Trying To Get To You

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 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.


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.