First, here’s another episode of Out of Obscurity music podcast which I was a guest at. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lot of preparation to get ready (and I’m not even the one producing it).
First, I wish to express my heartiest recommendation to the Bach Guild for selling downloadable megapacks of classical music on Amazon for dirt cheap prices — usually only 99 cents! Their catalog is mostly here and here. (I’ve bought about 3/4 of the boxes, possibly more). What’s the concept? They obtained the rights (mostly from Vanguard Records?!) and assembled classical recordings into megapacks which ranged from 3 hours to 8 hours. Normally I would be skeptical of such budget products. Also, these packages were unwieldy gigantic downloads. Even for people who collected classical music, I worried that “historic recordings” translated to low quality. I didn’t need that headache.
Actually though, these “historic recordings” turned out to be well-chosen, with great liner notes and meticulously gathered metadata. (It’s true that occasionally the metadata for a track or two would be messed up, but they generally updated it with the correct track shortly thereafter.
They do most of their Big Boxes by composer (Beethoven, Mozart, etc), but in some cases they do it by instrument (Big Guitar Box, Big Flute Box, etc) or by genre (Big English Music Box, Big Chamber Music Box, etc) or by nationality (Big Russian Music Box, Little Big Spanish Music Box). Sometimes they have multiple volumes; the chamber music collection has 3 volumes. They have several Bach boxes, and luckily they don’t overlap.
Classical music fans usually are a fussy bunch, but the Amazon reviews are mostly glowing — intrigued by certain performances, complaining about metadata mixups. How amazing is it that you can buy these things at 99 cents!? Seriously how much money are these people making?
It seems that the pushback is coming from the music sellers themselves. The Bach Guild site writes coyly:
We started selling Big Box Sets that were 5, 6 or 7 (or more) hours long. Some retailer named after a fruit said they didn’t want to sell any downloads that long. So we created smaller boxes…and called them Little Big Boxes. The fruit company didn’t completely follow through (unlike the retailer named after a river), but you, the customer did. So when we don’t have enough of repertoire for a themed Big Box Set, we create Little Big Boxes. Same great artists and performances, just a little less music.
Eventually it seemed that Amazon wants to stop selling music downloads and just do streaming — and indeed, some boxes are only streamable — you can’t buy them. Shucks! Also, allegedly you can stream your purchases on the Amazon music player. There is just one problem. You can filter to show only purchases, so you have to wade through things you used the music service for. No matter.
The other thing is that these files are huge. So far the directory containing these megaboxes is 40gigs on my PC. Managing these files is quite a chore (archiving, etc) and frankly, I’m sure Beethoven and performers will be horrified at the “commoditization” of these things at bargain prices. These are the masterpieces of Western culture! I listened to classical music stations in high school like a nut, so I know almost all the standard repertoire, but then again, it’s called my attention to certain works that get overlooked. I have Big Haydn Box to thank for introducing me to Symphony #59 and others. True, having easy access to these things makes classical music seem like wallpaper — but beautiful wallpaper at that.
It then raises the question about whether we should just call music something that is streamed by a centralized commercial server. Silly old-fashioned me, I like the idea of being able to listen to things without Internet access and without having to pay a blanket subscription.
American Song Contest (Weekly Report for Week 2 and 3)
Week 2. I didn’t enjoy this week as much as week 1, but it still was impressive. Jordan Smith‘s (KY) Sparrow song was a terrific country ballad and deserved first place. He’s a major talent. Unexpectedly I was impressed by Can’t Make You Love Me by Chloe Frederichs (ND). She is a Native American who sings plaintive country. I didn’t care for Green Light by Enisa (NY), but her other singles are great, so she deserved to advance. I enjoyed courtship‘s (OR) Million Dollar Smoothies goofy song, but of course it ranked low. I did enjoy Broderick Jones Tell Me song as well. I can’t expect to like every result, but I’m gratified that Chloe Fredericks advanced.
Week 3. Somewhat weaker than previous weeks. Highlights were Brooke Alexx’s I don’t take pictures anymore (NJ) and Tyler Braden‘s (TN) Seventeen. I loved seeing Jewel again to represent Alaska, but didn’t like her song. From TX Grant Knoche‘s Mr. Independent was also impressive as a dance song; so was Ale Zabala‘s Flirt. Now You Do by Brittany Pfantz (LA) grew on me over time. Also, I loved Delaware’s Nitro Nitra though I didn’t love the song.
Week 4. Competition this week was really intense. Allen Stone sang an incredible happy-go-lucky song wowwed everybody. Highlight of the day was watching Crystal Method‘s headbanging heavy metal song Watch Me. I also loved Savannah Keyes‘ Sad Girl (UT) which is just a lovely underrated song. Jared Lee (MA) sang a plaintive but powerful ballad, Shameless which was stirring and sung perfectly. I did not vote for Stela Cole‘s DIY (GA) which was upbeat and full of attitude, and I also loved. Surprisingly, Bri Steves (PA) did not make it with her soul+rap song (I loved it), but Mari‘s Fly (NH) made it instead — I really didn’t care for that song.
Week 5. Good songs, although I didn’t particularly like the jury’s favorite (Ada LeAnn from MI). John Morgan (NC) sang a really nice love song, Right in the Middle. The Latina 3some Sweet Taboo (CA) sang a real-crowd pleaser, Keys to the Kingdom, and let’s face it — the girls are hot! I had a hard time picking my third — I enjoyed Sisqo‘s (MD) new song, but I also liked songs from two islands — Jason J.(Guam)’s relaxing tropical-song, Midnight and Tenelle‘s Full Circle (American Samoa). Ultimately I went with Tenelle.
Articles and Interviews
I bought several budget recordings on the Important Records label. Here’s the bandcamp page, but they are priced much cheaper on emusic. Helpfully the wikipedia page for that label contains a lot of background information about individual artists.
- Freeway by Pieta Brown. (11 songs for 4.99) This album definitely will grow on you; it is slow, meditative, tranquil; the singing and lyrics are intricate and carefully constructed. Apparently this Iowa singer has been producing albums since 2002 — of which this is only the latest.
- Two 99 cent albums by composer Alvin Lucier (obit & wiki page). Orpheus Variations and Out of Our Hands. 99 cents each.
- Electronic Works (1958-1995) by Else Marie Pade. 90 minutes, 6.99 (Wiki page)
- Various albums by Acid Mothers Temple (anarchic guitar-driven soundscapes by a Japanese experimental rock band). Lots of 99 cent albums here, here, here and here and several more.
- Drifter’s Symphony by Holy Sons. 36 minutes, 3.49.
- Decibels of Gratitude by Major Stars. 99 cents for 40 minutes.
- Spicchiology by XXL — Listenable experimental rock consisting of Xiu Xiu and Larsen
- Fake Love by Enisa. 4.49, 7 songs, 19 minutes. Great dance pop by NY-based Albanian American singer (and .2022 American Song Contestant). These sings are more bluesy ballads, better than her competition song.
- Assignment/stupid by Ni/Co. Another American song contestant. 2 songs, 99 cents. Much better soul songs than what they competed with.
- I’m Sorry, Tokyo (featuring Lackhoney) by Brooke Alexx. 99 cents, 4 songs. New Jersey singer Brooke Alexx is knocking them dead in the 2022 American Song Contest. Her other albums are elsewhere, grab this while it’s still on emusic!
- Simetria by Elle Belga. 3.99 for 33 minutes.
- Puzzlewood by Plone. 6.49 for 39 minutes.
- Lack of Resistance by Coss. 28 minutes, 4 tracks, from Serafin Audio Imprint, with lots of similar electronica/remix music.
- Talk from Home by Suzanne Kraft. 37 minutes, 2.99
- Evening with Silk Sonic by Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak, Silk Sonic. 6.49, 36 minutes.
- See where the night goes by Goodbye June. 40 minutes, 4.99. Good southern bluesy-rock with a lot of Black Betty like yelling. This feels a little wilder than their previous album.
- Albums by French 79. Angel (99 cents, 28 minutes) and Olympic (Remixes) (13 minutes for 49 cents)
- Wohin? by Helium Vola. 6.99 115 minutes. Avante-garde arrangements of medieval choral group from Germany.
- Jamie Singles Collection 1962-1965 by Barbara Lynn. 7.49 for 75 minutes. Classic Blues singer and electric guitar singer from Beaumont Texas.
- Invisible by Chapelier Fou. 50 minutes for 3.99 . Also Darling, Darling, Darling, 25 minutes for 99 cents.
- Rebirth Symphony by Mieczysław Karłowicz. 3.49 for 50 minutes. Karłowicz is a late 19th century Polish composer who died prematurely. Many online have praised this symphony; one Youtube commenter described it as “like hearing Mahler, Elgar, Tchaikowski, and even Bernstein (3rd movement) all at once.”
- From the Reach by Sonny Landreth.
- Various Southern blues from the PepperCake label (all are 3.99 for 50 minutes) : Nine Pound Hammer by Mark Selby, Travellers by Richie Arndt, Voodoo by Richie Arndt. Aha, Richie Arndt is NOT Richard Arndt (the US Southern blues singer NOT on emusic); he’s a German blues singer. They are both good though.
- Anadolu’yum by Fikret Kızılok. 4.99, 48 minutes. Experimental pop singer from Turkey in the 1970s. This album gathers his hit 45s from the late 1960s to early 1970s.
- Two albums by Chilean folk pop singer Angelo Pierattini: soy un Aprendiz (3.99, 30 minutes) and Tomatu Sopita (Vol. 1) (99 cents, 16 minutes). Also, Parabens (1.99, 16 minutes)
- Collezione privata by Gigliola Cinquetti, 82 minutes, 6.49. She won Eurovision contest in the 1960s at the age of 15. This album showcases a lifetime of singing slow Italian ballads.
- Demamanecer by Carlos Cabezas. 3.99 for 52 minutes. Several other 3.99 albums on emusic. This is the first I heard by this Chilean pop singer. Here’s a soundtrack he composed for the film El Chacotero Sentimental (some instrumental, some with vocals).
- Lighthouse — Everything’s Calm by Yann Tiersen. 6.49, 70 minutes.
- Camille 2000 (Soundtrack) by Piero Piccioni. 4.99, 62 minutes. I had seen this softcore European flick decades ago and listened to it for mainly sentimental reasons. What gorgeous incidental music.
- Wunsch mir Gluck by Steiner & Madlaina. 4.99, 41 minutes.
METAPHOR BECOMES REALITY: I had the good luck to see Ukrainian singer Ms. Irina Bilyk perform this song (translated as “I’m going to War”) live in 1998 (a double concert also with the Russian singer Linda, who was also great). It’s ironic that in 1998 songs would be about metaphorical wars and turn into actual wars 2 decades later. …. Слава Україні.
translated lyrics) I’m going to war
I’m not myself today,
I can’t sleep since the evening.
My weapons are already prepared,
I’m going to war.
My enemy is myself,
Dear God, forgive me.
My enemy is my eyes and my words,
Only you’re in them.
Tell me, who is to blame
That a war with oneself is waged now?
Tell me, who is to blame
That a war is waged now?
As I go, I’m seeing the fires
The burned garden of happiness.
I haven’t said “yes” or “no” yet,
But it’s late to go back.Source: Lyricstranslate.
Am not embedding it, but here’s the link to the outstanding song Sparrow by Jordan Smith.
Here’s a lovely song by a Chilean singer. La Libelula translates as “The Dragonfly.” For more, here’s a 1999 live performance of another song.
I was delighted to see Sisqo performing at the American Song Contest. His song was good in an incomprehensible way. But I had to watch the music video for the Thong Song (an earworm which was everywhere in 2000; really, it’s a great song. I listened to it a lot). When I finally watched it for the first time 22 years later, I had to admit that it was exactly what I’d expected and more. Lots of butts and cleavage, lots of dancing and Massive budget, lavish colors,
Freegal and Library CDs
The Traveller by Khan Jamal. 1980s jazz album with Jamal on vibraphone.
Reviews (Rateyourmusic/Personal Reviews, etc)