Monday, September 23, 2019

Beck delivers live in Austin

Enjoyed a great performance by Jeff Beck and band at the Paramount Saturday evening. He may be getting on years but Jeff still surrounds himself (mostly) with great musicians and delivers a level of original guitar playing that is unique and powerful to witness. I tried watching his right hand but it's really impossible to capture how he does this mix of stroking, picking, and turning of knobs simultaneously to create that otherworldly soundscape. Superb.

Slight downside for me was the totally unnecessary appearance of Johnny Depp on guitar and vocals for a few songs near the end. See video proof below (though the venue did try very quickly to clamp down on anyone recording stuff). No disrespect to Johnny and another singer who also appeared (sorry, no idea who it was) but the music definitely took a backward step from there to my ears. No biggie I suppose, most people seemed happy or at least curious at all this but I'd have loved a few more tracks from Beck and the band without any special guests.  Now, if only Jeff could take some gentle wardrobe advice....

Thursday, September 19, 2019

New Miles biopic, fun but fair?

Not sure this is getting wide release but it was here in the wonderful Austin Film Society's cinema for most of a week and made sure to get there last weekend. For those who know and love Miles' music, this is a fine way to spend a couple of hours. For those new to him, I am not sure how you'll feel after watching this.

There's a school of thought that says a musician's (or artist's) output is all you need to experience, anything more is noise, PR or both. Ultimately, I agree with this but that doesn't stop me studying the lives, exploring the personalities, and the context of their work since I feel it brings me deeper into the experience of the art form. And yes, I do spend more than is really reasonable to capture the outtakes, the alternative versions and the unreleased detritus of recording sessions that the artist may never have wanted others to hear.  So, in this way, if you want to experience Miles Davis, you can spend years just listening to his phenomenal official output. Any maybe that is enough.

But if you want to go further, this is an interesting stop on the journey. If you know the music and have some sense of the man, there's little here that will surprise you but you likely will enjoy the old clips of him playing, particularly with some key folks like Coltrane, and you will laugh at the accounts of his foul-language laden tirades at others (mainly white folks and other musicians) but I am not sure you will learn much. If you know nothing of the man but perhaps think Kind of Blue is cool, you may be in a bit of a surprise.
Miles was famously testy, angry at the world, and very, very opinionated. He channeled this mostly in creating incredible music that sounds timeless today, so you can only imagine the reaction in the 50s and 60s. The biopic outlines some of the source of his anger but leaves unanswered many questions. The makers will say they acknowledged the wife-beating, and they do, largely through an incredible interview with the wife who suffered him yet in his words remained the love of his life. But later years of self-indulgence and, by many accounts, cruelty go largely unexplored. I don't know that this is good, a nod to the intelligence of viewers who can read between the lines, or some censorship of the message so that the Davis lustre is not entirely dulled (as if if could be).

If you can, see for yourself. Miles remains an enigma - a restless, searching artist who lived life to the extremes until the end, leaving a remarkable recorded legacy that still surprises and inspires.  My favorite moment, Archie Shepp remarking how he once asked Miles if he sit in with him when watching a club date. 'Archie who?' says Miles..."Fuck you, you cannot sit in with me'.  Who can't smile at that!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Biden’s a vinyl guy!

Did I just hear Joe tell parents to make sure their record players were on at night? Man, he gets my vote for this alone:

Monday, September 9, 2019

Vinyl outselling the fading CD?

In absolute terms, physical media sales suffer from the rise of streaming services, but few would have predicted the time when the humble LP would make a comeback to the point of outselling CDs. Seems we're at that point...

full story here 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

PS Audio going direct to consumers

I'll admit, I have a soft spot for PS Audio --  I own enough of their gear and have found it mostly excellent over the years (a couple of items were not as great but their digital front end and power amps are my references). Given their consistently excellent customer service, I was not too surprised to hear they are now going entirely direct-to-consumer, by-passing dealerships and using the web as their storefront.  The official notice is below. What this means for the industry and the general admonition to support your dealer and 'hear for yourself' (yeah, I know, the usual defense of the old guard in the press but a near-impossibility for most consumers) is anyone's guess. All I can say is that I really have had only excellent customer (as in, I bought it, not review gear 'loaned' to me) service with PS Audio and I hope this means that others will too.  Now, if only the price of that Directstream DAC would come down....

 CEO Paul McGowan today released the following statement:
"PS Audio has a long history of shaking things up in the audio industry, and we’re excited to be doing it again. During our 45-year history, we’ve always sold direct to end-users in the US, and we’ve also had a significant presence in dealer showrooms across America.
"Over the past several years, our call-volume to (800) PSAUDIO and factory-direct sales have increased tremendously.  We take commitments to our customers very seriously, and we’ve taken many steps to ensure that our customers are happy: that they get the right products, that those products are performing perfectly, and that the experience of working with us is pleasant, and satisfying.
"Customer satisfaction is our highest priority. As we continue our efforts to enhance the customer experience, we are moving towards all US sales being direct from the factory in Boulder.
"We will soon be bringing in new features and options so we can take even better care of our customers, whom we really do consider as part of our Hi-Fi Family. Our extensive network of international distributors will not be affected by any changes.
"Buying factory direct has these benefits:
  • Sales always come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. There are no hidden fees or restocking charges.
  • We now offer same day shipping for our US customers, so no need to wait.
  • We buy back any brand of our customers’ audio gear at its full and original retail price. Details can be found here.
  • Two-way shipping within the US is always free. If the unit is returned, we pay for that shipping as well.
  • Expert advice is always available from our Hi-Fi Specialists as well as the engineers and designers of the products themselves.
  • In the unlikely event a problem arises with a product under warranty, we will pay for shipping to the factory, fix the problem, and return the unit within 48 hours of receiving the product. We will pay return shipping, as well. 
"During the next year, we’ll be introducing a number of new products, including our first speakers, and a new integrated amplifier. We look forward to welcoming a new generation to our Hi-Fi Family as we continue to grow!"
We hope to see you at RMAF, and will soon send full details of our exhibit room at the show.