Posts filed under “Digital Media”
R.E.M. is the original alternative rock band. Their first album, 1983′s Murmur, transformed the post-punk, underground college-rock era into brand new genre: What you take for granted as alternative rock was essentially created out of whole cloth by R.E.M.
They came up in conversation with an old friend recently, who noted that the band just released its 14th album, “Accelerate.”
Most of you young’uns probably are familiar with the band’s later bigger commercial hits — “Losing My Religion, Shiny Happy People, Everybody Hurts, Stand, etc.” That stuff is all good for what it is — better than most of the pop on the radio at the same time, anyway.
But if you really want to delve into this seminal and influential band’s best work, you need to go back to 4 of their first 5 albums.
Genius lay that way.
A little context: In 1983, the US Stock market had just awoken from a 16 year slumber. Reagan was President, polyester had not yet gone away. The movie Saturday Night Fever was still relatively fresh in people’s minds, and there was plenty of Disco on the air, along with Journey, Boston, and Foreigner. It was an ugly, if simpler, time.
Along comes R.E.M., from of all places Athens, GA. Murmur broke boundaries, and literally created a new genre. The music lay somewhere between the jangling guitar work of the 1960s bands (Beatles, Byrds), with a drive that was not unlike later bands (Clash, Patti Smith).
I was surprised to see that the CDs of both Murmur and Reckoning are $7.97 at Amazon. It is long overdue for the music industry to use dynamic pricing on the back catalogues of artists. I suspect, however, they are a decade too late, and have already lost a generation of CD buyers.
R.E.M. was overtly political. Their songs were barbed attacks on
the status quo, hidden beneath hauntingly beautiful melodies, arcane lyrical language, driving drumbeats, jangly guitars, and
mumbled vocals. It was a completely idiosyncratic approach, but it worked well.
What stood out most of all were their collections of
songs, alternatively beautiful and compelling. Dramatic structures, majestic melodies, lush vocal harmonies and somewhat archaic language combined for a unique sound.
The band became a critical darling, and sold increasingly well. Each subsequent album sharpened the band’s focus, and saw their writing become increasingly layered and complex, culminating in the tight, driving rock of Document. This was the album that catapulted R.E.M. from college radio favorites to mainstream stardom — and with good cause, too. It also marked their critical (but not their commercial) peak.
A recent WSJ piece noted the commercial decline:
“It has been a long, slow fade for a band that came to be known both as one of the founders of alternative rock and one of the genre’s most bankable names. Its 1996 contract turned out to be the high-water mark of a five-year frenzy of wildly expensive superstar contracts across the music industry, whipped up by interlabel bidding wars and CD sales’ seemingly boundless potential for growth. Most of these deals, such as Sony Music’s $60 million contract with Michael Jackson in 1991, and Virgin’s $70 million 1996 pact with his sister Janet, proved overly optimistic about the commercial prospects of artists who were past their prime.”
That sound about right. None of these artists have since achieved any level of their former commercial — or critical — success.
I hope REM breaks the streak. I have yet to hear the entire new album, Accelerate, but the first single, “Supernatural Superserious” is encouraging. Reviews have generally been positive, calling the album R.E.M.’s “most relevant in years.”
Must Own Albums:
• Murmur (1983)
• Reckoning (1984)
• Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)
• Document (1987)
• Accelerate (2008)
I’m a gadget junkie. I mentioned last month I didn’t need a new camera. As much as I would like image stabilization and video recording capability, as much as the price for this 7.2MP Digital Camera is ridiculous, I simply didn’t need it. Then my mom asked for a simple to use digital camera. I…Read More
Until his death in 1991, Miles Davis was one of the longest and strongest personal currents running through jazz music. There were well over 100 albums issued over the course of his career. He played with — and developed – some of the greatest talent jazz has seen. Band alumni include, Philly Joe Jones, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJonette, Branford Marsalis, John Scofield, Mike Stern, and well –- a ton of other great players. Basically, Miles was, is and will continue to be a personification of jazz.
Miles’ style embodied warmth, sophistication, romance and a deep sense of melody. Miles could strip a musical line down to its barest elements and phrase it in manner that was unforgettable. He also had an uncanny ability to use silence; Miles may be perhaps best remembered for what he didn’t play as what he did. His playing reminds me of a great piece of advice given to me: “never pass up an opportunity to shut the hell up.” In addition, Miles was always looking for something new. He tired of the old way of doing things quickly and wanted to hear new sounds. As a result, he was usually surrounded by young musicians who challenged him and forced him into new directions.
Before I look at some albums, there is a great book on Miles called, well, Miles. It’s a great read. Miles talked to the writer for a long time, and it shows. The author covers pretty much Miles’ whole life up until when the book was written. There’s some great information on the birth of jazz, and all of Miles’ great line-ups. I am a big fan of oral history, and this book is a great example of why. It is well worth the read. (If you like this, also check out Dizzy Gillespie’s To Be or Not to Bop).
As I mentioned above, Miles put out over 100 albums. I’m not going to look at them all. In fact, I’m going to talk about albums that aren’t the most popular Miles albums like Sketches of Spain, Birth of Cool and Kind of Blue. Don’t get me wrong – these are great albums. However, I usually make a little fun of these albums because yuppies have them as their “jazz section usully next to Kenny G. (which unfortunately gets more play). Instead, I’m going to focus on albums that are a bit less popular because there is a ton of great music on them.
So, let’s start with a collection of three albums that contain a ton of standards: Steamin’, Workin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet and Relaxin’ With Miles. These albums stand out for several reasons. First, they offer a great overview of how Miles and his groups approached standards like If I Were A Bell, Woddy’N You, In Your Own Sweet Way, Salt Peanuts and Well, You Needn’t. These are all part of the jazz language and Mile’s take is very interesting.
Secondly – this is a classic rhythm section of Philly Joe Jones, Red Garland and Paul Chambers. But perhaps most importantly, John Coltrane is playing tenor sax and even on these early albums you can hear his style – bold and fluid -– emerging.
In the mid-1960s Miles put together one of the greatest jazz Quintets of all time. Wayne Shorter was on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock was on piano, Tony Williams was on drums Ron Carter was on bass and Miles was on trumpet. They played and wrote some of the most evocative acoustic jazz ever. Hancock and Shorter emerged as premiere composers whose work significantly stretched the language of jazz. And the interaction between the musicians was phenomenal.
There is a boxed set titled “Miles Davis Quintet” 1965-1968” which has six discs of incredible music. This is the outer limits of acoustic jazz and it is amazing listening.
Miles is credited with ushering in the electric age in jazz with the album Bitches’ Brew. However, my personal favorite electric album is Decoy, issued in 1984. It contains far more realized compositions and crisper production. Once again Miles surrounds himself with a group to then much younger musicians such as Al Foster, Darryl Jones, Branford Marsalis and John Scofied. This is considered Miles’ comeback album.
Finally, is my favorite live album: Miles Davis Paris France. This was issued on Moon Records – a European label. The concert occurred on October 1, 1964. The album starts with applause (because the French actually appreciate jazz in large numbers) followed by silence. Then Herbie starts with some wonderful chords that move up the register. This is followed by more silence. Then Miles hits one of his patented scaler runs and the band comes in. The song is Stella by Starlight and the band is in amazing form. They move through Stella with incredible skill. And that’s just the opener. It gets better from there.
That’s about it. I have really only scratched the surface of Miles’ recorded legacy. There are a ton of great albums I haven’t mentioned. But hopefully it will give you a place to start for looking a bit deeper into Miles’ discography.
Thanks, Hale, great job. videos after the jump . . .
Miles Davis Wikipedia
Miles Ahead: A Miles Davis Website
This is my annoyance of the moment: Why are DVDs a DRM-locked proprietary platform? When I purchase one, why can’t I use this on a convenient, portable device such as my iPod?
What a pain in the arse it is to rip a DVD: Frist, you need to use several products (MP4
Converter, Handbrake, Ripper); 2nd, it takes forever. 3rd, and its illegal to do so.
What brought this about recently was The Simpson’s Movie — actually, more of an extended 90 minute episode. I saw it with my nephews (with me snoozing thru parts of it).
However, going through the extras, I started listening to producer/writer commentary. Unbelievably entertaining stuff, like a terrific radio show with several very funny people cracking each other up. I would have liked to put on the iPod for the train, but no such luck.
I can rip the basic movie, but not the special audio commentary. Anyone have a clue how to do that?
The Complete Guide to Converting DVDs to iPod Format
iLounge, November 21, 2005
Rip DVDs To Your Mac To View On AppleTV And iPod.
Mac360, Friday, April 13, 2007