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Time Marches On

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And so it's March. Where January and February went - I have no idea.


Anyway, I feel somewhat obligated to post a blog entry, just so I don't get pushed off the front page. ;)


Music seems about as good a topic as any. As I'm working on various art projects, I like to listen to music that ties into what I'm working on. For example, if I'm working on sprites for a sci-fi game like Colony 7 or Juno First, I'll listen to sci-fi movie soundtracks. Tron works especially well for this, since it's a sci-fi and videogame soundtrack. 70's and 80's music works well for game sprites too, since the 2600 is of that era, and puts me back into that mindset. It doesn't have to be "popular" music either - as long as it was something I was listening to at the time.


For game labels, it depends on the game. For some, it simply doesn't matter. I pick music to match the mood I happen to be in. But for others, it makes all the difference. Take RPS for example:



The whole concept of RPS (as a label) is to be a parody of an anime TV series called R.O.D the TV. I'll go more into the story behind that in a future entry, since that will have more to do with animation than music, and it's more involved than what I want to write about right now. :D But while working on the label and manual, I listened pretty much incessantly to the two (count 'em) soundtrack albums from R.O.D the TV, plus the one from its predecessor Read or Die. That really helped me get into the mood of what I was trying to do with that label, especially since I'd never really tried to draw anime before. The soundtracks are quite excellent (or I wouldn't have bought them in the first place), and the music on them is surprisingly diverse. The composer (Taku Iwaski) manages to squeeze a lot of variations out of the main theme, and covers styles ranging from classic spy movies, to bossa nova, to jazz, and even throws in a Reggae Japanese pop song for good measure. ;)


Anyway, what got me thinking about music today was the fact that I've been buying a lot of CDs this past year. There are two reasons this is unusual. 1) I bought an iPod a little over a year ago. Now, you'd think I'd just purchase music from some online store and be done with it. But nope... I happen to like owning the actual CDs, even though now I just rip them to my iMac and iPod, and then stick them in the CD rack to collect dust. 2) I don't exactly have what you'd call "mainstream tastes", so it's unusual for me to find any CDs that I want to buy.


Besides the three R.O.D soundtracks from last year, there was a ton of CD reissues of albums that I'd only had before on LP (you remember - those big black vinyl things). And now, there are at least four more new CDs coming out this year that I want to buy.


For example, I just picked up an import CD of jazz recorded in the mid-50's by Maynard Ferguson, which I'm listening to now. Several other albums of his from the 50's, and a good chunk of his albums from the 70's, were released last year. I used to play trumpet, and Maynard was a huge influence of mine. At 78, Maynard is still touring and playing to this day, and he'll be releasing a new album sometime this month. I've been listening to his music for almost 25 years, and that's just a drop in the bucket compared to how long he's been out there playing. I'll have to write up a blog entry about Maynard sometime.


Also last year, Shout! Factory released a bunch of albums by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I grew up listening to Herb, and he was every bit the influence that Maynard was (and if you're familiar with the both of them, you'll realize what a weird combination that really is). Anyway, Herb has just released a remix of Whipped Cream and Other Delights with some new trumpet solos added. Generally I'm not big on remixes, but the previews sound like a combination of the Tijuana Brass mixed with some of his later solo work (which runs the gamut from smooth jazz to hip hop), so I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. Herb's still going strong too, at 71.


Besides those two (speaking of eclectic tastes), Michael Nesmith is also releasing a new album next month. I've been following his solo career since the late 70's, and some of his work is really outstanding (most notably The Prison), so I'm looking forward to seeing what he's cooked up this time around. I have a great deal of respect for artists who eschew convention and do whatever they feel like doing. Nez certainly qualifies.


Finally (did I mention eclectic?) "Weird Al" Yankovic is recording a new album for release later this year. I just hope this one's funny, because his last one wasn't. It was very well produced, and may have been his most "professional" sounding album, but I missed the funny guy with the accordion. It was supposed to be funny, but all of the jokes were tired and predictable and the whole thing just fell flat. It was especially disappointing in that the album right before it was one of his best.


So anyway, those are four of the artists that I follow regularly, and they're all releasing new stuff this year. For me, that's pretty cool. More inspiration for my own art.


Which reminds me... I wonder what P.D.Q Bach is up to? :ponder:

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Yesterday, while digging through an old box, I found my old Herb Alpert - Classics collection and put it on. What a nostalgia trip! As young kids, my sister and I would make up skits and dance to the music on the turntable.


Now I have to find my Mancini stuff.

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I agree - I saw "Weird Al" several years ago in Seattle. Great show. I'll have to try and get out to see him on his next tour (which should be shortly after the new album).


I had the chance to see Herb Alpert in concert in the mid-80's (around the time of his Fandango album). Unfortunately, he canceled it for some reason, and my friends and I didn't find out about it until we were down at the theater, tickets in hand, waiting to get in with a bunch of other people. :cool:

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Well, I may not have seen Herb in concert, but he was on the Tonight Show this evening performing "Love Potion #9" with the remix guy who worked on the new version. Herb still plays really smooth - it seems almost effortless for him. I think the other brass "players" were just there for show, since it didn't seem like they were playing live, but Herb was. (He could've shaved first, though - he looked a bit scraggy.)


Anyway, as far as the album goes, it's an interesting project. It has more of a feel of some of his solo work, although the Tijuana Brass is heavily sampled throughout. Although some tracks are almost unrecognizable (in a good way) from the originals, and border on being entirely new material, others seem as if very little was done to them (lazy re-mixers). The new solos by Herb are a nice addition, although I wish there were more of them.


One thing I don't "get" about re-mixes, is why they feel the need to bury the sampled music in so many filters that it sounds like the original record is being played on a Close 'n Play.


Anyway, here's the cover art. Maybe it's a super-model thing, but it kind of looks like she's trying to make herself throw up.




I like the original better. It just seems... naughtier. :thumbsup:




Overall, "Re-Whipped" a pretty good album. If you like Herb, it's worth checking out. I'd give it... 7/10.

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Well, now I've seen Herb Alpert live - sort of. :)


I picked up Herb Alpert - Live at Montreux on DVD, and it's quite excellent. Herb plays an all-jazz set backed by a small combo (the Jeff Lorber Band). He's as smooth and effortless as ever in his playing, and the band is top-notch. Herb is obviously into the music throughout the concert, and is clearly enjoying himself. The band melds perfectly with Herb's style of playing, and the whole concert has a nice, cohesive flow to it. He even throws a couple of Tijuana Brass classics in there, but with a jazz twist to them.


Again, if you like Herb (or just good jazz), it's a keeper. 9/10.



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