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by Mike Breen 02.06.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music Commentary, Music News at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Super Bowl Gets Bowled Over By Pop Music

Musical highlights from Super Bowl XLVI

Since our Morning News and Stuff writer hates football and refused to comment on the Super Bowl (not even the Puppy Bowl!), I thought I'd take a minute to discuss yesterday's huge game. Well, the music heard during the TV broadcast, anyway.

While I'm not a huge Madonna fan (I love the idea of her more than her music), I thought her halftime show was excellent. Then I looked on the internets and it told me that I was stupid and it was actually horrible and, even worse, offensive! Things I learned: Madonna is, like, really old; she may have lip-synced during portions of the performance; and MIA said "Fuck you, America" with her middle finger. (Like Janet Jackson's boob, I wouldn't have even noticed had it not been overblown in cyberspace.)

Oh, and MIA, according to the AP report, also "appeared" to say a cuss word. (She didn't, clearly stopping her line, "I don't give a shit," at "Shhhh" — nice reporting AP!)

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by Mike Breen 04.30.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: April 30

The L.A. riots continue and Willie Nelson turns 79

On this date in 1992, the Los Angeles riots had the world's attention, breaking out after the four cops on trial for beating Rodney King were acquitted the day before. Property damage has been estimated at $1 billion and 54 people were killed in the mayhem.

There were a lot of important things to come out of the riots, but, in the music world, the greatest tragedy was Madonna's famous bustier was swiped from its case at Frederick's of Hollywood. The black bustier worn by Madonna in the "Open Your Heart" video was stolen from the Frederick's "lingerie museum." It wasn't the only underwear debacle that night — a man who wanted Madonna's bustier found it already stolen, so he instead grabbed a push-up bra worn by Katey "Peg Bundy" Sagal on Married … With Children (he would later return the bra to a church, which returned it to Frederick's). Madonna's bustier was never returned (despite a whopping $1,000 reward), but the Material Girl did give the museum a replacement.

In more serious matters, the rioting created the opportunity for dialogue across the country about race relations. And that dialogue leaked into popular music, as major social issues often do. Songs (from nearly every genre) inspired by the L.A. riots of 1992 include Tom Petty's "Peace in L.A.," Sublime's "April 29, 1992 (Miami)," Dr. Dre's "The Day the Niggaz Took Over," Rancid's "I Wanna Riot," Machine Head's "Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies," Garth Brooks' "We Shall Be Free," fIRHOSE's "4.29.92," David Bowie's "Black Tie White Noise," Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge" and Branford Marsalis' "Simi Valley Blues," the title of which was named after the town in which the police officers were put on trial. L.A. Electronica act Daniel LeDisko named his "band" LA Riots on the 15th anniversary of the riots.

Here was Rap legend Ice Cube's commentary on the riots from his third solo album, 1992's The Predator. This past weekend, Cube (alongside artists like Cypress Hill and Ras Kass) performed at a concert celebrating West Coast Hip Hop called Krush Groove. At midnight on Saturday (when it was officially April 29, the day rioting started), Cube reportedly asked the crowd to take a moment and remember those frightening days.



Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 30 birthday include Blues/Gospel singer and guitarist Reverend Gary Davis (1896); Rockabilly/Country singer ("The Battle of New Orleans," "North to Alaska") Johnny Horton (1925); half of the instrumental duo Santo and Johnny ("Sleep Walk"), Johnny Farina (1941); late Folk singer/songwriter and activist Mimi Farina (1945); Dancehall Reggae star Barrington Levy (1964); bassist and original member of Brazilian Metal greats Sepultura, Paulo Jr. (1968); Ohio native and member of "boy band" 98 Degrees, Jeff Timmons (1973); singer/composer/pianist for The Dresden Dolls and solo artist Amanda Fucking Palmer (1976); rapper with G-Unit and solo artist Lloyd Banks (1982); one of the singing kids from Glee, Dianna Agron (1986); and legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson (1933).

Nelson is one of those songwriters (like artists from Woody Guthrie to Lennon/McCartney to Bob Marley) who transcends genre tags. Nelson isn't a Country music icon — he's an American music icon.

Before garnering a publishing contract in 1960, Nelson worked as a DJ, played bars and joined Roy Price's band on bass. Songs Nelson wrote for others in the 1960s would become Country music classics — "Hello Walls," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Crazy" are just a sampling of his hits from that period.

Nelson had less success as a singer on his own, so he retired and moved to Austin, Texas, in the early ’70s. But Nelson fell in with the Outlaw Country scene and recorded increasingly successful albums, including the classic, Red Headed Stranger. He continued his run into the ’80s with material like "On the Road Again" and "Pancho & Lefty," and also formed supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

Since the ’90s, Nelson has made news headlines with his tax problems and dedication and enthusiasm for smoking weed, but he's also managed to release a few relevant albums that have kept him from having to go on QVC to shill his music.

Here's one of Nelson's early hits, "Crazy" (best known for the version by Patsy Cline), and a clip of Nelson talking about his forthcoming album, Heroes (due May 15). The album will include a strange range of covers — from Bob Wills to Coldplay — as well as a couple of new songs. Happy 79th, Willie!






 
 
by Mike Breen 02.21.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music Commentary at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: Feb. 21

Happy birthday to the Gibson Flying V guitar and the incomparable Nina Simone

On this day in 1958, the very first "Flying V" guitar shipped from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Mich. The guitar's distinct body — shaped, as the name suggest, like a "V," and made almost to look like it had aerodynamic qualities  — was initially the instrument's downfall. In its first two years available, the pointy axe was a flop; according to Gibson's website and author Larry Meiners' book Flying "V": The Illustrated History of This Modernistic Guitar, fewer that 100 total Flying Vs were ordered in ’58 and ’59.

But the odd design was also a draw for at least some musicians. For Blues players Albert King and Lonnie Mack (who, according to Gibson, is said to have purchased his first at Glenn Hughes Music in Cincinnati), the unique aesthetic of the guitar became a part of their image. In the ’60s, the aesthetic suddenly seemed less flashy to Rock guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix, and demand caused Gibson to begin producing the instrument once again in 1967 (Jimi had one immediately). In the ’70s, the guitar's appeal was enough to keep it in production, as everyone from Marc Bolan (T Rex) to Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) began to sling one.

By the ’80s, the Flying V became most identifiable with Metal, used prominently by Ozzy sidekick Randy Rhoads, dweedle-dweedle master Yngwie Malmsteen and players from Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, Scorpions and a bazillion others.

Alternative and Modern Rock players also took to the the V  — Bob Mould of Husker Du used his V quite a lot, while the guys in Weezer were perhaps the first to use them "ironically." The instrument's endurance is mostly due to the Flying V's appearance, making it more of a fashion accessory than a guitar specifically picked for its sound (though it was lighter than the usual guitar, at least initially).

Here are two clips showing the V in action, the first featuring Lonnie Mack and the second a music video by Jay Reatard, the late cult hero from Memphis.


Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring video of Nina Simone's first time on national television, playing The Ed Sullivan Show in 1960.

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by Mike Breen 10.22.2013
Posted In: Local Music, Music Commentary, Reviews at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Dark Colour - 'Prisoner'

In Electronic music, the punkish encouragement to “just jump in and see what happens,” regardless of proficiency, resulted in the creation of Krautrock, Hip Hop, Synthpop, New Wave and many other styles. Some of the top innovators of those genres were driven by a “naïvite” that added a more “human” element (going against the common critique that all Electronic music is cold and robotic). Today, with the hugely increased access to affordable tools to create Electronic music, that more exploratory approach is back and thriving, resulting in innumerable subgenres and an unending stream of adventurous bedroom artists.

Cincinnati’s Randall Rigdon, Jr., is one of those bedroom maestros. Using the name Dark Colour (fleshed out with other musicians in a live setting), Rigdon doesn’t let all of those subgenres distract him, instead embracing a variety of Electro styles and putting them together in his own personalized way. The results are delectable.

Dark Colour’s recent full-length debut, Prisoner, is reminiscent of hearing things like New Order, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT or Neon Indian for the first time. Rigdon has solid writing and lyrical skills, but it’s the multi-hued textures, kaleidoscopic array of synth sounds, endearing beats and a shifting ambiance (showcasing his deft ability to create distinct moods) that set Dark Colour apart from the EDM pack.

Prisoner (which follows 2011's debut EP, Memories, a release that was pulled from shelves after a dispute over an uncleared sample) ranges from Ambient dreamscapes and artsy Indie Electronica to funky Chillwave and bubbling Electro Pop, with many tracks containing multiple elements of each. Frequently slathered with a trippy glaze of effects, Rigdon’s melodies are most often delivered in either a hushed, spectral murmur or a whirling falsetto, while the eclectic, always-danceable beats have a surprisingly live feel, even when resembling something conjured from an ancient drum machine. There’s also a refreshing lack of current dancefloor trends; not that it would kill the album, but dropping in a grinding Dubstep groove, for example, would totally break its often hypnotic spell.

On Prisoner, Dark Colour makes digital music with an analog heart, instantly catchy Electro Art Pop that never panders and frequently surprises.

Learn more about Dark Colour here and give a listen to Prisoner below.

 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 05.25.2012
Posted In: Playlist, Music Commentary at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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A Memorial Day Playlist

Music videos to help you remember those who fight and die so you don't have to

Memorial Day (originally called “Decoration Day”) was founded after the Civil War. The amount of men both the South and the Union lost during the Civil War was so staggering that it is often still referred to as our bloodiest war. Needing a way to grieve for their fallen loved ones, women and children took to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of their killed husbands, fathers and brothers. Over time, as America involved itself in more wars and saw the loss of more men and, eventually women, Memorial Day soon came to be a day to memorialize all fallen comrades, not just those from the Civil War.

These days, despite the fact that we still have thousands of soldiers deployed overseas, the meaning of Memorial Day seems to have diminished. For many people, it marks the start of summer. It’s the day where it’s officially OK to unroll the cover off your hibernating pool. It’s an excuse to invite over a few friends and fire up the grill. We build bunkers out of charcoal, dodge the friendly fire of water guns and begin donning our summer uniforms of shorts and tank-tops. Rarely, however, do we stop to remember the soldiers who have fallen in order for us to enjoy the oncoming lazy days of summer.

As Americans, we are certainly a culture full of short attention spans and we, the media, do a piss poor job of helping you remember why Memorial Day is still relevant. We publish thousands of words each year memorializing overdosed musicians and crazy, drug addled actors. We’d rather publish images of wild-eyed and high comedians than show you the reality of the flag covered caskets that still come rolling in off of planes each week. That’s incredibly pathetic when you consider that roughly 6,400 soldiers have been killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. So, maybe it’s our fault.

This year deserves to be different, though. Recently, one of my best friends sent me a video of a bunch of bored soldiers in Iraq dancing to a Vanilla Ice song. We’d been discussing the reasoning behind the exorbitant amount of soldier suicides. I guess it had gotten the best of both our moods and he decided we needed to cheer up. Except he failed. As I watched the videos, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many of those boys were still alive.

They really were boys, too. None of them look any older than the staff at CityBeat. Most of them look a lot younger. Soldiers are hardly grown-ups — according to Congressional record, the average age of a combat soldier is 27 and 68 percent of the fallen soldiers are under the age of 30. For many of us, that means they’re kids who went to our school. They’re our prom dates, point guards, arch-enemies and best friends.

This Memorial Day, as you’re preparing for your summer-long battle with mosquitoes and weeds, enjoy this playlist of fun, bar-b-q worthy music (including two versions of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”). At some point, though, check out the videos that go along with them. Even if you have no personal acquaintance to memorialize, take time to remember that others around the patio table may have someone missing. Say “Thank you” to the dude with the U.S. Marines sticker on the back of his jeep (he’s surely lost a friend or two) or apologize to the mother with the gold star on her service banner. Drink a beer for the girl you knew back in high school who was in ROTC or take your kid to go pop an American flag on their great-great-grandpa’s grave. 

With each passing year, the reasons behind any war almost always end up blurry.  Don’t let the faces of our soldiers become that way, too.

 

 
 
by Mike Breen 04.27.2012
 
 
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This Date in Music History: April 27

The Stooges reunion begins and a long-distance dedication to Casey Kasem

On this day in 2003, Iggy Pop reunited The Stooges to perform at the 2003 Coachella festival in California. Well, as much of a "reunion" as possible — original bassist David Alexander died in 1975. But you can't do much better than Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) as a substitute. Pop re-teamed with guitarist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton for a few tracks on his Skull Ring album, which led to talk of playing some shows (joined by Steve Mackay, who played sax on Fun House).

Like the Pixies, the reunion seems never-ending. The original reunion shows usually stuck to material from the group's first two albums, but eventually they added material from Raw Power (which featured James Williamson on guitar and Ron Asheton on bass) and the band's mixed-reviewed new album, The Weirdness.

In January of 2009, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack. He was 60. The remaining Stooges issued a statement saying, in part, "We are shocked and shaken by the news of Ron's death. He was a great friend, brother, musician, trooper. Irreplaceable. He will be missed."

Then they replaced him. By May, the group had announced plans to keep going with former guitarist Williamson rejoining the band. Pop told NPR, "Although 'The Stooges' died with Ron Asheton, there is still 'Iggy and the Stooges'."

The group picked up reunion-touring that November, adding more Raw Power material to their set. In 2010, after a lot of clamoring from fans and even just those who understood the influence of Pop and Co., The Stooges were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I saw the first Stooges reunion a couple of times and Pop and the band, while perhaps not as "dangerous" as they once were, still put on a great live show. It would be hard for Pop not to at this point, though it should be interesting to see how much longer the seemingly bulletproof 65-year-old can keep prancing around, shirtless (of course), on stage like a 25-year-old. Is 70 too old? 80? Will Pop keep throwing himself around the stage and working out until his veins protrude from his skin when he's 90? He certainly doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Here's a bit from the historic 1970 Iggy & the Stooges show here in Cincinnati at the ol' Crosley Field (yes, it was broadcast nationally on TV). Read all about the event here, from a 2010 CityBeat feature story on the 40th anniversary of the Cincinnati Summer Pop Festival.



Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 27 birthday include: legendary Rock drummer (John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Elvis Costello) Jim Keltner (1942); Soul singer/songwriter ("I Can't Stand the Rain") Ann Peebles (1947); lead singer for the Soul group The Main Ingredient ("Everybody Plays the Fool"), Cuba Gooding, Sr. (1944); singer/songwriter/guitarist for Beatles-approved rockers Badfinger ("Come and Get It," "No Matter What"), Pete Ham (1947); vocalist with New Wave group The B-52's, Kate Pierson (1948); original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley (1951); Scottish Pop star Sheena Easton (1959); former Belle & Sebastian singer/cellist Isobel Campbell (1976); frontman for Fall Out Boy and solo artist Patrick Stump (1984); and America's countdown king, broadcaster Casey Kasem (1932).

And now, a long-distance dedication (to be read it in Kasem's voice):

Dear Casey,

When I was a youngster, I was addicted to your American Top 40 syndicated radio show. I'd listen every Saturday, just as I'd watch the morning cartoons (which you were also a part of, as the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo, as well as Robin on my must-see TV of the time, SuperFriends, among other shows.)

In a few years, my musical tastes would develop and I became less and less interested in most Top 40 music, so I didn't listen as much. But I'd still pop in every now and then, to check and see how my favorites, like Men at Work or The Police, were doing that week. And, if I was lucky, you'd throw in a fun fact or two about the artist behind the next song you were going to play (like, "… and that gas-station attendant was none other than Sheena Easton").

As I grew older, I also listened to commercial radio less and less, and I lost touch with my old friend, though I loved the clips of you losing it while recording your show. Earlier today, I noticed on Wikipedia that you officially retired from your radio shows in 2009 (and, apparently, you were still voicing Shaggy until that year as well). I felt bad that I thought you disappeared from the radio in 1986. So, Casey, could you please play Killing Joke's "Eighties" for my old pal, you, on his/your 80th birthday?

Oh, and YOU keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

Sincerely,

Mike B. from Ohio



 
 
by mbreen 11.03.2008
Posted In: Music Commentary at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
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Hip Hop the Vote at Xavier

A trio of Hip Hop superstars are in town today to rally voters to get to the polls tomorrow. Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and P Diddy Puff Daddy Bo Didley Combs (or whatever his name is today) will appear on the Xavier campus today at 3 p.m. (gates open at 2 p.m.). They'll speak on the soccer field next to the O’Connor Sports Center. The threesome are appearing on behalf of the Obama campaign.

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by mbreen 08.26.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Music Video, Music Commentary at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Squeeze the Day for 8/26

Music Tonight: This is the start of one of the more jam-packed music weekends of the summer, with numerous festivals (Feywill, Swinefest, Ohmstead, Taste of Blue Ash, Whispering Beard) competing with some quality club shows, concerts at larger venues and more. First up, a look at the less local-music-centric lineup for Swinefest and the always interesting bookings for Taste of Blue Ash.

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by Jeff Roberson 04.27.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals, Music Commentary, Reviews at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Merle Fest 2012: Day 1

North Carolina festival kicks off with Deep Dark Woods and Jubal's Kin

Thursday, April 26: MerleFest Festival Grounds

Electrified cats and dogs fell relentlessly across Roanoke Valley as I made my way into to North Carolina. As I turned off I-77, west towards Wilksboro, the skies started to clear and the rain disappeared. The south in the spring.

There are really only two stages operating on Thursday — the main Watson Stage where all the big acts play and the small Cabin Stage that is just off the main stage.The Dance Tent and Plaza Open Mic tent will have music today also, but most of the action is on the main festival grounds. The Cabin Stage provides music between acts on the Watson Stage. I know it's not the other way around due to the fact you can hear them sound-checking on the Watson Stage as the smaller stage acts are doing their sets. A note to festival organizers — that sucks.

The Watson Stage broke the silence at 3 p.m. sharp with the festival opening act, a five-piece from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, called The Deep Dark Woods. There are a fair number of Canadian acts at MerleFest. I like to think this is due to the Canadian governments dedication to supporting Canadian artists and helping them to further careers. That's a nice touch. Commies.

The Deep Dark Woods is an Alternative Country/Roots Rock/Americana band (what's it called these days? Fuck if I know) that has a really together and dark soulful sound somewhat reminiscent of Cincinnati's own The Hiders. Two guitars, keyboard, drums and the best bass player since Paul Cavins of Throneberry hung it up to play drums. Simple, unadorned, muted flats on a P-bass. My goodness, he alone was worth the effort. The songwriting was vital, evocative and never embarrassing and the dual Gretsch hollowbodies through Ampeg amps was a pretty unique and, for me, unheard sound. They weren't breaking any ground, sound-wise, just good songwriting presented exceptionally well and, in these genres, that's pretty much the goal.

Jubal's Kin took the Cabin Stage immediately following The Deep Dark Woods. This Florida based brother and sister duo is what I like about finding new music. Gailanne Amundsen and her brother Roger play with passion and commitment. Gailanne tore through some fiddle music to start off the set and then effortlessly moved to the frailing banjo and tore it up, too. Close familial harmonies and incredibly dynamic arrangements on songs that can only get better as they mature as performers. Incredible talent coupled with the right instincts. Unfortunately they started hitting the drums on the main stage for the next act; fortunately for me, Jubal's Kin (pictured below) has three appearances over the MerleFest weekend, so I moved on knowing I'll have better opportunities to see them in less distracting circumstances. That's one of the cool things about MerleFest — a lot of the acts have two, three or four sets over the span of the festival in a variety stages.

I wandered over to the Heritage Tent to see what my favorite potter, James Peter 'Pete' McWhirter, has for sale. I met Pete and his wife Kim last year. My sister is also an exhibitor in the Heritage Tent and, along with spewing the sights and sounds for you, I help her out by affording her breaks to have meals, use the bathroom, catch a band, etc.

Pete makes the most amazing jugs in a variety of themes. My wife and I are deeply in love with his Chick Jugs — jugs inspired both by his neighbor chickens in Burnsville, NC, and something you might find corn liquor in. He also makes musician jugs — Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops plays one — and outrageous face jugs. Pete is the second generation potter and owner of McWhirter Pottery. His mom ended up in Celo, NC, with an art degree in hand, singing with various folks, met his father, a native of North Georgia who had sp
ent some time marching with MLK, and Mom started McWhirter pottery making everyday useful objects — dinnerware, vases, etc. Pete carries on both the tradition of throwing pots as well as singing with his wife Kim in the western NC band He Said, She Said. Kim will be appearing Sunday at Merle Fest in the Traditional Tent Stage for a program entitled "Women Who Sing Traditional Music."

While hanging around Pete's booth, I met Buell, the man who claims to be responsible for MerleFest being more then a one-off event organized 25 years ago to raise money for a horticulture project at Wilkes Community College. Buell was running the video for the first event. They were using the NC-PBS truck with a Betacam machine that happened to have four XLR ins. While standing behind the camera near the sound board, the engineer asked him if he would like an audio board feed into his Betacam machine. Using this video along with some footage from the local TV station and more audio from a local radio station, he weaved together a video of the first event and sold Wilkes Community College on its production. This video sold over 5000 copies and created a demand that enabled the next MerleFest. I heard some great 1988 MerleFest stories from both Buell and Pete (Pete was at the first one also) and got directions to get my free "I Love John Hartford" button. Who doesn't love John Hartford?

Up later this eve on the big stage is Vince Gill. I suppose he's pretty good. I'll be heading to the Dance Tent to catch Blind Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks. I saw this Asheville, NC, based band last year at the recommendation of the Crossville, Tn. Huminaires drummer Joshua Hall and they were pretty damn good. Right now, it's time to feed the beast. More on Blind Chocolate in the morning.

(Words and photos by Jeff Roberson)
 
 
by Brian Baker 07.28.2009
Posted In: Music Commentary at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 

Music Industry Needs Money But Not Press?

I hate to talk shop but I think it’s worthwhile that you understand the lengths the media goes through these days to bring you our opinions on the music that gets released each and every week. Three of this week’s reviews in my weekly online column for CityBeat, I Shall Be Released, are there for no other reason than a blogger out in webworld saw fit to post the music. Setting aside the natural “downloading is stealing” paradigm for the moment, it should be noted that if I hadn’t found the titles posted on a blogger’s site, I wouldn’t have been able to review them at all, because neither the label nor a publicist could be bothered to send me the discs for that very purpose. And they were asked to. Repeatedly.

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