Monday, April 02, 2018

The Beatles' White album As A Single Disc

I got sucked in by an April Fool's Day joke on Easter Sunday. It involved George Martin's son, Giles, releasing a single LP version of The Beatles' White Album in honor of his father in time to celebrate the album's upcoming 50th anniversary. The senior Martin often said that a single LP is what the group should have released instead of the double set they issued late in 1968. You can read the fake news here at The Glass Onion Beatles Journal.

The article started out believable enough, then quickly became ridiculous but, somehow, I was completely fooled. I only realized near the end of the post that I had become an unwitting victim of a hoax.

The good news is the joke gave me an idea to actually create my own single disc version of one of my favorite Fab Four records.

Most people agree with George Martin's assessment but what we don't all agree on is which songs should have made the cut if the band had listened to their producer.

Here is my version.

SIDE 1
Back In The USSR
Dear Prudence
Glass Onion
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Helter Skelter

SIDE 2
Birthday
Honey Pie
I'm So Tired
Blackbird
Sexy Sadie
Savoy Truffle
Cry Baby Cry
I Will
Julia

My upcoming anniversary edition of the single CD would include a bonus disc with all of the previously unreleased tracks that appeared on the original two record set plus a fully completed, band arrangement of George Harrison's "Not Guilty." This version of the song was never released anywhere until Anthology 3. It was mysteriously left off of the album all those years ago.

Monday, March 26, 2018

AccuRadio

AccuRadio is one of the best music Internet streaming services. It offers well over 1,000 stations. It's very easy to use and you can customize stations to suit your listening habits by rating every song you hear. Unusually, the site also offers an unlimited number of song skips as long as you sign up for a FREE account. You can also ban songs and artists forever.

AccuRadio pays the bills with ads on their website and with commercials on their stations but all account holders will receive the benefit of a reduced number of commercial breaks.

The Chicago based outfit has stations featuring everything from classical, opera, beautiful music, Broadway, jazz, blues, many rock and country music stations, folk, singer-songwriters, hip-hop and Christmas music. There are hits stations for every decade from the 1950s through the 2000s and ones that offer Christian music and comedy.

Examples of the unique channels AccuRadio fans can enjoy are Ladies Sing the Blues, so titled because it plays only blues music performed by women. They offer stations featuring Korean and French pop, and ten Canadian stations.

Another very cool feature provides you with the freedom to curate your own stations to suit your tastes. There are two ways to do this. One is by applying a four or five star rating to songs you want to hear again. They are automatically placed into your very own, personalized station called Five Star Radio that will only play those songs. There is no limitation on how many tracks you can add.

The second way to make your own diverse station is by blending two or more of them together into one stream. So, if you want to combine a folk music station with one that plays classic rock and one that plays outlaw country you can do so with ease.

According to Wikipedia AccuRadio draws "nearly one million listeners per month, averaging in at about 500,000 listening hours per day." The online encyclopedia also notes that it is "usually the eleventh most listened to web streaming service among all U.S. broadcast groups that stream online, with about 15,000 average active sessions." As you can see, it’s very popular. I’m surprised that with its great features, ease of use, and free listener services that it isn’t higher on the list.

The bottom line is if you can't find something you like on AccuRadio you should not bother making music a part of your life.

Unfortunately, I always encounter one very annoying problem when casting the service to my stereo with my Chromecast Audio device. The sound frequently drops out completely for one or two seconds. This can happen several times in a short period of time but the stream is just fine when played through my laptop or any other source.

ADDENDUM ADDED MARCH 27, 2018
Due to my desire to use AccuRadio with Chromecast Audio I sent an email to them for assistance. Here is their prompt reply: "The reason Chromecast Audio drops out when you are connecting to our service is that we don't currently support Chromecast." I have to admit my disappointment but now I at least know the reason and I appreciate their quick reply. Let's hope they fix this soon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Goodbye to The Loft, Hello Gulch Radio

Logo used by permission 
Sirius XM has taken their very best music station off the satellites forever. Apparently The Loft didn't pull in enough listeners to satisfy the suits who run the company so their free form, DJ programmed, alternative radio station is now only available online. Most of the station's talented jocks are gone too and it appears to be programmed by robots rather than real people. As you may have guessed, devoted Loft listeners, like me, are not happy. It's enough to make me reconsider my Sirius XM subscription when renewal time rolls around.

Fans of this formerly excellent, radio throwback to the late 1960s and early 70s have been commiserating with each other online and happily, because of The Loft's demolition, people have shared some great new radio listening discoveries. So today, Bloggerhythms begins a new series where we'll be writing about some great broadcast and Internet alternatives to the alternative.

The painting above is of the mountainside town of Jerome, Az, once a thriving mining settlement in the Verde Valley, then a ghost town, and now a very cool artist's colony and tourist destination with a population of under 500 people. If you ever visit central Arizona you must go there. You won't be disappointed.

Today, the first online radio station to be discussed takes its name, Gulch Radio, from a neighborhood in Jerome. KZRJ, 100.5 on the FM dial is a real live station with only a 100 watt signal that severely limits its broadcast range. There isn't a lot of great radio going on in this mostly rural, mountainous region snuggled between Phoenix, a hundred miles to the south in the desert, and the Grand Canyon, a couple of hours to the north. This unique station was born out of necessity to give the residents and store owners of the small but bustling town the chance to listen to some good music. The online version is management's answer to the locals' complaints about the on-air station's poor signal.

Gulch Radio's main programming during the day is truly free form. Currently, there is a three hour time difference (Arizona remains on standard time all year) between Jerome and Philadelphia, where I live. It's 5:16 in the morning in Jerome as I write this article. During these early morning hours KZRJ plays mostly the softer side of classic rock along with some pop songs. In the past hour listeners have been treated to Boz Scaggs, Joni Mitchell, Jackie De Shannon, early 70s Beach Boys, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Vince Guaraldi Trio and the late Eva Cassidy.

Later, during the day, Gulch Radio programs a mix of alternative rock, reggae, blues, country, and folk. At various times, mostly later in the evening and on weekends, the station features block programming. You'll hear shows devoted to just Motown, the psychedelic era, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, the blues, prog-rock, and a Sunday morning show that plays, along with some other stuff, Native American music. You'll even hear the syndicated Mountain Stage. You'll find the complete schedule listing all of Gulch Radio's shows at their website's program guide.

DJ patter is almost non-existent and Gulch Radio plays no ads. It truly is commercial free. Most PBS stations who constantly advertise that they are sponsorless really can not make this claim.

The stream playing through my laptop is quite strong and it's sent to my home theater system through Chromecast Audio.

There are only a couple of minor things Gulch Radio should change. Their website needs a more streamlined way for visitors to find the playlists, a situation management is currently working to resolve. Finally, I haven't heard any hip-hop played yet but the program guide says they may include some late in the evening. That is a genre I'll never listen to.

Click here for the station's suggestions on the best ways to listen to them online.

Overall, Gulch Radio is an excellent choice for music lovers who want to hear something out of the ordinary. You really can't go wrong if you make this outlet one of your streaming choices.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Andrew Sheppard - Steady Your Aim (2018)

Have you ever wondered why a singer's voice matches the kind of music they perform? For instance, does Michael Bublé sing pop and jazz because that is what he excels at or is it because it's the music he loves? The first question crossed my mind immediately when I heard Steady Your Aim, the new, sophomore album from Andrew Sheppard. There are singers with better voices than the one this countrified roots-rocker possesses but there are few singers whose vocals fit the the kind of songs they sing as well as his does.

Upon graduation the young Sheppard moved to Los Angeles from Idaho to fulfill his skateboarding dreams but he tore up his knee. Fortunately, he also loved music so he renewed his interest in the art form after having played in several bands while in high school. Let's sincerely hope that Sheppard's knee has healed properly but the loss of his original career choice was our gain because he became an extremely talented singer-songwriter.

Sheppard started writing songs ten years ago at age nineteen and paid the usual dues most musicians do before he finally had a chance to record his first album, Far From Here, in 2015.

Eventually, Sheppard grew tired of the West Coast and he returned home to pursue a slower paced life. The first, and best track on the album, "Take A Walk With Me," is a result of that move and the title track discusses a musician's life on the road so there is a little bit of Jackson Browne's classic album, Running On Empty, woven throughout Sheppard's set.

Sheppard's music is accurately described in his press materials as having an "outlaw mentality" but that doesn't mean his lyrics aren't thoughtful. As with all singer-songwriters he looks inward and is self-reflective but he is also able to take a hard look at the world around him. While not specifically directed at The White House, on "Not My Kind" he sings, "I never joined your cavalry, but I'm signed up to ride so I see. What do you expect me to do, when I don't respect men like you? You want me to fall, grovel and bleed, when you walk the same floor as me."

If you're ears are sensitive, be warned, Sheppard's language can be a bit rough at times but he has good enough taste to avoid using the English language's crudest four letter words and in some cases the street language actually enhances the stories he has to tell.

Steady Your Aim is an early candidate for Bloggerhythms' "best of" list for this year.

You can find out more on Sheppard's website.

Listen to "Take A Walk With Me" here and enjoy an acoustic version of "Steady Your Aim" below.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Nicole Atkins - Goodnight Rhonda Lee (2017)

On Goodnight Rhonda Lee Nicole Atkins makes full use of all her natural talents as a vocalist. She is among the best of the current crop of women rockers and, to her credit, auto-tune does not appear to be among the devices she uses to make her records. If she has become a victim of the gross trend that depends on electronic gimmickry to mask vocal deficiencies it's not obvious here. The gifted Asbury Park, NJ native, now living in Nashville, doesn't need her voice manipulated and based on the retro-rock music presented here the overused and mostly robotically sounding piece of technology just wouldn't fit in. Her fine alto is all that is needed.

Atkins' eleven song record is a throwback to the era of classic Top Forty radio. Whether she is paying tribute to the country queens of the 60s and 70s on the title track, channelling Aretha Franklin on "Listen Up," or trying to be a female version of Roy Orbison on "A Little Crazy" (composed with her friend Chris Isaak) the arrangements and vocals are all extremely well done.

Other standouts include the horn laden soul tune "Brokedown Luck," and "Darkness Falls So Quiet," a track that could have shown up on Dusty In Memphis. Also compelling is the story of her beleaguered hometown with its self-explanatory title, "I Love Living Here (Even When I Don't)".

One of the things that make Goodnight Rhonda Lee interesting is that it takes us beyond topics that pop songs usually tackle. Fueled by Atkins' hardfought and ultimately victorious battle against alcoholism the title of her fourth, full length release comes from the name she used when misbehaving. The singer is telling both Rhonda Lee and the listener that she is a different person today and her alter ego named in the title is no longer welcome in her life. There is even a song, "A Night Of Serious Drinking," that appears to discuss her addiction. While the title is an obvious reference the lyrics are a bit cryptic. Even so, you can tell Atkins' past is definitely on her mind.

Goodnight Rhonda Lee is the result of a truly talented artist who bucks trends and isn't afraid to bare her soul while managing to entertain us at the same time. It's a serious work that, unlike a lot of great art, avoids being depressing. It just could be the best album of 2017.