Archive for April, 2010

DJ Bobo

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

DJ Bobo is the biggest selling artist in Swiss history.  Also he somehow appears at least once a week in every newspaper in the country – must be some kind of PR deal, and he’s not any more of a looker now than he is in the video.  His tours are usually about five stops throughout German-speaking Switzerland – but in sold out stadiums with production extravagant enough to make KISS and Alice Cooper jealous.

This song is a reminder of why he is so famous here.  And also why he isn’t famous anywhere else.

Categories: Dance

Riding the hook.

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear readers,

I’m very grateful to Mr. McFlummy for letting me guest post on this blog, the Slagger Logger or whatever it is.  I hear it gets tens of readers these days and I’m excited to reach all of my fans in a different format than usual.  But even more that that, I’m SO SO very grateful to dance and hip-hop for having brought back the genius of disco to the pop charts – that is, that you should probably understand what the catchiest part of your song is (the “hook”) and use it!

Case in point – Steve Winwood’s Valerie.  There’s much to be said about this song’s hook rising up from the dead, phoenix-like, to conquer the hearts of drug-addled dancers everywhere (like me…I mean the phoenix part, not the drug-addled part…at least these days).  I don’t go to clubs any longer – it’s because I’m on the wagon, I swear, not because I’m old and fall asleep early, no siree – so I’m hoping that one of the other music peeps here will write about the Eric Prydz “Call On Me” phenomenon.  I hear it induces mass hysteria when combined with a strobe light, and chicks take their clothes off and do aerobic moves like in the video.  I’m missing out, I know, but I can at least tackle the musical comparison.  Here goes…

The original 1982 version, which according to the captions in the video (research!) made #70 on the Billboard chart, has a little too much adult contemporary in it.  Like, you’d hear this in a doctor’s office (with hot nurses), or if you were on hold trying to get a cable repairman to your house (just thinking of the ladies, here, I’m totally not into that).   “Valerie” has two massive hooks: the beginning, and the “Valerie, call on me” bit.  It’s got a nice subtle syncopated beat and some keyboard action (the solo kicks, too), but the beat can’t carry it through the part where it slows down right before the chorus.  Did the writer have trouble connecting the song to the chorus?  Call on me, next time, Stevie!  Also, when it grinds to a halt between the chorus and verse introduction (the two best parts of the song!), it makes me start thinking about hitting “skip” on the boombox remote.  Thankfully the pause is brief and I never manage to find the remote before the lovely intro kicks in again.  Ahh.

Five years later, in the “Bring Me A Higher Love” era, Tom Lord-Alge applies some drum reverb, keyboard and percussion effects.

See what he did there?  Some tinny bass and bigger drums to carry us through the bad parts – all the way to Billboard #9, baby!  I don’t even mind the 80’s drum sound (it sounded like a good idea at the time, really).  But Tommy’s mix doesn’t ride the hook any more than the original version did.  To get my fix of the good parts, I will have to listen to the song a bunch of times – meaning I actually need to find that remote.  Poop on a stick.

That’s why Eric Prydz is my hero.  He understands what the hook is and isn’t above using it – to his great advantage.  (Warning: video is salacious, but lacks nudity/payoff.)

That’s the short version of the song – I could easily listen to the 8 minute version over and over again (it doesn’t come with a nifty video, though).  The hook is just that good!  The time the song doesn’t spend with the hook has the same drum part, so you can hear the hook in your head anyway (or depending on what drugs you’ve ingested, it’s REAL, man).  When I played it for my best pal Reed, he shook his head and said that only in dance music does such a simple idea to go on for that long.  I told him so what –  nobody would hear HIS idea, because they’d all be on the dance floor freaking out!

So I guess what I’m trying to communicate here is this: in the popular music game, you shouldn’t be afraid to shamelessly use your hook over and over again until listeners can’t get it out of their head.  (Like Kylie!)

Remember to pick up my new Greatest Hit CD called “You’ve Got The Touch” on Colonel James Records – with special remix bonus tracks for you crazy dance kids.

Your pal in the biz,

Dirk Diggler

Categories: Pop

Why I collect records (and CDs)

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

ELP S/T pink island label LPI have a big music collection which is more or less (beer) my only vice.  A lot of people are music lovers but a smaller (and by no means more legitimate) subset of those are actual collectors who care about different editions, formats, etc.  A valid question is often posed regarding this point by non-collector music lovers – they wonder why I might have several editions of the same album, or why I even collect records at all.  Wonder no longer – allow me to demonstrate.

ELP are justifiably reviled, but this is essentially their only shining moment that doesn’t involve pompous classical/rock hybrids.  It is the last track on their debut album, and was a huge hit in 1970.

I have three editions for you to sample if you so desire.  I have taken the liberty of raising the volume level of the first track, and to a lesser extent the second, to make the comparison fairer.

First, the original 1984 CD: THE BEST OF EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER on Atlantic.  Mastering engineer unknown, ripped via Easy CDDA to 192K MP3.

Second, the 1990-ish CD: EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER (self-titled) on Atlantic.  Mastering engineer: Barry Diament (if I remember correctly, don’t have the CD any more), ripped via Easy CDDA to 192K MP3.

Third, the 1970 LP: EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER (self-titled) on Island, first UK pressing, digitized with a Technics 1200 with a Stanton 680ELII cartridge, and the A-D conversion to WAV done by a Terratec iVinyl on “line in” mode.  Downconverted with Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio to 256K MP3.

Let me first state that I believe that, between 192K and 256K, the differences in MP3 sound are negligible, that the CD player doesn’t change the sound for ripping purposes, and that all modern MP3 encoders sound essentially the same – you can disqualify me if you disagree.

On a good pair of headphones, listening to the first, we get good sound overall – maybe the acoustic guitars are a little trebly.  Bear in mind I raised the level – the commercial CD is one of those that would make you turn up the volume on your iPod.

The second sample is baffling.  Beyond trebly, every “S” from the singer, cymbal, etc makes your hair stand on end.  Either the engineer had a really bad tape copy, was mastering on really bassy speakers, or just likes to make those cymbals sizzle.  Yikes.

The third sample should give you some idea of why I collect records.  Sure there are crackles, and it sounds like the grooves are a little damaged (sibilant “s” sounds – common for the “inner” or last tracks on a side of an LP if it was played with a misaligned cartridge).  But if you can get past the analogness – wow.  I always thought this was a great sounding edition of the song but check the synths towards the end.  Rumble!  The acoustic guitars never get too piercing (which could well be due to cartridge or inherent vinyl format issues).  I think it holds together really well and rewards loud playback.

Now, I’m not an analog snob – I wouldn’t say that  every record beats the pants off the corresponding CD.  A lot of CDs beat the pants off of the records – as well it should be, considering the capability of digital.  A lot of LPs and CDs have been reissued ad infinitum, so sometimes the provenance is a little complicated – and it might cost you a lot of money to compare and contrast.  And sometimes all editions sound roughly the same, for better or for worse.  But sometimes…they don’t.

Add that to the satisfaction of having the original “objet d’art” (in the case of this ELP album, the original pressing in the country it was recorded and/or mixed, which in most cases is the preferred edition), and the experiential propriety of having to flip the record halfway – in short, it’s the experience that connects you to the era, not just the music.

In summary, I wouldn’t be too upset here with the LP or the Best Of CD, but you can perhaps see why I ditched the other CD.

The ELP Atlantic Best Of CD should cost you about three dollars in a CD shop, if you care enough to buy it.  (I didn’t – I “inherited” it from my mom.)

The original** UK LP doesn’t rear its head very often because the pink Island labels are highly collectible.  But this album is probably the cheapest pink Island out there (I paid about ten bucks).

Hope this has been educational!  Enjoy the “Lucky Man” of your choice.

**(I don’t know whether the second edition has the same matrix info – mine is a -2U/-1U.  According to various ebay listings a pink rim (2nd label) UK Island can also have a -2U/-1U)

Categories: Rock

Mama, don’t let your sons grow up to be yodeling cowboys.

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I realize I promised (at least implicitly) Schlagers with the title of this blog.  Well, the wait is over.

Peter Hinnen, known as the yodeling cowboy, here does his best to convince us that he both knows where Colorado is and that he’s got BIZnass there.  I don’t believe him on either count – possibly because he’s got just enough of a Jerry Lewis crosseyed smirk to make me think irony, even if I know this clip is 100pct irony-free.  It’s also fun to watch him just kind of trot out there and go for it – the clip is from a June 1965 Schlager festival contest.

Yet another culture co-opts the cowboy theme (after Spaghetti westerns, Irish tales of the West, etc).  I guess it’s this obsession that kept Bonanza and Gunsmoke on TV for so long (did they have that dubbed into German)?  Another fake cowboy who liked to yodel: Sly Stone.

But trust me when I say that I wish Swiss radio was still playing stuff like this, because I’d probably tune in occasionally for shits and giggles.  Not least because of it’s aggressive tempo, this is a pretty decent song…for a Schlager.  You can take that to mean it gets a lot worse from here.

Categories: Schlager

Bobby Parker – Watch Your Step

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

This song is impossibly influential – one of the missing links between Ray Charles and the Rolling Stones.  Also, Led Zeppelin – Bobby called, he wants his riff back (from “Moby Dick”).

Categories: Blues, Funky

In The Sky – Frank Zappa, BBC, 1968

April 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I have more thoughts coming on Zappa, doo-wop, and irony.  But first I’d like to let you see this and think on it a while.

Categories: Doo-Wop, Irony