WHAT I’M SPINNING NOW

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In contrast to Revolver, the mono mix of this landmark album is stupendous, clean and bright, showing off all the studio experimentation The Beatles were starting to conduct without drawing attention to the individual elements layered into the mixes.

I think it might be better than the stereo mix, packing more of a punch track for track.

WHAT I’M SPINNING NOW

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This 4-LP set was part of a Time-Life series called The Story Of Great Music.  My friend Hugh McCarten brought it to prep school in our junior year, when we were roommates, and we played it to death.

The longer pieces are abridged, and the performances are not always superlative, but it’s a fine selection of music and served for me as an excellent introduction to the Baroque era.

A highlight is one of the only performances of Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses on harpsichord (by Ingrid Heiler) which doesn’t sound showy or rushed.  I’ve had a special feeling for the piece ever since I heard it on this collection.

I was recently gripped by a longing to hear the collection again, after 44 years.  It’s not available on CD but I found an excellent vinyl set online, cheap.  It’s a source of joy to me once again.

Click on the image to enlarge.

THE OLD, WEIRD AMERICA

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I’ve heard people dismiss The Basement Tapes as a bunch of stoned guys goofing around musically.  That’s sort of true, in the sense that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a great tragedian goofing around with a comedy.

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The Basement Tapes are more accurately described as a bunch of musical geniuses exercising their genius as a kind of everyday exercise — the sort of practice and exploration that every virtuoso engages in as a tune-up for finished work.

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It gives us a privileged glimpse of creation as a practical vocation — as though we had a record of the songs Shakespeare sang to himself, the poems he memorized, the jokes that made him laugh, in between bouts of writing his plays.

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The genius of America resides in its Constitution, now defunct, and its music, still alive — and the genius of American music is investigated and celebrated in The Basement Tapes.  It’s one of the central documents of our culture.

HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY

Tyneside friend Trev Gibb is going to be recording a collection of classics from The Great American Songbook, focusing on songs associated with Frank Sinatra.  He’s collaborating transatlantically with accompanist Adel Francisco, and this is a demo of their latest effort.

The final tracks will be more finished, of course, but the emotion in this version will be hard to top.

WHAT I’M SPINNING NOW

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This album sounds terrific in mono vinyl, no doubt about it, but I think it’s the first Beatles album that I’d prefer listening to in stereo vinyl.  The Beatles were still thinking in terms of mono mixes at this point but their layering of musical elements in the studio was getting more and more complex, and the interplay of layers was becoming as interesting as the overall sound.  I think you can appreciate that better in a stereo mix, at least where this album is concerned.

BOB DYLAN

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. . . resides in America, creates his art out of America, helps illuminate America, but he doesn’t make his home in America.

Like David Crockett, Jim Bowie, William B. Travis, among others, he’s only at home, only himself, on the frontier, in places not yet settled, in places yet to be defined.

It’s hard to get your mind around Texas in 1835, a province of Mexico, officially, but really an experiment in political liberty and entrepreneurial skulduggery — a land of limitless corruption, limitless idealism, limitless possibility.

It was, in short, the heart of the American dream, where the only unforgivable sins were timidity and mediocrity.  Dylan still sings from the heart of that heart.