22 December 2007

Begushkin - Nightly Things

The impression is a pub. An Irish pub? Perhaps, the singer has a thick accent and I hear a fiddle. The music is about as dark as the pub, the musicians are just customers with instruments, it's not really a performance. It could be the scene of a dream, something surreal touching on reality but not quite. Nightly Things is eerily beautiful. Not pretty and not just beautiful on the outside, but not always beautiful on the inside either. Wouldn't hurt to have a single malt with it, the combination is a great one. It's a spirit, haunted and haunting with a deep taste of earth, oak and old.

Upon reflection, this is just folk rock. Not Irish either, the band's from New York. The album is a beauty because of the atmosphere created by excellent musicianship. With little means they managed to build a highly concentrated set of songs, still preserving the openness in the music. The lyrics are odd but easily digested with the flow of the tunes. Last but not least: Begushkin gets under your skin but long before they wear out their welcome, the album's finished. 8 songs in 22 and a half minute is a full meal but leaves you wanting more.

Websites: MySpace and Label
Locust, 2007

Begushkin - Nightly Things

20 December 2007

Phenomenal download statistics

It's almost 2 years ago since I started with this blog. Since then, a few links have disappeared, RS.de has become RS.com, links were posted somewhere else judging by the numbers or the swift disappearance, some of the uploads have been re-upped by other people. Generally speaking is it impossible to tell how many downloads my uploads have had safe for that the time it's been on the blog is a factor; older links have been downloaded more.

One observation is that there's no predicting how popular an album will be, at least not by me. Some stuff is probably rare but interesting, other stuff is rare for a reason and I suppose some stuff is so interesting that lots of people have it already. I don't post really mainstream material as a rule, you'll be able to find that somewhere else and likely a lot sooner than I can post it. Besides, I don't listen to/ buy much ordinary pop either.

I can tell from my RS page how many downloads a specific link has gotten. As explained, that's a statistic with little value other than me sometimes being surprised by how far off my prediction is. Basically, most links that have been on the blog for a couple of months have now a few 100 dowloads with the more popular ones around 1100 (but less than 1200). Old and less than 200 usually means they've been re-upped, new and less than 200 usually means it'll get over 200 in a couple of weeks. Makes sense.

What I'm completely unable to explain however, is Ruthie Foster - The Phenomenal at 4198 downloads as I type this (album posted in May). 3000+ downloads more than any other album... Her fanclub found my blog? A download-script that ran in an infinite loop for a while? Ruthie herself thinking that for every download she made, one less copy for leeching remained? An entire school with a homework assignment on this album? Whatever, 'phenomenal' indeed.

Phil Spector - Back To Mono (1958 - 1969)

A golden oldie. For the music of course but the box is from 1991. One reason for posting this is that there's a new generation who may not know about this 4CD set, another is that I've only recently bought it. The box was a must have when it was released but also a too expensive for me at the time. I knew I wasn't going to forget about this so I rather spent my money on less 'important' music, also because someone made a copy for me (on cassette tape, long live the 90's). I bought this box for 25 euro, I think that's cheap. Could well be Spector needs money for his legal defense or the record company is planning a new release of this material and dumps the old boxes, perhaps it's only a mistake by one of the guys from my local record store.

Phil Spector made some legendary productions in the 1960's and introduced the 'Wall Of Sound'-sound to the world. Someone like Barry White isn't exactly minimalistic when it comes to using strings in his music but nobody did it as overwhelming as Spector and it's a sound that lots of people have tried to copy, but very few succeeded. This set starts with some early Spector, including The Teddy Bears with Spector as an artist, but after a couple of songs the music starts to thicken. Heavy stuff like The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers and songs from Ike and Tina's River Deep, Mountain High album finish it off. In the lyrics you'll find a parallel universe of teenage worries about relationships where girls have no other thoughts on their mind than to marry the boy they love or complain about his imperfections (despite wanting to marry him nevertheless). The boys love their girls forever too and want to have lasting romances, not seeming to care about cars, sports, or whatever boys usually care about (PCs and game consoles weren't invented then). Love & marriage in the lyrics and sex and lust implied, Spector and his artists had style and a production to hammer the message home.

Lots of classics and big hits on this set but enough lesser known songs too. It's about Phil Spector rather than the artists or songs and the set makes it possible to compare his productions. The CDs come in a box the size of a LP with a gorgeous book containing introductions, lyrics to every song, many pictures and a 'Back To Mono' pin/ button. The box is still a fantastic product, 16 years after its release. The 'Back To Mono' part spans 3 CDs (60 songs), CD #4 is "A christmas gift for you from Phil Spector". No points for guessing what's on that one, let's just say I'm on time with it this year but if you're anything like me you've had an overdose already and it's best left for a couple of months. I hope to be able to stomach xmas songs again around June next year, 'till then the first 3 CDs will have to do.
Abkco 1991

Phil Spector - Back To Mono (1958 - 1969)
Part 1
Part 2
(Part 1 contains CD1 and most of CD2, the rest is in Part 2)

13 December 2007

Ike Turner & His Kings Of Rhythm - Early Times

... from the late Ike.
Rev-Ola / Cherry Red Records, 2006

Ike Turner & His Kings Of Rhythm - Early Times
(new link)

12 December 2007

Over The Rhine - The Trumpet Child

How famous are these people? They're new to me but have a 10+ album discography and are working close to 20 years already afaik. See for yourself on their website. I'm not familiar with their previous work but I think their experience shows and is important.

I'd say this is 'Americana' in a broad sense, every song is done in its own style but it all fits the bill. If I compare it to the Blanche album posted earlier, it's slicker, jazzier, less down to earth but they're close. The album is an unity despite the songs all being different, it can serve as a catalog of americana styles. The band shows they master every style and every song is worked out in the details. Vocalist Karin Bergquist has an excellent voice and complements the music beautifully.

Where this album really shines imho is how unobtrusive it's done. When I play the album I just enjoy one song after another and it's only after a few songs I start to notice there's yet another perfect performance. The singer doesn't work hard to show how good she is but on appropriate moments there's a country-vibration or soul-emotion which just as effectively drives the point home without overshadowing the rest of the song. It allows for different levels of listening: it's perfectly acceptable background music and it contains plenty of interesting details to discover for when you sit down and really listen to it. If perfection can be boring, here it's prevented by doing every song in its own style. It's not an academical approach to music either, the musicians play their music like how children play, it probably takes a lot of skill and experience to make it sound so simple, so effortless.

So what usually happens is I've this album sitting somewhere in my playlist. It starts at some point and after a few songs I notice happily it's playing and with every subsequent song I get more enthusiastic about it. This works untill the final song comes which I think is completely lame. There's nothing that makes it different from the rest of the album except it sucks imho. 'If a song could be president' (track 11 and last) is therefore removed from the harddisk (but included in the archive file) and I wish I could do the same with the CD (which comes with lyrics and nice artwork). I hope you're happy with the entire album and you'll find the same bliss as I do with the first 10 tracks.
Great Speckled Dog / Red Eye, 2007

Over The Rhine - The Trumpet Child

Hitsville West

"San Francisco's Uptown Soul" Sort of Kent label sampler; the focus is San Francisco late 60's soul and the material is from a few small labels but mainly Villa records. It's the usual Kent CD, plenty to read and a number of pictures, a few previously unreleased tracks.

Need to free space on your harddisk for this? Stuff's from 2nd half of the 60's, uptempo and a lot of it revived and popular a decade later as northern soul. You'll find instrumentals, vocal tracks and girl groups, not many real hits but a few tracks which could become personal favorites. Mostly uptempo and danceable stuff, a few remarkable vocals. Harddisks aren't very expensive these days ;-) .
Kent / Ace, 2007

Hitsville West