Music

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Country Chart-Busters Volume 5 (1974, Columbia Records)

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Classic Albums | Leave a comment

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After a lengthy break from writing about liner notes written on the back covers of random old LPs, our Lost Art of Liner Notes series returns as I make my way through a bounty of ten cent records I acquired on a recent record shopping expedition.

Today we take a look at a record which featured a minimal amount of liner notes – the fifth edition of a country music compilation series entitled Country Chart-Busters. So why write about the liner notes when they don’t really say that much, you may ask? Well folks, they do say that a picture is worth a thousand words but for the picture that accompanies the liner notes on the back cover of this album … well, really there are no words. See for yourself:
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Can’t sleep … clown will eat me.

Why someone though it would be a good idea to include a grainy photo of some creepy-as-hell clown on a collection of country hits I have no idea. While the front cover is a jovial, old timey depiction of three country musicians somehow managing to ride a horse simultaneously while standing up and holding guitars, the back cover is pure nightmare fuel from way out of left field. Is he supposed to be a rodeo clown or is he some ghoul who will murder you in your sleep while the sounds of Johnny Paycheck and Barbara Mandrell play softly in the background? Or worse yet, is he Crazy Joe Davola?

Anyways, read the liner notes below while trying to figure out who thought this was a good design idea and whether they got to keep their job after this was released. And then try to scrub this horrific image from your memory forever. The sweet sounds of Lynn Anderson may help in that regard.

The most amazing thing about Country Chart-Busters, Vol. V is that all of these songs are on one album. ten of the biggest stars in the World of Country performing the classics that have made country music what it is today. Songs like “Kids Say The Darndest Things” by Country Queen Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson’s “Fool Me” and “Nice ‘N’ Easy” by the fastest rising star in country music, Charlie Rich. Stars like Sonny James, Freddy Weller, Connie Smith, Barbara Mandrell, Jody Miller, David Houston and Johnny Paycheck make Country Chart-Busters Vol. V an album worth writing home about. There’s only one way you’ll ever hear such amazing talent performing material of such outstanding caliber and you’re holding it in your hands.

SxSW Review: Gordi, March 16, Blackheart

Posted on by Gary in Music, Reviews, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Gordi, March 16, 2018

Listening to the demo from Sophie Payten, AKA Gordi, you may jump to the conclusion that Gordi relies on a lot of voice modulations and overlay. And you may then surmise she was trying to cover something with technology. I am glad that I was of course completely wrong on this count. Having listened to her live, one would have to be a deaf, luddite curmudgeon to insist otherwise.

While not a soprano that would wow at first blare, her contra-alto is forthright and firm. Coupled with similarly solid and varied songwriting and a slightly stern yet forgiving stage presence, her performance at Blackheart was a convincingly complete package. I daresay no one expected to be transfixed in a sandy pit as she worked through most of the tracks from her 2017 album Reservoir. And yet there we were, fighting the oddly melancholy and triumphant melody with what lingered from the last. If that is what she can do with an outdoor set for 80 people at 5pm over a not insignificant hint of refuse wafting through the air from the adjacent apartment, imagine what she could sound like in the Presbyterian or Moody Theater.

I find “Can We Work It Out” and “Bitter End” to be two stand-outs. Check out the “Bitter End” video for some normal feelings – I find it comforting that these feelings still resonate with 24 year olds in this day and age.

SxSW Review: SYML, Low, March 13, St. David’s Sanctuary

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Music, Reviews, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

SYML, March 13 2018

SYML
After overcoming some sound interference troubles, Brian Fennell (formerly of the indie rock band Barcelona) quickly began in the church pulpit as SYML, which means simple in Welsh. Just as the name implied, it would turn out to be a straightforward singer-songwriter concert that has come to be St. David’s Sanctuary’s signature.

Over the years, it has also become clear that if you can’t sing, St. David’s is not a place to showcase your talents. SYML is, fortunately, not in that latter category. While I find it a bit distracting to have the cello and violin backing to his one man show, there was little hestitation in his delivery for passages. That said, the songwriting itself isn’t always clearly original. It isn’t hard to see that the opening of “Ghosts” neatly paraphrased Coldplay’s “In My Place.” While refreshing, his “Mr. Sandman” cover was not just a little creepy, and self-admittedly so. The lyrics were twisted into a lament about loneliness that might make Tim Burton jump. Even with all its idiosyncracies, this is still a first-rate set, ending with the promotional piece “Where’s My Love.” I would recommend the above tracks as well as “Wildfire.”

Low
If the previous set was “simple”, Low’s performance is its quantum entangled pair. How can we put more symbolism into a show? “I know! Let’s have two stern-faced, practicing Mormons sing nearly monotonic verses against a backdrop of ascending drum beats for 40 minutes in a dimly lit church, and conspicuously display their drinking of red soda and chomping of apples. That way, no one will think we were being serious!”

To be fair, Low has had a long career of minimalist excellence. It’s really not surprising that they managed to make the seemingly simple and monotonic music beautiful. And to be honest, it was a completely different experience if you were willing to stay the course. Problem was, it did not engender that will in most of the audience on this night. If St. David’s Sanctuary monitored their doors, they would have registered the exodus in between every track played. It was rare to see a concert hemorrhage audience throughout. I think a masochist mindset definitely came to the fore – and many just wanted to derive some type of reward having stayed with the performance. And as if they understood implicitly, Low did eventually open up the format for a number of more flowing pieces.

As for me, I felt like I had been party to some ritual to which I did not submit, but perhaps I did sign up for it. After all, SxSW is about getting a dose of the weird.

Low, March 13, 2018

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Baroque Bouquet – Plant Music (1975, Amherst Records)

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Classic Albums | Leave a comment

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Liner notes. They can get pretty weird sometimes. And there are perhaps none weirder than those of Plant Music, a collection of “Music to keep your plants Healthy and Happy.” Yes, apparently the great scientific minds of yesteryear (or possibly just a couple of stoned botanists) decided to dedicate their efforts to finding out exactly the right mix of instrumental music to soothe your savage plants. I guess it probably checks out – just look at the great effects of music on the growth of Audrey II.

I can’t help but question their expertise though after seeing them refer to acid rock as an “extremely simple musical form.” Not cool, man. Not cool. Also, what the hell is up with that bit where they casually mention the “sacrificing of animal life” being used as the stimulus in one earlier experiment? That’s pretty messed up. Maybe Audrey II really was involved in these experiments …

Anyways, check out the liner notes:

That music has profound effect upon life forms has been intuitively felt since antiquity. The effect of music upon plant growth has been studied at least since 1906. Bose (1906) suggested that plants may nearly be deaf. However one of his followers, Singh (1965), states that plants excited by pure notes of high frequency give direct responses and that under musical irradiation certain plants have improved both in yield and quality.

Weinberger (1968) reports that exposing wheat seeds and growing plants to high pitched sound can triple their growth.

Backster (1968) observed plant responses by means of a polygraph. Though not specifically referring to music as a stimulus to plant response he was led to the hypothesis that plants posess an “undefined primary perception” capability. He reports that such perception was indirectly demonstrated by the polygraph to which the plants were connected. The sacrificing of animal life in an adjacent room was the stimulus.

It seems to us (Boyles/Shannon) that to the degree in which Backster’s hypothesis is true, plants show this facility to “primarily perceive” music stimuli and possibly to respond selectively to contrasting types of music. 

This was part of the basis for our interest in the question: Do growing plants respond to energy sources in the form of musical sound, and if so, what generalizations can be made regarding the “types” of musical sound to which plants may selectively respond?

We reviewed the descriptions of existing experimentation done in the past and found that both strong positive and negative (stem slant) existed in experiments in terms of music varieties. The plants in all the experiments, in which we  were able to read the results, appeared as if a wind had blown plant stems uniformly away from one “type” of musical sound source and uniformly toward a musical sound source of another “kind”. We also found an accelerated deterioration of plant life quality ending in nearly 100% mortality after days of such exposure. The method of experimentation are all fairly alike: Environmental chambers were used, like plants were used in as many types of music as were being tested. Equal light sources were used as well as circulating fans. Temperatures of the chamber were also equal, and humidity factors were the same. The variable, of course, in all experiments was the types of music. After the experiments the plants were measured for life and growth in many ways.

A. Degree of slant of the stems both to and from the sound source.
B. Amount of root growth as contrasted to the other members of the studies.
C. Amount of new foliage.
D. Overall height and width of the plants

Within the limitations we have described, it appears that growing plants respond both toward and away from contrasting sound energies introduced into their environments.

Response to Bach and Shankar musical forms is evident in all experiments we have read. response away from percussion, and also from non-mathematical and extremely simple musical forms (acid rock) is equally evident.

We conclude that some presently unknown plant response mechanism may operate in sonic manipulated environments or that some known mechanism may respond in some unknown manner in such environments.

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