Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is It Live Or Is It Memorex?

Talk about showing my age. That was a really old commercial. When I don't listen to podcasts surprise surprise I listen to music.

In the last little while been listening to among others:

Bob Seger Live Bullet

Joe Jackson Live 1980-1986

Bruce Springsteen Live

Secret Policeman's Other Ball (live) with Sting, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins

George Thorogood Live

Nighthawks at the Diner - Tom Waits (live)

Big Time - Tom Waits (live)

Peter Frampton Do You Feel Like We Do (live)

Supertramp Live in Paris

The Kinks One For The Road

The Kinks Live The Road

At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band.

Full House The J.Geils Band

As well as the video of the 50th Reunion of Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

There is more to it than that of course. I probably have more live albums than some people have albums. But brings up the point, why are there no live albums out now? Very simple. In a music landscape dominated by people who are not talented, there is little point watching their show for the music aspect. In 2010 yes you can have theatrics but some of us remember the days when the music business had actual music. As in every sound you heard emanated from the people you see on stage from their instruments. This may sound shocking to some but a live album only has the music and none of the trimmings from the concert. No lasers, no dancing, no guys in bling churning butter just the music. That is where you will find the true music fan. The one who is there for the music. What a novelty.

Of course what I said is only relevant if you care about bands. For the kids out there Kanye West is not a band. Britney Spears is not a band. Westlife and all the other "boybands" are not bands. Spice Girls are not a band. All the above have little to do with music. It's just bells, whistles, smoke, mirrors and marketing. Music goes into your gut and becomes part of you. To quote the fan in the beginning of the movie This is Spinal Tap "Heavy Metal's deep, you get stuff out of it" (2:01)

I did not mean heavy metal literally. David Lee Roth once said the three most important elements in a concert were lots of band, light and sound. At least in the early 80's Van Halen resisted the temptation of a big screen. The band is why you go to a concert. It's not about reproducing the recorded song. It's about the band. The spontaneity, the interaction and the energy. When was the last time you saw that from 50 cent's band and wanted it on a CD?
Some artists energy does not translate to the studio recording as well as it does live. Meaning that a lot of songs by Bob Seger, George Thorogood , The J. Geils band and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band sound better on the live records than on the original studio ones.

I won't go into the "performance enhancing" used in some so called concerts because it's obvious anyway. When I talk about a band in the context of a rock and roll setting I usually mean lead guitar, bass guitar, drummer , piano/ keyboards, rhythm guitar. Of course you can have percussionists and horns ( I was a horn player). A successful band is one that plays together well on stage. Just like I believe to really enjoy coffee is to drink it black, once the band ceases to being background for a singer and is appreciated by it's own merits; that's when music appreciation really begins.

When I was in first year high school, I believe I lost part of my musical innocence when I heard that for their "Live" album, the Eagles were "mailing in " their overdubs. What that means was a lot of what listened too that I thought was live had some "modifications"I understand that for most of the Long Run tour the Eagles were like the wives of John Edwards and/or Tiger Woods just going through the motions. I believe that once that tour ended, they did not see each other till the rehearsals for Hell Freezes Over. Which was 14 years later.

Joe Jackson ( Look Sharp, Night and Day, Big World, Body and Soul) purposely put on his albums that anything done "live" had no overdubs. Whether in front of a paid audience or in a studio setting. Maybe I am getting too hardcore for some of you but information is all on line or you can ask me.

I have seen many concerts.

Three Times: Stanley Jordan, Steely Dan

Twice: Randy Newman , Bruce Springsteen , Bob Seger , Supertramp , Kiss , Joe Jackson, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Singles: Marillion, Bob Dylan, The Scorpions, Quiet Riot, Spinal Tap, Tragically Hip, David Sanborn, The Who, Lionel Ritchie, Tina Turner , Dire Straits, Billy Joel , Motley Crue, Yes, The Alan Parsons Project , Men at Work, Weird Al, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Don Henley, Burt Bacharach, Bryan Adams, Rush, The Village People, Sting

All those shows ranged from 1982 to 1999. I have live music in my collection from most of them because the sound produced on stage for the most part was produced on stage and was worth committing to recording. You may have noticed Steely Dan on the three times list. I truly truly love their stuff. Songwriting, playing and memorable melodies, its all there. Maybe some of my trademark sarcasm comes from their lyrics. One of those times in concert was here.

Talk about a sight to behold. The Gorge in George, Washington State. About an 8 hour drive from where I used to live. They also used that scene as the back cover of their live album. But I slightly digress.

Why are there no live albums now? Do you really believe that even their own fans care to have live albums of Chris Brown or Neyo or Kanye West or that Justin Pipsqueak? Anybody interested in those people I guarantee you does not care about watching a band. They could be puppets up there on stage for all the audience knows. ( Actually that did happen ) Their music is disposable, their albums are not good and whatever music comes out on stage is contrived and not worthy to be offered to the altar of the godz of Rock and Roll!!!! Music now is not really about music but packaging and marketing. Selling the sizzle and not the steak. Dewey Finn was correct. MTV really screwed up music for the younger people by making music less relevant. The sizzle was relevant not the steak. And the fruits of that strategy was born into this lost generation. A generation that does not care about what a band does and therefore has no need for a live record. A live record is where the band shines. It's an aspect that is glitz free. A great rock and roll live album played loud is the pinnacle. I achieve a 'high' no alcohol or narcotics necessary. As the Who says "Join Together With The Band".

If you want to know why modern music sucks ? There is no more reason to record a live album.


4. Mix things up.
This is the most important rule. What's the point of a live album if the songs are arranged exactly like they are on the studio recordings? That approach guarantees an inferior product. This is where Live 1980/86 really succeeds. It includes three different versions of "Is She Really Going Out with Him", each different from the original recording yet still grounded in the basic elements of the song. The arrangements on side four are spectacular, especially "Steppin' Out", the acoustic-based tracks "Be My Number Two" and "Breaking Us in Two" and the soaring "It's Different for Girls".

Big World is a 1986 live album by Joe Jackson.[1] The album was recorded in front of an invited audience at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City on 22-25 January 1986. Jackson's intent was to capture the excitement and spontaneity of a live performance, but without any interference from the crowd. The audience remained silent during the recording as per Jackson's request, so no applause is heard. The music was mixed live from microphones on each instrument and then recorded directly into a stereo digital tape recorder. Unlike most live recordings, no post-recording mixing or overdubbing was performed.

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