Same Old Tune

unnamedI am a semi-hard-core Pink Floyd fan. I’ve likely spent more hours listening to them than any other musical group, and I think I know the entire Wall album from memory – lyrics and orchestration. So when David Gilmour, who, along with Roger Waters wrote many of their greatest hits, came out with a new album, Rattle that Lock, of course I had to listen to it.

The album, I must admit, left me with mixed feelings. It’s a varied album, with some pieces (The Girl in the Yellow Dress) being almost classical jazz, and others being such classic Floyd in tone you can almost recognize lines from Learning to Fly (Echoes), and riffs straight from The Wall. Parts of it are cranking rock, and other parts are very ethereal and New-Agey in feel – not unlike inventive Floyd tracks from Dark Side of the Moon. There are even two instrumental tracks. It was good, it was fresh, but I’m still not sure if I liked it. I’m not a jazz person, no matter how hard I try, and though I love my Floyd, it’s 2015, not 1979, and I want to say, “Yes, it’s good, but what are you doing now?”

Which got me to thinking: Why is it often so easy to pick out a band/singer on the radio? Because they are often stuck in the same style that made them famous. Their songs are caught in a groove of sound – it’s a good sound, but it doesn’t change. Sometimes they try but the fans turn away, because it’s not “their” sound. Sometimes they do and it works beautifully (how many heavy metal bands have one or two incredible slow ballads, like Kiss’s Beth, or the Scorpions’ Still Loving You?). Listen to The Police’s Every Breath You Take – the first four songs are almost identical in format, all hits, but identical. I love R.E.M., but they get monotonous if you listen to six albums in a row. As George Thorogood said, “I only know four chords on the guitar, so of course all my songs sound alike.”27club-660x300

According to the internet, some of today’s popular bands are guilty of unoriginality and being one-trick ponies. Not even getting into Boy Bands, or Brittney, or other manufactured stars (it’s fair to place The Monkees here, too), too many artists sound – well, too much like themselves. Pete Townshend’s last albums drifted song to song like a dream; you couldn’t tell where one ended and the next began, and he’s a music legend. Ed Sheeran, Oasis, Ke$ha, Flo Rida, and the often-unfairly picked on Nickelback are among the worst offenders, by internet polls. Having a trademark “sound” is good, but a truly talented musician masters versatility.

So who, then, has successfully changed their tunes and embraced versatility over the CyndiLauperBodyAcousticyears? Both Paul McCartney and Billy Joel have attempted branching out into classical music, but classical music doesn’t rake in money on radio ads. One I would consider would be Cindy Lauper – she’s older than you think. Before she was a shock-haired icon of the 80’s, she fronted a rockabilly band called Blue Angel. They put out one album, Blue Angel (duh), which did well in the Netherlands, but you could see the genius. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36MgP5Hg6KU. To go from Money Changes Everything to Above the Clouds on her Body Acoustic album – she has an impressive range. What a Broadway career she could have had! Oh wait – she wrote all the music for Kinky Boots, winner of 6 Tony awards, including Best Musical and Best Score!  She’s not as ditzy as she looks.

Robert_Plant_and_Alison_Krauss_-_Raising_SandAnother would be Robert Plant – the former lead singer for hard-rocking Led Zeppelin. Post-Zeppelin he formed the R&B group The Honeydrippers in 1981, and they shot up the charts with their # 3 slow-dance hit Sea of Love. If that wasn’t different enough, he’s recorded several folksy albums with Allison Krauss – my personal favorite being “Trampled Rose” from the album Raising Sand. Truly, no one would guess this soulful folk singer is one of heavy rock’s legends.

A third I would nominate would be David Bowie (yes,ZiggyStardust I’ve chosen all older musicians, because 40-50 year careers are living, breathing entities). Ziggy Stardust is a far cry from his later success with Suffragette City, and another layer removed from 2013’s The Next Day album, let alone his (in)famous duet with Bing Crosby on The Little Drummer Boy – and the soundtrack to Labyrinth.

So now we know David Gilmour can write and play good jazz, even if it feels like the jazz is being played in the dance hall of a Pink Floyd dream. Is it progress or stagnation? You have to decide that for yourself.

On Our Shelves: New Music for March

Music comes in more flavors than Bernie Bott’s Beans. No matter what your taste or style, there’s always something new being released – even from musicians long-deceased.  Here are a few recent releases on our shelves:

Life, Love, & Hope  by Boston

    Boston’s been around forever, it seems – their first eponymous album debuted in 1976 and reached number 3 on the album charts, and subsequent albums only climbed higher.  With the untimely death of lead singer Brian Delp in 2007, Boston underwent some changes, and to be honest, hearing them live in concert, they didn’t seem to have it anymore.  However, with the release of Life, Love, & Hope, their sixth album, Boston seems to have recovered: not quite the same, but with enough of the old magic to bring back the spark that gave them their identity. The same driving beats, the same luscious harmonies, but a little lighter, a little crisper, a little fresher to attract a new generation.  For a band that’s been around almost 40 years, that’s a difficult – and truly wonderful – thing to do. If you want something new or are longing for some updated nostalgia, this is a great album to try.

High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen

        High Hopes bills itself as a rare, unreleased tracks album, which it may indeed be, but we’ve heard some of these before.  It’s wonderful to hear a non-live version of 41 Shots, but the album doesn’t add any real surprises. There’s not a bad track on it, but nothing particularly stands out. If you love Springsteen (and there’s a lot to love), then this album will give you exactly that – more. Not better, not bad, just more quality music, a long encore to a fabulous concert from a musician who’s as strong as ever.

The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches

   They pronounce it “churches,” but I pronounce the V anyway.  A synth-pop band from Scotland, Chvrches is a group that bridges a number of different music styles.  Like light modern popular radio music?  This is a great album.  Like a techno electronic sound with actual understandable lyrics to go with it? This is a great album.  Miss some of the 80’s pop from bands like Human League or The Fixx, or the sweet sounds of Sixpence None the Richer?  Then you will love this album.  Light, joyful, and not overpowering, there’s a wide variety of song styles to keep you entertained.  It’s been  a long time since I found a new popular band that has caught my attention this much, and I hope to hear more from them in the future. Give them a try!

Croz by David Crosby

Like Springsteen’s High Hopes, if you like Crosby, Stills, & Nash, you will probably enjoy David Crosby’s new album. Harking back to the band’s late-60’s melodies, this is more of the style you remember, an open, wandering melody with a touch of Eastern feel that could almost be filed under Jazz. Nothing jumps out and grabs you, it’s just a solid continuation of the old-style catalog.

 

 

Richie Havens, 1941-2013

6a00d8341c5f6d53ef01901b82b727970b-500wiRichard Pierce “Richie” Havens was an American singer-songwriter guitarist who passed away on April 22, at the age of 72.  His music appealed to a wide variety of listeners,  encompassing elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues.  His career was amazing and wide-reaching, and chances are, with 29 albums to his name, even if you don’t know his name, you’ve heard his work.

            Havens began his career in Brooklyn, organizing neighborhood street-corner singing by the age of 16, moving on to gospel, folk, and signing on with Bob Dylan’s manager in the mid-60’s. By 1969, he was the opening act for Woodstock, taking the stage for nearly three hours. He ran out of material woodand wound up improvising the folk-song inspired “Freedom,” which became one of his most famous hits. In the 70’s, he branched out into acting, both on stage and in films such as Greased Lightning. He made popular television appearances on both Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson. While his albums climbed onto the Billboard charts, Havens began writing and performing highly successful commercials for Amtrack, Maxwell House Coffee, the cotton Industry (“The Fabric of Our Lives”), and others.

            Havens was a firm supporter of various ecological and charitable concerns.  He founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx, which led to the creation of the Natural Guard,  to teach children how they can help the environment.  He was a performer at The Benefit Concert for The Longest Walk, an American Indian spiritual walk, the Tibetan Freedom Concert, the fundraising concert for Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday, and many others.  He was honored with the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, the American Eagle Award by the National Music Council, and was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. He played the Cannes film festival, and President Clinton’s inauguration.

Havens died suddenly of a heart attack, following several years of kidney issues. His cremated remains are scheduled to be scattered across Yasgur’s farm this summer, where the original Woodstock took place.

            You can check out some of the superb Richie Havens legacy at Cheshire Public Library with the following CD’s:

Product Details             Product Details

This Disc Won’t Play! Part II – Scratch That Idea

So you’ve wiped down your CD or DVD, buffed it shiny, but it still skips, chirps, freezes, and refuses even to advance to the next section.  Now you’ve got a problem. Check that mirrored side.  Chances are, it’s covered with scratches.  Small scratches, especially those on audio media like CDs and audiobooks, and those that run outward from the center to the edge of the disc, may not have any effect at all on performance.  DVDs, however, are much fussier, and a minor ding may create havoc.  Scratches that run around the disc like an old record interfere the most.

41I5j7KgWNL Cheshire Public Library has professional equipment for resurfacing media discs.  If simply washing and wiping doesn’t help, we put troubled discs through a three-step process. Seriously damaged discs are scoured smooth with fine sandpaper, then buffed back into shape at high speed, and finished off with a polishing coat of protectant. Usually this is enough to bring them back into good-as-new shape. Small, light scratches will disappear; deep gouges – the kind you can click with your fingernail – are a very bad sign and usually cannot be repaired.

brokenSome damage cannot be fixed. Disc materials are a layer of polycarbonate, a layer of foil, and a layer of lacquer. Any damage to the foil layer, from pen marks, pavement divots, dog teeth, to separation of layers and peeling, is a death sentence for the disc. Likewise, cracks cannot be repaired, because they interfere with that all-important foil layer where the data is stored. Blu-Ray discs are generally much tougher than regular discs, which is good, because they cannot be repaired at all. Blu-Rays have a heavier coating that the cleaning machine cannot penetrate. Amazingly, despite several years of use, we have lost perhaps only two Blu-ray discs because of scratch damage.

The easiest way to keep discs working well is to be gentle with them!  Don’t wrestle them from packaging but press that center hub until the disk releases. Always handle them by the edges, and replace them in their case as soon as you are finished with them.  Make sure they click onto that hub – shaking around loose in the case will scratch them! Don’t let children play with them, and don’t leave them where your dog can chew them. Be especially careful with items you listen to in the car: the sand you carry in the carpeting of your automobile can damage a disc exceptionally fast. If a disc won’t work, let us know, so we can fix it as soon as possible – tell us which disc of a set, which scene or which track if possible.  If the case is broken and the disc is rattling inside, tell us, because those broken hubs are little scratch factories. Disc materials are an expensive part of library acquisitions, and we work hard to keep them in the best shape they can be.