Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

It is true that I bought every Jackson Browne album I could get my hands on when I started collecting vinyl again, but there is only one that I really need.

“Jackson Browne – Running On Empty”

I have flipped past it several times in moments of vinyl culling, and considered it, then moved on. Once I even really did pull it and put it in a pile to make art out of, but when I worked my way down in the pile to it, I held it in my hands and smiled and set it outside the door of the music room to be returned to the rack. I just can’t get rid of it. There are other Jackson Browne albums that have some great songs… but this one has a special place in my consciousness. It gets to me in ways that I think I only really just realized today when I played it while working at home alone.

First of all, Paul Beck introduced it to me and we would listen to his tape of it when we were hanging out in my rented room in Milwaukee in my college days. At the time I didn’t really appreciate it and was confused by the sometimes live, sometimes studio, sometimes mixture sound quality of it all. At times it sounds like they are sitting in your living room pickin’ on some songs, and other times you are hearing the crowd. There are moments where they are talking to each other as they play and as the tracks fade out as if they were recorded impromptu. It is a strange effect. Paul loved it. He claimed that this was the album that he and his dudes listened to back home while they were drinking and hanging out at his friends farm with this playing on the car stereo loud. I came from Illinois where the drinking age at that time was 21, so imagining that scene always comes with the playing of this album. It’s as though there is some inherent freedom that is associated with these tracks. I thought Paul was very worldly and it just rubbed off on this album for me.

Second, it kind of epitomizes that late 70’s feel, sounding a bit like Eddie Money meets The Eagles meets Fleetwood Mac. I can imagine Jackson Browne on stage in Hagar slacks and open collar button up shirt in his flip flops. This was before the 80’s when things went plastic and neon and has I think weathered the test of time. When I listen to this I hear the best of the late 70’s and not the pulp that later became the worst of the 80’s. There is a laid back feel to it that makes it perfect almost anytime.

Also, noteworthy, these songs are not on any “studio” albums. I thought a studio version of “You Love The Thunder” and “Running On Empty” would be a great tracks and looked for them when I was buying vinyl, but it turns out that these songs were all recorded for the first time as he toured with them. Which explains the jumble of sonic backdrops. Some were recorded on the tour bus, or in hotel rooms as well as on the stage. I think that this definitely helps craft that impromptu feel.

Songs from this album were rock enough to get to the rock and roll radio stations without having screeching guitars and despite having violin on some tracks. This was largely before what TYPE of rock you played helped determined where you were heard. The soft rock station vs the hard rock station. This album was sort of every man’s rock. Music at home on the car stereo, heard drifting over the water at a lake, or in a dim room lit only by stereo components playing only so loudly that you can exchange stories with your friends over it and let it pleasantly fill the short silences.

Lastly, the music on this album, largely about travel and being away from the ones you love and living life on the road means even more to me now that I have grown and matured. “If it’s too loud, your too old!” Maybe so, but there is a lot of wisdom and strife in these songs that it takes time in a life to be able to appreciate. So the radio friendly songs will grab you and pull you in for your first listen, but it’s the other songs that will keep you coming back.

I have purchased about the first 10 Jackson Browne albums and there are about 2 songs on each that would make an excellent “Greatest Hits” album for me, but “Running On Empty” is complete in and of itself.

Paul turned me on to a lot of bands, like old AC/DC, April Wine and George Thorogood, but it was this one, that he always played casually, that has stuck with me in a little corner of my mind to become a classic of my collection.

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The English Beat – Belated Review Of “Here We Go Love”

I won’t link to the posts, you can find them if you want, of the last two times I have seen The English Beat here in the Madison area but I have not missed a chance to see them. My history with The English Beat started when I rented a room going to school in Milwaukee while attending UWM.

I heard some random tracks and then got an early album and loved it. I thought I did that is. When I got the album “Special Beat Service” I was introduced to a whole level of “loving it”. It changed my life.

I have seen them 3 times and each time I am shocked (consider it has been 36 years since the album that changed me) that Dave still sounds fantastic and the music is great and it seems like it was only yesterday when I first heard their music and learned to love the sound.

It was over 2 years ago, when I saw them live at The High Noon Saloon and they mentioned that they were working on a new album and that you could secure a signed copy by pledging on Pledge Music. Which of course, I immediately did after the show.

That started a long long long and still more long wait for the new album to be released. As pledgers we got frequent updates… “we are mixing down”… “we are wrapping up back ground vocals”… at one point they even released all the tracks as instrumentals.

I like to be surprised. I’m not one of those that eagerly devours leaked tracks or pre-release singles. I wait for the full package.

At one point the CD was released and you could listen to it on Spotify, but, the vinyl, which I had purchased had yet to be released. There was a Pledge Music update about the vinyl, that it was being shipped to where they were playing in Texas or somewhere so that Dave could sign them all and then they would be shipped.

Still more waiting.

Finally, literally 2 years after I pledged… it arrived!

Signed by Dave himself.

The packaging was very cool.

Love the Ska girl image. Iconic.

The inner gatefold had lyrics.

with custom labels in white and black sleeves.

Back cover

So, the question is… was it worth the wait. Answer… yes!

This album in my opinion is great. Dave’s voice is as strong as ever, and the music is top notch. The track “Dem Call It Ska” is the weakest track on the album, but I have a well known penchant for hating on songs with “rock and roll” in the title. This isn’t that far off of that. I’m not saying I don’t listen to it, I’m just saying it doesn’t stand up with the others.

The stand out tracks are “How Can You Stand There”, “If Killing Worked”, “Here We Go Love” and “The Love You Give”. They have the bright positive poppy sound that I have come to associate with the best of The English Beat.

It took a while for me to have time to devote to listening to this with a critical ear. I was a little afraid that after a huge wait as I was subjected to that almost nothing could stand up to the hype. I am pleased to say that it was worth the wait. It will never replace “Special Beat Service” but in all honesty, what could? The music is solid and makes me happy like it did back in the day when I was playing it in my rented room in the room over the garage, loving life and thinking I had the world by the horns.

Thanks for still touring with The English Beat Dave and for continuing to record.

Your band has been my Sole Salvation.

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Somebody Likes It

I discovered Podcasts many years ago when they were new and shiny. I listened to some really odd stuff. Podcasts about French pop music, some science stuff, trivia and many others. A lot came and went. Lots were starting out and made several episodes, then disappeared. Some amazingly are still at it.

Skeptics Guide To The Universe is still at it, and in case you think I am one sided I also listened to Art Bell’s (R.I.P.) Coast To Coast. This is not technically a podcast but a radio show, but I provide this info for counter-balance.

I am still listening to The Dub Zone too:  http://petecogle.co.uk/blog/the-dub-zone/    Keep on keeping on Pete!

I never really came across a podcast however that really replicated the feel of the moments that Dalton and I used to have sitting around talking about music, going off on tangents, playing tracks and generally just commiserating about music in general. There have been a few that seemed promising, but ended up being too much this or that or stilted to one opinion or another. Every so often I check out some more that come along but there are so many now it boggles the mind.

Every once in a while you get lucky though and find one that is right up your alley.

Somebody Likes This is a podcast that I have stumbled onto. It’s been around since 2014 and is still going, so longevity. The gist of the show is that the 3 guys discuss albums that have been important to history, but that they are not necessarily familiar with. They rotate picking an album, they individually listen to it and come together to discuss. Simple.

I was expecting much the same as other podcasts that had tried something similar, like discussing favorite albums, or new albums, and ended up being too fan boy or hater and were a struggle to listen to, but I was pleasantly surprised.

You can find it here:    http://oneofus.net/somebody-likes-it/    or check it out on Spotify as I am doing currently.

“Hosts: Shane Bartell, Kevin Newsum, & Ryan Newsum

Hello my little chickadees, and welcome to “Somebody Likes It.” The 3 of us will drink copious amounts of liquor and talk about an album that, while very important to a lot of people, none of us have really spent any time with. This doesn’t mean that said record is a cult classic, nay dear reader, as our intent is quite contrary to that line of thinking.”

It has a lot of anecdotes, stories about the band and album and they are not afraid to praise or punish when the music calls for it. The interplay is great and the guys are equal parts well spoken and thoughtful coupled with guys drinking in a garage. The perfect mix!

The first episode is on “Rush – 2112” and I expected to hear elaborate praise, but they were mixed on it, which I found astonishing, yet endearing and gave me some respect for them right away.

There are, as I write this, 130 episodes to ingest and there are quite a few on albums that I don’t know, so looking forward to those. Every episode I have listened to so far has been hilarious and fantastic and informative.

I also had to look up this word that they used in an early episode: oeuvre.

Bravo.

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You Kids Have No Idea How Easy You Have It…

I know, I know… it sounds like something an old man would say.

When I was in high school and my mom lived in Ann Arbor Michigan and my father lived in South Bend Indiana, I often went back and forth on the train. I brought a bag full of stuff and that was it. Books and tapes and a portable tape recorder to make tapes for my friend Alan.

There were times however when I would stay for several weeks at a time in the summer.

I needed my music if I was going to be there for more than a week. I had to pack all of my stereo equipment into the back of the car.

I found this picture of one of my home stereo rigs from back in the day. I think I have posted this before but it bears showing again. First of all look at that TV and how big the opening for it is in that entertainment center. Joke. This picture is from later years as is evidenced by the CD player. That is the far right black VCR sized box on top of the receiver. Yeah. It was that big.

So, the entire back seat of the car was packed with my giant speakers, the record player, the receiver and tape deck. When we got to the halfway point, I moved it all from the back seat of moms car to the back seat of dads car. Then when I got to dads place I unpacked it all and carried it up the stairs to the second story apartment and spent an hour setting it all up again. I got really good at marking which cord went to which component.

When dad was at work, I would politely (sigh… apartment living) crank it up and jam to “Rush – Moving Pictures”, a variety of Beatles albums, The Cars, Cheap Trick and whatever I could fit in one wooden crate. Half of it I never even played, but I needed it all at my fingertips just in case.

That was before I even owned a boombox.

It was a pain, but the thought of being without my music for an extended period was a deal breaker and everyone knew it. This was just the norm.

It makes me laugh now when I think back on it. The sheer size and amount of equipment. Now I would just bring my external hard drive and my laptop… or just stream Spotify or Mixcloud to an external portable speaker.

And all that would fit in my backpack, not the backseat of a car.

Analog.

Man, who knew?

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A Star Is Born – (Redux?)

I have an interesting and special history with the Streisand/Kristofferson album “A Star Is Born”. It was one on my first dubbed albums when I was a kid, becoming one of the first albums I would play on my portable tape player when I went to bed.

Pretty sure I have my mother to thank for this album being in the house. She was the Streisand fan. Thanks mom!

I bought it on vinyl again a few years ago:

https://auralretentive.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/first-recordings-a-star-is-born/

and listened to it a couple of times. A bit dated, but it is so imprinted on me that I will always have a soft spot for it. And… it has been remade. Yes. I am now that old.

This time with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

We have tickets to see it tonight. I’m excited to see what they do to it. I have total faith in Lady Gaga, but Bradley Cooper reprising the Kristofferson role should be interesting. I can only seem to see him as the dude from The Hangover. So let’s see if he has the chops. Kristofferson doing “Hellacious Acres” was a favorite from back then. I doubt they will be telling the story exactly the same way. We shall see…

I’ll report back after the movie.

POST MOVIE:

Okay. The story is the same but of course completely different. I guess I should have expected that.

Lady Gaga did great. A singer with a big nose. Well played movie makers.

The biggest surprise was Bradley Cooper playing a mush mouthed drunk with a light in his eye for the love and talent in Lady Gaga. I believed it. He pulled it off. The whole movie worked.

Of course there is a different but similar story to Barbara and Kris’s story, but it was well done. Though for the life of me I can’t recall the end of their movie. May have to find and watch that on again.

Lady Gaga whom I have always considered talented, though maybe not my style, shined and just like when I finally saw Purple Rain and realized what a talent Prince was, I can certainly see the talent beneath the meat suit now. When the two of them were onstage performing it was awesome.

The film is actually (shock) the 4th version of the original 1937 film and directed (his first) by Cooper. It was originally supposed to be a Clint Eastwood film with Beyonce as the lead.

That would have been… different.

Brad and Lady Gaga get thumbs up from me for this film.

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The Aural Retentive’s Guide To David Bowie’s Studio Albums (with Extras)

Here is an actual text exchange with my friend Josh.

Of course that got me thinking about how to actually accomplish this.

I remember one day when a friend of mine made me sit down and listen to Hendrix doing The Star Spangled Banner from Woodstock. I didn’t care for it then, probably because he wanted me to so bad. Seemed gimmicky to me and a lot of noise. Years later I would come to LOVE Hendrix and realize how great he did everything in that Woodstock show, particularly The Star Spangled Banner, but I had to get there on my own.

So how to gently offer up all of David Bowie’s studio work? I definitely sense that there would be bad places to start if you just randomly picked.

But at the same time, the Hendrix situation looms large in my psyche.

The only solution I could come up with was a list of all the albums and a ranking of them by me with notes and let him wade in himself.

I got the list of studio albums from Wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie_discography

but that even posed issues. Do you include Tin Machine? What about soundtracks? Live albums? Compilations? I discovered that “The Buddha Of Suburbia” was classified as a Soundtrack though it really wasn’t and that there were some I wanted to include that were not considered studio albums. So the process of just using studio albums was imperfect, but in the end, seemed most appropriate.

Then I ranked them on a 1 -3 scale, gave them a time grouping and added some notes. The whole process took a while as I debated the rankings. I tried to ride the line between what I personally thought the ranking should be and what a “new to Bowie” (though who really is?) listener might warm to first.

I also decided I must include some essential non-studio items that I would add to an “Extras” folder. Things like some of the live albums, ChangesOne (where I recommend he start), Sound And Vision I, II, and III, and also Bowie doing Peter and The Wolf that he could share with Emerson.

So… for better or worse, here is my Bowie list. I confess that there are portions of this list that may be compromised by the time and place that I first heard these albums, and if done again in 10 years may be ranked differently.

Bowie Albums Listening Guide by The Aural Retentive:

Bowie

This includes the Extras that I recommend. Remember, this is for the casual listener. Otherwise I would have included a lot of other things, like “The Absolute Beginners” EP, the Live Aid performance, “Labyrinth” Soundtrack?…

I’m delivering this to Josh on Monday. Spoiler alert Josh if you’re reading this.

Is it some sort of sacrilege if I deliver it on a Paul Stanley flash drive?

Star Child meets Star Man?

Good luck Josh. Take it slow with an open mind and this Paul Stanley flash drive could ch ch-ch-change you forever.

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The Future Is Now! Or Soon Anyway.

I am usually the last one in line for new technology. I’m the guy who refuses to update his apps on his computer unless forced to and I’m also the guy who refuses to get a personal Facebook. No way dude.

I am beginning to change my perspective a bit.

Now don’t get me wrong… I will never be the guy waiting in line to get the next I-Phone, but when it comes to music, I do tend to get interested.

I bought a Juke when they were hot because they played music.

Even so, I resisted the urge to get a Smartphone for a ridiculously long time. Now that I have one and I can play Mixcloud or Spotify or YouTube or Podcasts on it, I wonder how I ever lived without it. The ability to think of a song and tell my phone to play it is I’ll admit… a thing.

Drifting off to sleep and want some sound system or dub music to play you out? Driving and want to listen to a Podcast to pass the time? Talk to your phone.

I haven’t yet reached Alexa stage, I still just talk to my phone, but I did see something the other day that I think I would stand in line for.

A music butler! I mean a robot.

Saw this advertised on Spotify and I had to check it out.

https://www.robotemi.com/

This photo kind of says it all, right? Minimalist setting. Happy dancing child. Grandma looking on from the face of Temi. Is that a bookcase? Futuristic building in view outside. This is the future. Looks like in the future kids still leave toys everywhere.

Just like the time I held out against getting a smart phone and now can’t live without it, I recognize this will be everywhere in a decade. Well, when they get the price down. It runs $1500 currently. Too steep for my wallet, but this one is cute and functional and vaguely like the whimsical Sheldon Virtual Presence Device from Big Bang Theory.

Less the shirt.

This is happening.

I’ve read enough Asimov to know that this kind of robot is the first wave. The ones before the ones that will malfunction and kill us all. So why not get on board now. I bet this could carry my entire music collection and follow me around just waiting for me to call out a tune.

“Jeeves…” that’s what I would call it “… play Working Man by Rush.”

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