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Found 48 results

  1. Hello everyone. Thought I would share this: I've always thought that the opening music the Alternate Reality on the Atari 8-bit computer was one of the best pieces of music ever created during that era. I recently took it upon myself to go listen to it again, and while it still was amazing, it did not have the same impact on me that it once did back in the late 80's. It just didn't sound as EPIC. So I looked and looked all around the internet to see if anyone had made a version of the song that was worthy of the original, and unfortunately I couldn't find anything that satisfied. I then decided to re-create the song to be as close as possible to the original using modern technology while at the same time enhancing it to what it sounded like to me (or how I actually perceived it) when I first heard it in my younger years. I think I got pretty close to the actual sound of an Atari computer - of course, this "Atari" has stereo fields, so... umm.. yeah.... Anyway, the intro is kind of long, so I am only presenting the last half of it. If you want me to provide the whole intro with the spaceship I can do that later no prob. If you have a good sound system / headphones you will be able to hear everything - your phone speaker wont really be able to do express the full range. If you have any questions you can reply here, but it will be faster if you tweet me at @jacehall Hope you enjoy it. It was very fun to make. Video is here:
  2. I made this .rmt file which is a WIP. It uses a filter for that weird instrument at the beginning. Does it sound better than the other conversion? sanxion.zip
  3. So, I've been waiting for this CD for awhile... Was it worth the wait? Well - yes! Although I have to admit I was more than a little worried about it, since Weird Al's last album - Poodle Hat - was, I thought, his weakest effort to date. Maybe that's because the album before that - Running With Scissors - was (and still is) his best. But this is a return to good form for Weird Al, and both his parodies and originals are excellent. I don't really keep up on current music anymore, but a good (or at least funny) parody shouldn't require you to be familiar with the original work. It should stand up on its own, and these do. His originals are also much better than those in Poodle Hat, and it's pretty amazing the variety of musical styles Al and his band manage to cover. There are some nice style homages in there (particularly of Brian Wilson - which makes me wonder what would happen if Weird Al did a concept album). The lyrics are much funnier than those in Poodle Hat, and he covers some new ground in terms of subject matter. I'd say "Don't Download This Song" is probably the weakest of the bunch, just because it comes off as more preachy than funny. Near the end though, the song gains more of a satirical edge, which saves it. I won't go into details (since I hate spoilers, myself), but there are several laugh-out-loud points in the album, which if anyone knows me very well, isn't an easy thing to accomplish. The best of which is about 2/3 of the way through "Trapped in the Drive-Thru". For strictly personal reasons, I also really like "Canadian Idiot". Interestingly, the strongest song on the album - "White & Nerdy" (which is also the lead track and first single) - wasn't recorded until after the original single - "You're Pitiful" - was dropped from the album due to a record company dispute. "White & Nerdy" is a much, much better song, and makes for a better video than I think "You're Pitiful" ever would have. Plus the controversy gained Weird Al some press, so this may be one of the better things that could have happened to him. Besides, he got the last laugh by releasing the song for free on his website. The CD is actually a dual-disc (with a DVD on the other side), containing a behind-the-scenes look in the studio, which I thought was very interesting and cool. There are also music videos for his original songs, but they don't fare nearly as well. "Don't Download This Song", which has been posted to the internet, is probably the strongest of the bunch. "Weasel Stomping Day" (which premiered the other night on Robot Chicken) is pretty good, too, and the one for "Close But No Cigar" is okay, but I grew tired of John Kricfalusi's brand of overly self-indulgent adolescent animation years ago. The others are amateurish, at best, and the one for "Pancreas" is an utter waste of time (too bad... since it's a good song). So I doubt I'll be flipping the CD back over to the video side anytime soon. Unfortunately, the excellent video for "White & Nerdy" was completed after the album was finished, so it isn't included, but then again, this isn't being sold as a video collection. The videos included are bonuses, so it doesn't affect my overall score for the album. I'm just judging it solely on the music, and how funny I think the whole thing is. So with that, I'll give this one an 8/10. Why not a 9/10? Not enough accordion.
  4. Hi all, I'm looking to get a copy of Bruce Harrison's music assembly source code. He said in an Art of Assembly article that the full source for his Nutcracker suite was available for purchase, did anyone get that and can share it here? The WHT Tech disk is NOT the source, it's only the binaries. Thanks!
  5. I wanted to start an open discussion on music programming with the Atari 800XL home computer. This topic is for sharing Atari basic source code for music and sound effects as well as learning how to program chiptunes on your Atari at home. I hope here we can learn and experience more about programming in basic and help others write their own music projects with this classic system. Rock on! \m/
  6. Building on the "Flicker 5 colors from 3" topic: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/229091-flicker-5-colors-from-3/?p=3059920 I decided to do the gameplay music in TIA (stereo) to see how bad it sounds. (That, and I'm obsessed with all things Mappy. ) Turns out I think is very good, especially for the out-of-tune TIA sound. Only a few slightly-off notes and a few dropped notes in the entire piece. (By slightly-off I mean obvious sour notes, because almost all 2600 notes are out-of-tune to start.) The music is about 1 minute 20 seconds. Originally it took all of 4K, but through optimization I got the data down to 1,496 bytes! This whole demo could be done in 4K, but I compiled it with DPC+ bank-switching, just because that it what I usually work in, and if I ever make this into a flickery-mess of a game, I'll probably use DPC+. The 2nd channel can be used for game sound because even off the tune still holds up. I decided to try fading the notes with reducing the volume, and by "happy accident" got the ragtime tremolo (shaking volume)!! You can look at the source code, but I optimize it this way: Take out all the volume data and duration data. Those values can be fixed (or with volume, changed in program loops). That cuts the data in half. Since the Control is mostly 12 (pure lower), I have both channels set to 12. When it needs changing to a 4 (or the few 1's), I do an if/then check. Since the Frequency can also be a value of 4, I replaced all the Channel 4's in the data with 42. That saves 200+ bytes. When it needs to be 0 (silent) I check for that also, just set the Control to 0 (silences everything better than setting volume to 0) and skip setting a frequency. Then there are all those f'n zeros!!! More than 900 of them! More than half of the remaining data was 0's. It is like you are always telling the sound channels to shut up over and over. The final thing I thought up is a kind of pause check. If both channels are silent, twice, I replaced the 0,0,0,0 with 67 and set the Control to 0, the volume up (to reduce popping noise), and double the duration, and skip everything else. (I guess you could reduce the data even more with finding the segments that repeat and have that data only once. It sounds like the first part repeats three times in the piece.) Mappy_TIA_MusicTitleDemo_Stereo2015.bas.bin Mappy_TIA_MusicTitleDemo_Stereo2015.bas
  7. I'd like to pay homage to Red Dwarf and use the intro music (not the whole song, just a few seconds) for my game Space Fortress Omega. About 12 or 24 seconds of this: Here is a link to it being played by an orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quTktctks30 Here is a link to some sheet music: https://musescore.com/user/154204/scores/2474021 I have not got RAM for a player (e.g. RMT) so I'm after the note values, durations and any audio settings, but even the notes would be a good start Thanks
  8. Hello. A quick introduction: I'm new to this forum, my name is Michael. Looking forward to meeting you. I started writing and recording music in 1991 where I've experimented with various genres, eventually getting into NES audio development in 2016. Last month, I started working with TIATracker. (Thank you Kylearan!) I've really been enjoying the experience, it's been a dream of mine to create music for the Atari 2600. Here are a few of the songs I've created: WarlockSum - TIA-01.bin WarlockSum - TIA-02.bin WarlockSum - TIA-04.bin TIA-03 isn't listed because now it's part of a full length album/cartridge I'm working on. I'm eager to gain more experience working with this machine, so please don't hesitate to contact me if you're in need of music or want to start conversations about working with TIATracker. OK, thank you, enjoy the rest of your day. - WarlockSum
  9. "Weird Al's" latest album - Mandatory Fun - may ironically be his last. With this album, Al reaches the end of his 14 album record contract (not including his collaboration with Wendy Carlos for Peter and the Wolf/Carnival of the Animals pt. 2, which was on a different label). The reason it may be his last, is that while he could certainly seek out a new contract, he's stated that he'd be able to be more timely by releasing singles digitally, rather than waiting the two or three years it takes to come up with an album's worth of material. In a way, he'd be returning to his pre-album years of sending tapes into the Dr. Demento Show whenever he came up with a new parody. The reason that it's ironic is that this is his first ever Billboard number one album. In fact, it's the first number one comedy album in over 50 years, and the first one ever to debut at number one. I'm wondering if he's rethinking the whole "last album" thing right about now, as I'm sure there are more than a couple of record labels out there courting him. On the other hand, his status as a number one artist is in no doubt due at least in part to the appalling state that the music industry is finding itself in. Sales are way down, and it doesn't take nearly as many units to chart high as it used to (it would be interesting to see how this album would have charted 10 or 20 years ago with the same numbers). Still, it's an impressive feat for a comedy artist, especially one in his fourth decade of recording, to not only still resonate with his longtime fans, but manage to be relevant with the masses enough to reach number one, regardless of the state of the recording industry. "Weird Al" must be doing something right after all these years. As a fan of Al's before he ever released an album, I'm a bit sad to see the albums go away, but if it means getting songs more often like in the Dr. Demento days, then maybe it's not such a bad thing (he's gone up to five years without an album). Before his previous album - Alpocalypse - Al released fully half of the album online early, effectively spoiling most of the album for those who watched the videos or downloaded the songs. Even though it was a solid album, it didn't feel "new" as a consequence. This time, Al kept the album tightly under wraps (save for a few clues picked up by die-hard fans), which, for me, helped build up interest for it. However, when Mandatory Fun was released, I was on vacation, far away from any CD store or internet access. Fortunately, that morning I happened to have breakfast at a restaurant that had Wi-Fi, and I was able to purchase the album from iTunes and download it while eating. While I prefer buying a CD whenever possible (which I later did anyway), getting it from iTunes had the decided advantage of immediate gratification, with the side benefit of getting my first listen of the album at the beach, free from all distractions. So, with the preliminaries out of the way, how's the album? Well, on the first listen or two, I thought it was a bit hit-and-miss. The further I get away from listening to current music, the less tolerant I am of the throw-away pop garbage that pollutes the airwaves now. So when it comes down to some of the annoying tropes that permeate such songs (mindlessly repetitive beats, idiotic rapping, intentional bass distortion, pointless sampling), "Weird Al" has his work cut out for him to write lyrics compelling enough to overcome the lack of talent that spawned the originals. However, Al did something pretty brilliant this time out. He released one new video per day, for eight days. This kept people coming back each day to see what was new (and I'm sure it contributed to the sales). But for me - it did something else: it made some of the songs better. Al is as much a video artist as an album artist, and some of the videos really pushed the album to the next level. Some… not so much. Al had most of the album complete months ago except for the opening track on the album - Handy. He was waiting until a likely summertime hit came along to record the most current parody he could, and have the original still be on the charts when his album debuted. Handy, unfortunately is based on one of those aforementioned throw-away pop songs recorded by a completely disposable, instantly forgettable way-too-old-to-still-be-teen flavor-of-the-minute gone-tomorrow future has-been (Fancy, by Iggy Izalea and Charlie XCX - which incidentally, is not the correct way to use roman numerals). Now, Al has often worked magic by making songs I didn't really care for listenable, but his lyrics fall short of saving this song. Written about someone who is a handyman, the song recycles a lot of ideas from a concert-only song he did about the TV show Home Improvement, but without the timeliness of being associated with a current hit show. It's not that the lyrics aren't good, it's just that they're not particularly funny. The song needed some twist to it, where the song degenerates into progressively stranger things that need repairing, rather than the commonplace. The video is pretty straight-ahead as well, with only a few visual gags plussing it. One thing that would've helped: celebrity home improvement hosts (from This Old House, or HGTV) in cameo roles. It seems like both the track and video were very last-minute additions. But I guess Al has to try and be timely, and with that comes the consequences of having to parody garbage at times. Lame Claim to Fame (an original in the style of Southern Culture on the Skids) is a track that has grown on me since first hearing it, because musically it really rocks. The lyrics are pretty good too, since everyone either has a story about some loose connection to fame, or knows someone else who does (I have several, including meeting William Shatner at an auto show, meeting Mark Hamill when he guest-lectured at work, and scanning some photos for Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz in the early days of "Weird Al's" website). Al's band really cuts loose on this track and once again shows why he's stayed with them since the very beginning of his career - they're one of he the best bands out there - adapting effortlessly to seemingly any musical style. The video I'm less enamored with. It's cut-paper stop-motion animation in the style of a scrapbook, which is fine, but the lighting is generally terrible, so it has an needlessly amateurish look to it. It's fine to mimic the look of something done by an amateur, but that doesn't mean you can't make it look good, too. Foil is what I'd consider a filler track. Based on another song that (inexplicably to me) became a hit (Royals, by Lorde), Foil is a one-trick pony. It seems like Al came up with the wacky, second verse first, then had to come up with the mundane first verse to set up the joke. The video helps make the song more interesting, since it gives you some visuals to keep you distracted from how boring the song is otherwise. I'm not sure if Al could have done much more with this though, since I don't think there's much to the original song either. I wonder if Al sometimes feels constrained by the songs he's chosen to parody? (And yes - after listening to Mandatory Fun a couple of times, I sought out the original songs for a point of comparison.) Sports Song was the first one off the album I went back to re-listen to. Anyone who ever had to play in marching band will appreciate this one. Al creates a pastiche of nearly every high school or college fight-song you've ever heard. He not only nails it musically, but takes great delight in skewering the typical self-aggrandizement in most of those songs' lyrics. I can see this one being played in high school pep rallies across the country. (If he hasn't already, he should publish this as a marching band chart.) The video for it works pretty well, except for one part where the crowd holds up cardboard squares to spell out a couple of words from the song. The way they chose to do it - as just black and white squares - makes them almost impossible to read. The edges just blur into the crowds. Painting giant letters on the squares would have worked much better. Still though, fun song, decent video. Playing the song would almost make me want to play in a marching band again. Almost. Word Crimes is one of the best tracks on the album. A parody of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, the original song has the benefit of a genuinely catchy hook, but what really elevates it is Al turning it into a brilliant rant against the countless "crimes" of bad grammar and spelling. The satirical "anger" in the song adds a great edge to it that is present in many of Al's better songs. The video uses animated words to great effect (much better than "Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me" off of Alpocalypse), mimicking logos and graphic design from many sources, adding an additional level of visual parody to it. Great stuff! One of my favorite tracks, My Own Eyes is probably the song that best represents Al's classic lyricism. It's just weird imagery for the sake of it, in this case wrapped up in a spot-on Foo Fighters style parody that again showcases the band's ability to rock out with the best of them. This will be a great song to see live when Al goes out on tour next year. No video for this one, but I'd love to see Al and the band do a Foo Fighters style video for it. NOW That's What I Call Polka! is the obligatory polka medley for the album, and it's a good one, although again, since I have pretty-much zero familiarity with the originals, a lot of the humor is probably lost on me. But that's less the point than the juxtaposition of out-of-context pop lyrics and polka music. Al's mentioned that these may go away in the future when he moves to be a singles-only artist, but I hope he still manages to find a way to keep doing them, since these are as much a part of his history as anything else he's done, and they define, in no small way, who he is as a musician and satirist. Again, no video for this one. Mission Statement really fell flat for me on the first listen. It's an original style parody of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and he absolutely nails that, but the lyrics just seemed like corporate buzzword gibberish. However, after watching the video for it, suddenly the lyrics began to really gel and I picked up what the song was saying (which could be frightening, if it carried over to the real world…). It's a really well crafted song if you pay attention to it, and the brilliant whiteboard animated video for it couldn't be more perfect. It not only fits in with the theme of the song (it was created by a company that makes these videos for corporations professionally), but beautifully and humorously illustrates it as well. This went from being from one of my least favorite tracks to one of my most favorite ones. Inactive, on the other hand, is another filler track. A parody of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, there's just really nothing new here. It's about a guy who's really fat, which is ground that Al has covered time and again (tracks like I Love Rocky Road, Addicted to Spuds, Lasagna, Fat, Grapefruit Diet, and way too many more to list). More to the point, is that the lyrics here are repetitive and uninspired, and frankly, not all that funny. There's no point or story to the song, other than some guy talking about how fat he is. There's no twist to it, or anything to lift it beyond its plodding, repetitive music. There's no video for this song (which is fine), although oddly enough, the for the original song is actually really, really funny. It's basically Muppet pit-fighting to the death. The song is grim, and the video serves as a brilliant, darkly funny counterpoint to it. Maybe a similar video would have helped Al's version. First World Problems is my absolute favorite track on the album, and one of Al's best songs period. A style parody in the vein of The Pixies, it's brilliantly satirical, skewering spoiled, whiney members of the Entitlement Generation. The lyrics are some of Al's best work ever, and it's a musically complex and incredibly re-listenable track. The video for it is also first-rate, with Al playing the part of the aforementioned spoiled jerk to perfection. Tacky is Al's parody of the Pharrell Williams hit Happy - a song so ubiquitous that even I'd heard it before Al's version came out. It's already a good parody (helped immeasurably by the original's catchy hook), but was helped out even more by the video which overflowed with Al's goofiness, as well as that of several guest celebrities, most notably Jack Black whose over-the-top enthusiasm is impossible not to picture when you listen to the song. Jackson Park Express is an epic 9-minute song loosely in the style of Cat Stevens. As with some of Al's other epic-length songs, he takes you on a journey that's both mundane and absurd, as a bus passenger imagines an entire (and increasingly bizarre) relationship with another passenger. It also has one of the funniest single lines on the entire album. While perhaps not as funny overall as some of his other long songs (The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Albuquerque, Trapped in the Drive-Thru), it still does a great job of taking you on a journey and conjuring up Al's signature visual imagery. In the end, this may not be Al's best album (the filler tracks aren't quite skip-worthy, but they're close), but it's among his best, and it's hard to argue with a number one album. It's well-worth getting for what are some of his strongest-ever tracks, notably First World Problems, My Own Eyes and Word Crimes, and most of the rest are still musically rock-solid and often very funny, showing that even after 30+ years, "Weird Al" Yankovic is going strong. Mandatory Fun, gets a mandatory 8.5/10.
  10. Lady Gaga (who I've managed to largely ignore) is weird. I think that's a pretty safe statement. "Weird Al" Yankovic is also weird. But "Weird Al" is "funny" weird, rather than "don't let her near your cat" weird. But now, apparently, "Weird Al" is too weird for Lady Gaga. You can read the whole story in "Weird Al's" blog. In short though, Al decided to do a parody of Lady Gaga. Admittedly, this is sort of like saying "the sky is blue", and for that reason, Al avoided doing a parody of her (she is a "her"... right?) because it was so obvious. But he came up with a great idea for a parody (and video concept), so he decided to go for it. He wrote asking for permission, and got the response back that she'd need to hear the parody first. Not just read the lyrics... but hear the finished song. Before approving it. So, Al went to the trouble and expense of fully recording the song. Then she turned him down. That, to me, smacks of a complete lack of respect for Al as a recording artist. (I'd say "fellow recording artist", but I'm not entirely sure I'd classify her as such.) Almost as if she were saying, "I'll teach that guy to even dare think about making fun of me!" Of course, maybe that isn't the case at all. But you'd think after reading the lyrics, she could have figured out at that point whether she was okay with the idea or not. In the end, it won't be on "Weird Al's" new album. Thus, his new album (which is done, except for a lead single) is delayed until he can find that next "big idea" to kick the album off with. (pause...) Okay... apparently, that isn't the case. As I got to that pause in typing up this blog entry, I went to grab the YouTube URL for the track, which "Weird Al" had posted. I was going to post it here, and tell about how some of "Weird Al's" best parodies were about the artists themselves: "It's Still Billy Joel To Me", "Achy Breaky Song", "Smells Like Nirvana", and this was one of those kind of songs, and how it was too bad that we'd never get to see the video Al was going to make, and so on. So, while I was at YouTube, I opened up the little "Show More" tab about it, and what did it say? "UPDATE: Lady Gaga has approved the parody!!! Album release information coming soon!" I was at Al's site literally minutes before that. Just long enough to type this up, and so now everything I wrote is now completely obviated. (shorter pause...) And now, here's an update on Al's blog. Apparently, this was all Lady Gaga's manager's fault, as he'd never actually told her about the parody. She has since heard it, loved it, approved it, and so now Al's album is back on track. Managers. Go figure. But since I've already typed all this up, I might as well post it. The strange thing is, the same but opposite thing happened the last time Al put out an album. James Blunt approved a parody of his song, "You're Beautiful" as "You're Pitiful". Al recorded it, and was all set to release it, when Blunt's record company denied permission. In the end though, that one never got worked out, so Al released the song for free on the internet, and ended up doing "White 'n' Nerdy" as the replacement track, which became a huge hit and a viral video smash (probably more than "You're Pitiful" ever would have been). It looked like all over again. For about 15 minutes.
  11. I picked up the Tron: Legacy Soundtrack by Daft Punk, and have been giving it a few listens. It's not bad, although it's far more effective in context during the movie. Most of the soundtrack consists of low, long, rumbling chords driven along by plodding electronic rhythms. Not that that's all that bad... it does set an appropriate mood for the electronic world in the film, and the orchestrations help to add variety and intensity, but overall it just doesn't make for a great album to listen to. It's more of something you'd leave running in the background while doing something else. A lot of the music is very similar, to the point where I'd be hard-pressed to remember which piece went where in the movie. That said, for what it is, it's well-done, and there are a couple of standout tracks on the CD ("End of Line" and "Derezzed"). But what's irritating, are the online-only "exclusive" bonus tracks. I hate that. You see, I bought the CD. All of the tracks should be on the CD. Why should I be punished by buying physical media? I want the best quality experience - not a compressed version, and they leave tracks off of it? Now yes - Joe Kosinski said in an interview they had to finish mastering the CD before all of the tracks were ready: Okay... but why does each online outlet have different bonus tracks? I shouldn't have to go to Amazon, iTunes and Ovi (whatever that is - I refuse to sign up to it just for one audio track) to get the complete soundtrack? And even then - I'm still not getting the complete soundtrack. There's supposedly a Special Edition two-disc version of the soundtrack that I only just now found out about (and it's not like I haven't been keeping tabs on Tron: Legacy) while researching this blog entry! How did that happen? Was it some pre-order thing? Besides that, two classic rock songs used prominently in the film (Journey's "Separate Ways" and the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams") aren't included anywhere. C'mon... how can you have a Tron soundtrack without Journey?! So I had to pay for the CD, plus three online bonus tracks, plus two more rock tracks (I didn't own those albums), and I still don't have the complete soundtrack, and still won't have it all on CD. If I want it on CD, I have to re-burn it onto another disc (and the downloaded tracks still aren't going to be full-fidelity). Plus, if I do find the Special Edition CD somewhere, I'll likely end up buying that, too. The recording industry is evil. So while I'd give the music that's in the soundtrack CD a solid 6/10, because of all of this stupid "exclusive track" nonsense, and the fact you can't buy a complete version of the soundtrack anywhere, it gets a 4/10. Here, by the way, are all the tracks that are part of the soundtrack, or should be (via Wilkipedia): Standard edition No. Title Length 1. "Overture" 2:28 2. "The Grid" 1:37 3. "The Son of Flynn" 1:35 4. "Recognizer" 2:38 5. "Armory" 2:03 6. "Arena" 1:33 7. "Rinzler" 2:18 8. "The Game Has Changed" 3:25 9. "Outlands" 2:42 10. "Adagio for Tron" 4:11 11. "Nocturne" 1:42 12. "End of Line" 2:36 13. "Derezzed" 1:44 14. "Fall" 1:23 15. "Solar Sailer" 2:42 16. "Rectifier" 2:14 17. "Disc Wars" 4:11 18. "C.L.U." 4:39 19. "Arrival" 2:00 20. "Flynn Lives" 3:22 21. "Tron Legacy (End Titles)" 3:18 22. "Finale" 4:23 Total length: 58:44 Special edition bonus disc No. Title Length 1. "ENCOM, Part I" 3:53 2. "ENCOM, Part II" 2:18 3. "Round One" 1:41 4. "Castor" 2:19 5. "Reflections" 2:42 Total length: 12:53 iTunes bonus tracks No. Title Length 23. "Father and Son" 3:12 24. "Outlands, Part II" 2:53 Total length: 6:05 Amazon MP3 bonus track No. Title Length 23. "Sea of Simulation" 2:41 Total length: 2:41 Nokia Ovi bonus track No. Title Length 23. "Sunrise Prelude" 2:50 Total length: 2:50 Tracks that aren't included anywhere, but should be No. Title Length 1. "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" 5:26 2. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" 3:37 Total length: 9:01
  12. Davy Jones passed away at 66 today. I'll admit it - I'm a Monkees fan. As a kid, I grew up watching syndicated reruns of the show in the mid-70's. It was silly, irreverent, had fun music, broke the fourth wall, and was an enjoyable guilty pleasure, just like other favorites of my youth - Batman and Gilligan's Island. Silliness for silliness' sake. The music was a huge part of the show, although I didn't think of it as anything but part of the show at the time. I had a little tape recorder, and recorded the songs off the tiny, tinny little TV speaker, making my own Monkees mix tapes, long before there were mix tapes. I lived in Seattle, and the only station running the show was KVOS 12 out of Bellingham. There was no cable TV at the time, so reception was spotty at best. I actually wrote to KVOS about it, and the station manager wrote back and told me that the Monkees had made records, and that would be the best bet for getting good recordings of their music. This was a revelation to me! I had no idea they'd made records. Up until this point, I'd never even bought a record. I just listened to the handful my parents had, or most of the time - radio. So thus began my first experiences with vinyl hunting. Perusing used record stores for dusty classics. Buying record guides to find out what records they'd actually made, and then trying to locate good (yet affordable) copies of them. I did pretty well, although some of their later releases (after the show was canceled) were hard to find, and a couple of them I never found original pressings for. But still, a lot of the fun was in the hunt. I miss used record stores. Even that odd smell they all had. The most fun was had in discovering new songs that had never been included on the show. As they say, if I've never heard it, it's new to me. I still didn't know much about the group itself though. Nothing about its history - was it really a band? Was it just a TV show? How did it all happen? Nothing. That is until about 1979, when I picked up an Australian compilation of hits, which had the whole story spelled out in the liner notes. And what a fascinating story it was... Two musicians (Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith) and two actor/musicians (Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz) were hired through a now-famous casting call to play four down-and-out musicians on a television show - an American attempt to cash-in on The Beatles. The music was produced for them, and they provided lead vocals. The songs from the show were released on an album - The Monkees - which was meant to be a soundtrack for the show. And that was the intent - for The Monkees to be a TV show. Period. If they made some extra money from the soundtrack, then hey - bonus points. But something odd happened. The music was a huge hit. Music from a TV show - not from a traditionally formed "organic" band. But it wasn't received as a soundtrack, it was thought of as a group album because of one oddity unique to The Monkees phenomenon: the characters they portrayed on the show used the actors' real names. You didn't have Bob Denver's Island. Or AdamWestMan. Or Captain William Shatner on Star Trek. But on The Monkees, even though they were playing TV characters in a fictitious band, their real names were used. And on the album, they were listed by what instruments their characters played on the show. Hence, the beginning of blurring the line between reality and TV. When the world found out that the "band" wasn't playing all of their own music, a backlash ensued. Kind of ironic... someone getting up in arms about something on TV being "faked". Despite this, the music and show both continued to be huge smashes. But the four Monkees, being in their early 20's, completely full of themselves and at the center of the pop world's attention, wanted more. They wanted control, and within months, The Monkees had wrested musical control away from Don Kirshner (who had produced the first two albums) and united as a "real band". This was in no small part due to the fact that in order to promote the show and records (and make the production company even more money) they had to go out on tour, and perform live in front of screaming throngs of fans. No small feat for anyone, much less a group of guys just thrown together to act in a TV show. But they were competent musicians in their own right, and were able to pull it off. That experience, fueled by Nesmith's and Tork's musical aspirations, led to the revolt. Once they'd gained musical control, they put out their third album - Headquarters - playing almost every instrument themselves. Their unity was short lived however, as the four individuals' interests began to diverge. Their fourth album - Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones - was a mix of them playing alongside studio musicians. And while perhaps not as "pure" of a group effort, it's arguably their best work. In 1967, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Such is the power of youth-targeted manufactured pop music (did you think this was a recent trend?). However, after that, things began to fall apart. In 1968, the group had tired of the formulaic TV show (as well as each other), and wanted a format change (something along the lines of Laugh-In). It's pretty clear watching the second season that a lot of the time they just seem bored by the whole thing (although there are exceptions - such as the excellent "Fairy Tale" episode). The network instead decided to just cancel the show. A movie they made that year (Head - co-written by Jack Nicholson, and directed by Bob Rafelson - later of Easy Rider), bombed mercilessly at the box office. It cynically deconstructed (or destroyed) the Monkees phenomenon, and was too "adult" for young fans of the show, and too closely associated with the show to be accepted by critics as anything else. For what it's worth, Head is, if nothing else, an innovative film. Using an almost stream-of-conciousness approach it weaves non-sequitur disparate stories together into a singular psychedelic whole. The editing is very avant garde for its time, as is the camera work. There's a satirical edge to the movie, skewering not just The Monkees, but the movie industry, music, politics, and the war in Viet Nam. There are also some of the best songs in their entire catalog featured in the movie, including a of the Nesmith-penned Circle Sky. The movie has since gone on to attain a sort of cult-classic status. I suppose the more you know about the whole Monkees phenomenon, the more you "get" what's actually going on in the film. Frank Zappa was in it. He got it. At the end of 1968, after recording a disastrous TV special - 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee - Peter Tork left the group. After two more albums, Nesmith followed suit in early 1970, with the two last members releasing one final album and then calling it quits. But that wasn't the end of it. In the 70's, the show picked up popularity in reruns. Several Greatest Hits compilations were released, and Jones and Dolenz toured and recorded briefly with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart - two of the most prolific songwriters for the group. Meanwhile, Nesmith had started a successful solo career in country-based rock and went on to win the first Grammy ever awarded for Video Of The Year. Along the way, he invented what would become MTV (we'll forgive him for that) and at some point inherited his mother's fortune for having invented Liquid Paper. Nice work if you can get it. In the mid-80's Nickelodeon and MTV began re-running the TV series to huge response. Rhino Records re-released all of their albums, and this resulted in a renaissance of sorts, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a 20th Anniversary reunion tour, and several new recordings, including a brand-new album. This was pretty-much all without Nesmith's participation, except for one on-stage reunion during a concert in Los Angeles. After a couple of years, all of that fizzled out again. But then in the mid-90's, something else happened: the internet. Starting with Usenet (alt.music.monkees), AOL, IRC and other pre-World Wide Web relics, Monkee-fans, who each thought they were probably the only ones left, began discovering each other. Nesmith and Dolenz would even post to Usenet once in awhile, and as the 30th anniversary approached, there was yet another groundswell of interest. Rhino reissued the albums again (this time on CD), the entire series on VHS, and all four of the group got together to record another new album, tour the UK, and produce a prime time TV special. However, despite enthusiastic responses from the fans, the concerts were panned by critics, the album didn't sell well, and almost nobody watched the TV special (which frankly, was just as well). Nesmith tired of touring and bowed out of the US leg of the tour, and again, within a couple of years, the whole thing fizzled out. Over the years, they have all toured as solo acts, with two or three of the Monkees getting together for some shows (most recently for an abbreviated 45th (!!) anniversary tour). They've all recorded solo efforts to varying degrees (most notably Nesmith - who has produced some excellent post-Monkees recordings). Rhino continues to release and re-release and re-re-release albums, including a seeming bottomless supply of bonus tracks (including three entire albums of nothing but unreleased material). After all, they had access to the best songwriters and studio musicians of the day, and took full advantage of it. The series has been released on DVD twice, most recently in a more affordable package, which I recently purchased and coincidentally just finished watching a few weeks ago. A while back, the Biography channel ran biographies of The Monkees and Davy Jones. There was TV movie based on the group, and even an ill-fated attempt to re-create the phenomenon at one point. The machine just kept rolling. All of this for a TV show that was canceled after two seasons. For me, my own interest in The Monkees has waned over the years. I hadn't watched the TV show in almost 15 years (between the VHS release and the second DVD release). I skipped over some of the endless re-issues of their recordings. After all, how many slightly different takes or mixes of a given song do you really want on your iPod anyway? I've never bought into the merchandise collecting aspect of it (and there is plenty of merchandise out there), and I'll go months, sometimes years at a stretch without putting on one of their albums. I'm not what you'd call a hardcore fan - believe me, I've met some of them. But the whole phenomenon still fascinates me to this day. How it started, how it collapsed. How it's been reborn repeatedly, and how these four guys from wildly different backgrounds, who were thrown together seemingly at random, managed to make such a huge dent in pop culture. While in hindsight the TV show was hit or miss, they made some really solid, often excellent pop music that gets played on radio, used in advertisements and is featured in movies to this day. For my money, Pleasant Valley Sunday is still the best pop record ever made. There was still a refreshing sense of nostalgia that kicked in when I watched the show or listened to the music. And the fanboy in me still hoped against hope that maybe all four of them might get together again for one more concert, or one more record. Now though, the music is oddly tinged with a little sadness. Melancholy has replaced nostalgia. Ironically, in the next few days, people will be buying their albums again on iTunes. Their Biography specials will be re-run and updated with a sad bit of text at the end. MTV or VH1 or some cable channel will re-run their episodes. There will be one more rebirth of their popularity, even if only for a few days. The reality of it though, is that this particular pop culture phenomenon has, at long last, come to an end. Ditty Diego (from Head) Hey, hey, we are The Monkees, You know we love to please, A manufactured image With no philosophies. We hope you'll like our story, Although, there isn't one, That is to say, there's many, That way, there is more fun. You've told us you like action, And games of many kinds, You like to dance, we like to sing, So, let's all lose our minds. We know it doesn't matter, 'Cause what you came to see, Is what we'd love to give you, And give it 1-2-3. But, it may come 3-2-1-2, Or jump from 9 to 5, And when you see the end in sight, The beginning may arrive. For those who look for meanings, In form, as they do fact, We might tell you one thing, But we'd only take it back. Not back like in a box back, Not back like in a race, Not back so we can keep it, But back in time and space. You say we're manufactured, To that we all agree, So make your choice and we'll rejoice In never being free. Hey, hey, we are the Monkees, We've said it all before, The money's in, we're made of tin, We're here to give you more, The money's in, we're made of tin, We're here to give you more! Micky Dolenz's statement Peter Tork's statement Michael Nesmith's statement Rhino Records' statement
  13. Once again, Sleepy Night Records digs through their vaults an old trunk, and dusts off some more "Lost Tapes": Maynard Ferguson - The Lost Tapes Volume Two, revisits some more vintage demos and live recordings of Maynard and his big band from 1968-1974. As with Volume One, these were never intended for release, and are presented warts and all. These are recordings for fans, to be sure. Fans of Maynard, or any fans of hard-core, heavy-hitting big-band jazz. Yes, that's a weird description, but it's the best one I can come up with for this particular era of music. Check this out, for example: "Give It One" on YouTube This is the sort of fire that Maynard's band was putting out at this time. In fact, there's an early version of "Give It One" on the Volume Two CD. It doesn't go at the blistering pace of the video, but it's still an amazing peek into a prototype of that song before it was ever laid down on vinyl. And despite being rough around the edges (this was one of the band's very first run-throughs of it), Maynard still tears it up with some amazing playing. Other tracks include a rare full version of Maynard's theme song - "Blue Birdland", a Maynardized version of Glenn Miller's "In The Mood", live versions of two of Maynard's biggest concert "show-off" pieces: "Olé" and "La Fiesta", and the never-released (on any MF album) "L.A. Expression", plus several other tracks. And despite some poor quality recordings (and terrible intonation problems in the sax section on "Eli's Coming") this CD is just packed with incredible performances by Maynard and his band. Maynard always surrounded himself with amazing musicians, and never shied away from letting them shine in the spotlight. This CD is full of rare treats (such as two tracks with Maynard on valve trombone), and is absolutely well-worth having - especially since the more they sell, the more likely they are to wrap up the "Lost Tapes" series with a double-CD Volume Three. I can't wait! I'm giving it 9/10 Addendum: Almost forgot - the liner notes are even better this time around, including recording dates, locations, equipment Maynard was playing on for each track, and some additional comments from band members. Definitely trumpet-geek heaven.
  14. I actually got this DVD months ago, but never got around to reviewing it: The World of Maynard Ferguson was a TV special produced in 1970, featuring Maynard and his big band, plus some special guests. Just prior to this period, Maynard had hung out with Timothy Leary for awhile and had a brief fling with under-the-counter medicine, went to India where he was influenced by the culture and music and got bit by a snake, and then moved to England where he formed a completely new band. "The World of Maynard Ferguson" was also the title of his first album with this new band (retitled "M.F. Horn" in the U.S.A.). This was a transition period for Maynard, where he was stepping out of traditional big band sounds, and beginning to incorporate more pop and rock into his sound. For better or worse, some of those sounds were from the whole "flower-child" era of pop music, such as covers of "Bridge over troubled water", "Age of Aquarius", "Fire and rain", "My sweet Lord", and a surprisingly excellent version of "MacArthur Park". Go figure. This TV special is a result of both the successes he was having with his new band and the influences he was under (um... I mean the musical influences...). And while there are some amazing performances here, there's also a fair amount of nearly unwatchable dreck. The special has not aged well, and at times it really shows. The problem mainly stems from Maynard's musical guests. Frankly, I'd never heard of any of them, save for jazz singer Jon Hendricks, and I only know of him because he happened to be on a Manhattan Transfer album some 23 years ago that was a big success. A little bit of Jon Hendricks goes a very long ways, as far as I'm concerned. A couple of Maynard's guests were pop-artist-flavor-of-the-week Sylvia McNeill singing Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" (yes... it sounds about the way you expect it would), and the pseudo-socially-conscious-anti-establishment-yet-still-completely-harmless-bubblegum-pop-group "Arrival" singing "I Will Survive" (not Gloria Gaynor's version) and "This World". Both pop entities seemingly vanished without a trace shortly thereafter, and despite the wealth of information on the internet about just about every useless thing to ever exist, it took some digging to even turn up a few links about these two. Maynard's other guests were classical guitarist John Williams (no relation), Indian musician Mukunda, and Swami Bhavyananda. The special played like a combination of an episode of Sonny and Cher (inane banter, tacky 70's fashions, cheesy production numbers), Xanadu (roller skating musical sequence), 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee (which has to be seen to be believed) and a Maynard Ferguson concert. It was just... weird. A handful of the performances were apparently recorded live, though most were obviously pre-recorded and mimed over. Some of Maynard's distinctive playing was shoehorned into the pop songs, which he had to pretend to play while the groups were pretending to sing. It just never worked. "Arrival" attempted to look angry or serious or relevant the whole time, but you really can't pull that off while swinging from flower-laden trapezes or roller skating. Sylvia McNeill just wandered aimlessly around the stage lip synching and attempting to make some sort of connection with an audience that looked bored or stoned or both. Maynard's miming was... an admirable attempt. When he's really playing - you can tell he's playing. Even though he's a show-off and a bit of a goof, you can tell he means business and he delivers the goods. But when he's miming - he's all over the place, moving around like a hyperactive five-year-old with a trumpet (or in one song, a trumpet, flugelhorn, baritone and valve trombone). He looks desperately square, while desperately trying to act hip. But even though he looks silly (or downright hysterical at times) at least his dancing moves are 60's fresh! Watch out, Davy Jones! John William's number was really very good, but far too long. At least in the context of this special. Prior to the show's last number, Maynard introduces his meditation guru, who then talks about meditation, and invites the studio audience as well as the home audience to participate. Yeah... that's good TV. Invite the audience at home to sit and do nothing, while watching people on TV sitting and doing nothing. Fortunately, they only aired a few of the twenty minutes the session actually went on for. "The World of Maynard Ferguson" is an interesting historical artifact, but that's about all it is. The good stuff is all on YouTube, and the picture quality on the DVD isn't much better. The original film elements were lost, and the DVD was mastered from a VHS tape. Adding to the value a little bit (for fans), is an interview with Maynard's manager from the period - Ernie Garside. Unfortunately, he mentions almost nothing about the special. A commentary track from him or some of the band members would have been most welcomed (and probably pretty funny). There's also a collection of short clips of Maynard in performance from the last 10 years or so of his life. Unfortunately, they're just short clips for the most part. Not complete songs. Overall, I'd give it a 4/10. Strictly for die-hard fans and collectors only. Here's the track listing for the special, with some YouTube links: El Dopa (live performance - excellent soloing) Give Me That Wine - with Jon Hendricks Chelsea Morning - Sylvia McNeill This World - Arrival (mimed performance - but still an excellent mix of Indian music and Western jazz) - ArrivalGot The Spirit - with Jon Hendricks (not a big fan of Hendricks, but Maynard plays a killer opening cadenza) Sor Variations On A Theme By Mozart - John Williams Fox Hunt (mimed, but with Maynard on four instruments - the track is available on Lost Tapes vol. 1) People (also mimed - well played, but I'm not a big fan of people who need people) MacArthur Park (mimed - during credits)
  15. Peter Tork passed away last week at the all-too-young age of 77. I didn't used to think 77 was young. But the older I get, and the more people I know who live and live well in their 80's and even 90's, 77 seems too young. Peter played the bass player on the TV show The Monkees (returning soon to MeTV). Peter also played bass in the band The Monkees. And . And . And . And . Of the four members of the group, Tork was easily the most musically accomplished. But on the TV show, he played . Micky was the wacky one. Davy was the heart throb. Mike was the leader. They were all playing roles, but of the four, Peter's was the furthest from the truth. But as the dummy, he was funny. And it was a TV show. That's what you do on a TV show - you play a role. As I wrote when Davy passed away almost seven years ago, the lines between roles and reality got blurred with the Monkees. It really wasn't until the show had been off the air for years, and books were written, and interviews given, and time and perspective were gained, that a picture of who these guys really were started to emerge. It seemed that in the wake of Davy's passing, the surviving members had finally all come to terms with their time as Monkees. Nesmith had eschewed it for years, but started doing some reunion tours with Micky and Peter, and the three of them even put out an excellent album during the group's 50th anniversary. Sometimes they'd tour as a trio, or just Micky and Peter, but almost always Peter was there. After the 2016 anniversary tour though, Peter stopped touring with the Monkees to spend more time working with his own band - Shoe Suede Blues. But then as Micky and Michael set out in 2018 for their first-ever tour as a duo, rumors started swirling about Peter's health. He'd had cancer in 2009 - which took a toll on his voice - but he kept on keeping on. He fought the good fight for a decade, but then last Thursday, he lost the battle. In the days since his passing, I've been re-listening to his music. He didn't sing lead on very many Monkees songs. In fact, someone familiar with only their TV show would be hard-pressed to find more than a few. He did the novelty-like (which was actually intended to be in the style of the Rolling Stone's ), and sang co-lead on and . And... that was about it. But if you dig deeper, he sang backing vocals on many of the tracks, and played instruments a lot on their songs (once they had wrested control away from Don Kirshner). The piano opening to ? That's Peter. That's him on piano again on . And on banjo on - the first track on the first album they did as an actual band. Those, and many other songs wouldn't be the same without him there. And something anyone would've heard watching the show in reruns is the second season's closing theme song: . Even though it was sung by Micky, Peter wrote it and that's him playing the iconic guitar intro. Largely absent from their fifth album - The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees - Peter made his biggest impact on their next (and shortest) album, the soundtrack from their movie Head. There were six songs in the film: Carol King co-wrote two of them, Harry Nilsson wrote one of them, Nesmith wrote one, and Peter wrote two of them: and (sung by Micky). In addition to writing a third of the songs for their film amidst some pretty impressive company, he absolutely killed it on their live performance of . And yes - that really was them playing live. By that point, they were a band. And then, Peter left. All he'd wanted to do, from the outset, was be in a band. The times they were in the studio as a band were his happiest moments. But that was all-too-brief, as the others' interests diverged, and everyone musically started going their own ways. And so in December 1968, Peter became the first ex-Monkee. Considering he was the first to leave, Peter sadly had the littlest output as a solo artist. While he released a couple of singles after the Monkees, it wasn't until 1994 that he released his first proper solo album: Stranger Things Have Happened. Why? Well... probably for the same reason he didn't sing lead much in the Monkees. He didn't have what you'd call a commercial voice. It was a bit thin. His pitch wavered. Even on that first solo album, it seems strained at times. Which is too bad... because he loved music. You can hear it in the lyrics of the songs he wrote. You could see it when he played on stage. When he talked in interviews about it. But there were times... when the stars aligned... where you could hear it. Known more for his folk music leanings at the time, he came out of seemingly nowhere with the hard rocking (On the Deluxe Edition of the Head soundtrack there's also a rare earlier version where his voice has an even harder edge to it.) At the other end of the spectrum in the aforementioned , after Davy sings the first verse, Peter takes over and his voice captures the song perfectly - emotional, melancholy, somber. Haunting. There are other examples, but if I were to pick one album to hear Peter at his absolute best, it would actually be a duet that he did with James Lee Stanley: Two Man Band. It's just the two of them, alternating singing lead, and playing acoustic guitars. Their voices blend effortlessly. Peter seems perfectly comfortable in this setting, and his performance reflects that. This is how Peter could sing, given the right songs, the right arrangements, and the right collaborator. One of the highlights is a song Peter wrote about a car he once owned: . There's sincerity and wistfulness in the lyrics, and an ease and joy in the way he sings it, as if he's just sitting down and telling the story to a friend. The album is capped with an acoustic version of . One of the best pop songs ever written. One of the best performances of it ever recorded. Peter wasn't the dummy of the group. Not by a long shot. Peter was the of the group. And now, sadly, the world has one fewer of them. Edit: I'd forgotten about these videos Peter recorded for Paste Magazine in 2011. So I've added them here. I would've loved to have heard an entire album of these. Edit (4/27/19): Paste magazine has posted the entire performance, featuring more songs and an interview:
  16. Is there a repository of songs or beats for Paul Slocum's Sequencer Kit 2.0 available somewhere? I know quite a lot of demos and games are using Paul's song player, so it would be probably a good idea to exchange ideas and sounds.
  17. I found this tune, Sonic Chaos by Chris Kelly, on http://www.smspower.org/Music/Homebrew I converted it from VGM to EPSGMOD format, adjusted the bass notes (periodic noise) for the TMS9919, and set it up to play with Tursi's player. The result is on the attached disk (E/A#3: SONICCHAOS or E/A#5:SONICC). sonicchaos.zip It's pretty amazing what you can do with our little PSG... @Tursi, any update on your VGM player?
  18. "Weird Famine" Yankovic doesn't quite have the ring to it that "Weird Al" does, but with his latest album, the Alpocalypse is upon us: Alpocalypse is Al's first album in five years (his longest break). He had quite the challenge in following up Straight Outta Lynwood, which was one of his strongest and most successful albums in his 30+ year career. (Yes... "Weird Al's" been around that long.) There are no apocalyptic-themed parodies on the album. Rather, according to a recent interview*, the title "Alpocalypse" is just an idea that he'd been kicking around for awhile and decided to use it now. Probably trying to beat the rush. The album took a few days to grow on me, because fully half of the tracks had already been released online. "Whatever You Like", "Craigslist", "Skipper Dan", "CNR" and "Ringtone" were all part of his Internet Leaks EP, and had been available starting as far back as October 2008, initially for free. Also, because of the recent mix-up with Lady Gaga, the lead single for the album - "Perform This Way" - was also released early, online, for free. So my initial listening to the album was diminished considerably, since it was like getting half an album of old material. And even though I'd only listened to the early releases only once or twice, the jokes/themes of those songs were effectively ruined as far as any surprises were concerned. (Consequently, I've decided any time other artists that I follow do that in the future, I'm just going to skip any previews and hold off until the album comes out.) Still, I understand the appeal of doing that from the artist's perspective, since 1) it generates some income and 2) it lets people know that they're actively working on something, and keeps them somewhat in the minds of the public. Fortunately, after the initial listening, the album has really grown on me, and like Al's best albums, it's very re-listenable. There aren't any tracks on the album that I'd call weak, and many of them rank among his best work lyrically, spinning entertaining stories and creating fun characters. What took me a little by surprise this time, despite having followed his career for so long and being familiar with his versatility, is how good of a singer he really is. His work on "Another Tattoo" is especially impressive, and really shows a range and control over his voice that many "serious" pop stars severely lack. His band is right on point throughout the whole album, effortlessly switching styles as each song dictates. It's not just funny music, but it's good music as well. The production throughout the album is first rate. Very professional stuff, especially from someone once dismissed as a "novelty act". Apparently, he wasn't listening to them. If I had to pick a favorite track, I'd have to go with "If That Isn't Love". "Weird Al" has done similar faux-romantic songs before ("Since You've Been Gone", "One More Minute", "Wanna B Ur Lover", etc.) but this one tops his previous efforts since it reflects a different sort of relationship in the song and the writing is more clever (I can almost picture him singing this to his wife while writing it, trying to crack her up). I'll also admit to liking "Party In The CIA" more than I probably should (I've never heard the Miley Cyrus original), because it's a great juxtaposition of lyrical content and musical style. Overall - an excellent album, and highly recommended to fans of "Weird Al", new and old alike. That said - besides the polka medley - it could still use more accordion**. 8.5/10 Track listing: 1. Perform This Way (Parody of "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga) 2. CNR (White Stripes-style original) 3. TMZ (Parody of "You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift) 4. Skipper Dan 5. Polka Face (medley): Liechtensteiner Polka, Poker Face, Womanizer, Right Round, Day 'N' Nite, Need You Now, Baby, So What, I Kissed A Girl, Fireflies, Blame It, Replay, Down, Break Your Heart, Tick Tolk Polka, Tik Tok, Whatever's Left Over Polka 6. Craigslist (Doors-style original) 7. Party In The CIA (Parody of "Party In The U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus) 8. Ringtone (Queen-style original) 9. Another Tattoo (Parody of "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars) 10. If That Isn't Love (Hanson-style original) 11. Whatever You Like (Parody of "Whatever You Like" by T.I.) 12. Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me *There's an excellent interview with Al on (of all places) ESPN Radio. **If you're looking for more accordion, you can check out Al sitting in with the band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Music Videos I bought the Deluxe version of Alpocalypse, which includes 10 music videos on a DVD. ( wasn't finished until after the disc was pressed, and a "Polka Face" video will be released later.) I didn't include the videos in the score since I consider them bonus material, and you can buy them individually on iTunes or wherever. I've attached a few comments and screen grabs below. CNR One of the best of the bunch. Uses a cut-and-paste approach (similar to Terry Gilliam's Monty Python work), and is very funny. TMZ A rare misstep by the usually excellent animator Bill Plympton. The video doesn't particularly match the song, and isn't very funny visually. It looks like about an afternoon's work for him, with very limited animation and a lot of repeated material. Skipper Dan Pretty good. A fairly straightforward adaptation of the song. Limited animation, but stylistically it works and tells the story well. Craigslist A live action video of Al doing his best Jim Morrison, intercut with some psychedelia and stock footage. There's not much funny going on in the video, and it really doesn't illustrate the song, but it's the only live action piece in the bunch. Party In The CIA Probably my favorite, and well worth having. Tells the story well, has a wonderful visual style, and also some genuinely funny moments in it. Ringtone Another excellent video, with some MAD Magazine quality caricatures in it. Fun to watch. Another Tattoo Well, it tries. The animation is poor, the caricature of Al is pretty bad, but it illustrates the song adequately. If That Isn't Love A pretty good video, although the song paints a better picture by itself than the video does. I was disappointed they didn't even attempt to caricature Al. Whatever You Like Actually annoying to watch. Similar in approach to CNR with cut-and-paste photos, but not nearly as skillfully done (especially when Al is singing - it makes my eyes hurt). However, there are some funny background jokes if you frequently pause the video. Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me Cleverly animated text, but really wears out its welcome after the first minute or so. Probably a style better suited for 30 second commercials.
  19. The is nearly upon us. And if you're a pop culture icon... be afraid. Be very afraid. Of course, if you are a pop culture icon, the odds of you actually reading this blog right now are pretty-much zero. Anyway, you've heard of the "Superman" Curse, the "Diff'rent Strokes" Curse, and the "Poltergeist" Curse, right? Where a string of seemingly improbable deaths or tragedies are all coincidentally related to a single pop culture event or phenomenon? Well, I've got my own theory: The "Weird Al" Curse. Now, some people may just chalk it up to coincidence that tragedies have befallen so many victims of "Weird Al's" satirical mocking. Some may also chalk it up to "bad decisions", or "natural causes", or "random chance". Or even "reasonable percentages based on the length of Al's career, the number of people he has parodied, and the average likelihood of a given tragic event happening to any member of the population in general regardless of them being a celebrity or not". Well, I don't know about any of that. But what I do know, is that I sure wouldn't want to be Lady Gaga right about now. For a whole lot of reasons. Just check out this list* that I semi-painstakingly "researched", and judge for yourself! Rec. Date Song Title Album (release date) Parody of (original artist) Notes 9/14/80 Another One Rides The Bus Weird Al Yankovic (4-83) Another One Bites The Dust (Queen) Lead singer - Freddie Mercury - deceased (AIDS), November 24, 1991 3/14/82 My Bologna Weird Al Yankovic (4-83) My Sharona (The Knack) Lead singer - Doug Fieger - deceased (cancer), February 14, 2010 2/11/83 Buckingham Blues Weird Al Yankovic (4-83) Original composition Couple divorced August 28, 1996; Princess Diana - (Original song about Prince Charles deceased (car accident), August 31, 1997 and Princess Diana) 2/11/83 Ricky Weird Al Yankovic (4-83) Mickey (Toni Basil) Series stars - Desi Arnaz - deceased (lung cancer), (Parody about "I Love Lucy") December 2, 1986; Lucielle Ball - deceased (aortic aneurysm), April 25, 1989 10/1/83 Mr. Popeil In 3-D (2-84) Original composition Samuel Popeil - deceased, July 17, 1984; Ronco - (Original song about Samuel Popeil filed for bankruptsy, June 14, 2007 - father of Ron "Ronco" Popeil) 12/12/83 The Brady Bunch In 3-D (2-84) The Safety Dance (Men Without Hats) Keyboardist - Allan McCarthy - deceased (AIDS), 1995; (Parody about "The Brady Bunch") Series star - Robert Reed - deceased (colon cancer), May 12, 1992 12/12/83 Theme from Rocky XIII In 3-D (2-84) Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor) Lead singer - Dave Bickler - developed polyps on vocal chords in late 1983, forcing him to leave the band. But on the positive side, he didn't have to sing "Eye Of The Tiger" for like, 10 years. 12/13/83 Eat It In 3-D (2-84) Beat It (Michael Jackson) Michael Jackson - career meltdown; deceased (drug overdose), June 25, 2009 12/13/83 King Of Suede In 3-D (2-84) King Of Pain (The Police) Drummer - Stewart Copland - broke collarbone in 1986, resulting in abandoning efforts to record their sixth album and hastening the break-up of the band. But man... isn't Synchronicity II still one of the best songs ever? 3/10/84 It's Still Billy Joel To Me Dr.Demento Basement Tapes #5 (12-96) It's Still Rock and Roll To Me Billy Joel - divorced Chrstie Brinkley, August 25, 1994. (Billy Joel) Seriously... how stupid do you have to be to do *that?* 1/3/85 George Of The Jungle Dare To Be Stupid (6-85) Remake of original theme song Series creator - Jay Ward - deceased (kidney cancer), (Theme from TV series) October 12, 1989 8/4/86 Addicted To Spuds Polka Party! (10-86) Addicted To Love (Robert Palmer) Robert Palmer - deceased (heart attack), September 26, 2003 8/4/86 Living With A Hernia Polka Party! (10-86) Living In America (James Brown) James Brown - deceased (congestive heart failure and pneumonia), December 25, 2006 8/5/86 Here's Johnny Polka Party! (10-86) Who's Johnny? (El DeBarge) El DeBarge - jailed for drug possession, 2008; (Parody about "The Tonight Show") Johnny Carson - deceased, January 23, 2005; Ed McMahon - deceased, June 23, 2009 1/30/87 Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White Even Worse (4-88) Original composition According to Wikipedia, Vanna is an avid crochet (Original song about "Wheel of and knitting enthusiast Fortune" model Vanna White) 2/18/88 Alimony Even Worse (4-88) Mony Mony (Billy Idol) Billy Idol - nearly lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, February 1990 2/18/88 Fat Even Worse (4-88) Bad (Michael Jackson) See previous Michael Jackson entry 2/18/88 I Think I'm A Clone Now Even Worse (4-88) I Think We're Alone Now (Tiffany) Tiffany - killed by a giant Gatoroid on the SyFy channel, January 29, 2011, which was *totally* cool! 2/18/88 This Song's Just Six Words Long Even Worse (4-88) Got My Mind Set On You (George George Harrison - deceased (lung cancer), Harrison) November 29, 2001 12/20/88 Money For Nothing/ UHF Sountrack And Other Stuff (7-89) Money For Nothing (Dire Straits) Series star - Buddy Ebsen - deceased, July 6, 2003 Beverly Hillbillies (admittedly, he was 95); Also, "The Beverly Hillbillies" was remade into a 1993 feature film, kicking off the whole 'remaking TV series into bad movies' trend 2/25/89 Stanley Spudowski's Theme UHF Sountrack And Other Stuff (7-89) Theme song for Michael Richards' Michael Richards - just Google him for November 17, 2006 (aka Fun Zone) TV show in the movie "UHF" 5/25/89 Isle Thing UHF Sountrack And Other Stuff (7-89) Wild Thing (Tone Loc) Series stars - Jim Backus (pneumonia), July 3, 1989; (Parody about "Gilligan's Island") Alan Hale, Jr. (thyroid cancer), January 2, 1990; Natalie Schafer (cancer), April 10, 1991; Bob Denver (pneumonia, throat cancer), September 2, 2005; - deceased 12/3/90 I Can't Watch This Off The Deep End (4-92) U Can't Touch This (M.C. Hammer) M.C. Hammer - filed for bankruptsy, April, 1996 12/3/90 The White Stuff Off The Deep End (4-92) You Got It (The Right Stuff) Not so "New" anymore, are they? Ha! Take that! (New Kids On The Block) 12/30/90 The Plumbing Song Off The Deep End (4-92) Baby Don't Forget My Number/Blame Rob Pilatus - deceased (suspected overdose), It On The Rain (Milli Vanilli) April 2, 1998 1/27/92 Smells Like Nirvana Off The Deep End (4-92) Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana) Kurt Cobain - deceased (suicide), April 5, 1994 7/16/93 Achy Breaky Song Alapalooza (10-93) Achy Breaky Heart Once a star in his own right, Billy Ray Cyrus is now (Billy Ray Cyrus) forever doomed to be known as "Hannah Montana's Dad" 7/16/93 Jurassic Park Alapalooza (10-93) MacArthur Park (Richard Harris) Richard Harris - deceased (Hodgkin's Lymphoma), October 25, 2002 8/18/93 Livin' In The Fridge Alapalooza (10-93) Livin' On The Edge (Aerosmith) Did you see Steven Tyler's daughter in the last "Hulk" movie? What made her think she could act? 1/3/96 Gump Bad Hair Day (3-96) Lump (The Presidents of the "Forrest Gump" director Bob Zemekis went insane and (Parody about "Forrest Gump") United States of America) now just makes horrible "mo-cap" movies 1/3/96 Phony Calls Bad Hair Day (3-96) Waterfalls (TLC) Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes - deceased (car accident), April 25, 2002 1/15/96 Syndicated Inc. Bad Hair Day (3-96) Misery (Soul Asylum) Bassist - Karl Mueller - deceased (throat cancer), June 17, 2005 3/27/96 Spy Hard (Main Title) single (5-96) Theme song for Spy Hard movie Leslie Neilsen - deceased (complications from pneumonia), November 28, 2010; Plus, he was in "Scary Movie 4" 4/19/99 It's All About The Pentiums Running With Scissors (6-99) It's All About The Benjamins Started referring to himself as "P. Diddy" (Puff Daddy) 4/19/99 Jerry Springer Running With Scissors (6-99) One Week (Barenaked Ladies) Seriously... why is "The Jerry Springer Show" still on TV? (Parody about Jerry Springer) Maybe we're the ones who are cursed... 4/20/99 The Saga Begins Running With Scissors (6-99) American Pie (Don McLean) Two words: Jar-Jar Binks (Parody about "The Phantom Menace") *Note: this list doesn't even take into account all of the people "Weird Al" has included in his Polka Medleys, or those incidentally mentioned as part of broader parodies. 'Cause man, if I did that, this would be a downright bloodbath of terror, doom, and destruction. And we wouldn't want that.
  20. If you've followed this blog at all, you'd know that I'm a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic's music. Well, most of it. Some of his stuff just doesn't work (like pretty-much all of "Poodle Hat" ). But I have all of his albums, plus several DVDs featuring his music videos, TV series, movie, and a live concert. I even have the laserdisc version of The Compleat Al. That said, I'm not going to buy his new digital-download single, "Craigslist". Why? Well, because it's a waste of a $1.29, that's why. First of all, Al himself posted the music video for it on YouTube. You can even see it right here - for free: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R32aFmxL9HY (Awww... the party-pooper. He has since disabled embedding for this video. Well, fine. Just go here then and watch it for free.) Not bad. Not all that funny, but a spot-on Doors parody. (What is cool, is Ray Manzarek actually plays keyboards on it.) The fact is, I'd rather hear Weird Al do more parodies of classic rock like this, than of the brainless schlock that passes for popular "music" now. Anyway, now I've heard the song. And I can listen to it again whenever I want to. For free. But that's not why I'm not buying it. On his website, he says this is a preview of "songs from the next Weird Al album". So a new album is in the works. Which I will buy when it comes out. And I'll pay for it then. So my point is, why buy the same song twice? On Al's MySpace page, he implores us to buy the single, so he can get on the charts this week with it, because he just missed getting on the charts with his previous digital-download single. Eh, whatever. Ain't my problem. But feel free to help him out if you'd like. Oh, and here's his other song he wanted you to buy a few months ago, that didn't chart. He also posted it for free (no actual video though): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRVi0paZlfI It's funnier than "Craigslist". Enjoy!
  21. Guest

    Time Marches On

    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. 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?
  22. This my homage to the WB character Michigan J. Frog and the song "Hello Ma Baby!" Speech is used, but not required (there will be no frog croaking sound effect but it should not effect the rest of the program. [Effect borrowed from the game "homeward bound"]) Only the part of the song used in the cartoon is played, and lyrics are displayed in time with the music. Does not sound so good in classic99, but sounds decent in MAME, sounds great on real console. Please forgive the poor graphics quality on the opening screen.
  23. Hey, hey - it's two-fer-one! I've admitted before to being a fan of The Monkees. After Davy Jones' passing, the three remaining ex-Monkees got together and did a concert tour. Now, I didn't go and see them, since I had a hard time justifying the expense. Good tickets were crazy-expensive, and frankly, reunion concerts more often than not leave something to be desired. I'm more interested in new work, than hearing old work endlessly trotted out. To that end, Michael Nesmith has had an extensive solo career (also mentioned before), but releases from the other three have been few and far-between. That said, a year ago Micky Dolenz released a new album - Remember. I decided to pick it up, and also use the opportunity to pick up his 2010 release - King for a Day. King for a Day is a collection of songs written by Carole King. Micky worked with her (and countless other legendary songwriters) during his Monkee years. It's hard to argue with the song selection, and Micky does an admirable job singing them. But I wasn't really sold on the arrangements. They just seem a bit... placid. Or vanilla. There's not a lot of passion to it - or rather, not much that comes through the final recording. There are a few guest artists on the album - his sister Coco (who he's always harmonized with very well), Bill Medley (one of The Righteous Brothers) and Emily Osment (???). Most effective is Bill Medley's guest shot on Just Once In My Life, whom Micky plays off of very nicely. I'd say it's the best track on the album. Micky has one of the best voices in pop music (doubt it? Listen to Pleasant Valley Sunday sometime), but this album really doesn't showcase his abilities well. It seemed on the surface that he'd lost some of his singing chops over the years (I felt that about the Monkees' reunion album in 1997 too). However, his next album would completely disprove that. It took eleven people to Executive Produce King for a Day... so I'm wondering if it was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen? It isn't a bad album, but it's not something that I go out of my way to listen to. It gets a 6.5/10. Remember, on the other hand, is a bit of a revelation. Whereas King for a Day was the result of a record company (Gigatone) approaching Dolenz to do an album, Remember was the result of one guy - David Harris - asking Dolenz to just come hang out at his beachside studio and record whatever he wanted. From that a musical partnership formed, and from that came the concept of Remember. The album is a musical scrapbook of Dolenz's career - covering songs that had significance to him at different times for different reasons. From Johnny B. Goode (his audition song for The Monkees' casting call), to the Beatles' Good Morning Good Morning (he was in the studio visiting them when they recorded it), Bread's Diary (offered to him as a solo single, but he turned it down) to the title track Remember (Dolenz was a good friend of Harry Nilsson, and was there when he wrote it), each song has a story associated with it, and it's clear that Dolenz pours his heart and soul into each one. The production is excellent on this album, with arrangements that are tighter and more focused than King for a Day. This is likely because it's a collaboration between just Dolenz and Harris, and they were obviously on the same page throughout with what they wanted to accomplish. Dolenz is in excellent voice throughout, and in fact is the only vocalist on the album at all, overdubbing himself up to fifteen times (!!) to become his own choir. (Prior to a recent stint on Broadway he took vocal lessons and it really shows here. At times his voice almost seems ageless.) Probably the two most interesting tracks on the album are Dolenz's composition Quiet Desperation, which is a nicely done country-flavored ditty. Up until I heard this, I had no idea that genre had an influence on him (although given his association with Nesmith, it shouldn't come as a surprise - in fact, it'd be great to hear them team up for an album). The other is the usually saccharin-sweet Sugar, Sugar. This song was slated to be a Monkees song, but they refused. Don Kirshner eventually used it to kick off the even-more-made-for-TV-band The Archies. When Harris suggested this for the album, Dolenz didn't want to have any part of it, until he heard Harris' arrangement. Instead of the bubblegum pop usually associated with the song, Dolenz sings it slowed down and sultry. Listening to the lyrics, it's actually very reminiscent of a certain Def Leppard song, and Dolenz's version definitely wouldn't be considered suitable for Saturday morning cartoons. There are four Monkees' songs on the album, but in very different arrangements from what has been heard before, including one of his own songs - Randy Scouse Git. It's great to hear familiar songs re-imagined, and really speaks to the quality of that music to be able to hold up to such diverse treatments. The album closes with Nilsson's Remember, which is a moving, powerful arrangement, and a perfect conclusion to this audio memoir. Remember is a first-rate album, and really finds Micky finding his own voice (so to speak) away from being the Monkees' frontman. Hopefully this won't be the last such effort from him. Remember gets a 9/10. Check it out.
  24. Yep. Another album review. I've been waiting for this one to come out on CD since, well, since CDs first came out. Why some albums take forever to come out on CD is beyond me, but better late than never. In this case though, it's not just one album... but two! MF Horn 3 and MF Horn 4 & 5: Live at Jimmy's by Maynard Ferguson. This finally completes the CD release of all of his Columbia albums. Now, not all of the work he did while he was with Columbia was all that great. Some of it was very commercial. Some of it was laughable. And some of it, was unlistenable. But not so with these albums. MF Horn 3 is a great fusion of jazz and rock, and is one of his best albums of that era. In fact, unlike pretty much every other Columbia studio album Maynard recorded, there isn't a single track on here that I feel like skipping over when listening to it. The standout track is "Awright, Awright", which has what can only be described as a "funky groove" to it. (Bear in mind, I almost never use the term "funky groove".) There's some first-rate soloing on this album, and even Maynard playing around with a wah wah pedal on his trumpet solo in "Mother Fingers". MF Horn 3 also has the single best ballad that Maynard ever recorded, in my opinion: "Love Theme from The Valachi Papers". I've never seen the movie, so I don't know the context of the original song, but this version is exceptional, and Maynard manages to play a beautiful flugelhorn solo that, in all honesty, doesn't sound anything like the way he usually plays one. (For those unfamiliar with it, the flugelhorn has a much softer, mellower tone to it than the trumpet.) But as good as MF Horn 3 is, it's not the reason I bought this two CD set. It was for MF Horn 4 & 5: Live at Jimmy's. MF Horn 4 & 5 was a double live album recorded in 1973, and has been among my favorite albums since I first bought the LP many years ago. It's also been a fan favorite and a critically acclaimed album since its original release, which only deepens the mystery of why it took so long to get issued on CD. Moreover, is why Sony didn't release it themselves, and it took an independent company in the UK to finally make this happen. But the important thing is - the album is finally out on CD! While there are hints of Maynard's jazz/rock fusion here, the album is pretty much straight-ahead, high-powered, big band jazz at its best. There's some phenomenal soloing throughout (notably by Bruce Johnstone on baritone sax in "Got The Spirit", and Bob Summers and Maynard dueling with trumpets in "Fox Hunt"), and the excellent arrangements make the 12 piece band (plus Maynard) seem much larger than they are. Yet because of the compactness of the group, and their skill, the band is much tighter than a larger group could have been. It's a great combination of power, flexibility and speed. Just the right balance of instruments. Just the right mix of musicians. Maynard toured with groups like this for years, and his live concerts were always where the real music could be heard, even when some of his studio albums became mired in commercialism. There's been some criticism (more like whining, actually) on the message boards over at Maynard's website about some overdubbing being done on this album. I don't know if there was or not. It wouldn't surprise me (as "fixing" live albums was pretty common at the time), but it doesn't really matter. The end result is what counts. This is the album Maynard wanted to release, and is what represented his live shows at the time. It's well worth having, if you're a fan of jazz at all, or just really good music. Although if you live in the USA, you might want to wait until Amazon carries it. As for me, I couldn't wait. The only thing that could make this better is if there were more tracks still in the vault that could have been added to it. But two albums, and an hour and 42 minutes of great jazz is hard to beat! In fact, I'm giving this two disc set a 10/10. Beat that!
  25. Maynard Ferguson passed away yesterday at the age of 78. I won't try to recap his life or career. You can read all about that here. Maynard wasn't the reason I started playing trumpet originally, but he was certainly the spark that ignited my interest in playing jazz, and in fact, kicked off my love of jazz in the first place. He toured pretty much his entire life, right up until the end. I hope that I can find something that I love to do that much, and be able to leave something of it behind for other people to enjoy, too. Here's an astonishing clip of Maynard with Stan Kenton in 1950. (Note: this clip was pulled from YouTube... again.) One of Maynard in the 60's. Maynard wasn't a household name, but he inspired countless trumpet players, single-handedly expanded the range of trumpet music, and launched the careers of probably hundreds of musicians who played with him throughout the years. Recently he recorded a new studio album, and included some alumni from previous bands in the sessions. There's a nice write up and photos here. What a great way to go out. Surrounded by friends, doing what you love to do the most. There will never be another like him, and he will be sorely missed. But we'll always have his music to enjoy. Hopefully more of his recordings will see release on CD someday. When your career spans over 56 years, there's a lot to listen to. Bye Maynard.
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