Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Passion for Carvel

Bob Lefsetz who usually waxes poetically about music, used his forum to talk about Carvel. The response from his readers was overwhelming. On his second round of posting comments, he had 34 postings. People love Carvel. It's tied to their childhood. If you lived in the Northeast you have to know Tom Carvel's Cookie Puss commercials. Why doesn't music elicit this kind of passion? I haven't seen this many posts since he talked about Pepe's Pizza in New Haven. When someone of greatness dies, people tell their stories. You don't hear many stories about artists who released a record this year. Is the market over saturated? Are people not paying attention? Is the music passionless?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Lily Allen Saga continues

For those of you who don't get the Lefsetz Letter, he reprinted her reply to his recent postings on her Illegal File Sharing is Bad campaign. I'm assuming he posted it as she wrote it. Is she getting this much attention in the UK?

From: Lily Allen
Subject: Mp3's
Date: September 24, 2009 1:35:56 AM PDT
To: Bob Lefsetz

I think your piece today is a little unfair. I've never said that I side with the majors. And as you state, the website is an EMI owned website, which I don't run. They own the copyrights of my songs, they can do what they like with them. You claim to have an in depth knowledge of the music industry, and if this is the case you've written a deliberately misleading article. I think that's a little irresponsible. I'd appreciate an apology. I'm not a hypocrite music , I pay for music that I want to listen to. I don't illegally download music and haven't done for about 7 years. Maybe your just trying to get a reaction and for me to publicise your website. That won't work. Besides It's unauthorised file sharing that I have a problem with, not record companies giving away music as a promotional tool. you're piece yesterday was mildly interesting, todays is insulting and I'll be consulting my lawyers on the matter.

My comment on all of this illegal file sharing: Who Cares? It's old news. I managed many bands who were able to sustain a very comfortable living by playing music. None of them ever saw a dime in record royalties from a major label, not even after selling 1.5 million units. Selling records and getting radio airplay were secondary thoughts for these acts. Making good music, keeping fans happy and keeping the live show and its highest level were the most important things. Selling records never put a cent in their pockets. Has Lily Allen received one royalty paycheck from Capitol Records? If not, why does this matter to her? Enjoy the label's marketing money and concentrate on putting out good music.

Lily Allen: FIle Sharing is Bad

This story has been heavily covered online, so much so that Lily might actually become a household name in the States, where so far she's had limited exposure as a musician. She has a blog (which as I am writing, has no posts on it. She says she's putting down site since there has been too much abuse.) where she has been pontificating that illegal file sharing is bad. Other musicians have weighed in on this, including Elton John, who seems to be conflicted on the issue. Isn't she a little late to the table? Hasn't this been going on for years? Other artists like Amanda Palmer, Trent Reznor, Radiohead, etc have been embracing file sharing, twitter, the Internet, etc and having great results.

Techdirt points out that she may be an offender herself, worthy of a fine or being arrested. She has mixtapes posted on her website which contain free downloads of music other than her own. Her response to Techdirt: I made those mixtapes 5 years ago, i didn't have a knowledge of the workings of the music industry back then... There was plenty of time to take them down.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrity Playlist Podcasts

I usually check out the celebrity playlists on the weekly iTunes email. Today I finally discovered a celebrity playlist podcast. I listened to two and they are short and informative insights into a musicians head. This week Keith Urban shares 10 of his favorite songs. In all 10 choices, songwriting played a big part in the appeal of the song. He also cites lyrics. Lyricists are some of the most underrated professionals. Everyone knows Burt Bacharach, but how many people know he had a lyricist/writing partner name Hal David?

Keith on the songs:

God Only Knows-The Beach Boys "Shines as an original way to say I love you." He always loved the bands harmonies, but as he got older he really appreciated the songwriting.

Joelen-Dolly Parton Rhythmatically there is great stuff going on in this song. "The story is fabulous. It's a really hypnotic track."

Bohemian Rhapsody-Queen. "It continues to be mind blowing. A masterpiece."

Nothing Compares 2 U-Prince "He's a genius." Regarding his live show: "You see him and you're like that's what great is." The Song: It's haunting. It gets under my skin."

Jamey Johnson-The High Cost of Living "The Lyrics are not watered down." It reminds him of the rawness he heard in Waylon Jennings records.

Secret Garden-Bruce Springsteen "One of the last great romantics. He has a great way of describing a woman."

Tom Jones' list is more about the music he discovered early on in his career and how some of it developed into relationships with other musicians. Midnight Hour by Wilson Picket and Dance to the Music by Sly and the Family Stone are two songs he heard on his first trip to NY. He brought Dance to his producer as he loved the sound of that record. He and Stevie Wonder did a duet of Superstition on his TV. Dusty Springfield also performed with him on TV and he lists her classic Son of a Preacher Man.

Most of these podcasts are less than 15 minutes. There are snippets of the song choices interspersed in the interview. It's worth a few minutes each week to get a glimpse into what makes musicians tick.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wino's Label

I can't take credit for that headline as The Sun beat me to it. Amy Winehouse started Lioness Records and her first release is her 13 year-old goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield. No mention if she's named after Ms Warwick. Bromfield has a voice that is more powerful than you would expect for a 13 year-old. The album which comes out October 12th, is filled with 60's covers such as Mama Said, Tell Him, Aint' No Mountain High Enough and according to The Sun, Amy's favorite, My Boy Lollipop. In the brief bits of songs on her preview video, Dionne plays these pop classics rather straight. No surprise arrangements here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2 Boys From Philly

Todd Rundgren guests on the most recent installment of Live From Daryl's House. In between making sausage are moments of great music. Makes you want to hear a whole album from Daryl Hall and Todd. Being a fan of both of them and respecting them as great songwriters, I never realized how similar they are. Daryl talks about them growing up a few miles from each other and how they must have been listening to the same music. Their styles are so similar in phrasing, in writing and in reaching for the soul in their music. As T Bone Wolk says to Daryl, you could have written Can We Still Be Friends? They play off each other like they've been working together for years. It's actually been 37 years since Todd produced Hall & Oates War Babies. They perform only 6 songs. It should be more. Highlights: Wait For Me, Can We Still Be Friends? and a great version of AWB's You Got It. The band which includes Wolk and Zev Katz on bass is amazing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Those Are People Who Died

My friend Rosemary called this the season of the corpse.

We just lost Jim Carroll, who died of a heart attack at age 60. Most famous for the song "People Who Died", he also was the author of the autobiographical "Basketball Diaries". Jim was a peer of Patti Smith and took the same career path as her. Both were poet/writers turned musicians.

Mr Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer, which he fought so hard to overcome. There is massive celebrity use of Twitter today, as they post their thoughts and condolences.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trent Reznor, Ear Buds and a Compromised Listening Experience

Much continues to be written about Trent Reznor. When his contract expired with Interscope, he put out his own music and was hugely successful. He took the record companies to task for not embracing new technology. He continues to do so in this weeks New Yorker. The most telling quote comes at the end of the article. Trent notes, “Walk into a Best Buy and everyone’s obsessed with the highest possible resolution for their TVs. 1080p versus 1080i resolution, hundred-dollar HDMI video cables . . . yet everyone still walks around with those terrible quality white iPod ‘earbuds.”

Most digital music files lack the quality of vinyl or CD. Highs, lows and dynamics are lost. Musicians, producers and engineers painstakingly mull over every track to get just the right sound and yet it's not a part of the listening experience for many people. Sub par headphones and compressed files: Could this be why people are turning away from paying for music? Is the listening experience compromised?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Recording Industry, Japanese Gov't Work To Break Your Mobile Phone If You Listen To Unauthorized Music

This is a post on TechDirt. Could this really be happening in Japan? Has it gotten that far out of control?

from the how-nice-of-them dept
You would think that the entertainment industry might look back at its rather long history of failed attempts to stop technological innovation from interfering with their business models and realize the sheer futility of trying to stop people from doing what they want to do, and could have learned that embracing what technology allows is a better path. But... that never seems to happen. Apparently the recording industry is now so worried that unauthorized file sharing on mobile phones is the next big threat, that rather than working on ways to use that to their advantage, they've teamed up with the Japanese gov't (note: not Japanese consumer electronics makers) to develop a system to break mobile phones if users are caught listening to unauthorized music.

Think of it like an automated "three strikes" plan for your phone:
Details are scarce, but apparently the system would consist of a central database which contains information about music which is authorized to be downloaded. This system would be responsible for verifying that cellphone users weren't downloading illicit music. Those that do would be sent warning messages.

But of course, simple warnings aren't enough for the music industry. The report claims that the music capabilities of cellphones could be disabled for persistent infringers.
Once again, the entertainment industry would prefer to break any new innovation rather than learn to adapt.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dennis Diken and Bell Sound: Pure Pop for Now People

I love the irony in the title of Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s new album, Late Music. I’m assuming it’s twofold. There are songs that should be listened to at night, such as the lounge-like “Lost Bird”. On the flip side, this album has been nearing perfection for over 10 years. Dennis gave me a cassette (remember those?) that contained a few songs, which have made their way on to this album. A few years later another configuration made it into my hands, this time on CD. The project was called Sleeping Giant. I got chills the first time I heard “Standing In That Line” and I relived that same feeling listening to the final version of this great collection of songs.

Dennis, best known as the drummer for the Smithereens is a great historian of rock/pop music so it will surprise no one that musical references are worn on the sleeve. Listening to this album brought me back to songs that I hadn’t heard in awhile, which is the beauty of Late Music. They’re not reinventing the wheel, just rearranging the spokes and taking it for a ride. Put the top down and turn it up.

There are numerous reasons why “Standing In That Line” is a perfect pop song. It brings to mind the “lost” Beach Boys hit “The Little Girl I Once Knew”. Forgotten by most, maybe because of the simple lyrics, but it was a preview of where Brian Wilson was headed as a musician and producer. His next project was Pet Sounds. What makes “Little Girl” such an achievement are the expanding layers of vocals, breaks of silence, hooky chorus and interesting timings. There is a lot going on and it’s orchestrated so beautifully. The line ‘”She’s Not The Little Girl I Once Knew” is the red flag that things are changing for Brian and look out here comes the confessional Pet Sounds. Early on “Standing In That Line” proclaims, “I was found, but now I’m lost”. Sound familiar? Sound like a mantra for today? “Standing” comes out of the gate and grabs your attention with the opening guitar, which quickly leads into a swell of instruments carried by the pounding of drums. Dennis explained that this full blown-production was actually “cut on a four-track cassette.” In come the vocals (lead vocal Pete DiBella), which echo the power of Carl Wilson and the innocence of Brian Wilson. There are bridges and breaks and a short, but soaring guitar solo. This song is a gem.

“Long Lonely Ride” gives a sly nod to the other drumming Dennis (Wilson) by mentioning a Two-Lane Black Top (Wilson starred in a 1971 movie by that name with James Taylor). Noted lyrics: Eat My Dust, Chew My Leather. In the obscure reference department: There’s a musical piece in the song that immediately brought me back to the Boyce-Hart song “Where Angels Go Trouble Follows”. In the movie of the same name, there is a dance scene in the gym. The band is playing the song and when they get to the above referenced part of the song, the scoreboard flashes numbers showing the girls beating the boys.I warned you it was obscure. “Fall Into Your Arms” could have been a track on Dennis Wilson’s solo album, the recently reissued Pacific Ocean Blue. It has the same beautiful vulnerability.

Take the best of The Beau Brummels, The Standells, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the soundtrack to To Sir With Love (note the Mindbenders "Off and Running"), Peter and Gordon and you’ve got “I’ve Been Away”, “The Sun’s Gonna Shine In The Morning” and “Let Your Loved One Sleep”. All modern day classics. The album closes with the “Ain’t That Peculiar”-feeling, “Tell All The Fools”. Background vocal courtesy of The Honeys (Brian Wilson’s ex-wife and mother of 2/3 of Wilson Phillips, Marilyn Wilson_Rutherford, Marilyn’s sister Diane Rovell and Ginger Blake).

Late Music glows. Turn it up. Take it in. Enjoy the ride.

Dennis collaborated with Pete DiBella. and producer Dave Amels. Special guests include Andy Paley, The Honeys, Jason Falkner, and members of The Wondermints.

Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s Late Music is available September 29th on Cryptovision Records.