Saturday, July 21, 2007

Recordings ---Old and New

The title might be a bit misleading. Some thoughts on the evolution of recording from the 78s to LPs and CDs (I leave out wax cylinders---I am not that old but do know about them).

And there you have it---78 on top, LP (33 1/3) , 45, and, CD. One brief aside regards the 45 and the LP. Sort of a VHS vs Beta Max or the DVD formats now in contention. Each hoped to be the standard and we now know what has been relegated to the dustbin of recording history (and become collector's items). No word on DVD standard as yet.

Recording for the different mediums required different formats for the recording artists. 78s, obviously, had room for only 2 pieces. An A side and a B side. It was always the hope that the A side would become a smash. Imagine the surprise at Decca when the Weavers had both A and B become hits and they did not distribute them as separate entries on the market---and, only reluctantly, signed The Weavers. Tzena Tzena and Good Night Irene if you did not realize it.

Nostalgically, you have to love those labels from those 78s---Decca, Okeh, Bluebird, etc. Very valuable today.

Along came 33 1/3 (rpm) records. LPs. Now came the opportunity to record some 20 minutes per side. Songs were not limited to 2 minutes. Classical music could be recorded in some form of entirety. It could also be recorded with some good quality---high fidelity and stereo are later and not discussed here. You could listen to an album with that damned new fangled contraption---the record changer. Yes, stacked up and recorded in such a sequence that the records within an album were printed so that the sides played in the proper sequence (side 1 had side 4 on the opposite side--side 2 had side 3 on the opposite side).

As to the labels on the LPs and on the album covers. The artwork on some of those albums are quite valuable today of this miniaturized CD labelling. Some of the artwork was wonderful---whether classical, pop, folk, or any genre.

The world of CDs arrives and so does the point I am, finally, getting to. When you had 78s--2 songs. LPs some 4 or 5 songs per side. Those songs were usually sequenced by the producer to make some whole out of the pieces. As a film does with a beginning, middle, and end. That is how one listened to LPs--any genre.

CDs create a whole new issue. Sequencing is mostly irrelevant. Many people listen in their cars and can program (as they can at home) the players to play a random selection. Which means that in a classical album you might as well do it on one track. If, however, you are recording a folk or a pop album the sequencing matters not. I suppose a first track as a grabber for a DJ might be good, but in general it matters not.

This makes me come to the thought that perhaps non-classical artists might best stick to one style and one subject on a given recording. While many of the well known artists can produce a CD that will be grabbed by the public, lesser known artists have to find that audience. To do that I suggest finding that niche that grabs the audience.

At the risk of alienating some people let me offer an example (I had said in an earlier writing that I would put the negative along with the positive)--a positive one. PAT HUMPHRIES. Emma's Revolution are anthemic. I doubt you want to hear "june moon spoon" from them. That--and the meaning they deliver to causes they espouse are the niche. On the other hand you can find artists who have found their audience with a variety of music--history, gospel, nostalgia, and much more. KATE CAMPBELL comes to mind there.

My point is that there are audiences and, as the changing of the technology shows us, recordings have to be geared to different things---to MP3 downloads, individual pieces via Itunes, and who knows what is next.

That is the recording portion of this diatribe--and the thought that the 78s were .75 each (and you listened to them in a record store listening room), the LPs ran about 2.50 and the CDs run about 15.00. Itunes charges .99 a song--so that means, what would fill a CD, $20.00. Think of it.

Admittedly the 78s have not been adjusted for inflation---as they say.

It must be admitted that many CDs come in each week. Since I realize that all opinions are subjective I do not like to denigrate those that I think are "bad". A subjective term. What I will say is that those that arrive that are on a given topic or theme and have a certain "listenability" are the ones that will surely be put in the playlist.

That said, I have to add the comment that, as I say, to all my guests---you are the talent and we (radio people) are merely your conduit. Yes, I admit that a certain mien is required to do what we do (Note---I did not use the word "talent"--would that well paid radio hosts share such humility---on an unnamed local station).

If anyone would like a personal reply as to recommendations (positive or negative) for recordings just leave your e mail address or e mail

One artist that I did not mention in the prior submission is one that, I believe, should be in everyone's collection---even on that damned desert island that has not food, water, or any of the other basics you need and you want to get the hell away from and really don't need to listen to records on a phonograph that you don't have on a place where there is no electricity---but, you can dream: PAUL ROBESON

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This is merely a suggestion to click on the right side of this page to THE ALMOST DAILY ROOSTER. There you will find information about this exhibit (dealing with The Jewish Daily Forward and Jewish Life) and also about the exhibit about the Spanish Civil War.

This museum is a marvel and rather than speaking of it here---click on the THE ALMOST DAILY ROOSTER to find out more.

Perhaps you noticed an interesting side-light to the Jewish Forward Bldg. as pictured at the exhibit here---click on the other site and find out what and why it is.

On July 29 I do hope you will be able to join me for both SUNDAY SIMCHA and TRADITIONS. DAVID AMRAM (it is underlined so it is a link in this wonderful world of new technology) will be my guest on both programs.

You will find David Amram to be ever so knowledgeable in things Jewish---and speaks Hebrew and Yiddish in the most wonderful manner. On TRADITIONS his thoughts on folk music, inclusivity, jazz, and lots of music is not to be missed. If there is a definition for "Renaissance Man" it must be this musical genius.

Since, in an earlier post, mention was made of reviews and that honesty was the "watchword" --negative or positive--let me suggest a few positive ones :

ARLON BENNETT Summer's Voice

ANNIE DINERMAN 1001 American Nights

Those are the new ones. For some thoughts on if you are left on an isolated island and have a CD player, phonograph, or other appliance ---and what are the chances of that---and what are the chances that you would care about anything but getting the hell out of there---you might want to consider the following recordings to keep your mind off your terrible situation and, perhaps, give you some meaning:

ERIC BOGLE---His latest works for true insights. His earlier ones for that an humour.

JOHN PRINE--Simple lyrics---you can live by them. "Sometimes you have to lose your sanity to keep your mind". An example---and vouchable by your correspendent.

TOM PAXTON---Not the short shelf life material---the long-term meaningful insights. Lots of them.

KATE WOLF--For mood and the meaning of existence this is the voice you need.

There are so many others one could mention---but this was supposed to be about the "isolated island". Pete Seeger, for sure---but, I doubt, that there is a cause or a movement you want on that isolated place---he can save the world. You have to save yourself and your sanity.

You might want to just sit back at some point and listen to :


After the meal you have foraged for you might want to relax with just instrumentation.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Some Political Musical Thoughts

This past Sunday, if you tuned in to TRADITIONS you heard 2 separate interviews. One featured the great Noel Paul Stookey (via phone), Annie Dinerman, and Arlon Bennett. Two wonderful composers that were finalists in the Foundation that Mr. Stookey has created from the proceeds of his memorable compostion--The Wedding Song.
Should you like to listen to this interview with these talented artists just go to Annie's Website and click on the podcasts portion. It is archived there.

Speaking of archiving. The interview with Clay Eals is archived on his website

Additionally, in the 4 PM hour Modern Man was featured. Well, 2/3 --David Buskin and Rob Carlson. Geo. Wurzbach's spirit hovered over the proceedings. Sort of a seance.
Those of you who tuned in might remember both conversations and the music that was featured. Which, finally, brings me to the title and the Political Musical Thoughts referred to.

As they say in radio, TV, and in print---the thoughts and opinions expressed do not reflect those of the station or the artists.
To start with one has to ask the question if music can change the course of events. If so, how can it do that. Hosting a program that plays much topical and political material it is not being a heretic for me to say that in most cases it CANNOT. What it can do, however, is to bring awareness to people.

Now we have to ask ourselves how that can best be done. Frankly, anthemic music can do such things. Think of the Civil Rights Era and "We Shall Overcome", think of Viet Nam and some of the Phil Ochs anthems, think of the anthems of Pete Seeger, Pat Humphries, and many others.

In our discussion with Noel Stookey, he made the point, as well, about anthemic music. My feeling on that is---music that can get your blood boiling, music that can make you say---"hey, I need to take a stand". Far be it from me to now list the songs that I think do that since different songs do that for different people. Yet, those that can be hummed, sung with, and (as the expression goes, "create a worm in your head) are the ones that will help to make a change. I think that there is a great place for songs of subtlety. They show insight and understanding. Will they rouse the masses? Best you think about that one.

Which brings me to the music an conversation with David Buskin and Rob Carlson where, after much banter and some truly wonderful music from their new CD (ASSISTED LIVING) we got down to a bit of politics after playing their brilliant satirical piece about "Abdul, the Reluctant Martyr" (He's not your average Gaza Stripper).

The point was made with humor that was not all that subtle. Well, may be it was. Rob Carlson made a few truly valid points about the British honoring Salman Rushdie with a Knighthood and now those in the Middle East want to honor Bin Laden==="because look what the Brits have done". As Rob said--"how do you compare a murderous thug to a brilliant writer"---and to lighten the moment David Buskin commented about a book Rushdie is now (allegedly--according to Buskin) writing about Big Fat Buddha---so--"..Rushdie is in it for the bucks". Some fun was had with these comments, but the point is humor and some subtlety got a point across and brought us back to, as they say, the entertainment portion of the program.

Was any of this anthemic--NO. Did it make people think a bit? Hopefully. Was there another purpose? Sure---to show the other side of a comedy team and also show the subtle influences of our other guests that day.

One last thought about MODERN MAN on TRADITIONS. They are planning a "blog"---some dialogue follows:

Rob Carlson: I hope other people are as interested in me as I am.

Bill Hahn: Well, I wonder, on these blogs, how many people really want to hear about someone's bowel movements.

David Buskin: Hey, That was my lead article.

Following this topic to a, sort of logical, finish I have to add that I know that when one reviews music, film, or any media a problem arises. If you do it for a general publication (i.e. NY Times, LA Times, etc) you can give an objective and critical review. When you review for a trade publication (music industry, recording, Sing Out, etc;) only a positive review is printed. Or there is no review.

This brings me back to blogs. While it is now July---and some people talk of Christmas in July I will speak of New Years Resolutions in July.

I resolve to review CDs or books that come my way and give an honest opinion---yea or nay. Or any stops in between. Now, I know that I am not the only judge of quality or content but only one person giving an opinion---who never ever mentioned his bowel movements (constipation can make you cranky and pan submissions---David Buskin notwithstanding). That said, I hope it was noticed that I am truly enthused about Clay Eals book on Steve Goodman. There were other things that came in (CDs) that, frankly, I did not mention due to my negative feelings about them. There were positive ones that I did mention if you check the massive archives of this vast collection of pomposity that is now engulfing us.

Hereafter, good and bad in my humble---OK---not so humble opinion. More like Ebert---praise it or knock it and you decide. Seems like the honest and fair way to go.

A few recommendations then (positive):
Rowan and Navarro
Modern Man (Assisted Living)
Eric Bogle (Other People's Children)
Arlon Bennett (Summer's Voice)
Kate Campbell (you pick)

It seems that I should also add one that I did not play on the air and played an earlier version by this wonderful---and I mean that--wonderful artist who, I believe, truly, overdid this with production and pomposity---Arlo Guthrie.

His newest CD is : "Times Like These". Recorded with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. Many of the songs there---"Last Train" is an example, sound a lot better with less production. "City of New Orleans" (by Steve Goodman) also seem overdone. Frankly, there are voices and personas (Judy Collins comes to mind) that can pull of a recording with a symphony orchestra. Arlo, to me, cannot. He is best with less production ---like his father.

As to archival material suggestions:

just leave requests and e mail addresses.