Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Led Zeppelin, Durability & the Blues

I’ve been getting a bunch of You Tube clips sent to me from Monday’s Led Zeppelin show in London. The clips look and sound very good; someone used the word “dignified” to describe the band onstage, and that word certainly has come to mind as I’ve watched. They sound tight and strong, command intact. And to their credit, they’re not hiding their age. Jimmy Page’s hair is silver-white and Robert Plant has a bit of a paunch; they’re not Gods anymore, but very mortal men who are happy to show it.

It’s incredible to me how popular Zeppelin has remained and how they’ve penetrated each successive generation of rock fans. Their music, twenty-eight years after their last studio album, has aged incredibly well, retaining both it’s power and modernity; it’s no wonder that they continue to appeal to new generations of fans. And I believe that appeal is due to their music’s roots in American blues and black music, music that continues to resonate, even if it has long since fallen out of fashion. It’s fitting then that the most anticipated rock reunion in years occurred at an event honoring Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, a man who believed that southern American black music was the foundation of all of American musical culture. Rock was built on that tradition and punk was the breaking point from it – and while it was a thrilling break, it’s telling that there isn’t one punk band that has had the staying power of the blues based British artists from the 60’s and 70’s.

It was interesting was talking to a couple of friends who were there and who work in the music business; “inspiring” was the word both of them used to describe the show. I asked them why and each of them said it was a treat to see the real thing.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bootleg Friday (Finally!): Little Feat, 1973

Something in my life has not been right lately. And I've been looking and searching, trying to figure out what it is. And I finally got it - there's been no Bootleg Friday in the past few weeks!

To get back in the game, here are some selections from a Little Feat show in 1973 that was taped for the radio. It's been years since I listened to them, but when I put these tracks on, that heady rush of good time New Orleans came back immediately. Enjoy 'em!

Download: "A Political Blues" 3/14/73, Hempstead, NY
Download: "Got No Shadow" 3/14/73, Hempstead, NY
Download: "Willin" 3/14/73, Hempstead, NY
Download: "Two Trains" 3/14/73, Hempstead, NY
Download: "Fat Man In The Bathtub" 3/14/73, Hempstead, NY
Download: "Dixie Chicken" 3/14/73, Hempstead, NY

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Grammy Awards Bullshit Part 2174

One Monday night in February of 1985 I was watching the Grammy Awards at home. I was up past my bedtime, but I couldn't go to sleep without finding who won the Album of the Year award. It was Born In The U.S.A. versus Purple Rain, with Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down in the mix, along with two other albums I don't remember. I was rooting hard for Bruce, but I told myself that if Prince won, it'd be well deserved - Purple Rain was great and how could I argue if it won? But I knew it'd be either one of those two.

"And the winner is...Lionel Richie for Can't Slow Down!"

I exploded. I threw something at the TV, and started yelling and cursing at the screen, disgusted that Lionel Richie, who in my view was vapid and bland, could beat Springsteen and Prince. Where was the justice? Were these voters stupid or something? (I woke up my Dad with my commotion, who groggily and forcefully inquired as to what the hell was going on.)

That was my introduction to the wisdom of the Grammy Awards.

Today I'm reminded of that night almost 23 years ago, as Springsteen's Magic, easily one of the best albums of the year, was looked over for Album of the Year honors. Instead, we have nods going to Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock and the Foo Fighers. I personally have no issue with the Kanye and Amy nominations; I was expecting those. And I honestly haven't heard the Vince Gill or Herbie Hancock albums. But the Foo Fighters album? Are you kidding me? I like Dave Grohl and all, but if there's been a more harmless body of work in the last 10 plus years, I'd be hard pressed to name it.

Here's the question. Why do I even care? Why is it important to me that a great work be recognized as such? Everyone knows the Grammy Awards are meaningless, right? Remember, this is the awards body that gave Jethro Tull a Best Metal award instead of Metallica in '89. Best New Artist to Milli Vanilli. Etc., etc.

So why do I care? I guess the first reason is because I love Magic and want Bruce to finally win an Album Of The Year award, just like I wanted Marty Scorcese to win a Best Director Oscar and was thrilled when he did. But even more that that, I suppose that I want great work to be recognized as great work. I was happy when Dylan's Time Out Of Mind and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won the best album Grammy because for a moment, it felt like there was a little justice in the world. I know I'm making more of this than I need to - there are few things more meaningless than the Grammy Awards, but I can't help but feel like this is the bullshit icing on top of a very bad cake.

PS: The Arcade Fire should have gotten a Best Album Nomination too.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blue Monday

I just finished reading Rick Coleman’s wonderful bio about Fats Domino, “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock N’ Roll.” It’s one of the best music books I’ve read in years. It is exhaustive in its scope about Domino and post WWII New Orleans R&B, but more than anything, it is a book that sets the record straight.

If Elvis’ legacy as has been called into question by a strain of "cultural critic" that (foolishly) calls what he did cultural appropriation (i.e., ripping off blacks), then Fats Domino contribution to rock and r&b has often been left out of the story. This borders on travesty, as Domino was making music that could easily be identified as rock n’ roll five plus years before Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis ever set foot in a recording studio. My guess is that it’s due to Domino’s non-threatening image; we like our rockers to be overtly rebellious and sexy. Perhaps it’s due to him being a piano based rocker in a genre where the guitar became the main instrument. But however it went down, Domino, despite being a key influence on Elvis, the Beatles, countless others, selling over 100 million records and being an artist who truly shook the walls of segregation (one of the most fascinating threads of the book) has never seemed to get the full extent of the recognition that he deserves.

If the information revolution that we’re experiencing today creates micro-niches of fans interested in one thing, then the revolution began by Fats Domino and his generation of r&b and rock n’ roll musicians did something completely different; it brought vast groups of people together for the first time, often times in direct violation of the law (segregation). It may seem like a small thing now, but when you read “Blue Monday,” you understand both the enormity of the accomplishment (and the price paid for it) and how it altered the history of America forever.

This is required reading.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Alicia Keys: As I'm Bland

Listening to Alicia Keys is a deflating experience for me. She’s gorgeous, has a solid voice and is obviously talented – but in listening to her new album, As I Am, I get the experience of listening to the musical equivalent of table scraps – someone who has something real to share, but instead serves up the same vaguely empty platitudes of self-empowerment and love over and over. It’s ultimately disappointing, because despite her blandness, I can’t help but think there’s more there.

The album’s songs and arrangements, steeped in touches of 70’s soul, are supposed to signify authenticity, but all they do is reinforce the suspicion that I’m listening to a facsimile of something real. “Superwoman,” in which Keys “overcomes” her sorrow by recognizing her inherent greatness, comes off as vaguely icky and redundant, almost like reading the modern R&B version of a Hallmark card. It all comes off as formula – and even the enjoyable moments of the album, like the luminousness of the melody in “Teenage Love Affair,” all occur as insufficient, missing some sort of key ingredient to make the thing really cook.

Listening to Keys, I can’t help but recollect my joy upon listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for the first time. What I was hearing was not just a wonderful and singular album, but the expression of a woman taking on the world with incisiveness, humor, spirit and sensuality, glossing over nothing and making even her pain seem beautiful.

That was a soul album. As I Am isn’t. It’s a pleasant contemporary R&B album performed by a talented singer who, if she ever going to be a significant artist, needs to dig far deeper into herself and get to something real, maybe even something ugly. As I Am is very pretty...but very vacuous.

Buy Alicia Keys As I Am at Amazon

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wow. Three Weeks.

I haven't blogged in three weeks, by far the longest time between posts since I started last August. I thank those of you who inquired what's been going on. I can't account for the lapse - just one of those periods where I'm very unkind to what I write. Everything I put to the page, seemed, well, inadequate.

To get back in the swing of things, here's some required reading. A wonderfully informative essay on the Rascals ("Good Lovin,'" "People Got To Be Free") and the battle they waged for civil rights, risking (and harming) their career in the process. This is the story of a (white) band inspired by R&B and soul who wanted to give something back -- and who gave much more than they ever thought they would. They walked it like they talked it.



The Rascals - Anthology: 1965-1972 at Amazon

Monday, November 05, 2007

Aretha On Her Own

While most of the music world has been aflutter over Radiohead's decision to bypass the major labels, I'm more excited to discover (via yesterday's NY Times) that Aretha Franklin has completed her deal with Clive Davis and has started her own label, Aretha Records. For years, I've lamented Aretha's continued pursuit of the young R&B audience, which necessitated having songs and producers that simply did not suit her, at the expense of music that could showcase the continued power and emotional range of her singular voice. This is very good news.

Her first album, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out Of Love, will feature songs written and produced by Aretha herself, and I simply can't wait to hear it. Of other note, Atlantic/Rhino has just released a live album of Aretha in Philadelphia from 1972. I haven't heard it yet, but I look forward to getting my hands on it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Dizzy Gillespie, 1953

I find it very intimidating to write about jazz. I know far less about it then I know about rock and soul, and the history of the music is simply so vast. It's a music that I have come to love only in the past few years, and it occurs for me much like my love of wine: I know what I like, I am ready for more, but writing as an expert would be fraudulent.

That being said, here's a wonderful five song collection of Dizzy Gillespie and his quintet in Hamburg, Germany from 1953. You can hear in the songs what he brought to the table: a fusion of Latin sounds and rhythms with jazz and the darker, richer tones of bop, the revolution in jazz which he helped to usher in.

Listening to this music fifty plus years after the fact, you don't hear the radicalness of it. You hear the beauty in it.

Download: "Manteca" 3/8/53, Hamburg, Germany
Download: "Alone Together" 3/8/53, Hamburg, Germany
Download: "They Can't Take That Away From Me" 3/8/53, Hamburg, Germany
Download: "I Can't Get Started" 3/8/53, Hamburg, Germany
Download: "Tin Tin Deo" 3/8/53, Hamburg, Germany

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Brett Dennen At The Bowery


Brett Dennen won me over on Tuesday night at the Bowery Ballroom.

This was a surprise to me. I had listened to his album, So Much More, a few times and thought that it was somewhat unassuming. The songs were pleasant, but didn't leave that much of a mark on me. Another pretty good singer-songwriter, or so I thought.

What struck me about Dennen live is that he is completely his own man. Most performers try (unsuccessfully) to be something they're not, using the stage to attempt to hide some element of themselves that they'd rather die than admit to. Dennen is just...himself. Holding his guitar high up on his chest, chunky in build and wearing a headband that no one would ever confuse with cool, he is so warm, open and engaging on the stage that everything that could be seen as a "flaw" suddenly begins to work for him. His music may not be completely original, as he works in the tradition of singer-songwriters started by Dylan (Paul Simon seems to be a big influence), but he himself occurs as an original, and damn if that isn't refreshing.

Dennen's songs, while good, will have to reach the next level for him to have the possibility of being a major artist. But I'm looking forward to hearing his next album...there's something happening here.

Brett Dennen on MySpace

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bootleg Friday: The Rolling Stones

First things first. I need to apologize for not putting up Bootleg Friday last week. No excuses, but I'm still working on finding a final file hosting solution. The one's that I'm using now have very limited daily bandwidth, so if you cannot access the file today, try the following day, etc. I will have this issue resolved by the middle of next week.

Ok, now that business is taken care of, today's episode of Bootleg Friday is short (due to the bandwidth issue) but very sweet. It's two Rolling Stones songs; an alternate version of Let It Bleed's "You Got The Silver" with Mick Jagger instead of Keith Richards on vocals. I've always been more of a Keith guy and I slag Mick pretty casually, but Mick's vocal on this is incredible, and is a revelation. The other song is an outtake called "Highway Child," recorded around 1970 with Ry Cooder at Keith's house.

I haven't been listening to the Stones all that much lately, but their music from this period, 1968-1972, continually occurs for me as the greatest rock n' roll ever. Better than Dylan, better than the Beatles. Why? Because the Stones brought sex and groove like no one else, and in doing so, they exemplified the form of rock as music. If an alien came to me and said, "Play me one song so I'll understand what rock n' roll is," I'd probably play them "Gimme Shelter." Or "Rocks Off." Or "Brown Sugar." Or "Sway." You get the idea.

Download: "You Got The Silver"
Download: "Highway Child"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Give Me The Groove

There was a good article in yesterday's Guardian about the importance of drummers that's worth reading. Ironically, I found the article only a few hours after I got a text from a friend of mine who was at the Shins show on Tuesday night who told me that he was loving the show, but that I was right about their drummer. (The lameness of most indie drummers is one of my difficulties with the genre.)

At the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show last week at Madison Square Garden, while I was continually amazed by the energy Springsteen was generating, I found myself almost as often frustrated by the stiffness of Max Weinberg's playing. Weinberg is one of the great power drummers, and on the Springsteen material that calls for power ("The Ties That Bind," "Backstreets," "Badlands"), he's unparalleled. But on most of the new material from Magic, and on the earlier songs that call for groove and precision ("Brilliant Diguise," "Thundercrack"), well, I heard plodding instead.

I write this not to criticize Weinberg; he's suffered for his music, with several hand operations and back problems. Rather, it's to illustrate one of those truisms of music that is rarely mentioned and is isn't even consciously noticed by most listeners - although I think they know it intrinsically; without a great groove, even the best performances are dragged down. Or as Duke Ellington said, "It don't mean a thing if ain't got that swing."

DrummerWorld.com video of Clyde Stubblefiled and John "Jabo" Starks (James Brown's legendary drummers)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Some Worthy Reading

Another year, another CMJ, another four nights of me standing in clubs wondering what the hell the big deal is about buzz band _______. No matter, for this is not a post about me whining about my incomprehension at the continued ascendancy of indie rock. That's because I've got an article for you to read that sums it up much better than I could. It's Sasha Frere-Jones' piece in this week's New Yorker about indie's lack of soul. It's sure to cause a major (mostly negative) reaction in the blogosphere, as indie is dis-proportionally influential in media circles, and here is one reaction from Slate, which I enjoyed as well.

I especially admired Jones' willingness to slaughter some sacred cows that, well, needed some slaughtering. Espeically Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Monday, October 15, 2007

American Flag Lapel Pins

This made me laugh very deeply.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bootleg Friday Delay

I'm having a little trouble with my file service this morning, and I have 1pm meeting, so there's going to be a delay in today's edition of Bootleg Friday. It will be up this afternoon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Great (Internal) Radiohead Discussion

Ben: So you’ve listened to the Radiohead album three times. It seems like everyone is raving about it. What do you think?

Lazar: I think basically the same thing that I always think. It’s “good.” It’s well-crafted. It’s very modern and of the moment. It's intelligently arranged. I don’t think there are any particularly great songs on it. I can listen to it and derive a little pleasure from it. But it doesn’t do much for me.

Ben: You’ve never been a fan.

Lazar: Well, I’ve tried a bunch. Shit, I’ve listened to Ok Computer about 100 times, trying to hear what the hell everyone else hears in it. And I actually like Kid A a lot; I love “Morning Bell.” I think that song is actually soulful. But deep down, I suspect they’re really a bunch of pretentious British art school wankers. Hipsters fall for that sort of thing like evangelicals fall for Bush.

Ben: Didn’t you heckle them once?

Lazar: Yes, I heckled them at MSG in the summer of 2001. Everyone was rapturously into the show and I thought it was self-indulgent bullshit. I even booed them. I got a couple of nasty looks, but no one said anything. A couple of people came up to me after the show and told me they agreed with me – they didn't think it was that great either. My friend who got me tickets to the show wasn’t so thrilled with me. But she enjoys telling the story to people when she’s making fun of me.

Ben: What is it about them that makes you so crazy?

Lazar: The make me feel profoundly alienated. I’ve never been the guy who seeks to set myself apart through music. When I was really young and felt completely alienated from my peers, music was the means through which I could actually communicate with people and be my fully expressed self. I love that music can be the means through which I can make a connection with someone that transcends boundaries of race, class, geography, etc. So I look to music as a tool to face down the coldness of the world, which is probably why I love the heat (and community) of soul music (and Springsteen) so passionately. When I listen to Radiohead, I hear a fetishization of alienation – and the fact that so many people love it and think that it’s of such a high artistic quality makes me a little sad. Also, I have to admit that they’re one of those bands that always make me question myself: “Am I missing something?” “What am I not hearing?” “Do I need to spend more time with it?” It’s annoying.

Ben: You sure make this mean a lot. They’re just a band.

Lazar: Welcome to my brain. It’s not always a fun place to be.

Ben: Maybe you just don't get it.

Lazar: (snarling) Yeah. And maybe everyone's taste is up their...

Radiohead Frustration


A reader writes in...

OK, fuck the hype. This is crap.

  1. The Radiohead site has been inaccessible all day. I've tried several times and each time it's a different fuck up. Earlier it was just way slow. Like 5 minutes per page load. Now it seems their server has crashed and is defaulting to some secure interface that requires a login and password. Yes, I'm sure the traffic is overwhelming, but they should have been prepared. Every potential buyer who can't log in will log in later and use that disappointment as rationale to not pay.
  2. 160kb is lame. Yes, it's higher quality than most of what iTunes sells, but it's not CD quality. Yes, I'm holding them to a higher standard than almost every other web retailer, but they want to be judged by a higher standard. And you know what? Amazon sells their downloads at 256kb which i would consider close enough to CD quality to please everybody but the stodgiest audiophile.
  3. A CD is being released next year? Or in time for the holidays? In addition to the box set? Essentially the band is leaking the new album with a tip jar button.
At the end of the day this is a genius publicity move and not much more. They're not giving away the "crown jewels." they're giving away something that would have been readily available for free to any young computer user with the time and inclination to get it. And, they ARE putting out a traditional CD with traditional distro.

So, 4 stars for the concept. 1 star for execution.
Let's see if Trent gets it right.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bad Reputation

Trent Reznor announced on Monday that Nine Inch Nails are out of their deal with Interscope Records and are not going to resign with a major label, going the Radiohead route of selling directly to the consumer. That's not surprising, given that he's been bad mouthing his label for a long time, even urging his fans to steal his CD's. It's also a move that makes sense given the fact that the avenues for mass exposure for a band like Nine Inch Nails (alternative radio and MTV) no longer deliver the results they once did.

But what I find fascinating are the comments on the Nine Inch Nails home page. It's over 1400 comments, 99% of which are filled with invective towards the major labels. That's not surprising either, given the anti-establishment bent of NIN's music, and the fact that "the man" is never popular in such a camp. But the intensity of the vitriol is worth noting (especially given recent events: Radiohead's decision to self-release their music, and the R.I.A.A. winning their first trial against a file-sharer); you really get a sense that the reputation of the record industry is probably a notch or two below child molester.
I'm not going to argue the truth or untruth about the perception of the major labels. (It lies somewhere in the middle.) But in a business environment where consumers are super-empowered in their choices in how to consume music, I believe that how labels are perceived by consumers is their number one challenge to turning their business around. And winning $220,000 judgements against single mothers may be a "victory," but it will be, in the long run, a Pyrrhic one.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Johnny Cash, 1994

Today I'm going to dispense with the preamble. Johnny Cash in Austin, Texas on December 8, 1994, touring behind his first album recorded with Rick Rubin, American Recordings. Enjoy.

Download: "Big River" 12/8/94, Austin, TX
Download: "Sunday Morning Coming Down" 12/8/94, Austin, TX
Download: "I Still Miss Someone" 12/8/94, Austin, TX
Download: "Man In Black" 12/8/94, Austin, TX
Download: "Delia's Gone" 12/8/94, Austin, TX
Download: "The Beast In Me" 12/8/94, Austin, TX
Download: "Ring Of Fire" 12/8/94, Austin, TX

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Review: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: 100 Days, 100 Nights

I should be rejoicing at the ascendancy of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. MTV play. A feature in The New York Times. A 3 and a half star review in the Los Angeles Times (out of four). I am happy that after toiling in obscurity for years, she's getting more attention and hopefully, (much) bigger checks.

But after listening to her new album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, I'm left cold by her once again. She and the Dap-Kings recreate a lovingly faithful version of soul music circa 1966 - great horn lines, nice walking bass, jaunty rhythm guitar that falls in the "right" spots and lovely upright piano. And Jones' voice projects a gritty charm that makes it impossible not to root for her.

Unfortunately though, the greatness one hears in 100 Days, 100 Nights is in the echo of the era it recreates, not in the album itself. The album is a collection of thoroughly unremarkable songs that, while enjoyable to hear, do not dig deep enough emotionally to be truly affecting. They occur as part "my man did me wrong" and "you're going to pay for doing me wrong," all of it feeling more like an exercise in soul rather than actually being soulful. And while a great soul singer can make the most banal lyric feel like a Biblical truth, Jones is a fine singer, not a great one, and here, that makes all the difference.

There are some high points. "Tell Me" is a lovely piece of Motown feeling pop-soul that gets its point across with welcome brevity, and "Nobody's Baby" is a fine echo of Linda Lyndell's 1968 hit for Stax, "What A Man," which was later covered by Salt-N-Pepa featuring En Vogue and turned into the smash "Whatta Man."

If Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are going to capitalize on their moment in the spotlight, it is going to have to be on the stage, because 100 Days, 100 Nights is an album that skates on the surface of soulfulness without penetrating the soul itself. If they are to take their game up to the next level, they're going to have to go far deeper.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fun With Cliches

I'm writing this from a cafe in Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn's meccas of hipsterdom. I just finished a meeting and have a little time to kill before my next one...EVERYONE in this cafe has a Mac. Literally. Twelve computers, all Macs, including mine. Steve Jobs would kvell.

One of the things I love about iTunes is that if I can see what music people have on their computer if we're sharing the same network. An iTunes network named "Professor Esser" just showed up. So I'm checking it out as I write, and I'll be damned if it isn't the most "Willamsburg" collection of stuff I've ever seen in my life. I mean, it's right out of central casting:

Pavement: check (whole catalog)
Devendra Banhart: check (3 albums)
Animal Collective: check (3 albums)
The National: check (3 albums)
Modest Mouse: check (3 albums)
Architecture In Helsinki: check
Deerhoof: check (3 albums)

Then there's the "Pop I love ironically" section:

Ace of Base: check ("The Sign")
Barry Manilow: check ("Copacabana")
Backstreet Boys: check ("I Want It That Way")
Belinda Carlisle: check ("Heaven Is A Place On Earth")

And of course, there's the classic rock section:

David Bowie: check (9 albums)
Lou Reed: check (3 albums)
Iggy & The Stooges (5 albums - 3 Stooges, 2 Iggy)
Beach Boys Pet Sounds: check
1st two Elvis Costello albums: check

And finally, what would a music collection be without a little comedy?

David Cross: check (3 albums)

No Stones, Springsteen, Aretha, Otis or James.

I'm not really making fun. Ok, maybe I am, a little. It's not that the above artists aren't worthwhile. It's that it's a cliche of the music taste of a hipster come to life. I guess the thing about cliches is that they're sometime true.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Jimmy Cliff, 1978

I’ve always loved the sound of Jimmy Cliff’s voice. It has always struck me as one of the most dignified and stately voices in popular music – a voice determined to persevere through life’s indignities to find freedom. I first discovered him (in name only) because Springsteen covered his little known song, “Trapped,” in the early 80’s (it’s one of Bruce’s best covers). Then in college, like many suburban middle class white kids from the 70’s on, I discovered the classic soundtrack to The Harder They Come, with classics like “You Can Get It (If You Really Want It),” “Many Rivers To Cross” and “The Harder They Come,” which I believe to be one of the greatest albums of all time.

So today’s episode of Bootleg Friday is a very inspiring Jimmy Cliff show from Park West in Chicago on November 11, 1978. Also check out the YouTube video – it’s Cliff singing “The Harder They Come” live in the studio (the version that came out had slightly different lyrics). It’s one of the most passionate and moving performances I’ve ever seen.

Download: "Wanted Man" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL
Download: "Lonely Streets" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL
Download: "Johnny Too Bad" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL
Download: "Stand Up And Fight Back" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL
Download: "Meeting in Afrika" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL
Download: "Sitting In Limbo" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL
Download: "The Harder They Come" 11/11/78, Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mookie The Cat: 1988-2007

My beloved cat Mookie died last night at the ripe old age of 19. He was an amazing animal and while I’m heartbroken at the moment, I’m also flooded with love and gratitude for him and the time we had together. It was his time to go, but Jesus, it really sucks.

I used to jokingly refer to Mookie as the “Keith Richards of cats,” as he was just an incredible survivor. He had been hospitalized three times over the past two and a half years, surviving (and thriving) after kidney failure, smoke inhalation from a fire (he survived, my girlfriend’s apartment didn’t) and a heart episode this past May. Each time, the vets told me that the chances of his survival were iffy at best, but Mookie had a spirit that would not quit and he came back each time, a little banged up perhaps, but with body and spirit very much intact. He lived defiantly, and he was going to go out when he decided he was good and ready. Yesterday, he was good and ready.

I couldn’t sleep for a good portion of last night, so I sat at the computer, writing him a personal letter and listening to music. Of course, I listened to soul, specifically Sam & Dave and Ray Charles. “Hold On, I’m Comin,’” one of the greatest songs about friendship, a song I’ve listened to thousands of times in my life, made me weep, which it had never done before. I could feel the ten years of love, friendship, joy, worry - all of it collapse upon me in an instant as I listened.

Mookie, wherever you are, I hope there’s a lot of sun and tuna fish for you. Thank you so much for being you and being who you were for me. I love you to pieces - you were one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Download: Sam & Dave - "Hold On, I'm Comin'" 5/2/67, Stockholm, Sweden

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bruce Springsteen's Magic: A Deeper Shade Of Soul Review

“The great romantic makes an album about working-class defeat – and, leaving most of his innocence hanging in the air, comes away ready for a long, uncertain fight against cynicism.” – Greil Marcus on Darkness on the Edge of Town, from Stranded, 1979.

“Better ask questions before you shoot/Deceit and betrayal’s bitter fruit” – Bruce Springsteen, “Lonesome Day” (2002)

Bruce Springsteen looks like a weary man on the cover of Magic, his new album with the E Street Band. But there’s also a look of defiance in his eyes, and it seems as though it’s defiance that Springsteen has tapped into to make Magic his best album in twenty years, a luminous and often gorgeous collection of songs, that typical of Springsteen, are filled with a sense of defeat, alienation, dread, anger and the residue of betrayals both personal and political, while also conveying a spirit of steely determination to carry on regardless.

Given the events of these past few years, it would be impossible to expect Springsteen not to have experienced both weariness and a deep sense of defeat. The Iraq war, which Springsteen publicly opposed from the stage months before Bush gave the orders to invade (Introducing “Born In The U.S.A. in the fall of 2002, he occasionally said, “I don’t want to have to write this song again.”), has entangled this country into a quagmire with no end in sight, with unimaginable costs of blood and treasure. And Springsteen no doubt remembers that it is a war that at its outset, a huge majority of the country supported (most notably Congress and the mainstream media) with little or no hesitation or qualification. Springsteen’s endorsement and campaigning for John Kerry in 2004 on the Vote For Change tour failed in its intention to remove the president - “You voted and you didn’t change,” was how Springsteen explained it at a Devils & Dust performance in Cleveland in the spring of 2005. And Springsteen’s 2006 tour with the Seeger Sessions band played to half empty arenas in several U.S. cities, despite the shows featuring some of the most enervating music of the man’s life, possibly calling into question for Springsteen the relationship between he and his fans.

Springsteen has always sought to create consensus through his music – he is a uniter, bringing together multitudes of people who on the surface, have little in common other than a reaction to his music. But the divide between his ideals of America and the reality of America in 2007 feels more like a chasm. And so to attempt to bridge that enormous divide he is back with the band, and while a cynic might say that he needs them commercially, what seems more likely is that he needs them personally - to combat his own sense of isolation by once again reconvening the best community he’s known and seeing what possibilities can be created by bringing it face to face with an audience.

Magic succeeds brilliantly because for the first time since perhaps Born In The U.S.A., Springsteen has paid as much attention to the melodies, hooks and sounds on the album as he has to the lyrics. Several of the songs – “Livin’ In The Future,” “Girls In Their Summer Clothes,” “You’ll Be Coming Down” and “I’ll Work For Your Love” are simply the some of the most enjoyable sounding songs Springsteen has ever recorded, downright gorgeous in both their melodies and arrangements. Producer Brendan O’Brien continues to create an updated version of the E Street sound – Roy Bittan’s piano shines as does Danny Federici’s organ and glockenspiel - but as on The Rising, the guitars are up front leading the band, sounding vaguely reminiscent of the 60’s British Invasion bands that Springsteen grew up listening to (and that Steven Van Zandt continues to lionize on his radio show). Clarence Clemons’ solos sometimes feel somewhat less than essential, but when they come in, like they do in “Livin’ In The Future” and "Long Walk Home," they occur as the sound of a beloved friend, one that you’re simply happy and grateful to know is still around. Garry Tallent’s bass is fluid as always and Max Weinberg’s drums, while still powerful, sound far lighter on their feet than they did on The Rising, which helps matters considerably.

Springsteen is universally and justifiably recognized as a great performer and lyricist, but he’s woefully underrated as a singer, and on Magic, his vocals shine. In the past fifteen years, Springsteen has substantially broadened the range of his voice, creating a myriad of options for his own phrasing, and on Magic, it seems like he utilizes them all. Whether singing plaintively or with a full-throated passion, Springsteen remains one of the few singers in popular music that has the ability to convey a multitude of emotional dimension within the same song, like in the mournful determination of “Long Walk Home,” the wistfulness of “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” and the humor and delight in the face of calamity of “Livin’ In The Future.”

The war in Iraq, while never addressed explicitly, can be felt all over the album. Springsteen, never interested in ideology or polemics, instead delves into the cost of the war in human terms – of death, sorrow, anger and cynicism. “Last To Die,” an angry lament, quotes the young John Kerry’s testimony during Vietnam (“How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?”) and asks the question anew, while making his statement about our current leadership: “The wise men were all fools.” “Magic” occurs as both prophecy and warning: “Now there’s a fire down below/That is coming up here/So leave everything you know/Carry only what you fear/On the road the sun is sinking low/Bodies hanging in the trees/This is what will be.” And in “Devils Arcade,” the most explicitly “Iraq” song on the album, Springsteen looks at it with a heartbroken eye: “You said heroes are needed, so heroes get made/Somebody made a bet, somebody paid/The cool desert morning then nothin' to save/Just metal and plastic where your body caved.”

Magic is not a flawless album. “Radio Nowhere,” the album’s opener and first single, is a less than thrilling rocker, and on occasion, the album feels a little too glossy, missing the grittiness that is a hallmark of some of Springsteen finest work. But these are minor quibbles.

Magic is an album that ranks among Springsteen’s greatest music – and whether you listen to it for fun or hunker down with the lyrics and pore over every detail, what emerges is both the brilliance and commitment of an artist who continues to grow musically and emotionally; an artist whose values remain intact and who continues to fight the good fight - even in the face of these badlands.

Buy Magic at Amazon

Friday, September 21, 2007

Eli Reed & The True Loves At Magnetic Field

I went to the Eli Reed & The True Loves show last night at Magnetic Field in Brooklyn. I gotta say, it was a lot of fun. The band was tight, the horns were excellent and Eli has a way with a ballad. Eli has the potential to be an excellent frontman - he believes in the music, and when he believes in himself just as much, he'll be dynamite. Here are some photos:




Bootleg Friday: Sly & The Family Stone, 1970

I hesitate to put these Sly & The Family Stone tracks up - I'm almost sick of Sly's greatest hits. But they sound so good and are played so well that I want to share them with you all.

The show is from Piknik Kasteel Groeveneld Baarn in the Netherlands on October 9, 1970. Sly & The Family Stone were still on top of the world when they recorded these tracks, but the optimism of this music was about to descend into the murk of the classic There's A Riot Goin' On, his last unquestionably great moment on record. (I know that there are some people who love Fresh, but I'm not one of them.)

When I listen to these tracks, I hear Sly's vast influence - on late 60's & early 70's Motown (the Jackson 5 were a reaction to Sly), Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince and even James Brown. I also hear his desire not just to ignore barriers of music and race, but to tear them up. That influence and sense of possibility still reverberates, and it's the reason that over 35 years after the fact, there are a lot of people who are still waiting for Sly Stone to really make a comeback.

*I recommend downloading all the songs and then listening to them seamlessly. Especially for the "Dance To The Music" medley.*

Download: "Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands
Download: "M'Lady" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands
Download: "Sing A Simple Song" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands
Download: "Stand!" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands
Download: "Dance To The Music" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands
Download: "Music Lover" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands
Download: "I Want To Take You Higher" 10/9/70, Baarn, Netherlands

Buy Sly & The Family Stone at Amazon

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Story Of Soul - Ray and Louis

I found this on YouTube today. A great little documentary on soul music. This section deals with Ray Charles and one of his biggest influences, Louis Jordan.

Cold War Kids Take On Sam Cooke

I've enjoyed the Cold War Kids debut album, Robbers and Cowards. I can't say I love it, but I think it's a quality debut; intelligent with enough passion to keep me interested about what they're going to do next. I saw them live a couple of times back in the beginning of the year and was not overwhelmed, but I've heard that they've made major strides on the road this year.

Last week, someone sent me an mp3 of the band doing a live version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." I was almost frightened to put it on; indie rock bands doing Sam Cooke songs is scary enough, but covering "A Change Is Gonna Come?" It's sacrilege, right?

Much to my surprise, they pull it off.

The band plays the song with a hint of doo-wop; the twinkling piano reminds me of something out of the 50's. Nathan Willett's vocals are the sound of a guy open enough to know the real thing when he hears it, smart enough to find his own place within the realm of the song and idealistic enough to assert that this civil-rights era anthem can belong to him, too. It's a surprisingly non-postmodern view to have, but I found the following quote on their MySpace page, and then it all made sense:

“The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal:shock disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘Oh how banal.’ To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law.”

– David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram” (1993)

This made me like the band a whole lot more. As a dedicated opposite of the irony, studied jadedness and easy cynicism that postmodernism has wrought for the last 20+ years on music and culture as a whole (while simultaneously acknowledging the power and influence that its had), I sure as hell love their point of view. I hope that on their new album, they become more emotionally affecting, further on the edge of conviction and eager to risk the scorn of those who have supported them so far.

Download: Cold War Kids - "A Change Is Gonna Come (Live)"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Aretha Duets

Reading Soultracks.com today, I found the following item:

Soul legend Aretha Franklin is reportedly ready to release her long-awaited duets album this Fall. The disc, titled Jewels in the Crown, will be released on Arista Records and will include duets with Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and others. As is the case with a number of other recent duets albums, Jewels will also include two digitally created posthumous duets, here with Luther Vandross and Frank Sinatra.
I can pretty much listen to Aretha sing the phone book, but I am so not looking forward to this. I can only imagine the oversinging and oversouling that will occur on this album, as the artists outdo themselves in trying to prove themselves worthy of singing with the Queen. I get that they're trying to sell some records, and for sake of being people turned onto Aretha, I hope it sells a ton, but it would be so amazing if Aretha just junked all that stuff, and made the kind of album she's still capable of making; intimate, powerful, stripped down, gritty and soulful. The world could really use a great Aretha Franklin album. Have Keith Richards produce it - he did a great job with her cover of "Jumping Jack Flash" back in '86.

Download: "Good To Me As I Am You"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Van Halen Preview

Of all the reunion tours to come down the pike in the past few years, Van Halen w/David Lee Roth is the one I'm looking forward to the most. I will miss Michael Anthony and his harmonies, but I've been hearing reports that Eddie's kid is pretty good. And they sound and look great:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bootleg Friday: The Flaming Lips, 1999

You may be wondering why I'm posting Flaming Lips tracks on a site that has a large focus on soul music. Well, it's because for me, the Flaming Lips are an indie band with soul. Where I find many, if not most indie rock bands, ultimately unsatisfying because of the emotional distance they keep from their material and their audience (as well as their lack of songs), the Flaming Lips are all heart, and on The Soft Bulletin, they had the songs, too.

I didn't know much about the Flaming Lips until I saw them at Irving Plaza in the spring of 2000 while they were touring behind The Soft Bulletin. But when I saw that show, I was blown away by their inventiveness, their whimsy, and most of all, by their conviction. They struck me as the best kind of weirdos; a band doing it differently and uniquely, going out on limbs that no other bands would even think about going on and willing to make fools of themselves in the process, but always in the service of trying to touch people. And they really touched me - when they played "Waitin' For A Superman," even though I had never heard the song before, I teared up. The next day, I went right out and bought The Soft Bulletin and I listened to it non-stop for about six months.

The tracks posted are from U.K. radio broadcasts recorded in the spring of 1999. Of particular note are the absolutely gorgeous acoustic versions of "Feel Yourself Disintegrate" and "Waitin' On A Superman." Enjoy!

Buy The Soft Bulletin at Amazon

Download: "Race For The Prize" 4/21/99, Eve Session
Download: "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" 4/27/99, XFM Session
Download: "We Can't Predict The Future" 6/8/99, Peel Sessions
Download: "The Captain" 6/10/99, GLR Session
Download: "Waitin' On A Superman" 6/10/99, GLR Session

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another Great Bobby Byrd

While I was looking up Bobby Byrd on the Internet today, I came across another one, alive and living in El Paso, Texas. This Bobby Byrd is an author with a blog, and the post I read, about coming of age with rock and soul in Memphis during the 50's and 60's is essential reading.

Bobby Byrd: Homage to James Brown and All the Rest at White Panties and Dead Friends

Bobby Byrd: 1934-2007

Bobby Byrd, the man who collaborated and worked with James Brown longer than any musician, died yesterday at his home in Georgia, at the age of 73. It is Byrd's voice that can be heard in some of Brown's classic singles, such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine," and "Licking Stick - Licking Stick."

Byrd first met Brown in 1952 when Brown was in a youth detention facility. Byrd (who was not an inmate) played baseball on a team that faced Brown's. Byrd also saw Brown perform with his prison group. The two struck up a conversation about music, became friendly and then Byrd's family sponsored James' release and had him move in with them.

Byrd was the lead vocalist of a group called the Avons, which became the Flames and then the Famous Flames when it was reconfigured to be fronted by the Godfather. Byrd served as James' warm up act for years in addition to performing with Brown's various bands. And like many who played with Brown, the years were not always smooth, with their fair share of fighting, both in and out of the courtroom. (Byrd sued Brown on several occasions, stating that he never got his share of royalties for songs that he had written.)

But no matter what, Byrd will always have a very special place in American music history: He was the man who first discovered the talent of James Brown.

Buy Bobby Byrd at Amazon
Download: James Brown "Licking Stick - Licking Stick"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings In The Studio

Here's a clip of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in their studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Their new album, 100 Days 100 Nights drops on October 2. I'm looking forward to it - I haven't quite become a believer yet in Sharon, but this clip is definitely whetting my appetite.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Video Of The Day: Mark Ronson & Lily Allen

Kudos the creators of this wonderful video for Mark Ronson's (feat. Lily Allen) version of the Kaiser Chiefs "Oh My God." Ronson's album Version has been critically slammed in a lot of places, but I've really enjoyed it. And this video is priceless.

Monday, September 10, 2007

This Just In...

Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves

In the past couple of weeks, a few readers have been pointing me in the direction of Eli Reed and the True Loves, a Boston based soul band that are getting some well deserved attention. Reed, a 22 year old from Boston who discovered soul from his father’s Ray Charles box set has immersed himself in the music since boyhood and his music occurs as coming from a place of love, as opposed as an affectation. Perhaps that’s because instead of approaching soul strictly in a scholarly context, he’s actually physically immersed himself in the music, moving down to Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta, at the age of 19, to get a hands on education in the R&B he loves. He only stayed down there for nine months, but got some incredible experience, and it shows.

The music succeeds to the extent that it does because of Reed has internalized the music, and it occurs as coming from the here and now, as opposed to an attempt to “revive” the music. Perhaps that’s because Reed is already smart enough to know that soul is not a music that needs reviving; for it’s adherents, soul music, no matter what the age, is an indispensable part of every day.

Reed & The True Loves are currently playing a September residency at Magnetic Field in Brooklyn.

Download: "(Am I Just) Fooling Myself"
Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves on MySpace

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bootleg Friday: Bruce Springsteen, 1974-2002

Ok, now that I've gotten the leaked version of Magic and am thrilled with what I'm hearing, I'm officially psyched for the tour. Tickets go on sale for Philly (the best city to see the band) tomorrow, and on Monday for Madison Square Garden (great) and the Meadowlands (awful - Jersey is possibly the worst place to see Bruce). So in that spirit, here is a random selection of some great live Springsteen and the E Street Band music from 1974 though to the Rising tour of 2002-03. There are some incredible covers here - a couple of Elvis songs, a Fats Domino song, a Dobie Gray classic and some great versions of some Bruce classics.

Download: "Good Rockin' Tonight" (Elvis Presley) 9/30/78, Atlanta, GA
Download: "Let The Four Winds Blow" (Fats Domino) 6/3/74, Cleveland, OH
Download: "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" (Temptations) 10/4/74, Detroit, MI
Download: "Heartbreak Hotel" (Elvis Presley) 7/7/78, Los Angeles, CA
Download: "I'm Goin' Down" 10/26/84, Los Angeles, CA
Download: "Tunnel Of Love" 7/3/88, Stockholm, Sweden
Download: "Darlington County (w/Honky Tonk Woman)" 5/8/00, Hartford, CT
Download: "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City" 11/24/02, Tampa, FL
Download: "Drift Away" (Dobie Gray) 8/20/84, E. Rutherford, NJ

Thursday, September 06, 2007

If You're A Bruce Springsteen Fan...

...and you're worried about how Magic will be because you're not wowed by "Radio Nowhere," you can quit your fretting. It's great - sweet, poignant and poppy in the best sense of the word.

Phew!

The Battle Of Bettye LaVette

I'm listening to an advance copy of Bettye LaVette's new album, The Scene Of The Crime, due out on September 25 on Anti. With the Drive By Truckers in tow as her backing band, the album is a monument to a proud and defiant woman’s commitment to her music, and her persistence in finding an audience for it, even when there was little evidence she would succeed in her quest. What you hear here is the singing of a warrior – a little battle scarred, but with an unbreakable spirit.

The sound of the album is soul with plenty of southern rock (i.e., great guitar). It's hearkens to the glory days of the Muscle Shoals sound of the 60’s and 70’s, but it’s firmly rooted in the here and now, without the weight of nostalgia. And in a way, the album is an attempt on LaVette's part to correct the past, not return to it; the "crime" that she refers to in the album's title is a reference to Atlantic's shelving of her 1972 classic, Child Of The Seventies.

LaVette is a self-described “interpreter” of songs (she doesn’t write), and in her cover of Elton John’s “Talking Old Soldiers,” you can hear the influence of another great interpreter, Frank Sinatra ("One For My Baby"). But ironically, one of the most affecting songs on the album is, “Before The Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette) a song she co-wrote with Trucker, Patterson Hood, in which the measure of this very fierce woman’s life becomes vivid and downright moving.

Bettye LaVette will be playing at the Highline Ballroom on Monday, September 24. You can count on me being there.

Download: "Before The Money Came (The Battle Of Bettye LaVette)"
Download: "Talking Old Soldiers"

Pre-Order Scene Of The Crime at Amazon

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Galactic At Amoeba Tonight

I've been enjoying the new Galactic album, From The Corner To The Block, and I'll do pretty much anything to promote Amoeba Records, so check out the webcast of Galactic's performance at Amoeba Hollywood today at 6pm (PST).

Jon Pareles On Kanye West

Jon Pareles of the New York Times has a sensational piece on the new album by the ego formerly known as Kanye West. Not only did he write was I had been sort of thinking, but had not fully articulated in my own mind, he goes way beyond anything I could ever say in this matter. This is one of the best pieces of music criticism I've read in ages.

Read: NY Times On Kanye West
Kanye West MP3's at Turn The Page

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Snippets Of Springsteen's Magic

Here is an mp3 comprised of 30 second samples of Bruce Springsteen's upcoming album with the E Street Band, Magic. I have no comment to make, as I am loathe to judge an album based on 30 second samples that are at sub-fidelity levels. But I now know what Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, meant when he said that the album is "light on its feet."

Download: Bruce Springsteen - 30 second snippets of Magic

On Rick Rubin And Saving The Record Business

There is a long cover piece on Rick Rubin in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine. Unfortunately, the headline, “Can Rick Rubin Save The Music Business,” is symptomatic of the article missing the point. The music business does not need to be saved – the music business, comprised of everything from records, downloads, publishing, live performance, merchandising, performance rights organizations, internet portals and much more, is thriving (depending on who you’re with). It is the record business, with severely declining sales, layoffs and a perception of diminished possibilities that is in a fight for survial. What the article should be titled instead is: “Can Rick Rubin Save The Record Business As We Know It?”

Rubin is an excellent music man, and I’d confidently bet that he improves the quality of Columbia’s artist roster and releases. Beyond that, I really don’t know. His American Recordings imprint has broken only one act in the past decade – System Of A Down, and with Rubin continuing to take on outside production projects and not coming into an office daily (the devil is in the details, especially at a label as big as Columbia), it is difficult to really gauge what his impact will be outside of the artist roster.

In the article David Geffen is quoted, "The music business, as a whole, has lost its faith in content. Only 10 years ago, companies wanted to make records, presumably good records, and see if they sold. But panic has set in, and now it's no longer about making music, it's all about how to sell music. And there's no clear answer about how to fix that problem. But I still believe that the top priority at any record company has to be coming up with great music. And for that reason, Sony was very smart to hire Rick." Geffen is correct in the importance of great music to a music company, but he (and most of the business) misses what I believe to be the biggest challenge in the new landscape of the record business: the absolutely broken relationship between the business and the (now super-empowered) consumer.

When the record business was an oligarchy, controlling production, promotion and distribution of mainstream music, the relationship between the business and the consumer didn’t matter – the industry had the consumer over a barrel. But with the rise of the Internet and the ability to acquire music for free, the consumer now holds the cards. In response, the industry has tried to sue and innovate its way out of the problem. It hasn’t worked and in my opinion, it will never work. The lawsuits have not deterred the huge number of people from getting their music for free and the suing of its own customers have only served to cement the industry's already awful reputation while its innovations have consistently been at least one step behind technology. It has made the issue of downloading a moral one, subsequently calling the huge majority of its customers thieves, and placing the responsibility of the business faltering on them, conveniently ignoring their own responsibilities in the matter and ignoring the fact that no one is interested in lessons in morality from the record business. Such tactics continually violate the fundamental rule of successful business: The Customer Is Always Right (even when they’re not). And whether the industry’s assertions are right or not does not matter. It has not gotten and will not get the record industry results the results it is looking for.

In my opinion, the record industry must do the following to even have the possibility of moving forward successfully in the Internet era:

1. Publicly acknowledge and take responsibility for the fact that what they’ve done has not worked – and admit that their strategy has come from trying to protect their control over distribution, promotion and sales rather than serve the music buying public.
2. Recommit to providing consumers with music from a context of quality - quality music with quality of convenience, quality of choice and a quality price point (having the only place online to buy major label music being iTunes, which only sells only 128k AAC files at 99 cents per song, is none of the above.)
3. Quit making music consumers your adversaries. That means drop every single lawsuit against individual filesharers. Yes, consumers need to be made aware of the impact that downloading music illegally has on music, artists and the industry, but take the morality out of it, and leave consumers empowered to make a choice, whatever it is. Because the reality is already that consumers already are making a choice everyday, except they aren't really aware of the impact that their choice has. Dropping the lawsuits provides the space for consumers to actually listen to what the industry's valid points are, rather than dismissing them out of hand.

Doing the following does not guarantee anything. But what it does do is dramatically transform the relationship between the industry and the consumer - in perception and reality, and creates the possibility of, for the first time, creating a relationship between the consumer and the music business, one where each can listen and positively respond to what the other has to say, without making one an out of touch industry of greed and the other an ungrateful thief that needs to be punished.

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