Apr 292014

I get as psyched up as any hot-blooded rock ‘n roll fan at the anticipation of a smokin’ harmonica solo in the middle of a blues workout. The harmonica break in any number of early Stones and Yarbirds songs is both exciting and dramatic. I’m appreciative of Stevie Wonder‘s melodic use of the chromatic harmonica on songs like “Isn’t She Lovely.” I dig when Bob Dylan and Neil Young fill the gaps in any one of the dozens of their songs that feature their naive approach to the blues harp. I’ll even sit through a yearly spin of J. Geils Band‘s “Whammer Jammer,” the show-stopping instrumental by full-time harp player and Townman Hrrundivbakshi’s spiritual guide Magic Dick.

I own harmonicas and dream of one day finding a use for one in one of my own songs. I like harmonicas. Honest, I do. However, while watching one of my favorite local bands last weekend, there came a point in their second set when they called up a friend to play harmonica on a song. That led to him playing harmonica on another song and another one and a few more after that. By the third song featuring a persistent harmonica part I started to realize why most bands only break out the big harmonica solo one time per gig. There quickly comes a point when the instrument’s on autopilot. The instrument becomes a condiment. Think of a point in meal when you add mustard or horseradish—or both—to a course, as I did just last night, over a main course of kielbasa and sauerkraut. The condiments perfectly fit that dish, but had I also added the mustard and horseradish to my green beans, my pierogi, and my chocolate babka, it would have been overkill. Not to mention, one would never make mustard or horseradish the core ingredient of any dish, as it might be argued J. Geils Band managed to do when they handed over the keys to a song to Magic Dick. “Whammer Jammer” is an outstanding achievement in terms of culinary standards.

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Apr 082014
Straight stand. Round base. It's cooler. Simple as that.

Straight stand. Round base. It’s cooler. Simple as that.

Straight stand. Round base. It’s cooler. Simple as that. Prove me wrong!

For the purposes of discussion, let’s leave the benefits of boom stands for drummers, keyboardists, and dudes playing Ovation roundback acoustic guitars out of the equation. Anyone can argue for boom stands and stands with the tripod bottom for reasons of comfort. James Brown might have worn beige orthopedic shoes had he been concerned for his onstage comfort.

Jan 112014

This cool interview mrclean sent me a few weeks ago with Pere Ubu synthesists Allen Ravenstine and Robert Wheeler reminded me of something that’s missing from the pile of musical stuff I’ve collected in my garage studio over the years: an analog EML modular synthesizer. Although I’m sure I would never figure out how to use one properly, if I could even figure out how to set it up, I want one.

What’s your Rock ‘n Roll Gear Holy Grail?

Nov 132013


iTunes Radio has taken it upon themselves to put an end to the Loudness Wars.

iTunes Radio now includes a new Sound Check algorithm, which limits the volume level of all tracks. In other words, it lifts the level of the quiet tracks and lowers the level of louder ones so they’re all the same. What makes this a threat to hypercompression is the fact that Sound Check can’t be defeated by the listener, the mastering engineer, the producer or the record label. What’s more, if a song is dynamically crushed, Sound Check might turn in down in a not exactly pleasing way, causing all parties involved to possibly rethink about going for so much level in the first place.

Read more: http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-beginning-of-end-of-loudness-wars.html#ixzz2kYhUTQ00
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

My gut feeling is that it’s not iTunes’ business to determine how loud or quiet anyone’s music is mastered. Screw iTunes! I like loud records. Sometimes I like quiet records. I bet Lou Reed’s turning over in his grave, because this doesn’t respect the way artists are meant to sound.

Sep 132013


Ray Dolby, inventor of the Dolby noise-reduction system, has died at 80. Being way more of a music buff than a film aficionado, I didn’t know Dolby was regarded as an important innovation in the movie industry. As far as Dolby sound went regarding music in the 1970s, I thought it was a dud. How many older heads around here regularly hit that Dolby button that used to be on stereos?

Aug 072013

See if you can invest 10 minutes into the following clip. At 7 minutes and 42 seconds into the motorpsycho mayhem, some guy is seen sitting cross-legged in a field, playing a song on his acoustic guitar. It got me thinking: Does anyone ever look cool playing an acoustic guitar in a movie?

I’ve got nothing against acoustic guitars, mind you. Well, with one huge exception. However, as I watched this clip my mind leaped to the guy whose acoustic guitar John Belushi’s Bluto smashes without warning in Animal House. The cult leader in one of my favorite movies of recent years, Martha Marcy May Marlene, plays a creepy folk ballad on his acoustic at one point. It’s a brilliant, creepy scene in a movie loaded with them, but does he look cool playing that song on his acoustic? I think not.

Someone must look cool playing an acoustic guitar in a movie—a fictional movie, not a concert film or actual artist documentary. You tell me.

Meanwhile, you know you want more of the guy playing the acoustic guitar in the middle of that motorpsycho mayhem…

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