Saturday, August 23, 2008

Late Summer Changes

When Bloggerhythms was born over three years ago its primary function was to review CDs. In the last year though, the number of articles I have written that are something more than just CD reviews has increased. WXPN's 885 Most Memorable Musical Moments, Vinyl Moments, and Guilty Pleasures are the Bloggerhythms categories where most of these posts are featured. To my surprise I found that writing these articles was often more fulfilling than offering readers a steady stream of reviews. I also noticed that reader reaction to these articles was often stronger than it was for many of the reviews. As always, Bloggerhythms will continue to post my opinions on both new and old CDs, however, going forward, look for an even greater number of posts that discuss music in more diverse ways.

Unknown All-Stars
Also, beginning today look for some changes to the sidebar. Unknown All-Stars is a new feature that I would love to call Unknown Legends. However, since I don't want to be sued by Neil Young for copyright infringement All-Stars is a better choice. If any readers can come up with a superior title please let me know. The All-Star will change periodically and will always feature a new or unknown artist who deserves everyone's attention. Some of the All-Stars may already have reviews and articles posted about them here, some may not. All you have to do to read about each Unknown All-Star is to click on the artist's photo and you'll be taken to their website or some other informative article.

Latest From The Blogosphere
Another new feature to the sidebar is a listing of music related blogs I like to read regularly. As each blogger posts a new article on his site the sidebar will inform readers that something new has been posted and the blog will move to the top of the list. The more he or she posts the more often you will see their site featured among the currently visible blogs. If you want to see all of the blogs that will be part of the rotation, and not just the five who most recently posted, just click the "Show All" button at the bottom of the section. If you come here often you won't miss anything these fine bloggers will ever publish.

The Musical Art Gallery
Finally, Bloggerhythms plans on doing a series of occasional articles about other art forms including photographs, books, paintings, movies, and more as long as the work is related to music in some way. Stay tuned!

I thank you all for stopping by and I hope you continue to do so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

James Iha - Let It Come Down (1998)

When I first heard the latest CD from the quintessential 70s soft-rock band, America, I was surprised to learn that one of the co-producers of their 2007 comeback, Homecoming, was James Iha, co-founder and guitarist for the 90s rock band, Smashing Pumpkins. It's not because I'm a big fan of the Pumpkins. To the contrary, I barely know their music. The surprise was discovering that a member of a critically acclaimed modern rock band would work with an artist who was not even considered cool back in their own heyday of the 70s. Iha and his co-producer, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains Of Wayne, worked with the band famous for "A Horse With No Name" without trying to update America's sound. They simply used their talents to enhance what Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell always did best.

Iha must have a strong affection for America, and the genre they represent, because in 1998, years before he produced Homecoming, the ex-Pumpkin released his one and only solo CD, Let It Come Down, at the height of Smashing Pumpkins fleeting popularity. In the process he created music that could have become part of America's songbook. The disc is full of melodic acoustic guitars, low-key electric guitars, appropriately restrained vocals, and there are a couple of tracks with a small string section added for color. Thematically, and typically for the genre, the songs are about either the good side or the bad side of romantic relationships. You can tell that Iha was serious about this CD because his buddy Schlesinger and all-star studio instrumentalist Greg Leisz each take a turn supporting him. Schlesinger plays piano and bass on "Country Girl," and Leisz contributes pedal and lapsteel on "Lover Lover."

I'm sure Iha knew that recording a soft-rock album would take fans of the Pumpkins by surprise and to the guitarist's credit he dared to do something very different from his day job. Ten years later I have no idea how fans of his famous band received Let It Come Down when it was first released. However, fans of America, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Firefall, Little River Band, Seals and Crofts, and other 70s staples of the genre should be attracted to this album immediately.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Mother Truckers - Let's All Go To Bed (2008)

The Mother Truckers are back with their third CD, Let's All Go To Bed. The thirteen song set offers us a heavy dose of rock n' roll that often makes you forget The Truckers have frequently been described as a country-rock band. Even the quartet's official web site doesn't believe they are a country band because it brands them as "a kick-ass rock 'n' roll band from Austin, Texas." As their high octane music moves further and further away from country with each succeeding release they sound tighter and more alive than ever before. Teal Collins excellent, full throttle vocals wail, Josh Zee's electric lead guitar scorches, and the new rhythm section of drummer Dan Thompson and bassist Danny G. provides a backbeat that would make any rock band proud. Call them whatever you want: rock, country, or Americana. Fans of all those genres will find something to love on this excellent collection. One of the new CD's strongest tunes, "Streets Of Atlanta," would be a perfect vehicle for The Rolling Stones if Mick Jagger was the the frontman instead of songwriting partners Zee and Collins. The duo wrote all of the songs on the album except for Billy Joe Shaver's "When I Get My Wings."

I've written about The Truckers two previous CDs and all three are worthy. However, if you only buy one Let's All Go To Bed should be your choice.

As good as The Mother Truckers studio work is the best way to experience them is live in all of their blazing glory. The first time I caught them in concert was in October 2007 at Austin's Continental Club, their home base for many years. Last week, on what I believe is their first tour East, I had the pleasure of seeing them again at Bethlehem, PA's famous Musikfest. Could this tour mean they are finally starting to get the national recognition they so richly deserve?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The ELP Laser Turntable

VINYL RECORD DAY #2

Last year on August 12th, the anniversary of the invention of the phonograph, the Honorable J. A. Bartlett, owner and proprietor of the excellent pop music blog The Hits Just Keep On Comin', hosted something he referred to as a "blogswarm." It's a term I had never heard before. A blogswarm occurs when a lot of like-minded bloggers post about the same subject on the the same day. This year Mr. Bartlett has invited many of his fellow online acquaintances to join him again in celebrating the second annual Vinyl Record Day.

Based on the number of emails and comments I received about Bloggerhythms' 2007 submission to the swarm, last year's contribution became this blog's most discussed article ever. I don't expect the same reaction this year because nothing seems to generate discussion like nostalgia and last year's post had it in abundance. You can read it here. This year's post is not nostalgic. It's not futuristic either. It's something lovers of records will drool over today.

I know this may sound like a commercial but I must tell you about a true audiophile's dream. ELP, a Japanese company, has developed a laser turntable that has no tonearm or stylus. Instead it uses five laser beams to play your old 45 and 33 RPM vinyl records. If you use this turntable there will never be any damage or wear to any of your old records again. One thousand plays later your records will sound exactly the same as they did when they were first played on this equipment. Unfortunately there is a MAJOR drawback. Prices range from $9,000 to $13,900, and believe it or not, these price are down from two years ago when the top model was listed at $17,000.

In addition, if you want to take advantage of all the benefits this turntable has to offer you must purchase the ELP Declicker for an additional $2,800. Only with the Declicker can you successfully eliminate all clicks and pops from your old albums. It will even improve sound to your old 78s. You can listen to audio samples of how effective the Declicker is online.

Just like most CD players the disc is played inside the turntable so those vinyl fans who love to watch the record spin (me) will be disappointed. (Hey, nothing is perfect). Also, there is a remote control that allows you to play any track while the turntable tells you either the elapsed time or the remaining time of the album.

This component is far out of my price range. I'm sure it is out of range for almost everybody, but it sure is a fascinating piece of equipment.

For those who missed it last year here are all of the participants and their posts from Vinyl Record Day, 2007.