Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dwight Sings Buck!

Every once in a while a record comes along that reminds you why you love an artist or genre. It revives the feeling that started you on a musical path, as a listener and even as a player. Dwight Yoakam's new album, "Dwight Sings Buck", is one of those records for me.

I grew up as a rock kid, but even then I liked the Eagles, Linda Rondstadt and Jackson Browne -- that Cali-Country rock thing. I liked Southern Rock like the Allmans and Lynyrd Skynyrd. By the time I was in my early 20's, even rootsier American music caught my attention. A friend turned me on to Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. Hippie Country.

I've been a Dwight Yoakam fan since day one. In 1988, right after I bought my first CD player (a Denon for $750 that I still have and still works great), one of the very first CDs I bought was "Hillbilly Deluxe". I have performed one of the songs from that LP, "Johnson's Love" for years. I have many of Dwight's CDs: "This Time"; "Guitars and Cadillacs"; "Gone", as well as many CDs that he guests on. "Partners" by Flaco Jimenez stands out. On it, Dwight's version of "Carmelita" may be my favorite rendition of the Warren Zevon classic. Speaking of Zevon, his bittersweet final LP, "The Wind", features some great backup singing by Dwight.

But of all the great work he's done, and Dwight Yoakam's contribution to American Music is significant,"Dwight Sings Buck" may be his best ever. Obviously Dwight owes his career to Buck Owens and the Bakersfield Sound. But to his credit, he did not make clones or direct soundalikes of Buck's best. Instead, he lovingly crafted each song to have it's own fresh personality. The tracks have one boot in Owens, and one in Yoakam.

Here's a message I sent to Dwight:

We all love Buck, and I really appreciate how you did fresh interpretations of his classics. I have been playing it non-stop in my car--love the lean production and so many great tunes. "Corner of Love" and "Under Your Spell Again" are awesome. But I think the last five songs are my favorites of all. What a groovy new version on "Close Up The Honky Tonks" -- love the latin percussion and the B-3 solo. "Tender Loving Care" is priceless, with the weeping steel, low-twang Tele and the '60's Nashville reverb. But man, you saved the best for last. Of the many versions of "Together Again" that have ever been made, I think you topped them all (except the original, of course). The twinkly piano alone is worth the price of admission. Floyd would be proud.

Heck, Buck must be proud!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Worst of the Worst!

Blender 'Zine's 50 worst songs ever.

They missed a couple.

Years ago Bernadette and I came up with The Elephant Gun Awards. Songs that were so annoying that the only way to put us and everybody out of our misery was to blast the song with an Elephant gun. And I ain't talkin' tranquilizer dart here. It's a song that more than irritates; it infuriates.

The runner up for the all-time EG award is Natalie Merchant for her insipid rendition of the great Springsteen-penned Patty Smith hit, "Because the Night". Whereas the original was stirring, fiery and soulful; indeed one of the great singles of its era, Merchant's remake was as limp and lifeless as a washed-up Cape Cod flounder. And as smelly. Some records are so great as to be untouchable, and that's one of them. Merchant brought nothing to the table on the remake. Except, as I said, a stinky dead fish.


And to think I liked the early 10,000 Maniacs. The gum on Patty Smith's shoe has more soul...

The number one hall-of-fame EG award goes to Supertramp. Not rock. Not even a local call from Rock. I don't even know the name of the song because I've never tolerated it long enough to hear it. It starts, "Take a look at my girlfriend, she's the only one I got...KABOOOOOOM!!!!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Wonderful Sony C37A

A while back, I had a Sony C37A mic. It sounded great, especially on my voice. Along around 2000, I sold it for like, $1200. This is one of my biggest gear regrets (of many). In the last few years they have become increasingly rare, sought-after, and pricey. A good one goes for three grand now.

Investigating the mic in recent months, I'm seeing that it really became an industry standard in the early and mid 1960's, especially in LA studios. In my recent interview with legendary LA producer Bones Howe (to be published in Tape Op at some time in the future), he mentions the C37A a couple of times. When micing drums, he used one or two for overheads, and a Telefunken U47 out front of the kick. It was a favorite vocal condenser in studios like United Western, Radio Recorders, Wally Heider, and others. Apparently even Frank Sinatra preferred it to the U47.

I'm convinced the reason the C37A is now so scarce and desirable is Daniel Lanois' religious dedication to the mic. He uses it on every singer he works with .. Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Bono, Willie Nelson...I have a video of him producing Emmylou, and that mic is everywhere. She has guest singers coming in like Neil Young and Steve Earl and yep, same mic goes up on eveybody; the Sony C37A.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

More on Magnecord

So, I started cracking open these boxes with these old tape-machine elctroncs heads in them. It's like opening a time-capsule. I just opened a box dated Oct 1957. Do the math. That's exactly 50 years ago. This freakin' thing has been in the sealed factory box since 1957. Ike was president and Elvis was all the rage. I started doing some web-searching and (after I got the spelling right) I found some cool stuff about the company. Magnecord and it's "Magnecorder" began in Chicago right after WWII. These GIs came back, and if I read the archives correctly, their start-up funding came from Armour. Yeah, the meat-packing company. They started making wire recorders, but by '49 they had switched over to tape. Seems like they did really well, really fast, grabbing a big market share right off the bat. Like, $90,000/month. In 1949! That's a decent month for me NOW in 2007.

Here's a link to one of the many broadcst history sites which has the story of Magnecord.

Cool, eh?

It's All About The Tone, Baby!