THE EARLY 911, FILM AND VINYL – PART 1

You’ve probably read enough analogies of sports cars, fine cameras and luxury audio equipment in high-end lifestyle magazines to get the idea that journalists are passionate about these in a big way. I’m not immune and vinyl records, Leica rangefinders and Porsche 911s have been a primary fascination of mine since 1964. That’s when I bought my first LP, was gifted a camera, and was introduced to the early 911. I immediately fell in love with the feel and sound of the long playing record, the shutter advance of the film camera, and the Porsche 911’s hooligan nature with its air-cooled flat six barking a nasty exhaust note. School and financial obligations kept me from fulfilling my dreams of ownership for a long time, but I promised myself that someday I would have a top notch analog stereo system, a Leica M series rangefinder, and a pre-‘74 911. Continue reading “”

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THE BEATLES PART 4: Bargain Pressings

The vinyl resurgence has brought many older music fans back to their turntables and a younger generation into the wonderful world of records. Large art work and the visceral experience of listening to vinyl is the payoff for many. If you are on a budget and want to acquire clean LPs of this Beatles title at a reasonable cost – there are some options for you. Continue reading “”

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THE BEATLES PART 3: Choosing a STEREO Pressing

The White Album is probably most familiar in stereo, so that’s where I’ll focus most of my attention. The recently re-mastered CD of this seminal album sound very good. It’s a little compressed for my tastes, but successful as a very clean transfer of what it must be like listening to The Beatles in Technicolor. Just be aware that the quieter songs are mastered louder to more closely approximate the dynamics of the rockers, so purists may be a bit shocked by the changes due to limiting. The previous release may be preferred in this instance. Continue reading “”

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THE BEATLES PART 2: Choosing a MONO Pressing

The blank cover of The White Album was perhaps symbolic of the Fab Four’s reluctance to reveal their internal disintegration. Lennon and McCartney still shared songwriting credit, but were being pulled apart by their differing creative and philosophical interests. As a result they were composing almost exclusively on their own. Their songs, along with George Harrison’s, covered a wide variety of emotions – joy, disdain, empathy, boredom, hope, sadness, love, anger, even hysteria. The White Album not only stretched the rules, it broke them.

By 1968, stereo albums were becoming increasingly popular, and this would be the last Beatles album to receive a dedicated mono mix (1969’s Yellow Submarine mono soundtrack is a fold down). The mono mix of The White Album differs from the stereo version on several songs. This makes for interesting listening for those who are intimately familiar with the US LPs – released in stereophonic sound only. One example is Eric Clapton’s guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, which is more modulated and goes on longer before the fade-out. Continue reading “”

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THE BEATLES – THE WHITE ALBUM

After Rubber Soul and the artistic heights of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles followed up in 1968 by forming Apple Records and releasing a double LP that would go on to become their biggest seller and perhaps the favorite Beatles album for younger listeners. Sporting a clean white cover featuring only their embossed name and a serial number printed in gray ink, The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) was a strong departure from what had come before.

Many of the tunes were written in India where the group had attended a spiritual meditation retreat with the Maharishi Yogi. Recording the tracks in England was a less than blissful experience however. John was bringing Yoko into the studio every day, Ringo temporarily quit the band in frustration, and producer George Martin was unable to end the bickering or edit the band’s output. The result was an album of thirty songs that bordered on the self-indulgent. Continue reading “”

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GENE CLARK : NO OTHER

Backed by Lee Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkle and Butch Trucks on drums, Michael Utley on keyboards, Chris Hillman on mandolin, and influenced by Sly Stone and Brian Wilson… well you get the picture. No Other was the fourth solo studio album by ex-Byrds Gene Clark, now widely regarded as a lost masterpiece of ’70’s folk rock. Continue reading “”

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NATIONAL RECORD STORE DAY

Today marks the 3rd annual Record Store Day, a national celebration to support independent music shops. Brick and mortar record stores have been a dying breed across America for several years now. The on-line convenience of downloading music from the internet is at least partly responsible. Unfortunately, the community reality of a well run and experienced local record store is being lost in the process.

If you saw the movie “High Fidelity” you know what I’m talking about. In order to celebrate independent record stores across the nation, the Alliance of Independent Media Stores, Coalition Of Independent Music Stores, Music Monitor Network, Newbury Comics, and Value Music Group of Indie Stores have named this Saturday in April as Record Store Day. Continue reading “”

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R.I.P. JIM MARSHALL

A witness to ’60’s rock history and one of the greatest Leica M photojournalists, Jim Marshall passed away in New York City yesterday. He was 74. His photographs of Jimi Hendrix at Monterey, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and The Beatles’ last concert in San Francisco in 1966 are legendary. He was well known for capturing decisive musical moments and was the chief photographer at the original Woodstock festival. A strong personality with a solid business sense and great stories to tell, his is a dying breed in still photography. He may well be the end of an era. Continue reading “”

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DEJA VU

It might seem like yesterday, but Déjà Vu was released 40 years ago this week. It topped the US Billboard pop album chart for one week and generated three Top 40 singles: “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” and “Woodstock. This was the first album by CSN (David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash) that included Neil Young. Stills estimates that the album took six months and 800 hours of studio time to record with multi-layered tracks and lots of overdubs in the mix. Wally Heider’s Studios in San Francisco and Los Angeles were both employed. Continue reading “”

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VAN MORRISON : MOONDANCE

“Van the Man” released his third solo album, Moondance forty years ago. After the unstructured recording of his previous landmark album, Astral Weeks, Morrison decided to try his hand at producing his own album using similar techniques. He moved to a home on a mountain top in upstate New York near the village of Woodstock with his wife, Janet Planet. There he enlisted the help of several nearby musicians. Continue reading “”

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SINATRA : NICE N’ EASY

After a few days away, it’s nice to come back to my blog with some classic music. “Ol’ Blues Eyes” was never in better form than on this 1960 chart-topping album. In The Wee Small Hours or Watertown might appeal more to the “sad” Frank fan, but with spring just around the corner I’m in the mood for this collection of breezy mid-tempo numbers and ballads. Continue reading “”

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SHARING THE MUSIC

Last night I hosted a listening session for a few of my music-loving friends. I’ve known these guys for several years so it’s always a welcome ritual to share some vibes with like-minded spirits. The purpose of this semi-annual gathering is to exchange ideas about meaningful music, the photo industry, recent travels, and maybe a car story or two. We generally talk a bit, share some pizza, then go down to the listening room and play some tunes. It’s usually just CDs, but occasionally we spin some SACDs and vinyl. Continue reading “”

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MARVIN GAYE : WHAT’S GOING ON

Forty years ago Marvin Gaye released his 10th album, That’s the Way Love Is. Two months later, in March of 1970, Marvin Gaye fell into a deep depression following the death of his singing partner and fellow Motown artist Tammi Terrell, who had a malignant brain tumor. By June he gathered enough courage to record the soulful yet politically charged single titled ”What’s Going On”. Continue reading “”

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THE BEATLES : RUBBER SOUL

Released in December 1965, Rubber Soul presented an evolved Beatles sound to the world that was closely associated with the American folk rock of Bob Dylan and The Byrds. With the help of producer George Martin, Brits John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr built an album that went beyond a bunch of well-crafted pop songs.

Using speeded up tapes, electronic processing, fuzz bass, and ambiguous lyrics – not to mention a stretched cover photograph by Robert Freeman – the Fab Four were pushing the boundaries with their newfound artistic control. The Beatles stood at the crossroads and created plastic soul. Continue reading “”

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NEIL YOUNG : EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE

As part of its ongoing music archives reissue campaign with legendary singer-songwriter Neil Young, Reprise Records has recently re-mastered the first four of his classic solo albums: Neil Young, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, and Harvest. These titles are available either on regular CD (HDCD encoded), gold CD (in a box set), 140 gram vinyl (individual release), or 180 gram vinyl (also available in a box set). The limited edition box set is available here:

NeilYoung.com / BecauseSoundMatters.com

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HELLO AND WELCOME TO MY BLOG

I’m starting the New Year in 2010 with this commentary site, which reflects my personal areas of interest and how I view the temporal quality of life. My goal is to post something at least once a week on one of my four major passions: Photography/Video, Classic Porsches, Travel, and Music.

Hopefully I’ll provide a useful perspective on how each of these pursuits can be experienced with more than one unique sensory experience. I plan to review on average one photo tip, one sports car article/video, one journey, and one music album every month.

-Randy Wells

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