Tech Rap: Recommended CDs, Part Two
Posted on May 12 2020
This is the continuation of Tech Rap: Recommended CDs Part One. There will be a link at the end of this article to Part 1 if you have not read it yet. Part 1 examined five fun CDs to enjoy on your Como Audio Musica (or other CD player). In Part 2 we review five more Tech Rap Recommended CDs to add to your collection. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Links to purchase the CDs are provided at the end.
1. Alan R. Tripp and Marvin Weisbord: Senior Song Book; Ventura Innovations
At 102 years old and living in a retirement home, Alan R. Tripp is about the most unlikely pop star there could be. It all started with a poem he wrote three years ago, “Best Old Friends”, that got published in his local newspaper. His then 88-year old friend and accomplished jazz pianist, Marvin Weisbord, set the poem to music as a surprise gift for Tripp’s 100th Birthday the following year. Unbeknownst to Weisbord, Tripp had a few other poems in his back pocket and was inspired by Weisbord’s thoughtful gift to write more. Before the duo knew it, they had amassed an album’s worth of material. Weisbord took the next step and went into Pennsylvania’s Morning Star Studios with his Wynlyn Jazz Ensemble in tow and laid down the tracks for what would become Senior Song Book. Tripp himself does not sing any of his songs, leaving that to the professionals, but he did read aloud the first verse of Best Old Friends, the song, um, poem, that started it all.
Senior Song Book was released in November of last year and immediately sold out. As of this writing it is sold out again on Amazon where the CD is rated 4 out of 5 stars. Nothing succeeds like success, as the saying goes. If you cannot wait for the CD to come back in stock, the album is available as a digital download, which until recently, Tripp did not know was technologically possible. The songs have an intentional 1940’s flair with contemporary lyrics that reflect on the art of aging, occasionally poking fun at, shall we say, less graceful moments. On the lead track, I Just Can’t Remember Your Name, Tripp’s lyrics confess, “I know I’m mad about you / And all but lost without you / And great affection for you I proclaim / I’m ready now to kiss you / But baby there's an issue / I just can't remember your name.” Evident on the recording, lead singer Mark Hollern could not get through the line without the hint of a chuckle.
Of all the tracks, I Just Can’t Remember Your Name has received the most attention, but personally, I am partial to Wonder Woman. The song is not an ode to a vintage comic book super-heroine, but rather, a love note set to music: “You can eat a box of chocolates but don’t gain weight / You can drive a car in traffic and you’re never late / Seems there isn’t anything, my friend, that you can’t do / Do you wonder, woman, why I love you?” It sounds like the anonymous female in question could give the “real” Wonder Woman a run for her money.
Even at an advanced age, love is not all kisses and chocolates. In Goodbye, Goodbye Forever, you would be forgiven if you thought the lyrics were written by a jilted Gen Y lover: “Don’t come and go if you can’t stay / If you can’t stay, then go away! / Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, forever / I think you’ll never understand / that love must be a real endeavor / not just a one-night stand!” I am a little less than half Tripp’s age and my love life is not nearly as dramatic.
With his newfound songwriting success, I was curious about Tripp’s favorite all-time songwriter. “Cole Porter”, he replied. “He wrote both music and lyrics. He could write in any musical mode. His lyrics were both witty and rememberable, and his melodic lines were both “sing-able” and challenging. What other composer can you say that about?”
To be clear, Senior Song Book is not strictly intended for those on Medicare or Geritol. Read some of the comments fans have written on the Senior Song Book website and it is evident music lovers of all ages will get something out of it. “I am sending this email to thank you for the beautiful CD that was done by you and others”, began a post by Tanisha Grant. “I am 39 and enjoy the great sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington…this CD is in the mind frame of the greats themselves. Great job…” Through his PR Agency, Randex Communications, I asked Tripp what feedback he liked the most. "It won't save civilization, but it's a step in the right direction", he wrote me.
Tripp has accomplished more than I ever hope to with however much sand remains in my hourglass, and his resume puts mine to shame: ad executive, author, veteran, inventor (he invented the Endless Pool amongst other things), radio broadcaster, TV producer, and commercial jingle writer. Now he can add successful song writer to the list. I asked Tripp if songwriting proved more challenging than writing jingles. “Writing a good popular song is much harder than penning a singing commercial -- the former has to get into somebody's heart; the latter only has to penetrate somebody's head.” Indeed, the songs on Senior Song Book will easily find their way into your heart, or pacemaker, as the case may be.
To be clear, Senior Song Book is not strictly intended for those on Medicare or Geritol.
I asked Tripp what he felt music lovers should take away from his album. “There's an important message in one of the album's titles: ‘It’s Never Too Late for Love". The final verse of that song declares: “I’m too young to give up and cash out / Too old for takin’ the trash out / Just whistle, baby, and you’ll see me dash out / It’s never too late for love!” Considering I seem to be a magnet for WMD’s (Women of Mass Destruction), I guess there is still hope for me yet. Maybe I should dust off some of those poems I wrote when I was a student at Emerson College…
After a long career and now a hit record, Tripp will surrender his free time to bingo and basket weaving, right? Not a chance. He is writing a mystery novel and developing a cabaret show based on the music from Senior Song Book. To paraphrase something Tripp espoused in several interviews, retirement is not about retiring from something, but retiring to something.
The music from Senior Song Book is truly special. It demonstrates that love and enjoying life does not stop at age 102. The CD will have you tapping your feet and the lyrics will make you think about what you have done with your life and what you will do with the rest of it.
Since we have been talking poetry, it strikes me to conclude this segment with a short original poem:
I’m alone in my home
No one to phone
Listening to my Musica
Feeling like I’m in a cell
Like a prisoner in Attica
Awaiting the dinner bell
Social distancing is getting old
All my plans are put on hold
So, my many CDs I play
Not much else for me to do
I just daydream all day
About a Senior Song Book: Volume Two
Trivia: Tripp wrote the snappy “Choo-Choo Charlie” jingle for Good & Plenty candy: “Once upon a time there was an engineer/ Choo-Choo Charlie was his name we hear / He had an engine and he sure had fun / He used Good & Plenty Candy to make his train run.”
2. Peter White: Music for STARLUX AIRLINES; Lobster Music
This CD is a soundtrack, but not a soundtrack to a film. Rather, it is a soundtrack to an airline. Allow me to explain. STARLUX is a new Taiwanese-based, luxury airline that began flying in January of this year. The airline is not luxurious in name only. Business class features a 15.6” 1080p touchscreen entertainment system, the “retro futuristic” custom uniforms for the flight crew were created by a local fashion designer, and there is even a proprietary cabin scent of florals, wood, and leather. With such high standards and attention to detail, it is understandable why STARLUX would commission the iconic Peter White to write an album’s worth of original instrumental music to play on their fleet of brand-new Airbus A321neo and A350-1000 planes. You know the kind of thing…a little something to soothe you as you settle in the cabin (which was designed by BMW’s Designworks Studio), and to get you in the mood upon arrival. Part of the reason I write Tech Rap Recommended CDs is to shine a light on unique titles, and Music for STARLUX AIRLINES is one of the most unique CDs I have encountered in recent years.
If you are like me and you love contemporary jazz, then you are already intimately familiar with multi-instrumentalist Peter White (best known for his guitar work). The UK-born White has recorded many hit songs since his first solo album way back in 1990…Good Day, Perfect Moment, Mister Magic, Bright, Here We Go, Head Over Heels, Groovin’...with so many fabulous tunes to his name, it is hard for me to pick my favorite White song, but I would say Smile is tops for me. White also has almost 165,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Music for STARLUX AIRLINES is his 16th album.
If White’s name does not ring a bell, you have likely heard of some of the big-name artists he has performed with…Basia, David Sanborn, Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Lee Ritenour, Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Mindi Abair, and Euge Groove. I will also bet you know the Al Stewart hits Time Passages and Year of the Cat. Time Passages was co-written by White, and he played keyboards on Year of the Cat. His collaboration with Stewart went on for twenty years.
Let us be honest with each other- smooth jazz (also called contemporary jazz) sometimes gets a bad rap for being elevator-type music. I recently saw a TV commercial where a guy opened the passenger door of his car for his date to get in. As the door opened, generic smooth jazz blared from the car’s cockpit. “You listen to smooth jazz?!”, his date exclaimed sarcastically. Visibly embarrassed, the man denied it, offering some feeble excuse. Smooth jazz is not just Kenny G, not that there is necessarily anything wrong with Kenny G. If you have never heard Peter White then please do not judge this genre until you hear his music. His music is substantive and consistently uplifting. Even his song titles are positive. I consider White the Ambassador of smooth jazz. His music serves as a fitting introduction to the genre.
In the liner notes for Music for STARLUX AIRLINES, White said his goal was to “convey a sense of travel, escape, and adventure…” This goal was hampered by the fact that STARLUX did not want the usual three to four-minute songs that typically populate most albums and that radio stations prefer playing. As White stated in the press release, “the airline wanted songs that were over 7 minutes long which posed a new challenge – how to make a song interesting and easy to listen to yet complex enough from beginning to end to hold a listener’s attention.”
White rose to the challenge. The lead track, Flying High, peaked at #22 on the US Jazz Charts. It sets the perfect mood for a comfortable excursion in the stratosphere. Island Getaway and Fun in the Sun both have very convincing tropical vibes, making this listener feel like I am sitting at beach with the ocean waves gently lapping at my feet. When the evening comes, let yourself doze off in a comfortable hammock under the stars with the cool night breeze as your companion. Peaceful will put you there. As fun and exciting as traveling is, it is always nice to come home, and Homeward Bound gently prepares you for the return. I was unable to find a public comment from the airline about the music so I asked them for a statement for my article: “STARLUX is a Taiwan luxury boutique airline which values every detail of each journey, aiming to satisfy passengers with every aspect of its services. It is a great honor to invite the legendary Jazz artist, Mr. Peter White, to compose six pieces of Smooth Jazz. The tailor-made boarding and landing music convey the feeling of the travel and adventure, also to bring the soothing relaxation to the passengers.” They say if you hold a shell to your ear you can hear the ocean. Close your eyes while you play Music for STARLUX AIRLINES on your Musica and you will not only hear the ocean in your mind, you will swear you can taste the salt air and feel the warm sun on your shoulders.
Though there are only six tracks total, about half of what one would expect on a CD, the running time of each song exceeds seven minutes, so the disc times out at just over forty-four minutes. White wrote, produced, and mixed Music for STARLUX AIRLINES, and played all of the instruments (guitar, keyboards, harmonica, and accordion), save the viola on Homeward Bound, played by his daughter, Charlotte. The CD is currently highly rated at 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Late last year I had the great honor of meeting White after one of his super-band Christmas concerts, “A Peter White Christmas”. Call me crazy, but I flew down to Clearwater, FL from Boston just to see him perform live. In my defense, he was not playing any New England gigs, so I could not see him locally. Besides, it was a good excuse to meet my 87-year old father, a Florida snow bird, for dinner before the concert. White dedicated a good 10-15 minutes of his time chatting with me about his music and his tour schedule. He was charming and a true gentleman in every sense, precisely the way you imagine all celebrities to be, though in reality, you know not all of them are. True to his nature, he personally responded to my written questions for this article:
PS: Did you have any specific places in mind when you wrote this music or did the songs just flow naturally?
PW: I come up with musical ideas all the time and I just picked the ones which seemed calm and relaxing for this CD specifically for airline passengers to listen to. You need all the relaxation you can get when you are flying!
PS: Do you have a favorite track?
PW: My favorite track is probably Peaceful which I particularly enjoy playing on stage. It reminds me of sitting on the beach, watching the waves rolling in and out. You can even hear the waves if you listen carefully!
PS: What is the most exotic place you have ever been to?
PW: The most exotic place I have ever been to is the island of Palau which is part of Micronesia in the W. Pacific. I felt that I was at the farthest place in the world from England, which is where I grew up. A great place to relax, swim and snorkel and it’s probably the only place I've been to in the last 20 years where I wasn’t playing a show!
PS: If you could travel anywhere in the world where you have never been before, where would you go?
PW: I’d like to go to Iceland and probably will one day.
PS: Prior to COVID-19, how frequently did you travel on average?
PW: Usually I am traveling every weekend year-round. Sometimes it’s in California where I live, but very often it is further afield, East Coast or International which means I go to the airport on Thursday or Friday and come home Sunday or Monday, sometimes the following week!
PS: What is the best part for you about being in a different state or country?
PW: I just love meeting people from all around the world; how we are different and how we are the same fascinates me!
…play “Music for STARLUX AIRLINES” on your Musica and you will not only hear the ocean in your mind, you will swear you can taste the salt air and feel the warm sun on your shoulders.
With the sacrifices we have all been making over the last couple three months because of the coronavirus, we are all entitled to a relaxing get away. For many of us, Music for STARLUX AIRLINES is about as close as we will get to one any time soon, and it is a lot less expensive than roundtrip airfare to some exotic locale. Close your eyes as you play this CD on your Musica and imagine yourself as a passenger on a luxury airline destined for wherever you have always wanted to go. Put your tray table up, your seat in the upright position, and buckle your seatbelt. A little musical escapism never hurt anyone. And please do not tamper with the smoke detector in the bathroom.
Trivia: White’s parents bought him his first acoustic guitar when he was eight. When he heard Jimi Hendrix’s ”Purple Haze” in 1967, he switched to the electric guitar until it was burned in a fire set accidentally by his brother, Danny.
3. Johnny Mathis: The Island; Real Gone Music RGM-0965
I became familiar with this Johnny Mathis CD through a newsletter and was intrigued by the fact that it had never been released independently in any format until now, 31 years after it was recorded and summarily shelved by Mathis’ long-time label, Columbia Records. The Island was included as part of Mathis’ 68 CD box set, The Voice of Romance: The Columbia Original Album Collection, but this is the first time it has ever been issued as a standalone release. Mathis fell in love with Brazil and that was the inspiration behind this album. As Mathis stated in the CD booklet, “I loved the country itself. The people were so generous, happy, wonderful, and so kind to me…I’d always wanted to honor my friendship with the wonderful people there…”
In March’s Tech Rap I recommended a Sergio Mendes record. Coincidentally, this CD title I am recommending was produced by Mendes. Three tracks- Like A Lover, So Many Stars, and Flower of Bahia were all recorded by Mendes previously. As Mathis recalled in the booklet, “I’ve seen Sergio two or three occasions [since The Island] and we have great memories of this something that we’ve done together. It was one of the golden moments of my career to work with Sergio…”
My favorite tracks include the very romantic title track which has been previously covered by stars like Barbara Streisand and Patti Austin: “On a little island / Not a soul can see us / Show me how to love you / Teach me how to please you / Lay your dreams beside me.” So Many Stars, Your Smile, and Who’s Counting Heartaches (a duet with Mathis’ long-time friend, Dionne Warwick) are also standouts. Of Warwick, Mathis commented in the booklet, “I can’t tell you how meaningful a relationship like hers has been to me over the years. Her singing is so extraordinary and she’s so gifted in so many ways.”
It annoys me to no end when a booklet included with a CD is not worth the paper it is printed on. Happily, the 15-page booklet that comes with The Island is packed with interesting information and pictures. Always on the hunt for more details, I decided to go straight to the master himself. Sorry, not Johnny Mathis, but the Mastering Engineer (mastering is the final step before music is released commercially) at Sony’s Battery Studios who re-mastered The Island, Mike Piacentini. He also re-mastered all 68 CDs in Mathis’ The Voice of Romance. More recently, he re-mastered a new Andy Williams rare tracks compilation CD, Emperor of Easy. Piacentini took time out of his schedule to address my written questions:
PS: During the remastering, did you encounter anything out of the ordinary or did it present any unique challenges? Did you use the first-generation master tape? Do you feel a little more responsibility or pressure when remastering a legend like Johnny Mathis?
MP: For this particular project we did utilize first generation tapes whenever they were available. Myself and Didier (the producer) spent about a month going through and transferring sources for the box set at 24/192k - The Island was part of this effort and the [Real Gone Music] standalone [release] uses the mastering from the complete box set. If I remember correctly The Island was either a first generation or first-generation tape copy. For The Island in particular I don't believe we ran into any issues out of the ordinary for a remastering effort. I definitely feel a bit of pressure when touching anyone’s back catalog, Johnny’s included. I wouldn't necessarily say there was more or less pressure during this box set, but there was certainly a concerted effort to "get it right" if you will.
PS: Were there any songs not included on the CD or any unfinished songs on the master? Were there any memorable exchanges caught on tape, like between Mathis and Warwick?
MP: First off, apologies for referring to the box set so much during these questions - all of the albums were remastered during the same time period, and so most of my memories for remastering the catalog blend together as one effort. For the box set we didn't leave any stone unturned if it was part of the Columbia offerings. If there were bonus tracks/extras they were included on the odds and ends CD. There weren't any bonus tracks or outtakes for this release. We were working from the master 2-track tapes for this project and by the time that master tape gets created during the production process, all of the studio chatter and irregularities have been spliced out of the tape leaving only the intended takes/sequence for the record. We did call in the multi-tracks to see if there were bonus tracks notated, but for this record, being unreleased, I believe that everything that was on the 2-track masters were the complete studio output for this record.
PS: Is anything lost when analog audio (tape) is converted into the digital domain (i.e. isn’t digital harsher/less forgiving)?
MP: There are certainly differences between digital and analog mediums for storing audio. The dynamic range of a digital recording at 24 bit exceeds the capacity of analog tape (~70db vs 144 db), so no dynamic range gets lost in translation. Since the audio was originally stored on tape, much of the signal to noise ratio is retained as well, however, you are introducing quantization distortion to an inaudible extent when converting from analog to digital (all digital audio is represented on a grid no matter the sampling rate). We transfer everything at an extremely high sampling rate to minimize any distortions and sampling at 192k far exceeds the frequency response of what a consumer would receive on a vinyl pressing.
PS: I know you have remastered other Mathis albums. Do you have any special connection with Johnny Mathis or his music? You seem like you would have been very young (or not born yet) when Mathis was at his peak.
MP: This is certainly true - I was definitely not born during Johnny's peak! To be quite honest, before mastering his catalog I did not have much of a connection to his music. During this massive undertaking though, I really gained an appreciation for him as an artist and songwriter, and a lot of his tracks are definitely in rotation for me now. It's odd to say - but I believe that I've mastered more records for Johnny now than any other artist.
PS: If an analog recording re-issue is going to be released on vinyl, CD, and as a digital download, do you have to re-master for each format?
MP: Yes. While there are certain things I do not readjust between vinyl and digital releases, some of my processing chain will be altered to allow for the individual medium to be better represented. In most cases, the CD and digital releases are identical, save for down-sampling to 16/44.1k for CD. For vinyl though, there are certain particularities of the medium where the mastering should be fine-tuned to better suit the release.
…I really gained an appreciation for him as an artist and songwriter, and a lot of his tracks are definitely in rotation for me now.
When I think of Johnny Mathis, I think of his classic hits It’s Not for Me to Say, Maria, Chances Are, Misty, and the holiday perennial, It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas, which is unfair to his complete body of work. The Island really opened up my mind to the genius of Johnny. Did you know he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame three times, given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2014, inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame?
At 85, Mathis does not do a lot of touring, so I count myself lucky to have a ticket to see him perform live at the Chevalier Theater in Medford, MA. I regret never having seen Frank Sinatra live; I was not about to make the same mistake with Johnny Mathis. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I recently found out Mathis rescheduled his concert an entire year out to May 2021 due to the pandemic. At any rate, I recommend you pack your mental bags, fire up your Musica, and take a trip to The Island as soon as possible. Our minds could all use a little tropical escape right about now.
Trivia: Johnny Mathis had five albums on the Billboard charts simultaneously. Only two other singers can claim that same achievement: Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow.
4. Neil Young: Colorado, Reprise Records
In March’s Tech Rap I recommended Neil Young’s beautiful Storytone double album set from 2014. Young shows up again in this month’s article with something new, Colorado, released in late October of last year. This album reunites the rock legend with Crazy Horse, sans retired guitarist Frank Sampedro. The great Nils Lofgren from the E Street Band, whom Young had played with in the past, assumed the position alongside Billy Talbot on bass and Ralph Molina on drums. Frankly, I have come to look upon band reunions as a bipolar experience. On the one hand, I feel elated the band got back together again to make some new music. On the other, the end result is frequently a downer to say the least. Not so with Colorado.
Young’s messages on Colorado are ones he has been communicating for decades…the environment, love, friendship, politics, and self-reflection. From all-out rockers to tender ballads, Young mounts and rides Crazy Horse like they had not been together for seven minutes, not seven years.
Young dedicated his album to his Manager of over 50 years, Elliot Roberts, who passed away a year ago next month at the age of 76. Roberts also managed Tom Petty, and until 1985, Joni Mitchell. Young presumably channeled that profound personal loss in the poignant Older Days: “Where did all the people go? / Why did they fade away from me? / They meant so much to me and now I know / That they’re here to stay / In my heart”.
Like the album’s title, the production was straight forward without many bells and whistles. The band performed together in the same room using a PA system with analog equipment and recording to tape just like the old days. Think of Colorado as a professional audition or a one-time, private performance. Young acknowledges this on the simple, lullaby-like closing track, “I Do”: Thanks for making all this happen again / We’re gonna do it just like we did back then.” By the by, the song includes a glass harmonica, a unique instrument originally invented by Benjamin Franklin. But these special sessions were not captured only on audio tape…
“Mountaintop” is a documentary directed by Young (aka Bernard Shakey) about the album. “I want it up as loud as it can go without feeding…I want to hear the f****** thing”, Young growls at the sound engineer in the movie trailer. “Turn this f****** thing off! If this is all you can do, I don’t f****** need it!” At 73 (when the songs were recorded), Young remains as passionate as ever about his music. He even gets crotchety with his band, forgetting the old adage- Never look a gift Crazy Horse in the mouth. Perhaps, then, it is appropriate his image on the CD cover is of a dark, almost menacing figure, like the Creeper from “Jeepers Creepers”. The film is described as “a raw and extremely unfiltered look at the process of Neil Young with Crazy Horse…Witness the laughter, tensions, crusty attitudes and love of a rock & roll band that’s been together for 50 years as they share their passion, first and foremost... for the music.”
The cozy Studio in the Clouds, CO. Photo from Studio in the Clouds' website.
Colorado was recorded at Studio in the Clouds, so it is possible the altitude contributed to the attitude. Oxygen canisters were reportedly at the ready for the band to take hits from in between takes. Why that studio? One possible reason- it is just outside of Telluride, CO where Young resides with his bride, Daryl Hannah. Another reason could be its eco-friendliness, an important factor to Young. The studio, nestled in the San Juan Mountains, boats a solar greenhouse that heats the entire facility, 96 solar panels supplying 40% more energy than needed, and all sitting on 90 breathtaking acres of pastureland and forest. It even has five bedrooms and an aquatic garden. The only thing missing is a day spa and an outdoor hot tub heated by a wood stove. All in all, not a bad place to hunker down for eleven days with your mates while recording an album. FYI- in the music industry, eleven days to record an entire album is equivalent to the Starship Enterprise traveling at warp factor ten.
No new Neil Young album would be complete without a little political commentary, especially considering Young became a US Citizen this past January (in addition to his Canadian citizenship). In Rainbow of Colors, Young takes a not so subtle jab at this country’s immigration policy as he sees it: “Now I know some might tell me / That there’s not room for all / And they should just go back / To the places and stay far / Where their lives lie there broken / There’s no chance left at all / And the leaders have spoken / On that side of the wall.”
Eternity is my favorite track on Colorado. Unfortunately, it is also the shortest. In it, Young takes inventory of his blessings: “Woke up this morning in a house of love / The birds were singing in the sky above / The dogs were barking and the deer were free.” Those “clickity clack” percussive effects are tap dancing courtesy of Lofgren. After Colorado was released, Lofgren told app.com, “It took me 50 years to get a tap dancing credit on a Neil Young record, but it was worth the wait and it was a great laugh.”
Frankly, I have come to look upon band reunions as a bipolar experience.
In She Showed Me Love, which spans 13 1/2 minutes, Young fancies himself “an old white guy” and sings, “you might say I’m a few bricks short of a load.” He goes on to make you ponder that statement by repeatedly singing “she showed me love” more than seventy times to guitar jamming. There are mantras and then there are Neil Young mantras.
Help Me Lose My Mind sheds a few more bricks from the load: “I gotta find a new television / Got to find a new display system / To make the sky look like the Earth is flattened / I gotta get someone to sort this out.” Sounds like a job for the Geek Squad.
The state of Colorado’s motto, roughly translated, is “Nothing without Providence”. In a way, that is the unspoken theme of this album named after the State. For without Providence there would be no nature, no love, no friendship, no life, and no death. Colorado is indeed about the state. No, not the state of Colorado, but the state of Neil Young. That state is best described as healthier, wealthier, and wiser. If you felt Young’s more recent works were a bit stifling, you will find Colorado refreshingly accessible, and it will not require supplemental oxygen to enjoy it. In one “The Big Interview” episode on cable channel AXS TV, Dan Rather asked Young why, at his age and with his money, he still bothered to make music. Young turned the question back on Rather, asking him why, at his age and with his money, Rather still bothered to do interviews. The answer is it brings Young much joy. Lucky for us, Colorado brings us much joy as well.
Trivia: Legend has it Young was a studio session guitarist for some 1968 recordings by The Monkees which were included on their Head and Instant Replay records.
5. Tony Joe White: Bad Mouthin’, Yep Roc Records 2593
Our excellent Como Audio dealer in Iceland, a long-time personal friend of mine, recently suggested I check out singer/guitarist Tony Joe White. White is the number one selling artist in his store. “He [is] just sensational”, shop owner Steini Danielsson wrote me in an email. “…He has such a number of great songs; one of my favorite guitar player[s].” I am not partial to “swamp rock” myself (honestly, I had never even heard of the term until White was brought to my attention), however, White’s Bad Mouthin’ CD I am recommending is blues-centric. For this release, White went back to basics: “When and where I grew up, blues was just about the only music I heard and loved,” White stated in a press release. “I thought it was time to make a blues album that sounds the way I always loved the music.”
It is amazing White is not better known considering his songs have been covered by Elvis, Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, and George Benson (and that is the short list). In the 1970’s he toured with acts like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steppenwolf, and Ann Murray. More recently in the 1990’s he toured with Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker. He scored a top ten hit with his song Polk Salad Annie. Since I wondered, I figured you would, too…polk is a cooked greens dish made from wild pokeweed. In 2014 White performed on The Late Show with David Letterman along with the Foo Fighters, prompting Letterman to comment afterwards as only Letterman could: “Holy Cow! If I was this guy you could all kiss my ass.”
Bad Mouthin’ was recorded, of all places, in two former horse stalls in White’s Tennessee barn with his own gear and was produced by his son, Jody. It features White, his 1965 Fender Stratocaster and a harmonica, performing his own songs alongside covers of classic blues standards by Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and Muddy Waters. This is not an album of scorching blues that will fry your Musica. The songs come across very personal, as if White was singing on a bale of hay at arm’s length just for you. There are times when things get a bit too intimate, meaning White sings so low and slow it can be difficult to decipher his words, but somehow it just makes the songs all that more endearing. Sundown Blues, Big Boss Man, and Stockholm Blues are my personal picks.
Holy Cow! If I was this guy you could all kiss my ass.
Sadly, White died from a heart attack at the age of 75 in October of 2018, about a month after this album came out. If blues is not your thing, do not get depressed. White has almost thirty albums to his name, leaving you plenty of others to choose from.
Trivia: Tony Joe White wrote “Rainy Night in Georgia” which reached number four on the charts in 1970 for Brook Benton.
So, there you have it…five more nifty Tech Rap Recommended CDs to entertain yourself for hours on end on your Como Audio Musica while you continue to hunker down at home. Talk about a stimulus package! Keep Calm and Musica On. Hint: Couple the Como Audio Musica with anyone of these CDs (or any CDs from Part 1) for a very thoughtful graduation, wedding, house warming, Birthday, Father’s Day, or belated Mother’s Day gift. With many stuck at home, giving the gift of music will be especially appreciated. Take a break from watching CNN (Coronavirus News Network) and enjoy the music.
Links to purchase CDs:
General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016. If you have a comment or would like to suggest a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at email@example.com
Tech Rap: Recommended CDs, Part One