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Friday, December 31, 2010

Dick Latvala and Dick's Picks - a life for The Grateful Dead

Dick Latvala, a tape-recorder obsessed and a die-hard Deadhead, has been the archivist for The Grateful Dead's load of superb, often stellar, only sometimes so-so live-recordings 'til his (untimely) death.

The so-called "Dick's Picks" reached, continuing after his passing away, an impressive 36 volumes - i.e. ALL multiple disks with recording data and a musical quality VERY often surpassing the official issues on WB, Arista or other major labels, due to the first generation live, two-tracks master-tapes as a source.

The honest, straightforwarded approach was absolutely true and near to original Deads and Deadheads' spirit - i.e. "Each volume of Dick's Picks has its own "caveat emptor" label, advising the listener of the sound quality of the recording. The label for volume 1 reads:

"The recording herein has been lovingly remastered directly from the original two-track master tape and is therefore not immune to the various glitches, splices, reel changes and other aural gremlins contained on said original. Dick's Picks differs from our From The Vault series in that we simply did not have access to complete shows (nor the modern mixing capabilities afforded by multitrack tapes). But we think the historical value and musical quality of these tapes more than compensates for any technical anomalies... In other words, what you hear is what you get. And what you get ain't bad!".

... and, looking for a lesson, this is the living (...) proof that being obsessed by something is the only path to go...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A delayed, yet sincere Merry 'xmas from our fave Santa

Ho, hoo, hooooooo!

R.I.P. for Kodachrome

Sadly, soooo sadly, today last Kodachrome film will be processed at the Rochester's laboratories.

It's - after Ilford giving up, years ago - another XX Century's brick falling down...

Digital rules?

Blues and cinema

The Soul of a Man is a 2003 movie I only read about and never saw.

Yesterday evening, back home quite late after a pizza with friends, I turned on TV and I was captured by some black'n'white footages and the immortal voice and music of Skip James, one of my most beloved bluesmen ever.

... oh, oh?!?!

What's going on?

I shortly after realized it was Wim Wender's movie, the one he used a manual analog camera to re-create the feeling of "Race Records" era...

Great, late J.B. Lenoir, another giant, was also fondly considered, plus the beautiful contemporary renditions of Lou Reed, T.Bone Burnette, Los Lobos, Nick Cave and Bad Seeds, Bonnie Raitt and others, including - WOW! - interviewing of Dick Waterman, an original member of "The Blues Mafia" - i.e. Nick Perls, John Fahey, Stefan Grossman, Dick Waterman, Sam Charters, Phil Spiro, Steve Calt, Pete Whelan, Dick Spottswood, Don Kent, Jim McKunne et al. - a group of blues scholars and musicians and discs collectors which re-discovered the Greats of the Past - John Hurt, Skip James, Charley Patton, Son House and others.

In freezed-like mode on the sofa, I turned off TV at 2,30 A.M. so enriched and full of music, enough to sleep like a baby in few seconds and waking up after four hours, effortlessly.

Blues... powerful stuff!

Seriously: the movie is really a classy one... MUCH worth trying it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Patrick Suskind's Perfume

Yes, I already was aware of Suskind's novel, "Perfume" which originated the movie... BUT this morning, while en route to work, someone read at the radio a page from the novel and... WOW, folks!

The road disappeared and for some loooong moments I stopped breathing... the description of a scent was awesome: rich, elegant, concise and balanced.... brilliant and poetic.

A masterpiece of words choice and evocative skill.

It changed my day... when having a coffee with my friend Luci, I told her about this and she almost screamed... she also read Suskind's book (and enjoyed the movie, like I did...) and, yes, she also knew about the power of this VERY story.

Monday, December 27, 2010

An Apple New (Y)ear

After years of fighting (always loosing) against computer viruses and anti-viruses, and worms, troyans and phishing attacks, I finally decided to expose my white flag and, at same time, to emancipate myself.

Going MAC, folks... with some relentless pace, due to my rusty synapses and brain-cells, BUT with a joyful, EXTREMELY satisfying almost Microsoft-free approach.

So long, Bill... hi, Steve!

P.S. - Thanks to my friend Loris for the "logo"(tm);-) and (again) to Loris and Federico for teaching Mac's lingo and filling my (several) gaps.

Slow Food & Music

My wife recently re-joined the "Slow Food" cohort, after attending to the last, awesome Turin's "Salone Internazionale del Gusto" - i.e. the place to be to know about exotic and esoteric - but most of all, naturally grown and made - foods coming from the Four Corners of the Planet.

Cheese from Tibet, black-beans from Ethiopia, goat-meat from Morocco, eggplants from Southern France and the like and the like and so on and on.

Her subscription to "Slow Food" was also followed by the great bi-monthly magazine, curiously (...) titled "Slow Food";-), and a much worth reading, with topics spanning from food, wine, restaurants, cheese, honey, bread and... music.

At page 30 and 31 on # 48 magazine I had the proof I'm an ignorant, as I wasn't aware nor I knew any of the artists and disks quoted by the reviewer, Paolo Bogo... so, quite disappointed, and both intrigued, saddened and amused, I took my chance to browse and surf the Web to have a listen to the ten names of the playlist... and it was a BIG surprise, indeed.

Here is the SF's playlist:

Julian Lynch - Mare
Gonjasufi - A Sufi & a Killer
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - I Speak Fula
Caribou - Swim
Wild Nothing - Gemini
Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Janelle Monae - The Arch/Android
Laura Veirs - July Flame
The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

... weird, don't you?!?!

BUT... much, MUCH worth a search, folks!

A BIG thanks to (Slow Food's founder) Carlo Petrini for... being!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cool radiowaves: WFMU radio-station

WFMU is an independent, non-commercial radio station broadcasting to NYC and NJ. Named "the best radio station in the country" by Rolling Stone, WFMU is the longest running freeform radio station in the U.S.... AND one of the coolest place I'm aware of, on Web or elsewhere.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A sad, poorer world it is: Don van Vliet (Capt. Beefheart) - aged 69 - died on last Friday, Dec. 17th

... nuff said!

I'm sincerely, deeply moved to learn about the untimely - hey, it's always untimely, don't you?!?! - death of a true genius and a personal hero of mine: Captain Beefheart.

A musician and visual artist, he was ALWAYS ahead of his times... an artist's artist and a true original.

I'll miss him a lot... will celebrate and commemorate him and his art with a loving listening to "Doc at the Radar Station" this evening.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"The" mid-week record - Secret Rhythms - Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman

Ah! Great, classy, super-cool listening in Gotorama, yesterday evening...

Behind every record and music there is a story and a meeting or a person: this very disk was a (superb) by-product of my recent trip to Koln, meeting Klaus and Reinhard...

What a disk, folks...

Mr. Liebezeit (= Time Lover or Love/Time, as freely translated) was the original drummer of seminal Krautrock group "Can", with Holger Czuckay and Damo Suzuki...

This alone would justify the purchase of this VERY disk... BUT this exotic & hypnotic music, using vibes, various percussions, (subterrean) bass 2Die4 and keyboards/computers generated sounds is a sonic masterpiece, a soundscape for both laziness and/or any activity.

It's not music to whistle in the shower, no... BUT it's extremely intriguing and surprising music which nicely blends with the room and the listener mood(s); it makes no sense to quote this or that title-track... it's the classic full-shot disk... you hate or you love it.

If you insist, on track 3 and 4 - Royal Roost and Shades Of Soddin Orion, respectively - this very disk truly gives the best... the timbres are so nicely captured which your system, as it already did on my German friends sytems, will smile.

Find it in its new incarnation - i.e. or the super-duper double vinyl at 45 R.P.M. or - like I did - the CD-R garage-y looking, cool packaging - write as I did title and musicians (completely lacking) on CD spine to recognize it among others when stored on a shelf and... enjoy!

It's music for body and soul;-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman: only a chair?

A masterpiece and iconic piece of industrial design and best audiophile friend, as well;-)

To my very own surprise, like everyone seating on it to listen to music at home, the head is perfectly positioned - VoES-compliant, as well;-) - well upright and levelled, also if body is supremely relaxed.

I own a nice copy, not Hermann Miller's, but the idea behind the chair itself is SO strong, that it's a case of shape and function, more than super-cool ownership of a collector's item.

A necessory...

Reaching the core - where music begin

Is music living and originating from the inside of a violin or in the brain cells of a composer or a musician?

Is it measurable when still on paper sheet or is only "music" when played?

Does it own same power when hummed while reading at music sheet or is it only blossoming in full orchestral magniloquence?

Is it by chance the little wooden stick which "connects" a violin back and top-soundboard is called a "soul"?

... and at home, is a Buxtehude's harpsichord sonata only to be played in a Versailles-like room or is it good enough while gardening, in the springtime?

Can a theatre enhance any given music and concert?

Same... can a "good" recording venue enhance any given music and record?

... and what about our listening room, at home?

My direct experience in better understanding music and its misteries was greatly improved after I visited the following "special" places:

La Scala - Milan
Concertgebouw - Amsterdam
Kingsway Hall - London (now an impressive Maxonic house)
Carnegie Hall (old and new) - NYC
Mariinsky (Kirov) - St. Petersburg
Sofiensaal - Wien (closed to public but used for recording)
Berlin Philarmonia - Berlin
Wigmore Hall - London
La Fenice - Venice
Notre Dame de Liban - Paris
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan - Tokyo
Salle Pleyel - Paris
Royal Albert Hall - London

... plus several, countless, less flashy/famous theatres and churches in Italy and... ALL these places have their very own character adding it to any given music played and performed there.

Call me monsieur De Lapalisse;-)))

I visited the above "temples" in a time spanning three decades or so, and - NOT during a concert - I always played the fool doing, if possible, two well defined "noises" - a loud "stomp" with a foot AND a whistle or a single hand-clap... to someway understand the place, its decay and acoustics and, someway, say hello to the noble walls;-)

The "reply" was always different to the previous and to the next.

Again, when I had the chance to attend to a concert in one of the above mentioned venues, the music was felt like a whole - i.e. music interacting with audience and room and me, the listener.

Nor myself neither others in the audience were - I bet it - thinking about fabric covering seats, stage wood or other down-to-earth facts...

"Only" music, straight and powerful...

Very same must happen at home, folks.

If the mind is going to the glowing of tubes or to the cables, music is down-scaled to a by-product of an audio-system... double-basses and tympanis aren't food for our woofers, BUT a precisely chosen colour used by composer and his palette to underline a passage or define a climax.

Our ears, while attending to a concert, are - simply - the best mikes on Earth and this sensation of "Dawn of Hearing", unbiased, pure should be the VERY goal to persue and reach... at home, as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Music and its tools - Tim Buckley's Guild F-312 acoustic 12 strings

No words are needed... the double pickguards F-312 "Artist" which accompanied Tim for many years is, like Tim's voice, a treasure... this beautiful clip comes from a Monkees' 1968 TV program.

It's a man in his early twenties, BUT already an accomplished and talented performer...

... and the Guild is so beautifully blending with his voice... and, hey, I wasn't aware he used metal fingerpicks and thumbpick... he never stopped using Guild's 12 strings, as later on he swapped to a (larger) F-512.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Musings - Pussy/Cat

No comment.

Record of the Weekend: Kino - Hans Reichel & EROC

First issued in 1986, and reissued in 1997 as "The Return of Onkel Boskopp", is an Hans Reichel's collaboration with EROC aka Joachim Heinz Ehrig, the drummer and sound-shaper from visionary krautrock group GROBSCHNITT.

They spent about four years in the making of that record, working - layer on layer on layer - adding guitars and effects to reach the most interesting and "normal" - if compared with other Reichel's solo discs - yet utterly enjoyable albums ever.

On original (vinyl) LP - if you can get it - there is also something VERY special about the sound and recording.

KINO is amazing: it combines krautrock and experimental jazz into an unusual, yet very accessible album. The mood of the albums is at times spooky, playful, quiet and exciting, and often within the same song.

When asked about "Kino", Eroc replied about this album and about Hans:

“KINO is absolutely unique, not to be comparable with my own solo works. I worked with my friend Hans Reichel four (!) consecutive years for it, spending hundreds of hours in the studio. Each single tone was composed, written and played with natural instruments and devices step by step and track by track, reaching from normal guitars and keybords up to tuned tobacco-cans and dish brushes.”

It's a soundtrack where you put images and your movie of choice...

The sound is, plainly said... just incredible! as it is the playing from both musicians: reminding - in feeling - some (electric) Laurent Pettigand's soundtrack for Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" and a Lol Coxhill's brass-band project for melodies ("Welfare State" on Caroline).

It's smooth and violent, turbo-charged and relaxing music of superb quality.

You'll remain jaw-dropped when listening to "Kino" for the first time... the first of many;-)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bermuda Triangle Exit

This afternoon, after one month almost without music - alive, played AND reproduced - I spent three extremely satisfying hours in my studio... outside, snowy, cold weather, while I was woolly cocooned on the sofa, listening to Gotorama in dimmed light.

... and something strange happened: also considering the (relative) virginity to nice music in last weeks, I sort-of was in that particular mood toward my music/audio system - i.e. WOW, I'd buy it again!

... and music reached me in a very intense and scary (positively) way, too... some discs, first - P.J. Harvey (White Chalk), Hans Reichel & Eroc (Kino... WOWOWOW!!!)... no interruptions, 'c-mon-change-that-disc-in-a-hurry frenzy... two discs=fours sides straight in vein...

Then I changed to disks... the 4-CDs Miles' "Bitches Brew" complete sessions was my swimming pool for about one hour... and it happened!

On disk 3 there is a track - same title, alternate-take and official issue - "The Little Blue Frog", where Billy Cobham (thanks to Wikipedia) handles and plays masterfully the humble triangle, the little unassuming instrument so often quoted when s.o. is in need to offend a musician;-)- i.e. "You wouldn't play a triangle in orchestra!" - or something.

On this piece, Cobham's playing on... triangle is, SIMPLY, awesome!

It's the Jimi and Jaco and Bird of triangle: a triangle solo... aehm, you'll agree, isn't "that" common!;-)

On left side, spreading well beyond speakers in height and space, the triangle is
absolute protagonist... more than Wayne Shorter's soprano or Miles' trumpet (on that tune)...

It's so an extraordinary performance I had to repeat the listening... so weird, so clever, a true virtuoso he is!

The triangle is tamed, synchopated, muted and freed to fully resonate... as a plus, it's superbly recorded, as well... crisp, clear, full of superb harmonics and overtones, upper and lower octaves... aehm, as phisically allowed, at least... it's only a steel bar;-)))

Nonetheless... I was annihilated by this... cannot find a proper definition, BUT... Bermuda Triangle;-)... a "musical swirl" of humble sound, beauty and simple complexity: I loved it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WJAAS - Sukiya (the "House of Fantasy") or a Japanese-style, Zen-like "Wunderkammer"?

In Japanese "ceremony of tea", the old ideogram representing the room where the "thing" happens, is called a "sukiya", which means "house of fantasy".

In more recent years, the masters of ceremony, changed the ideograms to Chinese's, giving to the above word, newer and newer meanings - i.e. "house of Emptiness", "house of asimmetry", always describing the space where the "tea" is actor, ephemeral protagonist, of a supremely "unuseful", BUT sublimely human play: "unuseful" and "senseless" - considering stars and whole universe - like life is.

Emptiness? Yes, because only an empty place can contain, at any moment, the need of aesthetic hungriness or whatever...

Asimmetry? Yes... because only something "imperfect" leaves room (...) for the fantasy and to mind for completing things...

The first "tea-room", a self-standing and contained, autonomous entity from the house itself, was created by Sen no Soeki (Rikyu), in XVI century: he defined "kakoi" - a (fenced) space inside the house, "mizuya" - a service space for storing and washing tools, "machiai" - a waiting space for hosts, a "roji" - a path to "sukiya", the secluded tea-room, itself...

Last, but not least, in traditional Japanese houses, the sukiya with its well-choosen, poor, yet classy building materials and accessories, is - often - the most expensive and cherished part of the house; only the expert eye is able to appreciate and consider the level of care infused by tea-room owner!

All the above VERY strongly reminds me of a well-conceived and cherished music-room: leave alone the Japanese names: enough thinking how "tubes" are called by occasional, average friends... bulbs;-)...

Gears and cables and stuffs should be hidden, or, at least, unobstrusively placed to do not distract or hurt the eye; a proper choice of colours for furnitures and walls is paramount, as well; the room should be like a peaceful island where, let's call it, "business" - i.e. a certain degree of controlled clutter or chaos, should give a liveliness, giving to this place a pleasant, warm, uncold quality at being there.

Money? Same as sukiya;-) - only the owner, for his VERY own-sake, should know the grand-total spent, and never, ever becoming a conversation topic.

... and it should be away from a kitchen or a working place, to suggest the elevation of tastes over everyday acts & facts.

Furthermore, fried-chicken smell AND Bach's Cello Sonatas do not match;-)

The mind should find best conditions to enjoy Music, relaxed, yet awake and apt to capture music, its beautiful details... its meaning.

A lesson from the past...

A.L.E. - AUDIO LABORATORY ENDO: a pre-owned rare chance!

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