Known Johnson

September 29, 2007

I found the secret to Ipod/Itunes happiness . . .

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 7:13 pm

Or maybe it’s just some sort of OCD inspired need to keep track of everything – is there a difference, really? Who else cares about the powers of Itunes other than probably-OCD freaks like me? For the past three years, I’ve shunned the thought of automatically syncing my Ipod to Itunes, since I have way, waaaaay more in Itunes than my Ipod could ever hope of holding. But in talking with a coworker the other day about his Nano, I realized I had completely missed something that should have made perfect sense. You see, there’s something that you miss out on when you go completely manual on your Ipod – Itunes never, ever keeps track of what you’ve played. And since I don’t listen to much music on my computer, in Itunes it looks as if I never listen to music. My Ipod, on the other hand, reveals the truth about my listening habits. And that’s where my coworker comes into the equation. He mentioned using a playlist to fill his Nano, rather than drag music in manually, despite having more music than his Ipod could hold. And then I realized what I’d been missing out on for so long. I came home, Restored my Ipod, and set up a playlist into which I dragged a bunch of music that I thought I’d want to listen to. I drove around today listening to my audio rip of the U2 Popmart live DVD, then came home tonight and, before I synced up, dragged a few more things into my playlist. I connected my Ipod, watched Itunes sync the playlist, and then checked the play count for Popmart in Itunes. All tracks listed “1”, and a look in my Ipod revealed that the stuff I’d dropped in my playlist was in there. Damn. There’s three years of playcount-tracking that could have been really interesting to check out that I never knew I could do. Oh well. That all begins now, as if I’ve wiped my previous music-world slate clean.

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Crowded House official bootlegs

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 6:53 pm

Too cool. I had hoped for simply one single great live CD/DVD from Crowded House’s reunion tour, but instead we’re getting the chance to choose what show we want – or maybe just get all of them. Kufala is releasing official, high-quality bootlegs of every show on the North American tour. Unlike many artists, Crowded House makes choosing just one difficult – they play a different setlist pretty much every night. Their suggestion of the Winnipeg show for those of us likely to want only one (since they are $20 a pop) seems a pretty good one.

Now if only they’d release the Phoenix show that predated this tour. I didn’t get to go, but I sure would love to hear it.

Tesla Real to Reel 2

Filed under: Music,News,Reviews — Tom @ 6:49 pm

(I somehow managed to completely forget about adding this one to The Breakdown this week. So to give it some exposure, I just wrote a review instead.)

Tesla undertook a unique idea in releasing their latest offering – a covers album called Real to Reel. Filled with music that inspired the band to become who they are, it covers territory from Deep Purple, the James Gang, the Guess Who, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Robin Trower, the Temptations, UFO, Uriah Heep, Derek and the Dominoes, the Rolling Stones, and Traffic, and it makes a great case that when a band is really, truly honest about their influences with such a covers album, the sum is, if not necessarily greater, at least nearly as great as the parts – both in the case of the music they present and the band themselves.

Real to Reel 2 is the completion of the set that came out earlier in the summer. The tracks were listed right there on the package with the first disc, along with a space for that missing second disc, but with a warning that to obtain said disc, for free, would require getting to one of their concerts. Neat concept – free music with your ticket. The band sees ticket sales rise and concert-goers get something extra, “free” with every show. Unfortunately, it’s not a very logical way to do things. If the band were to hit every city in every state, there would be ample opportunities for fans to grab these discs. Realistically, however, most bands simply can’t do that. It was inevitable that disc 2 would find its way to store shelves, and this week is that week. The nice thing is that, instead of receiving Real to Reel 2 in a plain, artwork-less jewelcase like concert-goers did, the disc comes in a digipak with artwork that compliments Real to Reel 1. So, in a way, while you may have gotten the tunes early, you kind of missed out on something getting this disc at concerts.

And the music on Real to Reel 2? Covers of Mott the Hoople, Montrose, Bad Company, the Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, Sly and the Family Stone, Peter Frampton, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Skynyrd, and Sabbath. And they are fantastic covers – this now-complete set nearly equals the greatness of Def Leppard’s stunning, surprising Yeah! from last year, and that’s no small feat: covers albums typically suck. For example, ZZ Top’s “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” doesn’t sound so drastically different than the waters Tesla typically treads, but some of the fun to be had in listening to this one is hearing Jeff Keith mimic the effect of having two similar-voiced singers handling vocals. And “Shooting Star” could have been a disaster in lesser hands. Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers is blessed with a unique voice that is powerful, yet not showy in a ridiculous way, and few singers seem to be able to handle that subtle combination. But Jeff Keith manages to pull it off – his signature rasp is mellowed here. And that’s the case with all the songs. Keith and the band do these classics justice not because they try to adapt them to their own sound but because the reverence they feel toward the songs is evident in every one of the songs. What we listeners get is the rare covers album that actually does feel like the band was influenced by the music they chose, rather than what usually happens – the band picks songs that they think will score them points for the cool factor of their choices, or they choose songs that are so common that they say nothing.

Taken as a whole, Real to Reel says a lot – and it is so enjoyable that it may be all many listeners need from Tesla (I will, however, disagree and say that debut album Mechanical Resonance and sadly overlooked Bust a Nut are must-haves as well.) What’s more, the band saved the best for last – Real to Reel 2 is actually stronger than the first disc in the set. That’s not to slight Real to Reel 1. Fans of the band and fans of classic rock alike owe themselves to invest in both – it might just be some of the most fun listening we’ve gotten all year. How often can you say that – especially about a covers album?

September 27, 2007

The Breakdown: Dethklok, Foo Fighters, Jose Gonzalez, Iron and Wine, Manu Katche, matt pond PA, Pat Metheny, Pearl Jam

Filed under: Music,News,The Breakdown — Tom @ 8:23 am

It gets harder and harder as the weeks count down to Christmas to determine what is a priority release and what can wait. Something has to wait, as there are simply too many great things popping up to hold off on for the next couple months. Here’s my selection of difficult choices this week:

Dethklok – Dethalbum: Admit it, you’re a little intrigued. Brendon Small, creator of the brilliant and hilarious Home Movies and the series from which this album is inspired, Metalocolypse, about a fictional death metal band, went all the way here and, instead of just using some short pieces from the show, actually re-recording the “band’s” music so it would actually come out as songs. Surpisingly, the music comes off fairly legit – what I’ve heard here and there is a bit too melodic and sensible to be real death metal, but it’s actually decent music, which is a lot more than can be said about many death metal bands’ music. Be on the look out for a “deluxe” two disc version of this album that includes a bunch more music on the second disc. It’s sure to be a rarity someday, as this won’t likely be a big seller even in its one-disc incarnation. I have to admit that I don’t really have too much interest in owning this, but it’s such a unique thing that I know someone else will. It just deserves attention.

Foo Fighters – Echoes Silence Patience & Grace: Honestly, what can be said about the Fighters of Foo? They do good, simple, fun rock that happily isn’t also stupid. And they do more of it here, this time with The Colour and the Shape producer Gil Norton back behind the boards once again.

Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature: Gonzalez won over a small contingent of listeners with last year’s Veneer, a satisfying listen of Nick Drake-inspired acoustic pop. Can he maintain the charm that Veneer hooked listeners with last year? I guess we’ll find out.

Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog: I have to give it to Sam Beam. The man is working in a genre that should paint him into a corner pretty quick – lo-fi acoustic indie rock – but he’s managed to add just enough twists with each album to keep things fresh and interesting. This album carries on in the vein of last year’s brilliant, beautiful collaborative EP with Calexico, In the Reins, with more emphasis on “band” songs rather than the more stripped down template, which he easily could have kept working with for a few more albums before anyone would complain too much. But don’t fear – nothing much has changed. The Shepherd’s Dog still possesses that haunted, hushed quality that sucked you in before. There’s just a bit more flesh in the surroundings, and that’s a good thing.

Manu Katche – Playground: I have to admit that I noticed this one because of Mark Saleski’s list. Regardless, I missed out on the previous album, Neighborhood, despite having it in the back of my mind for the longest time. I won’t miss out on this one – Katche is one of my favorite drummers, having mesmerized me with his skills in Peter Gabriel’s live video, Secret World Live, and I’ve long lamented that he only pops up here and there on other artists’ offerings, despite his incredible skills and tasteful delivery.

matt pond PA – Last Light: Like Iron and Wine, matt pond PA doesn’t change so much as just develop forward, but maybe at a slower pace. With the recent If You Want Blood EP, the band added a bit of an edge to their songs, but nothing that should be shockingly different for the casual fan.

As much as I hate to do so, if you didn’t buy that previous EP, I’m going to have to recommend heading to the Itunes store for this one – for less than the price of the CD, you get the album, that EP, and three additional songs. You can also buy those extra songs (“Curves in the Road,” “First Light,” and “Sunlight (Clean Version)”) seperately, if you already committed to the CDs and just have to have them.

Pat Metheny – Secret Story Deluxe Edition: The Metheny remaster campaign carries on with this now two-disc set, adding 5 additional, previously unreleased tracks to the run-time. I wish I had more to offer, but since I haven’t actually heard this album in either this version or its previous, shorter incarnation. It’s Pat Metheny, and it seems that once a Metheny fan, always a Metheny fan. You either buy into him or you don’t. I didn’t used to, but now I’m counted among the converts.

Pearl Jam – Immagine in Cornice: Picture in a Frame DVD: In September, 2006, Pearl Jam undertook a short tour of Italy and asked friend of the band, Danny Clinch, to record the shows for later release. From what I gather, the result is less a concert than a film about the band in Italy – music and their activities between shows. You know, it’s more a documentary than straight concert film – if you didn’t like Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy, you likely won’t like this either. It’s about the band and not just the music.

September 23, 2007

Whine On (You Lazy Viewer)

Filed under: Music,Video — Tom @ 12:30 pm

So I watched David Gilmour’s Remember That Night DVD last night . . . or I tried to. It appears that either my DVD player is woefully aged or there is something wrong with the first disc – I couldn’t get further than “Fat Old Sun” in the second half of the show. The video started breaking up, then the disc froze over and over, and then it would jump back to midway through the second set’s opener, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” I’m not alone. But it works okay in my computer – annoying. I don’t want to sit in front of my monitor to watch this thing. But that fact alone causes me to believe that our 8 year old DVD player may be on its last legs.

Otherwise, this thing is stunningly beautiful. Filmed by David Mallet (who also filmed this week’s release of U2’s Popmart DVD set,) the show has just the right beautifully hazy quality that fits Gilmour and Pink Floyd’s music. It’s a shame I had to give up watching it – the whole thing was just mesmerizing.

After the RtN debacle, I opted to switch it out for the aforementioned Popmart DVD, which was equally visually gorgeous. Some buyers are already complaining about film grain and sometimes murky visuals, but that’s just how David Mallet works. I think it looks fantastic – it feels like something really special, unlike the super-crisp, overly-digital look of many new concert DVDs. Maybe it’s just me – I prefer my concert DVDs to look like film. It makes the show look like a real event, something extra special that got the actual film treatment.

Unfortunately, I only got through nine songs of the U2 DVD before I just had to call it a night – Alissa was home from her ASU football game, we watched a few more songs, and that was it. I’m just not able to stay up late like I used to. So U2, and I guess Gilmour, will have to wait for another day.

Oh, and if anyone was curious, my rip of the two Gilmour DVDs in this set amounts to four audio discs. Two discs for the concert-proper, another for about 60 minutes of audio (leftovers of the RAH show and a handful of tracks from the Mermaid Theatre,) and one more disc for the remaining 22 minutes. That’s right, it almost fit on 3 discs, but that remaining two minutes forced it over to a separate disc, so I just paired all the “various locations” tracks on it. I did leave off one track, “This Heaven,” from the AOL Sessions, as it is available on my just-acquired “deluxe edition” of On an Island (along with the rest of the AOL Sessions,) so for those who are ripping this disc and want this track, prepare for an additional 5 minutes or so. Also be aware that one of these bonus tracks is a very hidden easter egg in the form of an acoustic version of “Echoes” from Live At Abbey Road, which starts off goofy like it’s just an outtake, then becomes an excerpt of the real deal. Floyd fans will want this badly, and if you’re using DVD Audio Extractor, it’s track 1 of Chapter 13.

Now, when are we going to get Delicate Sound of Thunder on DVD?

September 19, 2007

Arrivals

Filed under: Music,Video — Tom @ 8:07 pm

UPS dropped off a couple of very exciting packages today: the new Mark Knopfler, Kill to Get Crimson, and Weather Report’s Forecast: Tomorrow box set. Knopfler’s disc is pretty much exactly what I was expecting and hoping for: a comfortable album of his trademark talk-singing (this is called sprechstimme,) tinges of Irish-folk, and that guitar. I don’t much care that there’s nothing surprising going on – when someone’s as good, talented, and enjoyable to listen to as Knopfler, all I really care about is having more.

I can’t really say much about the WR box other than that it’s really beautiful – there’s a huge book inside the box that has a lotta lotta text in it. I haven’t dived into that – either the book or the music – yet, but I’m looking forward to it. This should be about all I need from them – three discs covering their career and one DVD of a concert in 1978. Sounds like a good time to me.

I had been conflicted about the necessity of getting U2’s Popmart DVD (the “deluxe edition,” naturally) right now, but once I saw the thing at Best Buy yesterday, that question was answered pretty well: I needed it. I picked it up tonight while we were out and I’m glad to say it’s a gorgeous, ridiculously over-the-top package, complete with a pop-up Edge inside (the flipping-out action of which required me to show it to Alissa and add in a “doing!” sound as he popped out. I also really liked that if you turn the set over while the book is open, the Edge is printed on the backside so it appears as if he’s jumping up over the book – saying “doing!” as he does so, of course.)

Popmart and David Gilmour’s Remember That Night will fill my Saturday night, as Alissa has an ASU game to attend with her dad and brother. Once Amanda’s in bed, I’ll be sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and watching as much of these as possible (I have a feeling that I’ll only make it through one before overdosing – there’s only so much of any artist I can take at one time, so the extras will wait for a later time.) In the meantime, DVD Audio Extractor will be busy ripping the audio off so I can burn some discs (and then, of course, rip them in Itunes for my Ipod.)

Five seconds

Filed under: General — Tom @ 4:25 pm

I noticed an eye patch on the floor in the restroom at work today and my first thought, obviously, was “What the hell is an eye patch doing in here?” And then I realized it was National Talk Like a Pirate Day (and some teams dressed up like pirates – wacky!) I view most people in bathrooms as gross – they’ll read someone else’s left-on-the-floor newspaper or magazine without thinking about it, so it’s entirely probable that the person who lost this eye patch would have just picked it up and worn it without thinking about it. However, I must have found a like soul – his obvious reluctance to reclaim his eyepatch indicates that he too believes that the five second rule is in full effect in a public restroom. It’s your freakin’ eye, man.

September 18, 2007

Rotten Apple

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:40 pm

Ilounge is reporting that new Ipod Classic and 3rd-generation Nano owners are finding that they’re going to have to pony up another $4.99 for those games they bought to play on the previous version of the Ipod. Apple claims that the games have been “reformatted” for use in the new Ipods and users shouldn’t expect the old games they bought to work on the new Ipods. Scummy. No, wait, let me rephrase that: scuuuuuuuuuummmmmmy (say that with a lot of emphasis.) Who in their right mind would expect a game they purchased to not be usable on later versions? Note to Apple: it’s called “backwards compatibility.” You might want to think about checking out that concept. With the little slip-ups we’ve been seeing here lately, like the piss-poor Itunes 7, Iphone pricing controversy, and other little things here and there, I’m beginning to think we’re starting to see Apple slip back into the irrelevance in which they found themselves back in the 90s. Keep pissing buyers off, Steve Jobs, and it will happen.

I suspect that we’ll see a change in this policy pretty quickly – just like Apple did for Iphone owners, I’ll be that game buyers will find themselves either getting free upgrades, as they should get, or getting some kind of voucher at the Itunes store if they already forked over for the “upgrades” to their games.

The Breakdown: Across the Universe, Jon Coltrane, Counting Crows, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, U2, Eddie Vedder

Filed under: Music,News,The Breakdown — Tom @ 2:58 pm

Our wallets and credit cards sure are getting a workout lately, aren’t they? Yet another astounding heavy release week – prepare to see a lot of these kinds of weeks for the next couple of months. I’m not complaining, however. Are you?

Across the Universe Original Soundtrack: The music of the Beatles’ catalog of the late 60s is used to illustrate the story of two young people who fall in love, then deal with the effects of the Vietnam war on their lives. There’s a catch, however: the songs are sung by both the actors in the movie as well as several prominent musicians who have parts in the movie. The film itself is getting mixed reviews, but the soundtrack appears to be at least an intriguing mix of musicians (Bono, with and without the Secret Machines, Joe Cocker, among others) and actors who sing (Evan Rachel Woods, Jim Sturgess, Salma Hayak . . . ) Not sure how it all works out in terms of musical satisfaction, but if you’re going to pick this up, seek out a Best Buy, who has an exclusive two-disc version of the album with 15 extra songs from the film – for a ridiculously low $9.99.

John Coltrane – Interplay Box Set: Prestige is adding to their collection of fine Coltrane box sets (Fearless Leader was released last year) with this 5 disc set dedicated to his sessions as a side-man to many of jazz’s elite before becoming one of those elite himself.

Counting Crows – August and Everything After Deluxe Edition: This edition expands the now-classic original album with a couple of non-album tracks, demos, and a full 80 minute concert from December, 1994, along with extensive liner notes and a fold-out poster.

David Gilmour – Remember That Night: Live at the Royal Albert Hall: If anyone else was watching VH-1 Classic this weekend (and I might be the only one still checking to see what this sadly fallen-from-grace channel is broadcasting anymore) you might have caught the special on David Gilmour’s Remember That Night DVD, which comes out today. If not, it’s not like you missed out on too much, since what was shown is part of the two-DVD set, but if you were on the edge like me – having been seriously underwhelmed by his 2006 album, On an Island – it might have tipped you over to the “buy” side. As I said, I found Island to be far too mannered, even for Gilmour, to really capture my attention, but I have to admit that it is a vehicle for some fantastic solos from the man. Live, however, the material was said to be much more driving and pleasing by those who saw the shows, and now that I’ve seen some glimpses of it from the “Road to the Royal Albert Hall” documentary VH1C showed, I can attest to that. Simply put, the material gains some much needed spontaneity and soul that I found lacking in the album’s recording.

After watching the doc, I’m thankful that there is a second version of “Comfortably Numb” that does not have David Bowie crooning all over it, as is on the concert-proper on DVD 1. I like Bowie, but from what I saw of him on this track in the doc, I didn’t think he particularly did the song justice. I did like, however, seeing the little bit of British progressive weirdo Robert Wyatt adding his cornet to “Then I Close My Eyes,” as he did on the album, not to mention the significant presence of David Crosby and Graham Nash on a number of tunes from the album. The show is as beautifully shot as it was recorded.

Also intriguing in the doc is a short scene in which Gilmour and Roger Waters, who both somehow happened to be rehearsing for their respective tours at the same site, meet up and talk for a short while. Not much of this meeting was shown, but it was clear from what I saw that Gilmour is almost certainly the reason there will be no Pink Floyd reunion – he looked about as uncomfortable as possible, and the warmth he showed to Waters was not that of an old friend but more akin to two homeowners talking about neighborhood happenings, not two men who spent the better part of two decades together. Very tense, uncomfortable meeting – and Gilmour plainly wants little to do with Waters.

It’s kind of sad to see, actually, and it seems unfortunate that the grudge is clearly still there until I realized that if this band were to reunite and tour, it would simply be a rehash of what we’ve already gotten enough of – The Wall and Dark Side material, with a tiny smattering of “other” stuff. On their own, these two are covering a significant amount of more obscure Floyd material that would never be touched on a reunion tour. It’s better, then, in my eyes, to let the past be the past, and let the Pink Floyd name simply fade away.

You’re going to want to hit Best Buy for this one this week – not only is it only $11.99, it also includes an exclusive 3-song CD (the tracks are presumably from the audio of the DVD.)

Mark Knopfler – Kill to Get Crimson: I don’t have much to report on the actual music – I’ve only heard the song currently available on his site and, as I expected, it’s typical Knopfler, which means it’s great. I can tell you that we here in the US were originally going to be treated to a CD/DVD special edition, but that was cancelled because those stupid bastards at Warner Brothers want to push their ridiculous renaming of the DVD standard, MVI. When that’s coming out is anyone’s guess – it’s not listed anywhere. If you really want the short documentary and MK’s interviews with his band, order this from CD Universe for just under $16 – it may be the Canuck version of the album, but it’s NTSC, Region 0 formatted.

U2 – Popmart Live from Mexico City DVD: While U2 on album may have faltered with the Pop album, the tour was the usual gigantic stadium extravaganza they’d become known for, and fans responded as they always do to U2 tours – they went friggin’ nuts. I actually got to see this tour when it stopped at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium and I can attest that it really was the multimedia overdose promised in every review I’d seen.

What we have here is the now de rigueur dual-format release: the plain jane single-disc DVD and the two-disc limited, expanded edition. The LE includes 9 additional performances as well as documentaries. Really, why skimp on the single disc? The extra tracks are like having half of another concert added on.

Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild Original Soundtrack: Working without Pearl Jam, Vedder is almost entirely responsible for everything on this folksy, rootsy soundtrack. I’ve seen mixed reviews, but what I’m hearing in clips is more personal and simple than Pearl Jam’s efforts, and to me, this sounds like a fine change of pace. Lots of acoustic guitars and banjo throughout the music, which was written by Vedder for the true story of a young man who abandons civilized life to be closer to nature and comes to find out the hard way that nature doesn’t let go. Once again, Best Buy is your friend this week – no exclusive bonuses, but a price tag of $9.99 makes up for that.

September 17, 2007

Amazing Journey

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 8:02 am

After reading this review from a Toronto Film Festival screening, it looks like the upcoming official documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who should be a pretty cool Christmas present for fans of the band (you know, like me.) It seems to be presented in more of a “how it happened” fashion, rather than the simple but effective presentation of live footage employed by the fascinating The Kids Are Alright, which gives it just a bit of an edge in terms of actually telling the story of the band. Long time fans probably know most of this stuff, but packaged the way this is, it should be entertaining to see again – and surely there’ll be something we haven’t heard before. You know, Pete has a way of “rephrasing” his past that always keeps things interesting.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWgT2R8P528″>The Simpsons?

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