CD-Tech Update

OK, now have two-battery powered portable CD players (both Sonys), so the need to solve the problem of my sadly crippled outside-power player is way less intense. (See, kidz, I need to have a headphone player upstairs for my floor exercises and one downstairs for my treadmill exercises in the winter. And the nicer of the two also has to be able to go on the road with me. Yes, I would look like a turnip if I couldn’t select the music from my collection for workouts.)

What bothers me is that both of the players are fossils, no longer manufactured. Current portable CD spinners seem like toys in comparison. The newie is a CD Walkman D-E350 and while I’m not crazy about the zippy-blue plastic case, the controls are easier to use than the ones on my golden defunct oldie and the sound, aided by an Airhead amp of course, has space and detailed kick almost up to the golden oldie if I turn to volume up to 8 (ouch, so much for battery life).

As you see, programming the music I listen to every day is neurotically important to me. And I feel stronger that you need physical-item resources to ensure that can happen. The demise of Filmstruck was, yeah, striking.

Walkman Crawls Off To Die

The end of a home electronic era that deeply saddens me.  My vintage Sony Walkman D-EJ958 — metal case, beyond durable construction, never skipped and, coupled with an Airhead amplifier, produced the richest portable sound I’ve ever heard — had a terrible flaw: it was powered by rechargeable batteries that, after years, stopped recharging. And Sony didn’t make them any more. By a miracle, I tracked down a set of rechargeables that precisely matched the originals. After years, same problems.

The glorious hope is that the player could use an external power adapter that used regular AA batteries. Little more cumbersome, sure, but it worked many years longer than both the rechargeables combined. Then last week, it went haywire and began to get hot as hell with the batteries in it. Not. Good. And the final terrible development is that Sony has discontinued the external power adapter.

This was my favorite portable source since CDs were the raging rulers of music. Sure, I already have a second Walkman set with an Airhead, but it is decidedly the acceptable-plus backup player.

(Sob.)

 

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #66: Swamp Dogg

The album features another of his classic frank-and-practical titles: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune (Joyful Noise). Only gotten through all the way once, but I have this to say already —

Remember that album Hard Again by Muddy Waters? Far as I’m concerned this is Swamp Again by a 75-year-old and if anything a more urgent and inspired re-creation of the wildman you love to love. Outrageous (and moving) kickoff: utter electrofunk reading of “Answer Me, My Love.”

I’d buy it for the sardonic-surreal liner notes.

And the photo of Dogg that shows he’s not flourishing because he’s in killer shape.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #25

[Just a reminder, this is the general title for posts where I want to do a quick plug of an oldie (or several) that’s too little-known, according to me.]

Bela Bartok, The 6 String Quartets (Lindsay String Quartet) (ASV, 1981)

This requires a shout-out to my long-gone half sister, Betty Jane, who, when she heard I was becoming captivated by music, said something like: “Pay attention to Bartok — my favorite — he’s not like anybody else.” And that his intelligence radiated from everything he wrote.

I’m not music-tech illiterate, but as close as I can be to get by (stopped taking lessons in grade school when an ignoramus told me I couldn’t play if I couldn’t read scores) so all I can say is that every moment of these three discs runs a marvelous abstract movie in my mind that’s different each time through. (Yeah, it’s not in chronological order and I wouldn’t have any other sequence than this one.) I had not played it for a long, long time because (I was reminded a couple months ago) this weird glitch had developed about two minutes into the Second Movement of Quartet No. 1, one of my most beloved passages in the whole thing. I cleaned the disc but it still wouldn’t play right. I understood I better hurry up and replace the OOP set if I didn’t want to shell out a fortune. So I did and every morning this week has featured supernatural sunshine as a result.

Reflections on Types of Tech in Music

The end of hectic travel means organizing and sorting CDs and vinyl that have been laying around for months.

Before we get to tech and types, two albums that sounded tremendous on the road:

David Bowie, Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) (Parlophone) Bowie was not a driven professional in all senses. I was furious at him for years because I felt he’d become lazy making albums and he mailed in the final time I saw him perform. But, as you know, if he knew something serious was on the line, he could unleash the torrents on stage. These two particular performances (June 30 and July 1) were intended to become a film and fortunately were mixed and produced. Then Bowie decided he couldn’t stand the visuals and the whole project got shelved. The band sound a tiny bit distant at times but that’s the only reason I wouldn’t say get this before Stage even.  Although the material and song sequence are very similar, the impassioned, even slightly crazed vocals here create a stand-alone work.

Gorillaz, The Now Now (WB/Parlophone). Only heard this twice, but let me just cite one marvelous long shot: “Humility” (feat. George Benson) really clicks.

I feel a key richness of design and depth of thought and feelings are lost if the unit of music slides from albums into single songs and playlists. And I’m not some sort of Mr. Natural Sound — I believe the right sort of extensive production can work wonders. But certain things have holes in their soul: almost all piano-roll recordings; new vocals tacked onto the music of dead people; and the latest, hi-tech Frankenstein’s monsters where music from all sorts of eras can be bolted together. Yargh.

R.I.P.: Nokie Edwards

This fine obit must be supplemented by me noting the Ventures, and Edwards in particular, changed my life in 1964 when my family got its first couch-sized stereo. Happened the installer had brought along The Ventures Play Telstar and The Lonely Bull (1963) to demonstrate the sound of the system. I had never heard speakers so large and never realized how much the detail of sounds could go into the impact of music. You had to have a certain kind of fluid technique and imagination to make pop instrumentals work. Wow. There was a lot more to music than I had realized.