The Lyrical Wink And The Musical Nod

“Turn up the Eagles / the neighbors are listening”

“They stab it with their Steely knives / but they just can’t / kill the beast.”

Those of us who listen (or listened) to Seventies rock will recognize those two lines and remember their context. The first appeared in Steely Dan’s “Everything You Did” off the Royal Scam album; the second appeared half a year later on The Eagles’ Hotel California. In the era where the Internet didn’t make every bit of trivial information immediately available and where artists typically spoke almost exclusively through lyrics and liner notes, much was made of this “war” between Fagen/Becker and Frey/Henley, but the truth was that the artists shared a management company and generally admired their counterparts’ work. Consider both lines as being critical of the fanbase, rather than the musicians: vacuous, adulterous people who use the Eagles as background music, sun-bleached Californians whose love of irony goes well with their empty souls.

On a lark, as the lovely Aoife O’Donovan would say, I’ve put together a pair of musical nods to go along with the lyrical winks above. In both cases, you have an artist who is paying a sort of backhanded respect to a peer or muse. For me, one of them is far more obvious than the other.

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A Brief Introduction to Jazz


In response to “What Would You Like To See Here?” I’ve decided to re-post something from my old blog. It’s a bit of a jazz primer for those of you who said you’d like more music recommendations. I’ve added some bonus content—the above video is some advanced content from the the great Kenny Garrett for those of you who want more than the introductory music in the post. More of this to come if you like it—Bark

Jazz currently makes up less than three percent of all record sales, and that’s probably a generous number—I imagine that is probably much less than that when all forms of music sales are taken in account. As a Gen Xer who’s been a fan of Jazz for over twenty five years, I wish I understood a bit more about why Jazz is so unloved by people of my generation and younger.

There are countless articles on the internet that have been written by Jazz lovers, trying to explain to the uninitated why they should start listening to Jazz. I have never found any of these to be particularly helpful. They set out to introduce people to Jazz by giving a list of classic recordings that people should go out and listen to.

Well, there are a few problems with that. First of all, the classic recordings are just that—classics. Nobody who loves Jazz doubts that Kind of Blue or Giant Steps are great records, but they’re pretty inaccessible to the untrained ear. Kind of Blue, for example, is based on modal harmonies with the purpose of allowing the musicians to stretch out without being constrained by traditional vertical chord structures. Fascinating and revolutionary, yes, but interesting to the novice? No.

Secondly, they’re written by people who don’t listen to popular music. Like, not never. So how would they know what would be interesting to a person who enjoys Imagine Dragons or Katy Perry?

Therefore, I find it to be my moral obligation to try to create a sampling of music that the popular music fan might find interesting enough that he or she would actually listen to the whole thing—sort of a gateway drug to Jazz, if you will. I encourage you to listen to just a little bit of the selections I’ve picked out, and tell me in the comments below what your reaction is. Continue Reading →

Lights Out For Gibson Memphis

It seems like yesterday, but it was long ago. Seven and a half years ago, to be precise. The precise who and why of it we can leave to the privacy of the woman involved, but here’s the what and where: I found myself behind the wheel of a nearly-new, livery-spec Lincoln Town Car, pulling up to the arrivals lane at the Memphis airport. I’d driven it down from Columbus for what was supposed to be a week-long trip across the American Southwest. For a variety of reasons, mostly alcohol-related and drama-related, we never left the city. By the time I took my date back to the airport, we were no longer strangers to each other — and that was, perhaps, the problem, because we liked each other best as strangers.

It was the kind of “lost weekend” that every man should experience a few times in his life, because it teaches you the raw mechanics of human desire and disgust in a way that you’ll never learn from frantic collegiate couplings or dissipated domestic boredom. In that short span of days, she and I shimmered and sank through a fast-forward series of scenes alternating between exhilarating and exhausting, the fragile high of each evening collapsing into the vomiter’s cockroach crawl at four in the morning. True to form, I managed to make a few bucks out of the thing, with a review of the car and a fiction-ish story. That modest financial return was far outweighed by long bar tabs and rack-rate extensions on a hotel room that we couldn’t summon the moral strength to leave.

Oh, and somewhere in there I spent $3,400 on a new guitar.

From the Gibson Memphis showroom, immediately following a spur-of-the-moment factory tour. I’d made fast friends with the shop foreman and asked him to find me something that had turned out just a bit better than the rest of the day’s haul. He returned with a cherry-red ES-339 Figured. It was absolutely flawless and rang out strong even before I’d plugged it in. In the years after, I used it twice a week for my sandwich-shop gigs, always enjoying the complex tone and perfect playability of the thing. Which was good, because financially speaking I lost my shirt on it.

Turns out the nice people at Gibson were losing their shirt on it, too.

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The Darkest Days Of The Les Paul (Kind Of)

When I got home from the mountain bike park yesterday I saw an email from a friend telling me to watch the above video. “Is that a P-90/humbucker combination in Schon’s Les Paul?” he asked. “I’ve never seen that.” My off-the-cuff response was, “Well, it’s a Les Paul BFG combo, just like my Les Paul Gator.” But that was an obviously ridiculous response because the BFG wasn’t introduced until twenty years after this video was filmed.

So I decided to do a little bit of Internet (and actual book!) research to find out what was going on. The answer ended up being a sort of Seventies synecdoche, incorporating various sorts of concepts and tropes — from guitar-as-tool to Boomer-driven-nostalgia-control to plain-and-simple corporate ignorance.

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In The Blood

John Mayer’s “The Search For Everything” has been released in its entirety. This is probably the standout track. Neither musically complicated nor particularly suited for Mayer’s range, it is nonetheless likely to stir the strongest emotions in its listeners. Lyrics and thoughts below.

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Spotter’s Guide To The April/May Issue Of CityScene Columbus Magazine

My long-time readers know that I can be very protective, even belligerent, when it comes to discussing the merits of an Ohio lifestyle. I was transplanted to the Midwest as a tween-ager and although I despised it in the early years I have come to believe that central Ohio is a good place to live and work. Twenty years’ worth of traveling the country and (occasionally) the world has only served to confirm me in this bigoted, insular Stockholm-syndrome opinion.

With that said, there are a few things I continue to truly hate about Ohio, and the cover of the newest CityScene magazine is a veritable tableau of them. This fellow knew that he was going to be photographed for a piece spotlighting various Columbus-area guitar collectors. He figured that this was the right time for an Ohio State golf visor, a Serbian-issue pullover, and the cheapest watch you can get off QVC between two and three in the morning. I spend much of my life surrounded by people exactly like this. “Male basic bitches” is what Mrs. Baruth calls them, and I have to agree. There is no time in your life when it’s a good idea to advertise that you went to “THE Ohio State University”, although I will concede my younger brother surely holds a different opinion.

Rest assured, however, that I have not chosen to spotlight this fine publication merely so I could express my disappointment with the cover.

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And Now For Some Actual Music From One Of Our Contributors

Let me start with some apologies — I should have put this up a month ago, but I’ve been on a continual treadmill of distraction. I have a couple very solid written contributions from the Riverside Green commenter/reader base as well that will be going up shortly. All I can ask is that all of you be patient with me. I work three jobs and I have the attention span of that lesbian fish in the crappy Disney movies.

The Memphis Motor Co. is a band that performs traditional Eighties-style synthpop. If you like Tears For Fears, Real Life, When In Rome, The Smiths, or anything from that era, you will dig this. One of their frontmen is an occasional correspondent of mine and Riverside Green reader. He gave me a scoop on their EP release a while back and I just sat on it because I wanted to give the music a thorough listen before putting it up here.

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I’m Listening To Music On Spotify And I’m Feeling Quite Guilty About It

I think just about everybody who reads Riverside Green is aware that I majored in Music in school—more specifically, I majored in Jazz Performance. When I was in school, the best textbooks I had were actually compact discs. I scrimped and saved from my part-time job to buy used CDs from “Used Kids Records” on High Street for anywhere from $5-7 apiece—new CDs were out of the question, financially. It was thanks to Used Kids that I learned about off-the-radar saxophonists like Mark Turner, Teodross Avery, Wessell Anderson, and Tim Warfield. I digested their musical vocabulary, transcribed their solos, and regurgitated my learnings through the bell of my horn.

I’ve spent hundreds and thousands of hours practicing the saxophone, writing music, and performing on stages throughout North America and Europe. I’ve been blessed to share stages with some of the biggest names in music. And, for several years, playing the brass bagpipes was how I (barely) paid the bills.

Which is why I’m incredibly conflicted every time that I open up my Spotify app.

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Robin Pecknold Is A (Major Contibutor To The) Genius (.com Music Website) But Maybe He Shouldn’t Be

I don’t like to look this fact square in the eye, but every day brings me more evidence that this entire world is simply a simulation created to keep my brain busy while my body generates electricity for the machines in the Matrix. How else can you explain the fact that several of my favorite musicians — Pat Metheny, Natalie Merchant, Sara Watkins, The Black Keys, and a few others — have all decided to leave their major distribution deals in the past few years and move to Nonesuch Records, my favorite label? It’s far too comfortable a coincidence.

Any doubt I harbored about this theory was depressingly dashed when the Fleet Foxes announced a reunion and a new album to be released on… you guessed it… Nonesuch. This is what video game designers think of as resource conservation. If I’m only interacting with one record label here in the “real world”, the others can kind of fade away into the background, the same way that many video games don’t bother to fully render objects until the player’s point of view focuses on them. Here’s another example of this: The less thought I give to BMW, the less distinct their new models become. It’s been ten years since I seriously considered the purchase of a new 7 Series. During that time, the car has basically faded into a generic shape. Am I right, or am I right? Don’t bother to answer; you only exist inside my head. If I need you to answer it will just happen.

Those of us who signed up for early delivery of the new Fleet Foxes album directly from Nonesuch have already received digital delivery of the the track Third Of May / Odaigahara. It’s an utterly brilliant song, sort of a Fleet Foxes Greatest Hits in just six minutes. As is often the case with the Foxes, the lyrics range from obscure to deliberately private. Not to worry; the website exists specifically for people to offer their ideas and theories regarding a song’s meaning. And if you click the link directly above, you’ll be taken to the Genius site for this new track, and you will see that there are several notations that are, for lack of a better phrase, curiously authoritative.

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Introducing Esperanto Audio!

A $1,200 guitar cable. One thousand, two hundred dollars. That sounds insane. There is, however, a certain amount of logic to it. From a strict Veblen-good perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to connect a $15,000 PRS Private Stock guitar and a $10,000 boutique amp with even the nicest $65 Mogami Gold cable. But there’s more to it than that. Since the dawn of electric-guitar time, long cables have been a nightmare. They’re noisy and they actually modify the tone of the guitar.

My friend John Marks has solved these problems by applying the same outrageous materials and processes used in the audiophile world to the humble guitar cable. The precise length is calculate to minimize interference. The materials are all top shelf and roughly equivalent to what you’d get in the very highest-end copper audiophile cables. There’s an oiled wooden block on the amplifier end for reasons that still make no sense to me.

It’s bad-ass and it works better than FourLoko on a first date. Click the jump to see and hear it live.

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