Known Johnson

November 24, 2005

King Crimson online live archive open

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:12 am

This comes as a complete surprise to me, but King Crimson has opened a site dedicated to offering downloads of live material, similar in concept to the King Crimson Collector’s Club but minus packaging, shipping, etc. There’s already a considerable amount of material available in the archive and it looks to me like they’re just going to keep adding stuff. This is great for the fans who’ve found the Club’s generally incredible but limited selection too restrictive – Robert Fripp can now offer anything and everything and it’s always available.

This project fills in the gaps around the Club releases – for instance, you can now purchase the March 31, 1974 show to go along with the March 29 and 30 shows that are already available in the Club. The bonus is that now there are previews for everything – so we can make informed decisions on where to spend our money, instead of getting burned as so many of us feel we did on the recent Brighton 1971 release, which had what might be the worst sound quality I’ve ever heard on a bootleg, and I’ve heard a LOT of bootlegs. For the record, the sound quality of the 3/31/74 shows is fantastic – a pure, unmixed soundboard recording (there are some audience recordings, so be sure and listen to the clips first.) This is, without a doubt, heaven for King Crimson collectors (and Robert Fripp fans – so far one full set of soundscapes (from which some of the beautiful Love Cannot Bear was sourced) is available, with more to come, surely.)

A couple of minor grumbles: one thing that is worrisome – the site’s FAQ states that all downloads must be completed within 72 hours of purchase, and if you do not complete the download within that time period, you must re-purchase it! That’s going to have to change – I won’t have any problems downloading this stuff even in FLAC format on my cable connection, but even bigger mp3s are going to cause problems for those stuck on modems. The other grumble I have is charging a flat fee for everything, whether it be two full audio CDs worth of files or less than a single CDs worth, you still pay either $9.95 for mp3 or $12.95 for FLAC. Mind you, I don’t want to see the prices go up – rather I want to see them come down a bit for shorter shows. However, this is still cheaper than the CDs would be on their own, so the complaint is minor.

The difficult decision here is not whether to purchase any of these but where to start.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:53 am

I’ve been up since . . . wait for it . . . 5 am when Amanda woke up hungry, which woke me up – also hungry. I laid there for quite a while after Alissa fed her desperately hoping to get back to sleep, but the gnawing teeth of hunger wouldn’t relent. So I got up. Awake at 6 am on Thanksgiving . . . that’s just not right.

November 23, 2005

Mr. Mom – day 3

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:01 pm

It’s pretty easy to sum up the past two and a half days: lots of feeding, lots of diaper changing, and the occasional mysterious crying-jig that stopped with a glorious smile as quickly as it started. There’s really never very much time to get involved in anything, as baby demands an extra special amount of attention that I’d never really realized before. In fact, if anything, I come away from these three days with an increased appreciation for what stay-at-home parents do – not that I minimized what Alissa did for the past three months, but there’s really no way to know exactly how much time it takes until you have to do it yourself. I learned very quickly to have everything I might need around me while feeding Amanda – TV remote, phone, drink, towels – lots of towels, etc. Because once she’s started eating, and especially once she’s done, burped and is drifting off to sleep, wherever you are is where you will remain for a while.

And even with all this downtime, I still find myself working my way through Guided By Voices’ The Electrifying Conclusion DVD of the very final concert last New Year’s Eve in Chicago. As can be expected, I’ve had a lot of interruptions and find myself slow to get back to it, but really it’s because this one concert – ONE single show – is over four hours long, featuring over 60 songs. Even if I’d had the time, I don’t think I could handle watching the whole thing at once – it’s simply too long to remain glued to the TV screen, as great as it is. But it’s a beautiful thing – a huge sloppy mess of a concert, the band happily drinking from an onstage bartender’s offering, haphazard guest appearances from former band members (the most entertaining from BeatleBob, the announcer, who comes on stage during “My Kind of Soldier” to showcase his special dancing skills.) The band, especially leader Bob Pollard, gets more drunk throughout the night, as one can imagine, but manages to pull of the songs with deft skill – maybe Pollard’s vocals get a little slurred, but for as much as he’s seen drinking, it’s pretty amazing he’s even able to stand up (I worried at several points about Bob’s longevity – he’s clearly an alcoholic, and at 48 he should have a lot of life and music left in him, but this behavior certainly doesn’t bode well for a very long solo career . . . )

The final encore of the DVD is paused as we speak, and I’m downing a quick lunch. I probably should return to the DVD and finally finish it up while I have a few minutes to myself . . .

November 22, 2005

Bill Frisell – Further East / Further West available for download

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:06 am

A quick check of the Bill Frisell site shows that the promised “additional” East/West material (Frisell’s fantastic new live album, released Summer 2005) is now available. I’m thrilled to see some options of download format – I had been worried it was going to be crappy low-bitrate mp3s or, much worse, the DRM-protected WMV format, but I’m glad to say that buyers have the option of grabbing compressed, lossy files in the form of both mp3s and AAC (Apple format,) and compressed, non-lossy FLAC files. The files can also be purchased at Itunes and Napster, but why would you limit yourself like that? Get at least the mp3s from the Songtone site so you aren’t chained to a particular player, or spend the extr $2.99 and get the FLAC files and decide for yourself what lossy format you want to use. As an incentive, Songtone is including a free download of artwork with your purchase.

Here’s the line-up:

FURTHER WEST (DISC 1)

1. Lookout for Hope (9:47)
2. Monroe (7:02)
3. Big Shoe (7:50)
4. Egg Radio (11:10)

total time: (36:06)

Bill Frisell – guitar, loops
Viktor Krauss – bass
Kenny Wollesen – drums

FURTHER EAST (DISC 2)

1. Lost Highway (10:48)
2. Masters of War (9:00)
3. What The World Needs Now (5:21)
4. Somewhere Over The Rainbow (4:03)
5. Prelude/Body and Soul (3:04)
6. Paradox (6:33)
7. Cluck Old Hen (2:16)

total time: (41:10)

Bill Frisell – electric & acoustic guitars, loops
Tony Scherr – bass, acoustic guitar
Kenny Wollesen – drums, percussion

November 21, 2005

Mr. Mom

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:42 am

And so I begin my three-day stint as “the man of the house,” having seen a tearful Alissa off to work just a bit ago. This marks my first time alone with Amanda for any extended amount of time – that’s 12 weeks where I was never alone with Amanda for more than 20 minutes or so. So far – one hour in – things are going swimmingly. I’ve managed to make myself a bagel, down a Diet Coke, and searched for info on Poltergeist* Of course, that’s probably because Amanda is sound asleep. We’ll see what happens in a bit when she wakes up . . . I am, however, slightly relieved that my presence has been requested at my parents’ house this afternoon, which alleviates some of the first-day trauma that I might otherwise have to endure alone.

The plan for the rest of the week is pretty simple: I’ve determined that it’s almost impossible to get much done with a new baby, so I’m quarantining myself in the house after that. There will be one excursion tomorrow morning when I fight off the droves of gamer-dorks struggling to get their game-hardened fingertips on the new Xbox 360 that comes out the same day as the Rush R:30 DVD/CD set comes out. Here’s hoping they really have pretty much completely sold out before they’ve even hit store shelves, as some stores are reporting. I just want my music, people, that is all.

*Having watched part of a marathon of Discovery Channel’s A Haunting last night. I’d link to the show on Discovery’s site, but they have a really crappy site and next to no information about the show. Irony? Quick report: some seriously creepy and disturbing story telling (claimed to be true by the people being interviewed) and visual effects undermined by some far too convenient paranormal-investigation help (the main woman in one story just happens to be learning hypnosis which she uses to determine the origin of the angry spirit haunting her house, while in the other we saw they brought in actual paranormal investigators, which, I don’t know, pretty much deflates the scariness of the original story.) So the episodes are half very good and very effective, the other half just tends to fall flat. Were they to stick to just the ghost story-tellin’, you’d be left seriously creeped out and probably would not want to turn out the lights. As it is . . . I went to bed unafraid, let me put it that way.

November 18, 2005

Sony offering exchanges on copy-protected titles

Filed under: General,Music — Tom @ 12:52 pm

Yes, music lovers and lovers of freedom of choice in general, we have won! Sony is offering to exchange ALL copy-protected titles for identical albums without the problematic copy-protection. That’s right – Sony is sending out new disc with absolutely no copy-protection on them whatsoever, meaning you actually get to take advantage of the fair-use copyright laws that Sony was denying you (making back-up copies, etc.) or to use in mixes for friends (technically illegal, but I really wouldn’t worry too much about that.) Here’s the list and exchange instructions for those of you who unfortunately bought discs with Sony’s virus. Of course, this does little good to those who even more unfortunately have been infected with Sony’s so far unremoveable Trojan (a fix is coming – Microsoft is even jumping in to fix this mess.)

What I hope to see when all the dust settles is that Sony and all other major labels are rendered incapable of ever doing something this stupid again. Sony may continue to claim that they’re working on viable copy-protection schemes in the meantime, but don’t doubt that real, significant copy-protection is pretty much null and void in America as of right now. There are no legitimate means by which Sony can prevent copying of Redbook standard CDs (not Redbook the magazine, Redbook the standard that Philips, the inventor of the CD and, ironically, partner of Sony, set up more than 20 years ago to define what was and was not a Compact Disc.) Oh, sure, they’ll keep playing around here and there, and probably try something with their stupid DualDisc technology, but the end has been spelled out pretty clearly. Buyers do NOT want copy-protected discs, and now, thanks to Sony’s antics, buyers are more aware then ever what the technical jargon on the backs of these discs, which they’d previously ignored, is all about. It’s highly doubtful people will fall for this crap again.

November 17, 2005

Spinning out webs of deductions and melodies on a private beach in Michigan

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 12:45 pm

Chris already beat me to it, but I’m going to gush over Wilco’s new live album, Kicking Television – Live in Chicago anyway.

Some things are so good you don’t want to spoil them all at once. I’ve had books that were this good – so good that I didn’t want to rush through to the end, opting instead to dole out the pages at a leisurely pace, preferring to read at just the right time when I could really take it all in. And this is an album that falls in this category – regardless of it being live, regardless of it being filled with songs I already know (aside from one,) I want to let each moment breathe and be something special for fear that if I rush through to hear it all I’ll somehow spoil it. And so the truth is that while I’ve listened to almost nothing but Kicking Television since Tuesday morning, I’ve yet to actually hear the whole thing – when I’ve gotten distracted for any period of time, I’ve restarted listening to it from the beginning.

I’ve gotten close, but I haven’t even reached the monstrous Can-meets-Rolling-Stones epic “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” (track 10 of 11 on disc 2,) from whence my subject line is stolen, yet I can say that this is one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard. The sound is stunning – it’s honest and warm, untouched other than getting some loving tweaking at the mixing stage. No overdubs where the musicians flubbed a note or two, or where the vocals weren’t just right, and that’s the way a live album should be, especially for a band like Wilco and even more especially for this version of Wilco, who are easily the finest grouping of musicians Jeff Tweedy has assembled to back him. And even though the songs were recorded over four separate concerts on as many nights, everything meshes perfectly. There’s no attempt to hide the fact that this isn’t one concert, but more a representation of what a Wilco show can be.

The clarity is amazing – in front of a noisy audience with 6 musicians making as much of a racket as they can (such as at the end of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” or the subway-inspired noises in “Via Chicago,”) every noise and every instrument is perfectly clear. For people who really enjoy listening closely, this is a real treat. (Jazz guitarist Nels Cline’s fascinating contributions are audible in the left channel, Pat Sansone’s guitar and keyboard work are in the right, and Jeff Tweedy’s guitar is just slightly right of center while the rest of the band pans out between the three of them.)

It’s so good I have to carry it around with me, so I can look at the lovingly designed (but slightly minimal) artwork, a hallmark of Nonesuch-label projects. I just can’t commit it to simple mp3 files in my Ipod just yet – I’m not ready to give up on the tangible goods. It all, as a whole, needs time to soak in before I can file it away in the collection. If only every live album could be this lovingly prepared. Or every studio album, for that matter.

(The only downside to the whole thing is not getting the accompanying DVD that had been planned and filmed, but has since been scrapped by Tweedy as not “giving a sense of the audience, a sense of the time and place.” It’s a real shame not getting to see this band performing this material, but I have no doubt in the future we’ll get some live video from them.)

November 14, 2005

Under Arrest

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 10:04 am

I know, I know, I’ve been obsessed lately with the sudden death of the best show on TV, period, Arrested Development. Well, here’s some more obsession: a fantastic article from one of the series’ most devoted of the critics, laying it all out – good and bad – about the news. Showtime, if you’re Googling, please note that we are not subscribers currently, but will be immediately if you pick up AD. And, as the writer points out, all is not entirely lost – come spring when Fox is looking at piles of dead, bad shows, they may just give AD another chance. Fingers crossed.

Give me 13 episodes of “Arrested Development” over five years of soul-sucking lameness like “According to Jim” any day.

November 13, 2005

Weekend update

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:52 pm

It’s Alissa’s last week at home on maternity leave. She’s understandably sad about having to leave Amanda and go back to work. Who wouldn’t be – stay home with the cutest baby in the world or sit at work doing boring crap? I’d choose the former, too. Unfortunately, like many, if not most families today, we’re just not in a position where it works out right now for one of us to stay home. To ease the transition, I’ve decided I’ll be taking the three days off that week (Monday through Wednesday) so Alissa can just get comfortable going back to work. The nice thing is that, being Thanksgiving week, she only has to deal with three days of work before she gets a break. If you have to go back after a long break away, you can’t ask for a much better time than a short week.

Last night was spent as an early birthday party for my dad, the highlight of which being witnessing my mom talking about rapper/human-target “50 Cents,” and somehow wound up briefly touching on the subject of the bizarre sex habits of celebrities (I, of course, could not resist adding in a very censored version of the story about Chuck Berry’s bizarre . . . well, taste . . . in perversion. My dad, deaf in one ear and therefore rendered completely deaf when eating anything noisy, kept his mouth full the entire time and missed most of the disturbing information.

Today was spent doing, well, pretty much nothing. I had planned on doing plenty, but did I get up and actually do any of the things I’d planned? No. Instead I spent half of the time on the computer ripping Talking Heads and Rush bootlegs, and the other half in front of the TV. Oh, okay, I got one actual goal accomplished: I went to Home Depot and bought some of those red brick-like planter dividers, circular things that have scalloped edges with which to decorate your plants and trees. I didn’t put them in – I just bought them. I’ll get around to the tiring part of the job later. Not today, however. I didn’t even get around to washing our cars – which haven’t seen anything but the occasional rain water in months.

Let me tell you, adjusting to life with our new little one is taking some time. I still haven’t quite figured out how it all fits in – whatever “it all” is, as I haven’t quite figured out what that is, either. There are just so many little things to think of and take care of every day. It’s hard to fit the remnants of our life before Amanda together in a way that makes sense with her. Not that it’s a bad thing – hardly. But it can be confusing at times. I have to say, however, that there’s never a moment of boredom – never. I can’t remember that word entering my brain in relation to “real life” (meaning, not involving work) in nearly three months now. All I can say is, every day is something new – even if it’s just a tiny change from yesterday, be it seeing Amanda learning different styles of smiles to the first time I saw her suck her thumb, complete with forefinger hooked over nose, after two months of hardly acknowledging that she even knew her own hands as anything but “those things over there.” Every day is something amazing, even if it seems “simple” from the outside. I know it’s not – because it’s something new from the day before, something that just a day before this little tiny person couldn’t quite grasp and suddenly, today, there she is, tackling it with ease.

As I type this, I have Amanda perched in my lap. She’s amusing me with little surprised noises that erupt as I do things on the screen and around the desk. They’re the most rudimentary of laughs – little stunted gasps and coughs filled with a bit of voice, and she flails her limbs around on occasion, landing hits once in a while to targets like my arms, where she grasps onto her daddy’s hair, which elicits more attempts at giggles. And every day it’s a little more of this – a little more laughter-like sounds, a little more aim in where her limbs land. But, at this very moment, she’s sucking at her hand, the thumb just a little more demanding than she feels like dealing with right now. Maybe later, maybe tomorrow.

November 12, 2005

Rush: R30 soundclips

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 10:26 am

For those who aren’t Rush die-hards like Alissa and I are, and therefore are iffy about picking up the new DVD set (or, for smart people, the deluxe with two DVDs and two audio CDs) R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour after the shoddy sound of Rush in Rio a couple years back, have no fear – the sound is spectacular. Here’s proof (click the “Deluxe Disc Jukebox” to listen.) And, of course, check out the clip from the DVD.

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