A new Chicago album looks back over 40 years of music. The album The Nashville Sessions consists of re-recordings by the current band of some of its best-known songs, especially from 1970–1975. The new versions, recorded in 2009, are so true to the originals that the average listener may not hear anything new, but fans will notice the changes. The sound is cleaner, reflecting four decades of advances in recording technology. The mixes are more of a close-up, in-the-room experience than any of Chicago’s regular studio albums. Last but not least, most of the songs have new singers. Still, the overall effect is that of hearing familiar songs from years past.
Also looking back to the 1970s is Paul McCartney, with a long-delayed concert film of Wings at the peak of that band’s career. The film will be in cinemas starting this month, and a reissue of the live album Wings Over America is planned for summer.
Engineer Alan Parsons is one of the featured guest singers on a new progressive rock album being produced by Billy Sherwood. Sherwood says he will return the favor by appearing in several of Parsons’ concert dates this summer.
Coming in June: the second album from Beady Eye, called BE. The advance single is “Second Bite of the Apple.”
Deaths: Roger Ebert, Chicago-based movie critic. Andy Johns, engineer and producer, noted for his work on rock records since the 1960s. Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer of DiVinyls.
The Breeders are getting ready to release a 20th anniversary edition of their 1993 album Last Splash, abbreviated as LSXX, and to mark the occasion, the reunited original band are preparing for their biggest tour ever. The band warmed up with a March 29 show in New York, but the tour proper starts with a May 3 appearance in Pittsburgh.
A Michelle Shocked tour ended abruptly after the alt-folk singer went off on a 20-minute rant at a show in San Francisco. It was an on-stage meltdown so ugly that the audience eventually headed for the exits. The venue stepped in to stop that show, and as word got around, all the other planned shows in the tour were canceled over the next couple of days. Shocked has had little to say since that fiasco, but showed up in disguise outside a canceled show last weekend to try to engage with fans.
Billy Corgan says he has begun writing songs for a new Smashing Pumpkins album.
Queensryche singer Geoff Tate has assembled replacement musicians, after splitting from the previous band last year, and has a new Queensryche album recorded, but early previews of a few songs were withdrawn after complaints about the sound. Producer Billy Sherwood says he has been hired to “fix” the album, which, at a minimum, will involve remixing it. He will have to work quickly, as a release date of April 23 has already been set.
Deaths: Peter Banks, founding guitarist of Yes. Phil Ramone, prolific record producer who won Grammys for his work with Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and many more.
Yes may not have a new album to promote, but it is doing something new on its new tour by playing three of its 1970s albums in their entirety. The resulting two-hour concert is nothing new for the band, which has always had a hard time deciding which of its many songs to include in its live set. But the band has never played any complete album live, let alone three. This will also be Yes’s first full-length tour with its new lead singer, Jon Davison.
David Bowie surprised the world by announcing a new studio album after a decade off. The Next Day has a more grounded sound than his last few, with a greater emphasis on piano chords. The forthcoming album is streaming on iTunes for a limited time.
Lady Gaga had to cancel tour dates after surgery for a torn hip.
Reader’s Digest, once the largest-circulation small-format magazine in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy again. A bankruptcy in 2010 put the magazine in the hands of creditors and private equity, but the new owners were unable to overcome the magazine’s debts, of nearly half a billion dollars.
If it is February again, then it must be February Album Writing Month, in which songwriters try to write 14 new songs over the course of the shortest month of the year. Last year, participants collectively wrote 11,000 new songs. This year, the web site has been revamped to make it mobile-friendly.
Howe Leaves Asia, Will Focus on Yes, Steve Howe Trio
Guitarist Steve Howe has left Asia, he and the band announced today. In a statement, Howe said that he needed more time to focus on work with his other two bands, Yes and the Steve Howe Trio. Yes is currently preparing for a tour in which it will perform three complete albums.
Asia’s new guitarist is the relatively unknown guitar virtuoso Sam Coulson. The new band’s first show will be a June festival appearance. Asia is also set to begin tracking a new studio album, Valkyrie, this year.
Once one of the leading U.S. news magazines, Newsweek is no more, its last print issue appearing on newsstands one week ago. The brand lives on as a feature in The Daily Beast, which will attempt to keep the Newsweek subscriber base somewhat intact with a paid weekly online-only magazine.
Apple’s iOS touch-screen operating system had more New Year’s Day glitches this year, including phones that failed to return from silent mode as scheduled this morning.
Irving Azoff has resigned his position as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment and sold his stake in the company to its largest shareholder, Liberty Media Corporation. Azoff said he found working for a public company “smothering.”
The first Hobbit movie has proved to be a blockbuster, if not on the same level as Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has grossed more than $84 million in its first few days in U.S. theaters.
Deaths: Ravi Shankar, sitar player and organizer of the Concert for Bangladesh. Phil Gellis, Long Island musical actor.
12/12/12 Concert for Sandy
The date was 12/12/12, the poster featured three guitars, and the concert was “12/12/12, The Concert for Sandy Relief.” The widely televised and webcast charity rock concert raised more than $50 million mostly for short-term relief of those whose homes were badly damaged or destroyed.
An album, set for a Columbia Records release on Tuesday after 2 hours of songs are selected and mixed, may raise more money than the concert itself.
The concert ran late into the night, run with an eye more toward the quality of the webcast than to keeping the Madison Square Garden audience in place through the end of the show. It was a worldwide audience, and for viewers on the West Coast, the show was not even a late night.
It was very much a rock concert, and although New Jersey, Long Island, and New York City were emphasized on the bill, it was also the first time the three big British Invasion bands, the Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Beatles, were so prominently represented in a single concert. These were the principal performers and some notable highlights:
- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: talking about storm damage in Asbury Park; “Born to Run” duet with Jon Bon Jovi
- Roger Waters: staging based on his touring version of The Wall; duet with Eddie Vedder
- Bon Jovi: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with Bruce Springsteen
- Eric Clapton: possibly the only live performance ever of the Derek & the Dominoes song “Got to Get Better in a Little While”
- Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger quipped about the number of “aged British rock stars” on the bill
- Alicia Keys: up close and personal piano set; later, finale “Empire State of Mind”
- The Who: the double meaning of the line “sandy wasteland” added to “Baba O’Riley”
- Kanye West: fit in 11 songs by cutting them short
- Billy Joel: “Movin’ Out” was the one song in the concert that put adapting to change in a positive light
- Chris Martin (of Coldplay): “Losing My Religion” duet with Michael Stipe
- Paul McCartney: combined with the surviving members of Nirvana for a new song “Cut Me Some Slack”
Fleetwood Mac Plans Tour, Will Release Three New Songs
“Nobody really cares about albums anymore” Stevie Nicks told Billboard when she explained why Fleetwood Mac was releasing probably three songs in advance of a spring tour of North America. The songs were recorded at a tour planning meeting in November.
Two of the new tracks are new songs, while the third is very old, an outtake from the album Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham did before they joined Fleetwood Mac.
The pricing disparity between download singles and albums is leading to lower prices for albums. This was especially apparent at the end of November, in “Cyber Monday” promotions that lasted as long as two weeks. The promotional prices for download albums were mostly $4–7, about $1 less then the promotional prices seen one year ago.
Christmas albums to look for this year: Lady Antebellum, Sleeping at Last, REO Speedwagon, Rod Stewart. Backstreet Boys have a Christmas single as a warmup to a new album release next year.
Aerosmith reintroduces itself to music fans with their new 15-song set Music From Another Dimension. Once you get past the album’s sci-fi conceit, the smooth hard rock sound is much like Aerosmith’s hugely successful 1990s albums. The band says if they manage to make any more albums, there is a chance that they will release the albums themselves.
There is still no word on a possible Emerson Lake & Palmer studio album, but their one-off 2010 concert is now available on the 2-CD set Live at the High Voltage Festival 2010 (apparently the same program as the previous limited edition called At High Voltage Festival 2010). Drummer Carl Palmer has been touring with Asia this year, but that tour wraps up with a week of U.K. shows in the middle of this month.
Two executives responsible for the glitchy map data included in Apple’s latest iOS version have been fired. Apple has hired about 100 people to try to fix the maps, which have errors and are missing millions of essential details, especially outside the United States.
A massive hybrid storm on the East Coast left much of the music business in New York and from Virginia to Connecticut in the dark for days at the end of October and into November. A week of outdoor concerts were canceled with weather concerns, and difficulties in transportation and electricity forced most events to shut down for a few days in five states.
With U.S. elections coming up, hundreds of music and entertainment stars could be seen supporting Barack Obama’s re-election bid. The most visible support came from Bruce Springsteen, featured at political rallies in several states over a three-week period. To give the appearance of balance, the Mitt Romney campaign rounded up at least a dozen country singers, most notably John Rich, to support that candidate’s cause. There may be a pragmatic policy reason why the support of musicians is so lopsided in favor of the Democratic candidate, Obama. Romney has said he will make changes in the health care system that will make health insurance difficult for freelancers such as musicians to obtain.
“I am Joan Jett and I am a vegetarian” reads the headline in the new PETA advertisement. Jett is just the latest rock star to appear in print ads from PETA that promote sustainable and animal-friendly lifestyle choices.
Led Zeppelin has made a movie, Celebration Day, showing its 2007 reunion concert. In that concert, the band’s drummer was Jason Bonham, son of the original drummer John Bonham.
A new Heart album Fanatic is out today in much of the world, and tomorrow in the United States. It was recorded with much of the same team who recorded Red Velvet Car in 2010, but singer Ann Wilson says they didn’t try to repeat the approach of that album.
You can’t miss the end-of-the-world theme on Rick Springfield’s new album, regardless of which of the four covers designs you find. The album title, after all, is Songs for the End of the World. But you still might want to pick your version — Cold War, tarot, Armageddon, or Mayan — to get the exclusive online content that goes with that cover design. Rick is apparently not taking the end of the world theme too seriously. The Tour for the End of the World is open-ended, even if only the first month of dates in North America have been scheduled so far.
Apple’s new iPhone 5 was released on September 21, and had the biggest first-week sales of any telephone ever. AT&T alone sold 5 million units during the launch weekend in the United States.
The current #1 hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” from Taylor Swift is an example of a new pattern of chart success. Big online hits may sell half a million copies on their release day — more than the total lifetime sales of the average hit single. Radio airplay, then, may follow more slowly. For “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” radio airplay is just now picking up, in the single’s third week of release. This reverses the usual pattern for hit singles in which radio airplay comes first, with the record label hoping that sales will follow.
The new Melissa Etheridge album 4th Street Feeling might have something of a retro look and sound, but there is a progression in the stories it tells, which are less teen angst and more of a full-blown existential crisis. “Kansas City” is sure to shock some people. On the surface, it is just a story about life on the road, but the lyrics gradually reveal a battered and dissociated woman who is 100 miles from a troubled home and seemingly certain death. And that’s just the first track! “Kansas City” is ironically upbeat rock, but other tracks offer purely acoustic folk and sophisticated blues tones. The album is streaming for a limited time at Rolling Stone. The album is out now in Australia and comes to America on Tuesday.
A federal court upheld many of Apple’s iOS and iPhone patents and ordered Samsung to pay damages of about $10 for each infringing device — more than token damages, but not enough to serve as a deterrent. Yet Apple’s next legal step, seeking to block the sale of Samsung’s knockoff telephones and tablets in the United States, could have real consequences for Samsung.
There are persistent rumors about an iPad mini, perhaps with a 7-inch screen. Depending on who you believe, it is coming out this fall or before Christmas, or its release has been delayed by shortages of components. Tests have showed that a 6- or 7- inch screen is the ideal size for a portable ebook reader for most users.
Van Halen will be sidelined for the rest of the year after guitarist Eddie Van Halen had intestinal surgery. A scheduled tour of Japan has been canceled.
Just Tell Me That You Want Me – Hear Music/Various Artists
“I’d like to leave you with something more/But I never have been a blue calm sea/I have always been a store.”
This mangled verse heard midway through Just Tell Me That You Want Me (the intended rhyming words “warm” and “storm” lost along with many others in an indifferent vocal delivery) points to a laundry list of problems a fan might discover in the new Hear Music “tribute” to Fleetwood Mac. Fans of the band glancing at the back cover will begin by protesting the selection of songs. Almost all are written by Stevie Nicks, as if Fleetwood Mac’s amazing run of hit singles between 1975 and 1982, most written by Christine McVie, had never happened.
But the omission of McVie and the band’s other noted songwriter, Lindsey Buckingham, is part of a larger problem. Fans prize Fleetwood Mac for their rhythmic and sonic precision and the insight of their songs, but you won’t hear any of that on this collection. Instead, Just Tell Me That You Want Me re-envisions Fleetwood Mac as a muddy slog through a mosh pit with a tenuous hold on melody, beat, and reality. This is when you notice that Stevie Nicks’ more spiritual and optimistic songs are also absent, and that tempo and mood are often considerably reduced when compared to the originals.
There are a few legendary musicians included in the 17-song lineup, and they deliver, but they must be horrified at the performances that surround theirs, so I won’t further horrify them by mentioning their names here. Those tracks aside, it seems a fair guess that most of the performers here had never heard of Fleetwood Mac before, had no one to guide them, and lacked the time to learn the songs well enough to deliver even the surface layer of meaning. Such is always the risk with commercial tribute albums, but this is the worst case of it I have ever heard.
And if this is what Fleetwood Mac fans will find, I hesitate to say the impression this album is likely to make on those who have never heard Fleetwood Mac songs done correctly. Given the mood of the tracks, which in stark contrast to Fleetwood Mac’s own mood seem to alternate between dejection and hopelessness, “Did they all kill themselves?” is almost the inevitable question. (This reaction becomes all the more likely after the recent news of the death of Bob Welch. An unintelligible version of his song “Future Games” is included as the last track.)
Reading the credits and looking up the names online, you realize this album was not really put together by musicians, but by a major corporation with no one there to pay attention to the final listening experience. It is easy to imagine how a to-do item in someone’s inbox, though planned by the marketing department as a tribute, could end up more like a ghastly parody. With that understanding, it makes sense that melodies and meanings could fall by the wayside, and that a series of mistakes could transform Stevie Nicks’ heartfelt poetry into something virtually meaningless, and purely commercial.
Mac OS X Gets Java Support
Java is supposed to be a “run-anywhere” environment, but one of the quirks in the history of Java is that it has never fully supported Mac OS X. Oracle (and its predecessor Sun) provided a slight degree of support for Java on Mac OS X but left the heavy lifting to Apple, and there were always some gaps. Now that is changing. The latest Java version from Oracle, Java SE 7 Update 6, will fully support Mac with a near-simultaneous release.
Apple, for its part, says it will no longer deliver Java along with Mac OS X. Instead, its users can download Java as needed from the Java web site.
Two new albums are coming up from Jeff Lynne. Due in two months is a new regular studio album Long Wave, his first since Armchair Theatre in 1990. Armchair Theatre included Jeff’s versions of two standards, and it appears the new album will consist almost entirely of standards. Also ready for release around the same time is an album of new re-recordings of Electric Light Orchestra hits.
The Hobbit is being expanded to three movies. The movies’ producers announced this decision after seeing the rough cut for the first of the two planned movies, along with most of the second. To fit the story into two theatrical releases, they realized, too many essential sections of narrative would have to be left out. The first two releases will come in December 2012 and December 2013 as planned, with part 3 in the summer of 2014.
The telephone patent trial between Apple and Samsung, already dubbed “the patent trial of the century,” is getting started in a U.S. federal district court in San Jose, California. Meanwhile, Apple is said to be preparing to announce a new iPhone and a smaller iPad at a media event September 12.
Ithaca, New York, is fortunate enough to be home to a major recording studio, Pyramid Sound, but its luck in that area may have run out. The city condemned the recording studio a month ago because of the risk of damage to the building’s foundation from planned adjacent bridge reconstruction. For now, the studio building sits empty, and the likely result is that the studio will have to move. This probably means a move out of town, as there aren’t many places in Ithaca where one could put a recording studio. Pyramid Sound is especially noted for recording heavy metal bands such as Bad Religion and Anthrax.
Rick Aster’s book Professional SAS Programming Shortcuts goes to a third edition this month. The new edition expands coverage of programming techniques for desktop and Internet file formats.
The three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot who have been behind bars since March are finally getting a trial. The musicians were charged with hooliganism when they played a political song at a cathedral. Church officials say the musicians’ short skirts and bare shoulders represented an attack on the Russian Orthodox Church’s religious beliefs. Amnesty International considers them political prisoners, and prominent musicians have made statements in support of the band.
Death: Jon Lord, composer of Concerto for Group and Orchestra. He was the keyboardist for Deep Purple until his retirement for health reasons ten years ago.
The Beach Boys had their biggest-ever album release day with the debut of the new album That’s Why God Made the Radio. The 50th anniversary album also gives the band the longest top 10 album chart span among groups.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse have a new album of American folk songs, called Americana. The band says it was a challenge to take ownership of well-known songs like “Oh Susannah,” but eventually, after months of rehearsals, they did it. A fall tour is in the works. After that, expect a more conventional album of new original songs.
Lucy Lawless, most famous for portraying Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess, has become an eco-warrior. She pleaded guilty last month, along with seven others, to occupying a Shell drilling ship earlier this year in a protest against Arctic oil exploration. The ship was one of several heading to the Arctic Ocean this month to begin drilling for oil.
Asia’s 30th anniversary album XXX is out next week. Singer John Wetton says he and keyboardist Geoff Downes had an easy time writing a new set of Asia songs for the new album. A world tour follows in the fall, starting with a week in Japan.
It is officially the beginning of the end for Flash. After August 15, Adobe will no longer permit users to install Flash on most devices. Adobe acquired Flash in its 2006 purchase of Macromedia and converted it into an advertising platform. That strategy faded, though, as users learned to block the often abusive advertisements. Last year, Adobe stopped all development work on Flash for new platforms. For now, Flash will continue to be available as a plugin for a short list of desktop web browsers. The development team is attempting to convert Flash into a “high-end” video game technology, though that too may prove to be an elusive goal, given the state of the gaming industry.
Death: Bob Welch, singer and guitarist in Fleetwood Mac for five albums in the early 1970s. Welch was later a solo artist, reaching the top 10 with the song “Sentimental Lady” in 1977.
Picplz to Close
Photo-sharing site picplz is shutting down on July 3. Users have until then to download their photos and data.
Court Rules Against Java Claims
A court has ruled against claims of copyright in the Java APIs owned by Oracle. Oracle had claimed, in its suit against Google’s Android project, that the interfaces that are part of the Java design are protected by copyright, but a federal court did not agree. The court rejected the claim of copyright on the names of the routines and packages that make up Java. Separately, the court ruled that the interoperability rules of copyright law extend to Java packages, and therefore, there is nothing that can be protected by copyright in the Java APIs: “So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API.” The ruling allows software projects that are intentionally made compatible with Java.
A jury had already rejected almost all other copyright claims and all patent claims in the case. There are nine lines of code in Google’s Android project that the jury found had been copied from Java, but it could not agree that any damages had occurred as a result. Given the history of the case, Oracle probably stands to win no more than a few thousand dollars in damages.
India’s parliament has passed a music copyright law giving songwriters and recording artists automatic copyright protection. Previously, movie producers typically controlled all music rights and collected the royalties from successful songs.
U.K. will be the last band to play at NEARfest. The progressive rock festival will take place for the last time June 22–24, an event (long since sold out) that has been dubbed NEARfest Apocalypse. U.K. is a late replacement on the festival schedule, and will perform in a four-piece lineup as the headline act for the last day of the weekend.
Pleading exhaustion, Van Halen is postponing two months of shows. Lead singer David Lee Roth said the band didn’t realize how tired they all were when they agreed to add so many extra shows to their tour.
The new Heart box set Strange Euphoria includes rare early versions of well-known songs from throughout the band’s career. Deluxe editions include a smattering of video, such as a 1976 TV appearance.
Two singers who found their greatest success during the disco era have died of cancer: Robin Gibb, who recorded with the Bee Gees and as a solo artist, and had just debuted his first classical work; and Donna Summer, remembered for hits such as “Love to Love You Baby” and “MacArthur Park.”
GIMP 2.8 was released today and boasts enough new features to make it the go-to image editing program. The prominent new features include improvements for brushes, text, and layers, along with a streamlined user interface. Behind the scenes, major improvements have been made in the graphics processing. Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X executables are expected to follow shortly.