Posts filed under “Digital Media”

Friday Night Jazz: Frank Zappa

Apostrophe Hale Stewart blogs as The Bonddad Blog, as well as at the Huffington Post. He is our guest author tonite for a rather unusual Friday Night Jazz on Frank Zappa:


"Frank Zappa was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He was a brilliant composer, an incredibly unique guitarist (with one of the best tones ever) and one of the funniest people the world has ever seen. His music combined elements of jazz, rock, classical and vaudeville.

His various bands read like a who’s who of music. They include (home site, followed by BR’s favorite disc):

Steve Vai (favorite disc: Passion and Warfare)

Adrian Belew (favorite colloboration: King Crimson Discipline) 

George Duke (favorite disc: Reach for It)   

Michael Brecker
(favorite disc: Pilgrimage)

Terry Bozzio (favorite DVD: Solo Drums)

Jeff Berlin (favorite disc: Crossroads)

and many others.

Zappa’s bands were basically a training ground for some great musicians. In this regard, Zappa played a role in the rock world that was similar to Art Blakey in the jazz world. In short, he was one-of-a-kind.

I think there are two reasons why Zappa is a bit difficult to get into. The first is his music is dense and very multi-dimensional. While he would adhere to standard musical formulas (like a basic I – IV – V blues progression) he would add odd-metered rhythmic runs right in the middle of a piece.

Hot_ratsBasically, Zappa’s music throws the listener tons of curve balls; you literally do not know what will happen next. In addition, Zappa was one of the first progenitors of serious and effective cross-pollination of musical forms. This is a really fancy way of saying he used ideas from a ton of musical forms in a very unique way. As an example, the album Hot Rats (more on this below) is one of the first really successful jazz-rock albums, meaning the musical ideas were a combination of rock concepts (usually meaning a more aggressive musical attitude and distorted guitar tone) and jazz ideas (usually meaning a more advanced harmonic or chord background). In short, Zappa’s musical ideas come from a variety of places making his overall style very hard to pigeon hole.

The second reason why Zappa is not the household word he should be is, well, humor. While some find his lyrics offensive, others (such as myself) find them to be incredibly funny. Hell – his song titles are funny. Who else could write “The Illinois Enema Bandit” (which is based on a true story) and then have Don Pardo add a voice over on a live album? Or how about “Titties and Beer”, “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?”,  "Bamboozled by Love”, "Don’t Eat That Yellow Snow” or perhaps his most famous song, “Valley Girl”?

The bottom line is Zappa’s music is really funny. If you like to laugh at the absurdities of life (or are a die-hard Monty Python fan), then this is music right up your alley.

Zappa’s recorded history is daunting, especially for someone who is looking for a good introduction into Zappa’s music. For those of you who are looking for a general overview, I would highly recommend six albums, titled:

You_cant_do_that_on_stage_anymoreYou Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volumes 1 through 6. Each album is a two CD collection of various Zappa performances from his almost 30 year career. This gives you 12 CDs of great Zappa music. You’ll hear most of his more popular songs. You’ll also hear several version of the same song arranged in drastically different ways (Zappa was constantly rewriting his tunes for each of his bands. In fact, he would often rewrite songs while he was on tour).

There are two other live Zappa albums that deserve serious mention. The first is Zappa in New York. This is one of the best live albums ever recorded. His band is in fine
form and Zappa even enlists Don Pardo to perform some of the funniest
voice-overs in the history of music. Pardo is especially brilliant on
“I Am the Slime”. There is also a great version of “The Torture Never
Stops” where Zappa does some of his best guitar playing ever (his use
of feedback rivals Hendrix on machine Gun. No, really – it does).

Finally there is "At the Roxy and Elsewhere”. This has some great versions of Cheapness (which is about really old
and poorly made horror movies) and “Penguin in Bondage” (which is
about, well, just listen to the opening monologue). These is also a
fine version of “Trouble Everyday” which again has some of the best
guitar playing on record.

Joes_garageI should add that I am personally a much bigger fan of Zappa’s live work. Zappa would take big chances on stage. Some would work, some wouldn’t. But the fact that he would take chances in the hopes of creating something truly remarkable makes his live work stand-out that much more. In addition, his bands were always top-notch.

There are three studio albums that I will mention, all personal favorites. Remember, Zappa put out tons of studio albums, so picking and choosing can be very difficult.

I mentioned Hot Rats above. This album has some incredibly written tunes like Peaches in Regalia and Son of Mr. Green Genes. Peaches is a jazz-rock tour de force.

Joe’s Garage is a biting satirical look at the rock and roll business that also pokes fun at the religious right. I listened to this album in its entirely on a road trip a long time ago and I have never been the same since.

Finally comes Zoot Allures, which has a studio version of “The Torture Never Stops” and some great guitar work on “Black Napkins”.

Shut_up_n_play_yer_guitarFinally, Zappa was one of the best guitarists around. He had an amazing tone and his phrasing was simply incredible. There are two albums of note in this area: Shut Up and Play Your Guitar, and Guitar. Both have nothing but Frank Zappa guitar solos. Together these collections have five albums worth of material for the Zappa Guitar fan. I highly recommend both.

I am really only touching the surface of Zappa’s recorded legacy. There are tons of great albums out there. As I mentioned above, I personally prefer his live recordings because his bands were just incredible. But his studio work is also awesome.

So – quit reading my swill and go buy some Zappa albums!"


Great stuff, thanks Hale!

This is now Barry writing, and I would add a few discs to consider. Over-Nite Sensation — a tale of sexual depravity and bovine perspiration — was originally panned by Zappaphiles as too commercial. It is a tight satirical masterpiece. And, after Joe’s Garage, it is amongst the most accessible of his albums. This is the album to begin
your Zappa experience with.

Strictly_commercialApostrophe (‘) is another brilliant set of highly polished jazz-rock. It too, achieves a degree of greatness — and actual radio airplay — with songs such as "Don’t Eat that Yellow Snow," "Cosmik Debris" and "Stink-Foot."   

Lastly, for those of you who only want or need a passing glimpse of greatness, there is Strictly Commercial — its Zappa’s "Best of."

Where ever you start with FZ’s work, prepare to experience music unlike anything else you have ever heard  before . . .


Frank Zappa on Crossfire

Titties & Beer


Category: Digital Media, Music

Blade Runner: The Final Cut at the Ziegfeld

Category: Digital Media, Film, Technology

Soon to be worthless: Nielsen Net Ratings and comScore Media Metrix

Category: Data Analysis, Digital Media, Financial Press, Venture Capital, Web/Tech, Weblogs

The Hold Steady

Category: Digital Media, Music

WSJ: Free or Paid? (Yes)

Category: Corporate Management, Digital Media, Financial Press

Listener Determined Download Prices?


Interesting story about Radiohead’s new release, "In Rainbow’s."

Their pricing scheme for downloads is designed to give the Music Industry — especially major labels — fits. According to their website, IT’S UP TO YOU.

Notes Salon:

"This weekend the band announced that its new album, called "In Rainbows," will
go on sale on Oct. 10. They still haven’t signed with a label, and the album
won’t be available in record stores nor on iTunes or any other online music
shop. You’ll find it only on the band’s site, and if you’re looking for a
digital version, the price is very attractive: Whatever you’d like to pay.

You can pre-order the new album here.
Click to purchase the download and you’re presented with a simple screen at
which you’ve got two boxes to fill in, quantity and price (in pounds). "It’s up
to you," the site says."

For those of you who, like me, prefer the physical media, you have a high priced, rpemium option:

"If you’d like something physical, the band is also selling "In Rainbows" in
something it calls a "discbox," a beautiful package that includes a CD, two
vinyl records, digital files, album artwork, and lyrics booklets. It sells for
40 pounds, about $81 (the price includes shipping anywhere in the world). If
you’ve got a Radiohead superfan in the family — and who among us doesn’t? –
your holiday shopping just got easier."

(Additionally, I see a lot of other Econ bloggers have weighed in on this natural experiment:  Free Exchange, Mankiw Blog, Truth on the Market, Freakonomics, Long Tail & Marginal Revolution . . .)

Read More

Category: Digital Media, Music, Web/Tech


Category: Digital Media, Film

Q&A: Ridley Scott on Blade Runner


Attention Blade Runner junkies: The offline Wired interview with Ridley Scott, which I mentioned in this weekend’s linkfest, is now online.

As we noted previously, the latest version of Blade Runner is in theaters in October, with a 5 DVD disc set to follow next year.

Here’s the Ubiq-cerpt:™

"It’s a classic tale of failure and redemption, the kind of story Hollywood
loves to tell.

Fresh off his second successful movie, an up-and-coming director takes a
chance on a dark tale of a 21st-century cop who hunts humanlike androids. But he
runs over budget, and the financiers take control, forcing him to add a
ham-fisted voice-over and an absurdly cheery ending. The public doesn’t buy it.
The director’s masterpiece plays to near-empty theaters, ultimately retreating
to the art-house circuit as a cult oddity.

That’s where we left Ridley Scott’s future-noir epic in 1982. But a funny
thing happened over the next 25 years. Blade Runner’s audience quietly
multiplied. An accidental public showing of a rough-cut work print created
surprise demand for a re-release, so in 1992 Scott issued his director’s cut. He
silenced the narration, axed the ending, and added a twist — a dream sequence
suggesting that Rick Deckard, the film’s protagonist, is an android, just like
those he was hired to dispatch.

But the director didn’t stop there. As the millennium turned, he continued
polishing: erasing stray f/x wires, trimming shots originally extended to
accommodate the voice-over, even rebuilding a scene in which the stunt double
was obvious. Now he’s ready to release Blade Runner: The Final Cut,
which will hit theaters in Los Angeles and New York in October, with a DVD to
follow in December.

At age 69, Ridley Scott is finally satisfied with his most challenging film.
He’s still turning out movies at a furious pace — American Gangster,
with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, is due in November — building on an
extraordinary oeuvre that includes Alien, Thelma & Louise,
Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. But he seems ready to accept
Blade Runner as his crowning achievement. In his northern English accent, he
describes its genesis and lasting influence. And, inevitably, he returns to the
darkness that pervades his view of the future — the shadows that shield Deckard
from a reality that may be too disturbing to face."

Other goodies:  An interactive look at the Cultural Influences Before and After the Film in the Blade Runner Nexus , and a full transcript and Audio of Wired’s Interview with Ridley Scott.

Its a must read for fans — even if Ridley gets whether Deckard is a replicant or a human wrong . . .



Q&A: Ridley Scott Has Finally Created the Blade Runner He Always Imagined   
By Ted Greenwald  09.26.07 | 4:00 PM

Category: Digital Media, Film, Video

Amazon’s DRM-Free MP3s

Category: Digital Media, Music, Web/Tech

Look Who’s Blogging: Paul Krugman

Category: Blog Spotlight, Currency, Digital Media, Financial Press, Weblogs