is a much better scan in all of it's creamy whatever-color-that-is glory!! More Hawaiian music sung by whitey but who cares? It's actually a very catchy number, and once again it's Frank Ferara giving it whatever authenticity it has.

c. 1917 - 2 years into the long-lasting Hawaiian craze that was ignited by the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that featured a troupe of performing Hawaiians - including the talented Mr. Ferera!

Have a look at the astounding detail that went into the label design - serious craftmenship! The choice of colors is sweet including the dark maroon against the colored vinyl. Classy! Note the Brooklyn shout out.

I've posted the "Glow Worm" track previously, as well; but again, here is a recent (yesterday) attempt at cleaning up the audio - marred in part by an ill-advised surface washing I tried after reading on the interwebs. Frank Ferera is the slide guitarist, accompanied by the most Hawaiian-sounding piano I've ever heard! (yuk-yuk) I love this recording for whatever bizarre reason...

Inspired to step up the graphic design game on upcoming releases! More peeks into my unfocused amassing of old music to come. - SO

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Shape of Music to Come is Full Circle

Percy Grainger (l) and Frederick Delius (r) c. 1923
The composer Delius is said to have had an epiphany one evening in Florida, not far at all from where I'm living now, while managing his father's orange grove. One particularly sultry evening, sitting out on the verandah, the air carried to him the sound of plantation slaves, singing in the distance. The pure, rich harmonies transfixed and transported him; moving him deeply. More than one biographer has emphasized that for the rest of his life, Delius was trying to re-capture or recreate that moment into his own music. I don't know whether he accomplished this or not, but he sure made some astonishingly beautiful music trying.

My point is that musicians experience moments, long or short, many or few, that wind up defining who we are and will grow to be, musically. I am of the conviction that God is behind these moments, He chooses them specifically for us, knowing how they will impress, impact and inspire us for years to come. I've had too many dots connected from 'random' occurrences over extraordinarily stretched-out timelines for me to think anything else.

One of my favorite stories to relay is when at age 5 or 6, my mom was going to go out Christmas shopping for me. I was already a music fiend, so we all knew what she was getting. I told her that I didn't want any more kid-stuff records. She asked me what I wanted instead. I told her "get me some real rock and roll". An hour or two later she returned with this:

To this day I'll never know exactly whether this was my mom's offbeat sense of humor at work, or a sincere, naive effort. I do remember her telling me she had help from the store clerk in filling my request. She also brought me McCartney's first solo outing. I sheepishly confess I expressed my displeasure. (In stark contrast to nowadays - I was an insufferable perfectionist as a child). Between what looked like some posers' attempt at achieving rock coolness, and the baffling bowl of cherries cover, and the overall raw sound quality of Paul's home recordings, I felt a little gyped. But I was still a fiend, and wound up living with and eventually loving both albums (particularly the Apple release).

My new-found love for expert drumming, clever bass lines, melodic overdriven guitar, seriously heavy organ, creative harmonies and one of the widest vibratos known to man, collectively known as Vanilla Fudge (oddly I never heard their biggest hit until decades later), inspired my mom to hook me up again with another release. 

If you are like the majority of earthlings and know nothing about this album - it's a bit difficult to explain. Critics and some members of the band would describe it thusly - Producer Shadow Morton (of Shangri-Las fame) decides to exploit Vanilla Fudge's new found massive success and fame by using them as a vehicle for his own peculiar and non-commercial, strange 1960s vision; torpedoing their careers in the process.

Released early 1968, The layout of the contents made it very radio unfriendly - long sound collages, brief snatches of oddly-recorded familiar songs in giant medleys, a four note theme by Sonny Bono of all people, connecting the various elements of the disc, often pounded out in an orchestral manner by a very distorted band. There is not a "single" to be found. Only their second album - one track features interviews with each band member! Somehow it manages to not cross over into indulgence but remains tasteful. In spite of the band's dread at the finished product - the album managed to peak at #17 on the charts. Which oughtta tell you something...

In some rare nostalgic moment, I placed both the above albums on my wishlist at Amazon. This Christmas, I told my brother to use the list to buy me 1 album. He bowled me over by giving me nearly the whole list - some 12 cds! I listened to Rock and Roll and found it was more remote in my mind than I thought it would be - perhaps a second listen will bring it all back.

But back in the day I wore my copy of "The Beat Goes On" out. There were just things and sounds and ideas on that album that for a few years, completely agreed with me, like some complimentary friend. I never realized how much it shaped my tastes, concepts and preferences until hearing it again over the holidays. In particular, I seem to have carried elements and sounds from the track below with me like an atlas or reference book.

It's by far the most abstract, non-musical track. Yet the use of delay on certain phrases turns the spoken words into a type of music, not unlike what Steve Reich did 20 years later with "Different Trains". The album begins with a "Sketch" on organ and piano - a rock fanfare/prelude, ending with the first recorded sound: Edison reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb". In another long track, the band chronicles music itself from Mozart to the Beatles.

Shadow Morton definitely had a vision - a psychedelic one, no doubt, and a bit time sensitive. The project has a unity of style, concept and purpose. The timeless, universal, healing & peaceful language of music seems to be the point (see the cover), along with anti-war sentiments and the somewhat profound if not eloquent meaning of Bono's lyric (the title track gets 6 different treatments on the album). The bands participation and contribution is also very fitting - at one point cleverly turning the mundane bluesy melody of Bono's verse into a substantial and memorable theme. Their trust and unity with Morton is felt throughout. For me the album not only works, but is dramatic and engaging, some 40 years out of it's hippie home. - SO

Crowdfunder for the New CD!

  As it turns out, "Record Party" will come out on cd thanks to some generous donations! To assist with what's left to finance...