On Hiatus on Account of Audacity

May 16, 2007

Well, I had big plans for this blog thing, but the software I’ve been using has not cooperated. In most things (recording short voice promos, sound editing, converting between formats, working with pre-existing files, etc.) Audacity has been great.

But when it comes to capturing streamed-in sound from my LPs in order to convert them to digital format, Audacity sucks gigantic dong.

For some reason, the software leaves skips in the tracks about every 4 minutes, and sometimes at random—so I never know when I record something if I have a clean take or not. Sometimes I have to re-take a capture 3 or 4 times—and even after that I sometimes still don’t get a clean capture. And each time, I have to listen to the entire track to check it before proceeding to the next. Multiply this times 10 tracks on an album and you can see the amount of time wasted.

I would try something new, but unfortunately, my old laptop won’t accept any new software.

So, for now I’m in limbo with this blog. I’m in the process of trying to convert the classic old Peter Maag Decca recording of Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony No. 38, which has never been issued on CD (though possibly in Japan), so that I could have a digital copy, and which I intended to share here. However, even that seemingly modest task has become a huge chore thanks to Audacity. After several tries I finally settled on trying to edit together two “takes” of the first movement which had skips in various parts, and ended up with a near perfect take. But I still have to tackle the 2nd and 3rd movements, which after preliminary attempts are already proving to be a pain in the neck.

I read some of the various solutions to this problem on the net pertaining to replacing sound cards and such, but it’s all too much trouble and Greek to me, so I won’t be doing any of that. And I don’t plan to spend a dime on fixing things that should friggin’ work in the first place.

So, I’ll leave the archives up for now and try to get things up as time permits.

-EG


Memphis Slim & Pee Wee King 45s

March 26, 2007

Thematically, there’s not much to tie together today’s 45 rpm selections other than that our artists’ names (Slim and Pee Wee) seem to indicate slightness of size. They’re here as part of my efforts to digitize gems plucked from my parents’ collection and because 1.) the Pee Wee King record from Feb. 1955 “Tweedlee Dee” backed with “You Can’t Hardy Get them No More” was one that amused me as youngster in the ’70s and 2.) the Memphis Slim 1958 45 of “What’s the Matter” backed with “This Time I’m Through” caught my eye with my more recent (and belated) interest in vintage R&B.

I planned to write more about these recordings, but right now I just want to get them online. They can be found in a single folder containing the four sides: HERE.

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Duke Ellington vs. Duke Ellington: A Sound Comparison

February 26, 2007

My original plan today was to post the late 50s LP, Baubles, Bangles and Beads by the Kirby Stone Four, but I decided not to do that after I belatedly found out that the album is currently in ellington-piano.jpgprint, available on CD.

So instead I punted and have salvaged an interesting exercise in sound comparison, between a superior LP issue of some Duke Ellington tracks vs. an inferior CD transfer of the same tracks. The LP is long out of print (though cheap copies can be had on Ebay) while the CD is still available.

Going head-to-head in this comparison are transfers of my two favorite Duke Ellington recordings: “Echoes of Harlem,” meant as a showcase piece for the band’s trumpeter Cootie Williams (thus the parenthetical title, “Cootie’s Concerto”) and “Clarinet Lament,” a work meant to highlight the clarinet work of Barney Bigard (thus the subtitle, “Barney’s Concerto.”) Both are from 1936.

Over the weekend I captured and converted these from my old Time-Life “Giants of Jazz” LP set from 1979. I then listened to the transgiants-of-jazz_200logo.jpgfers of the tracks that were done for CD on the French-based “Chronological Classics” label and was surprised at how poor those CD-transfer versions sound compared to the Time-Life versions. Or I should say, I wasn’t surprised that the Time-Life versions sounded better, I was just amazed at how much better they sound than Classics’ attempt. Duke Ellington’s legacy often has suffered poor sonic treatment on CD, especially from RCA’s dreadful, denuded, screechy-trebly DDD-transfers of the early ’40s Blanton-Webster band-era material. CD issues by various labels such as ASV (despite fake stereo), Decca/MCA, and Columbia/Sony have sounded much better. But much of the 1935-1936 material wasn’t reissued on CD by a big-name label. So when “Classics” issued the mid-30s stuff on CD I was relieved and glad to get it.

BTW, I lifted the photo of this Ellington 3- LP “Giants of Jazz” set (Time-Life Records, 1979) from an Ebay seller, even though I own two copies of the set; I don’t think that I could have done a better job than the seller of pictorially illustrating the lovely packaging, that includes an ample, heavily researched, beautifully written booklet, an art print also replicated on the cover box, a special insert on the “making of” the set and three nicely pressed and expertly selected LPs. giants-of-jazz_ellington-array.JPG

Not having access to my LPs for many years and beholden only to the CD versions, I didn’t know how much I was missing. Now you can hear the difference for yourself. You’ll notice a much fuller, more bass-rich sound overall and greater detailing of the solo instruments in the Time-Life. Classics brightens the treble end at great expense of the bass and a nearly complete loss of ambience. Time-Life did manage to track down and use the best material in the world for their 28-artist landmark “Giants of Jazz” series, and that is apparent here. Still, there are some clicks and pops—some are on my LP and some are from the original source materials. It goes with the territory and is more than acceptable given that, in my opinion, these are two of the most beautiful performances ever recorded.

In the first feellington-classics-35-36-cd.jpgw seconds, there doesn’t appear to be a great difference sonically between the opening clarinet glissando on “Clarinet Lament,” but once the rhythm and orchestra kick in the warmth and fullness of the LP compared to the dry and recessed CD is obvious. The difference is immediately striking on “Echoes of Harlem.” The Time-Life kicks Classics’ butt right out of the gate.

One problem with the Classics, too, is that in converting it to MP3 a strange “clicking anamoly appears in a few spots.

At some point soon, I hope to post the entire 3-LP Ellington set, which unfortunately never has been issued on CD, and probably never will be. It seems that I remember in promo materials that Time-Life promised to destroy the masters they made in order to enhance the set’s collectibility. I’m trying to find the promo material to verify that, but if it’s true, then it’s a real tragedy, because they achieved a sonic richness unmatched in subsequent CD reissues of this material.

Keep in mind I’m using sticks and stones tech: an old turntable and receiver hooked to computer via a crude line-out from the headphone jack—and still get better sonic results than shown on the CD.

Get the four-track sampler including a text file track listing HERE.

-Evan


When Your Mom Looks Like an Old Prostitute

February 24, 2007

The point where the ’70s went wrong for me was not the fall of Saigon or Nixon’s final chopper liftoff or WIN buttons or pet rocks or Popiel’s pocket fisherman or the Bay City Rollers or Holmes and Yoyo. No. It was the moment sometime in 1972 when my nearly 40-year-old mother walked through the front door one night dressed in glitter hot pants and fuck-me leather liberace_smokin_hot_pants.jpggo-go boots.

I was sick. I was naseous, I was confused.

It was just not right.

However, those things looked just fine on the teen girl, Darlene, who regularly babysat me and my sister. In fact, she even borrowed the duds from Mom to go out disco-ing on night. Yes, Darlene looked fine in those things.

Luckily, Mom only donned the hooker wear only once more as the fashion had passed.

(I have no photos of Mom so attired, but just to give you some sense of the revulsion I felt at the time, this picture of Liberace in Bicentennial short shorts suffices nicely.)

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I only bring all this up because today’s 45rpm vintage offering was one of many records we ended up buying because of Darlene, who was the opinion leader and tastemaker of our tiny little cloistered suburban world. If Darlene liked a record, we wanted it.

For the most part, her tastes—in retrospect—were pretty common. Today’s record, by soul artist Denise La Salle, is probably the hippest thing we ever bought on Darlene’s recommendation. “Man Size Job” backed with “I’m Over You” (Westbound W-206) came from La Salle’s 1972 LP On the Loose. I can’t find any chart info on “Man Size Job,” though it must have been a minor hit at least if Darlene knew about it.

FYI, if you want to know the story of Denise La Salle, check out her bio at the Disco Museum.

The single here is not a disco record, but straight up soul, in many ways it is a perfect A & B side contrast, thematically speaking.

“Man Size Job” is a groover; a thoroughly emasculating kissoff in which Denise boasts about the prowess of her new young stud in the face of her inadequate dejected castoff lover, whom, she says, “let a boy do a man size job.”

The B side, “I’m Over You,” is poignant soul ballad that also describes a breakup. But in this case the tone is more muted, the emotions less volatile. I appreciate this track more now than I did back when we used to play “Man Size Job” over and over. Consequently, due to less wear, the B side sounds a little bit better sonically.

A zip file containing both sides of this record can be had at Rapidshare via this LINK.100_0051-smaller-copy.JPG


“Sounds Like a Rough Damn Game To Me!”

February 21, 2007

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Today’s recorded (non-musical) selection is a risque party 45rpm
record dating from the late 50s/early 60s, possibly.

The Golf Game” (Par 7 records, no. 1000-1, “Not for broadcast”) with the cornpone country duo of “Jeb and Cousin Easy” was in a forbidden stash with my parent’s bawdy Rusty Warren LPs. Being warned not to play these, my sister and I naturally played them often.

The record is hardly the laugh-riot it seemed to me as an adolescent back in the early 70s, but neither is it as lame as I feared it might be when I gave it a re-listen recently.

The routine basically revolves around sniggering references to the word “ball”—with “club,” “bag”, “putter” and “tee” all standing in as double-entendre substitutes for various bodily/sexual functions. The biggest laugh for me involves using a steel brush to clean your ball if it gets dirty, leading the horrified Jeb to react: “Sounds like a rough damn game to me.” Yeah, that’s about as funny as it gets.

I haven’t been able to find anything on the ‘net about this country comedy duo—other than the fact that their 45rpm records are relatively common and not all that rare, given their frequent listing on ebay. Somebody out there must know something about them and about Par 7 records of Crowley, Louisiana.

There was a time when indeed this kind of fare was “Not for broadcast”, as it says on the record label, but the recording is quaint and mild compared to any random moment in something like TV’s The Family Guy today.

The record is in relatively good shape, though there is a slight skip at one point in the middle, right before Cousin Easy says your ball will “soar and soar and soar,” to which Jeb says, “naturally it will be sore if you whack it with a damn club.” If you’re still curious, get “The Golf Game” at the link embedded in the title.

-Evan


Cavity King: Sugar Bear Bubblegum

February 20, 2007

Let’s get the lounge started off with a modest offering. Disc No. 3 of a 5-item set, cut from the back of a circa 1971 Post Super Sugar Crisp cereal box much like the one shown herein. “Feather Balloon” is a lightweight but mildly charming bubblegum tune from “The Sugar Bears” the kind of manufactured band common in

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100_0098-22perc.JPGthe days of The Partridge Family and The Archies. The ensemble is somewhat well-known among obscurant aficionados for including a young Kim Carnes, who would have a smash a decade later with “Bette Davis Eyes.” On this earlier outing, Carnes’ hoarse deep voice has not yet emerged. The overall effect is a bland female-dominated vocal harmony. It’s hard to imagine kids reallysugarcrisp.JPG digging this; I can’t really remember listening to the record on my squat little “record player” (we didn’t call these all-in-one cheap, toy-like units turntables). Considering it’s pressed on thin cardboard, I’m surprised that the record has held up as well as it has and sounds as good as it does. I probably cut this one out myself, as I did the other handful or so of these cereal box records that I still own. Because they were made on paper with just a very thin coating of a plastic/vinyl material, these records are, needless to say, fragile and prone to crinkling if bent, rendering them in a lot of cases unplayable. If a cartridge hits one of the resulting ridges it skips and makes an awful noise. This one, fortunately has no ridges. Because of the light weight of these records and the heavy arms of record players of the day, it was often suggested that a coin be placed on a circle on the record to prevent slippage as the record spun. This one doesn’t have such a circle drawn on it.

I like the “Full Fidelity” claim on the disc.

Evidently this recording was part of a proper vinyl LP of songs by The Sugar Bears issued by Post around this time.

Feather Balloon” in MP3 format can be had via a Rapidshare link by clicking on the song title.

-Evan


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