Jul 312014
 

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So, a couple of days ago, an impromptu RTH West Coast gathering occurred over Burmese food and over-priced but delicious Philz Coffee, and surprisingly, after Mr. Mod, E Pluribus Gergley, Slim Jade, and I had exhausted discussions about the weather, possible driving routes south, and the pros and cons of life at a California institute of higher learning, the conversation turned to music. Mr. Moderator shared a recent experience: he had visited the home of Townsman Sethro who apparently is quite the audiophile and who had wanted to demonstrate his amazing new configuration of speakers and audio technology. To do so, he played Blonde on Blonde. Mr. Moderator, who appeared to have become a bit jaded about the benefits of speaker placement, then described the epiphany of the experience by saying that it sounded like Dylan was sitting right there in front of him in the room.

Which got me thinking to the first nice stereo I owned: it was in the early ’90s, I was still in grad-school but I finally had a decent paying job and was able to buy a small system that had pretty good sound. Rather than breaking a bottle of champagne over it’s bow, I wanted to chose a meaningful song to listen to, and I chose this:

I chose the song because one of my best friends was in the band, I loved the song, and I figured the variation in sounds (coyotes, the rising swell of distorted guitars) would be a good way to test out the new stereo. I was not disappointed.

So…what would be the first song you would choose to play on a really great sound system? Or what have you chosen in the past?

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Feb 182013
 

loureedthewayI’ve been making my way through Neil Young‘s memoir, Waging Heavy Peace. It’s rambling and slow going but not without its charms. Every 10 pages Young turns from the story of his life and music making to what I gather are his main concerns: toy trains, energy-efficient old cars, and some new audio technology that will enable drivers of these green behemoth vehicles to listen to Lou Reed’s latest music as it was meant to sound. Shoot, not even Lou will know how his music is actually meant to sound until he rides around in Neil’s 140-acre ranch in his souped-up 1952 convertible Cadillac with his high-tech audio delivery device cranked to the high heavens.

I love how Young and Reed go on at great lengths about their high-minded audiophile dreams when their legacy has been established with some of the most primitive-sounding records to appear on a major label. T-Bone Burnett is also working on some mind-blowing audio technology that will allow his purposely pristine-yet-primitive, “pure” productions to sound as if they are being broadcast directly from Plato’s Cave. At least Burnett’s recordings actually sound about as accomplished as he would like them to sound, even on our inferior delivery devices.

Someday I expect to run across an old Chuck Berry interview, in which he bemoans the state of late-1950s recording and playback technology.

 

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Mar 102011
 



We’ve got a hot new t-shirt for you, the long-awaited German True Stereo shirt. While your rock-nerd friends are content to experience the world in regular old stereo or, at best, Japanese gold, remastered 5-D surround sound, you can proudly let them know where you’re coming from. The German True Stereo shirt is available here.

Also new to the Rock Town Hall store is the Pince Nez mug. What better way to start your day in the Halls of Rock but with a cup of coffee and a humbling reminder of the limits of our rock expertise? The Pince Nez mug is available here.

On a related note the RTH Booooooks link has been updated with many of the rock bios discussed earlier this week. Check ’em out and fill your head with new bits of, outside this place, useless information!

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Aug 092010
 

How deep should first musical impressions cut? Is there more in a track that may have first caught my ear? Do I clutch too tightly to the romantic notion that no record should ever sound different than how I first heard it, or more accurately the collective power of the record’s first 100 spins? It’s not like I listen to my childhood vinyl on the same record player I had as a kid, but I run up against such questions any time I pick up a reissue of a beloved album that’s been remastered or released in its original mono form, a German true stereo mix, or what have you. Like my friend who can’t get past any digital remastering of “Satisfaction” in which you can hear the acoustic guitar and piano, which were buried in the rhythm section on the vinyl versions of the song we grew up with, I tend to get a little attached to how records sounded when I first heard them.

I recently downloaded a rare mono mix of The Rolling StonesLet It Bleed, my favorite post-Brian Jones Stones album and, from my years of spinning it on vinyl, the best-sounding Rolling Stones album. I’ve never been that much of a purist about mono vs stereo mixes; in fact, any purism I hold in this regard is centered around my personal experience. If I first heard an album in mono, then mono is the “correct” format, and vice versa. The mono mix of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, which was included with stereo version on some CD reissue from a few years back, does not impress me. I continue to hold true to the magic of the flimsy, $2.99 Spanish vinyl pressing I fell in love with after bringing home from the Temple U. bookstore in the early 1980s.
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Jul 272010
 

It turns out that in the mid-’80s a true stereo version of “Satisfaction” appeared on Japanese and German editions of Hot Rocks 1964-67, which are long out of print.

The acoustic guitar is even MORE prominent on this version than on the remastered mono version. And it turns out that there’s piano underneath the guitars too, played by Jack Nitzsche.

I know Mr. Mod is going to love this, but what about the rest of you?

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Jan 142009
 

Tempting…

Our recent Curse of the Completists thread has me thinking about times when I’ve reached the end of the road with an artist. Like so many Beatles fans, I was pretty excited by the Anthology sets that were released in the mid-1990s. I was underwhelmed by Vol. 1, and then I was not-quite-satisfied with Vol. 2, culled from my favorite period of Beatles albums. I especially hated the two Lennon demos they completed with Jeff Lynne. The best thing I got out of buying those two collections was final confirmation that The Beatles had the exquisite taste not to bother recording many songs not worth their time. How many big, long-running bands can boast so few totally unrecorded, unreleased songs?

Anyhow, that was the end of the road for me and Beatles reissues. I didn’t feel like hearing scraps of the unlistenable jams from The White Album and the Abbey Road medley. I already had my German true stereo version of Magical Mystery Tour. There was nothing more left for me to explore in The Beatles’ catalog, and I’ve felt confident holding this point of view. I can’t imagine what Beatles recordings could be unearthed or repackaged to make me want to add onto my collection. I can’t even get excited to read any more books on them. How much more do I need to hear a pathetic, jealous rock journalist tear down John and Paul for their personal lives? Some day I’ll read that latest recording book on them, but even that will likely fail to make me love the band any more than I already have loved them since boyhood.

Have you ever reached the end of the road with collecting records by a beloved artist? Do you recall the exact moment when you knew it was over?

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