Archive for October, 2013

HE HAS FLOWN, ART-ROCK PIONEER LOU REED DEAD AT AGE 71

October 27, 2013
A blurry photo and the distinct memory of meeting an icon.  Lou Reed, dead at 71.  Photo by Lynn Vala

A blurry photo and the distinct memory of meeting an icon. Lou Reed, dead at 71. Photo by Lynn Vala

Today the art world saw the loss of a silent leader.  One who spoke through his lyrics, his songs, and his actions.

There are tons of obituaries out there.  You can get your history from those sites.  My blog is about personal experience.  Yes, I briefly met Lou Reed backstage after a Laurie Anderson show in Philadelphia to support her Homeland CD.

I had more to say to bassist Bill Laswell and support keyboardist/accordionist Rob Burger than to Reed.  He was confused by my function title (syndicated blogger) yet affable enough.

I was no about to disgrace my new one degree of separation from Andy Warhol by telling him his plans to record with Metallica are short sighted in terms of his career arc.

So if I am not going to regurgitate facts about Reed, why this ‘tribute’?  I want to make sure no one forgets about the woman he leaves behind, Anderson.

Time after time, my Facebook feed is filled with pictures and video of Anderson and Reed, joined at the hip with huge smiles on their faces (as huge as Reed’s could get, Anderson’s would outshine his at her simple joy of being near him).

If I have to be honest, I am not much of a Reed fan, nor a huge fan of the Velvet Underground.  I grew up hearing “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Sweet Jane”.  They were played over ad nauseum on FM radio as innovative, ground breaking.  That was worthwhile for a few weeks, but as they became classic, they lost that sense of “new” and “explorative” and became fodder right next to the Frankie Valleys and the Fifth Dimension drivel flooding the airwaves.

My intrigue came after meeting Anderson after a Happiness show in Philadelphia.  It was there I met Lolabelle, Anderson’s canine companion.  To Anderson’s dismay, she lost her four-legged friend a few months ago.  She turned her grief into a three part show called Dirtday.  Do we dare wonder what art Anderson might be capable of with this latest tragedy in her life?

Anderson on stage performing her album "Homeland" which was co-produced, arranged and contributed to by her late husband Lou Reed.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Anderson on stage performing her album “Homeland” which was co-produced, arranged and contributed to by her late husband Lou Reed. Photo by Lynn Vala

This latest artistic effort would be painstaking for Anderson as her release, Homeland, had major influence from Reed.  Anderson was perplexed by the mountainous collection of song snippets she had amassed.  Reed jumped into the project and helped Anderson organize her thoughts and sound files and made them cohesive, and contributed a solo that would make long-time Anderson associate Adrian Belew say ‘way to go!’.

There will be countless paragraphs about the achievements left behind by Reed.  The point I want to make is, please keep Laurie in your thoughts.  She lost Lolabelle and now the love of her life.

If you follow Reed or Anderson on any social media, now is the day to step forward and let her know, she is not alone.

THIRD TIME IS TRULY A CHARM FOR ALAN PARSONS I ROBOT

October 9, 2013
The revised cover for the newest version of The Alan Parsons Project, released earlier this year.  Bonus tracks, in-depth booklet and sanitized sound make this version the definitive for those yet to be initiated into the Parsons pack!

The revised cover for the newest version of The Alan Parsons Project, released earlier this year. Bonus tracks, in-depth booklet and sanitized sound make this version the definitive for those yet to be initiated into the Parsons pack!

My story begins many years ago, 1977 to be exact.  One of my early relaxation techniques was to enjoy some classical music, played at low volume, audible enough to induce calm, not loud enough to encumber sleep, at bedtime.

One night during my second year living in Scranton, my usual FM refuge, the local classical station made the industry standard decision of changing format to MOR Rock.  MOR standing for Middle Of the Road as in, they’ll play your average hit, something by Led Zepplin, ELO (who I love), Bruce Springsteen, but at the same time, play an entire album from time-to-time, some prog stuff, the average, Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd (often) and if they went deep with acts like Genesis or King Crimson, it would be “Lamb Lies Down” or “Follow You, Follow Me” from the former (one for the Gabriel era, one for the Collins era), or ONLY selections from In The Court Of The Crimson King from the latter.

I happened to tune in for my nightly fix of musical sedation on one particular night and I heard a 70’s Macho-Manned-Deep-Voiced DJ bring a song from break and announcing that the new 107 was fast-approaching a new feature for their new format, their weekly album show featuring an entire album with only commercial breaks at the flip of side one to two (yes kids, we used to have to get up after a set number of songs and turn this big wax/vinyl disc over and reset it for the last batch of tunes).  I wasn’t sure of what to make of it, where is my usual monotone, refined, and in his own way, sedate radio personality who announces my FM version of Valium?

Testosterone Tom, my new night-time DJ at bedtime was saying the upcoming album was by Alan Parsons who engineered Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, was being featured with his second album (the first with enough mainstream success to garner being considered a weekly album feature) I Robot and yes, it is of the same concept as Asimov’s epic, classic novel I, Robot.  Notice the only change between the two titles is the removal of the comma after the “I” in the title.  This came about to the thinking of the late Eric Woolfson who, after a phone conversation with Asimov himself, came to the mindset that to circumvent the legal issue, the comma would be sufficient change enough to warrant an individual copyright.

They start to play the album while I am still trying to figure out where my symphonies went.

“Holy shit this music is amazing”, I thought to myself.  Sequencing synths cascading between individual headphones (closed ear, of course) ushering in dissonant organ tones, giving way to elegant soprano female solo vocal ad-lib.  I was hooked.  I sat through the entire album transfixed.

This memorization led to the purchase of one of Arista’s first acts signed to the fledgling label.  On one of those plastic discs.

The sound of the vinyl on my Krebstar (thanks Pete & Pete) HiFi was about the same as the FM broadcast, sans a few pops and clicks…  So I was elated to get my copy of the primary issue of I Robot on CD.  Then thirty years later an anniversary edition came out in 2007 with five bonus tracks, an unreleased track experiment that turned out to be the intro to the ‘rock’ structure of “I Robot”, three demos and a mash-up of examples or demos of each song into one, continuous song.

Well earlier this year, they came out with a thirty-fifth year anniversary version that has fourteen bonus tracks contained on a second CD, and an expanded booklet with new liner notes written by Parsons.  The above factoids about the album came from those liner notes.  These are worth the price of the disc alone.

Granted, some of the bonus tracks on the thirtieth anniversary edition are the same as on the thirty-fifth anniversary edition.  Those aforementioned five tracks, then some goodies we will discuss later on in the review.

Let me just say, if you need a reason to justify purchasing this new re-issue beyond new liner notes, (that is, for those of you who are not rabid Parsons fans) and nine new bonus features, in side-by-side comparisons in my usual review setting, the mastering on the new release was out of this world!!!  Then when you listen to the album tracks, astonishingly enough, they are cleaner than the thirtieth anniversary version!!!

The saying goes, ‘So clean you could eat off it’ but in this case, it is ‘So clean you can perform surgery on these tracks’.

Prepare the patient…

(more…)


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