Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let's Get Physical

I've been slammed with work for a couple of weeks so I have been neglecting this page... thankfully no one important has died during that time, setting the new 2016 record for Most Days Without A Dead Music God at a whopping 13. Maybe we can make it to March funeral free, who knows?
Today is a special day, as it is the 41st anniversary of 1) the release of Led Zeppelin's masterful Physical Graffiti LP, and 2) this face-frying concert from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 
Just look at those strutting rock stars strut, can you feel the 1970s vibe snaking into your listening lair like a lava lamp on 'ludes? Wait'll you Zeppelin aficionados wrap your codpieces around this 3-hour dose of British Blues Rock bombast, boy oh boy.
This tour is sort of infamous because Robert Plant shredded his voice halfway through the first week of it, giving a hit-or-miss quality to whether anything resembling it was going to emerge from his mouth when he opened it onstage in 1975. Fortunately for us, this Baton Rouge set is both the best recorded one of the tour and also one where dude is able to sing the songs with a degree of vocal integrity and without bleeding.
It circulated for years as a pretty awesome complete performance, but then an even better version of the same tape surfaced a few years ago that sounds like the reel masters to me. This tour was taped on cassettes off the desk by the band so decent dubs of most of the shows exist.
It sounds like it could have been recorded for radio broadcast -- possibly by the BBC? -- and might've been scrapped or never aired because of the slight sound problems at the start of the first song. I have no idea, but it's pretty pristinely captured and it sure doesn't originate from a cassette deck. This has to be from reels and sounds, as I said, like it could be a lost pre-FM from the vaults.
This comes from a bootleg 3CD joint on the Empress Valley imprint called Rampaging Cajun, which I slightly adjusted in a couple of places. I made the transition from CD2 to CD3 less abrupt on the fade out and smoothed out the levels of the first few seconds of the music on CD1, where the bass comes in distorted and the soundman immediately straightens out the mix. Once he does (about 14 seconds in) this fucker really pops, and is as beastly an example as any I've ever heard of this legendary group in full flight.
Led Zeppelin
Assembly Center
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

01 Rock and Roll
02 Sick Again
03 Over the Hills and Far Away
04 In My Time of Dying
05 The Song Remains the Same
06 The Rain Song
07 Kashmir

01 No Quarter
02 Trampled Underfoot
03 Moby Dick

01 Dazed and Confused
02 Stairway to Heaven
03 Whole Lotta Love
04 Black Dog

Total time: 2:47:13

Robert Plant - vocals and percussion
Jimmy Page - guitars and effects
John Paul Jones - basses, Mellotron M400, custom Steinway electric piano, Hohner Clavinet
John Bonham - drums

master soundboard reels, from "Rampaging Cajun," a 3CD bootleg on the Empress Valley label, ever so slightly tweaked by me
I am still overwhelmed with work stuff but it should get lighter in March, so I promise to post more than once in the whole 31 days. Please do enjoy this anniversary special from 41 years ago at top volume and I will return soon with yet more musical mayhem from the masters, count on it!--J.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Celebrating England By the Pound

I took another nap, but the death that occurred when I was out had nothing to do with music for a change, so let's party in a Proggy pattern -- now, now... no Progging out with your cogs out -- with a double birthday love post, shall we?
I have posted on these cats separately before, but today we will cobble them together. They were born less than 24 hours apart anyway, and 20 years later they each ended up in the same group thanks to the elder having answered an ad in the Melody Maker placed by the younger.
Fast forward to 2016 and they are both universally beloved figures of the music of our lifetimes, having found their greatest and most representative career outputs after their departure, two years apart, from that band, itself one of only two Progressive Rock acts enshrined in the R'n'R Hall of Fame.
Of all the classic groups of the mythical backwhen times, this is perhaps the one the most people would pay the most money to see reunite in the classic five-piece configuration. It will likely never happen -- owing as much to the fragile physical state of the drummer as much as to any discord between them -- but there's a whole lotta folks whom I know would give their last dollar to see it happen. The visual element present in this group has become so mythological and influential, even the Prog haters wanna see it reanimated.
So yeah, two of this group's main men were born not that far apart and on almost the same day 66 years ago, and the thing I am gonna share was taped 42 years ago yesterday, so try and keep up with the vast quantities of dates and you'll be amply rewarded with a half hour of prime and pristine French TV footage of the mighty Genesis, in action in February of 1974. This footage was included in the bonus material of the Live Archive box set released in 2009, but was sourced from a more generated tape and had annoying time code at the bottom. This is the ORTF master tape, straight from the French TV archives.
ORTF-TV studios
Paris, France

01 intro
02 I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
03 Supper's Ready
04 outro

Total time: 30:17

Peter Gabriel - vocals, percussion, flute
Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string guitar, vocals
Mike Rutherford - bass, 12-string guitar, guitar, Moog Taurus bass pedals, vocals
Steve Hackett - guitar, sitar guitar
Phil Collins - drums, percussion, vocals

PAL DVD of the original pre-broadcast ORTF master tape, without the timecode and at least a generation down from what was released in the "Live Archive" box set bonus material in 2009
There you have it! Peter Gabriel on the left and Steve Hackett on the right, each still going strong and out on the blocks this Spring with their various live ensembles, and each born within a 24-hour period in February of 1950. I'd say that chilly February day in the UK was a pretty good one, agreed? Enjoy and two very HBDs to these two marvelous musos!--J.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Anniverse Irie

Let's take a break from the Mortality Express for a minute, shall we? I have a fantastic show to share and no one has even died yet today. At least no one of note. OK, Dan Hicks died yesterday. But enough death for one blog.
Yesterday I was in the middle of prepping a Dan Hicks/Hot Licks KSAN show from 1971, when I realized I was bored sick of writing about whichever seminal musician kicked the bucket in the last 12 minutes. I noticed it was the 38th anniversary of this performance, so I broke it out, dusted it off and ran it through the Sonic Foundry carwash a couple of times. Some days you just have to exchange the hearse for a surfboard or you'll go mad.
And what a show it is. This dates from when reggae had recently colonized the Earth, and Toots wastes no time showing Santa Cruz who is boss. The version of Funky Kingston in this set is so lethal, I think the band had to register it with the State of California as a deadly weapon.
Thankfully KUSP-FM in Santa Cruz was on hand to record the proceedings for broadcast. What follows is the pre-FM reel from the station, patched with an aircheck tape of the radio announcements for completeness sake, and all remastered by me to alleviate some of the more obvious issues with the tape.
It suffered from some of the nastiest digital clipping issues I have ever witnessed in this realm -- 18 db above the red zone! is that even possible? -- and there were issues with the bass and how for all but the second song it was less prominent and fat. Additionally there was a passage in the second tune where the bass totally overwhelmed the sonic profile of the music, so I used a subtle roll-off to lessen the avalanche effect some. Then I aligned it all with some EQ and some Graphics Dynamics enhancement in Sound Forge 9.
Aside from moving a few track markers around and the usual titling and tagging -- oh yeah, I made one of my embarrassingly primitive front covers too -- that's about the extent of my activities. This is much less overloaded and far more streamlined now, and plays a bit more like one continuous-sounding thing IMO. 
Maybe it's a generous assessment -- I could only do so much with the bass in Funky Kingston with the roll-off without disturbing the ambience too much, and it might still be too bassy/drummy to some ears given the fattening I did to the rest of the low end of it to make it somewhat match that track -- but I'd say it's nearly indistinguishable from what an official release of this master blaster 100 minutes of reggae mayhem might someday resemble, give or take a few micro-decibels.
 Toots & the Maytals
Civic Auditorium
Santa Cruz, CA
EN pre-FM remaster

01 KUSP-FM intro by Lance Linares*
02 Pressure Drop
03 Funky Kingston
04 Take Me Home, Country Roads
05 Time Tough
06 Missing You
07 Spirit
08 Monkey Man
09 untitled jam
10 54-46, That's My Number
11 Reggae Got Soul
12 KUSP radio interlude*
13 Happy Days

Total time: 1:39:36
disc break can go after track 10
*sourced from an off-air master tape of the original broadcast for completeness

Toots Hibbert - vocals
Winston Wright - organ, vocals
Jackie Jackson - bass, vocals
Hux Brown - lead guitar
Rad Bryan - rhythm guitar, vocals
Paul Douglas - drums

pre-FM KUSP-FM reel (likely 1st generation) with FM master reel patches, repaired and remastered by EN
So there you have it, your Super Sunday Sunsplash of vintage roots music to lively up your big tailgate party. I'd like to wish a very Happy Anniversary to this wonderful set... and hopefully Toots Hibbert will not die before I post this, or anytime soon for that matter. Bless up and Enjoy!--J.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Elemental Health

I had been working on remastering a somewhat legendary Bruce Springsteen concert from 1975 for this, its 41st anniversary, but that will have to wait for another day. For what seems like the thousandth time in the last six weeks, we have lost another foundational music legend.
When I think about life and about music, I feel like perhaps the greatest worth the sonic artisans of our lifetimes offer is the Joy. It's often a tough, unfair, tragic life we must endure and I feel like music above all the other Art forms brings a kind of solace, comfort, and elevation that can sometimes be necessary to navigate it without finding one's abyss.
There are a variety of ways these avatars confront the abyss in all of us, and many ways -- some subtle, some obvious -- in which they attempt our redemption through the vibration of the air. Some just stand there with a guitar or at a piano and pour themselves out to us in a literal sense. Others don't ever utter a syllable, choosing to shake our foundations with purely instrumental excursions designed to make us fill in the blanks they are trying to make us see.
There are always a few that try to make us laugh at it all, because they know laughter is just the precise kind of brain chemistry that leaves someone open to be changed. Yet others create elaborate soundscapes laden with overt and hidden meanings, intended as Rosetta Stones to decode their inner orientations and opinions long after they are gone from the scene. There are almost as many ways to do it as there are emotional timbres in the human psychical framework.
You could make the case that the ones that try to emphasize the Fun -- the sense of childlike freedom in singing, dancing, expressing, that they might help return Humanity to a less toxic, more basic state of being -- are the best and the most lasting. Today we mourn exactly that caliber of Artist, that imbued everything they did with that element of ineluctable abandon. Yesterday Maurice White, the founder and mastermind of Earth Wind & Fire, passed away after a long illness at the age of 74. No one will be replacing him anytime in our lifetimes.
This is going to get worse, you know. The unprecedented upswell in human creativity and the concurrent technological revolution that produced the tools for them to enable the most fruitful, amazing era of music and art ever seen in human history has a downside: the seminal, irreplaceable craftspeople who produced such epochal works of beauty are all mortal and they are all starting to leave us, and fast. The Borg-like, corporate ingestion of many of the creative avenues and mechanisms utilized by these heroic folks over the last 40 years has meant there are precious few new giants to replace them when they go. I wish this were different, but it is what it is.
How many children have been conceived to EWF? How many block parties has their music activated? How many concerts, how many records have changed the lives of how many people for the how much better? Putrid, politicianly pimps besotten with false ego-aggrandizement wish that on their best and most productive day their entire lifetimes could have a trillionth of the effect of one September, one That's the Way of the World, one Shining Star.
Yes, it's going to get harder... but don't worry, your blogger-taker is here to get you through the grief, until the next superstar passes anyway. Today to honor this man who gave so much to so many, I have expanded my (yes it's limited) skill set to include "how to extract a lossless avi video file from a larger DVD of stuff". This is taken from a bootleg DVD of the old (oh my god it is awesome, maybe the best music TV show of all time) "Soul!" series that aired on PBS from 1969-73 and has never -- not a single damned episode! -- been reissued in any video format. Yes, it's 32 minutes and 11 seconds documenting the very first known appearance of Earth Wind & Fire on television, on January 10, 1973.
Earth Wind & Fire
WNET-TV studios
New York City, NY

01 Power
02 Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
03 untitled bass jam
04 Mom
05 Time Is On Your Side

Total time: 32:11

Maurice White - vocals, kalimba, drums, percussion
Verdine White - bass, percussion, vocals
Philip Bailey - vocals, conga, percussion
Johnny Graham - guitar, trumpet, percussion
Jessica Cleaves - vocals & percussion
Larry Dunn - keyboards, synthesizers, percussion
Ralph Johnson - drums & percussion
Andrew Woolfolk - flute, saxophone, percussion

avi file extracted from an NTSC DVD of a VHS tape of unknown origin

1.20 GB/February 2016 archive link
I got the disc of these "Soul!" episodes at the Ashby Swap Meet in Berkeley many years ago, and it's what circulates until the master surfaces or until PBS manages to get the whole series out, which would make me extremely pleased. Pull it down and get your weekend started on the good foot with an half an hour of exhilarating funk courtesy of EWF: conceived, founded and implemented by Maurice White to bring utmost Joy to you and yours. Because some people know how to spend their limited time down here to the fullest, most inspirational effect, and they aren't the ones wearing the grey suits and waving the paper around like it's real money.--J.
you're a shining star
no matter who you are
shining bright to see
what you can truly be

 12.19.1941 - 2.4.2016