Posts belonging to Category Music

Eclectic Repetition

What is it with people remaking “Paint It Black”?  I’ve somehow managed to end up with two remakes of it, although I never set out to acquire these remakes.  They were both included on CDs I bought for other reasons.

I’m currently listening to Ottmar Liebert’s album Little Wing which includes a guitar (well, duh, that’s his thing) version as track six.  I also have Be Not Nobody from Vanessa Carlton, which also has a cover (but with vocals, of course).

Quote Of The Day

“Nothing worth having comes without a fight
Gotta kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight”

   —Barenaked Ladies, Lovers In A Dangerous Time

Bob Wills And Western Swing

My father was a big fan of old-time country music and especially of Bob Wills.  For those who have not been introduced to country music, Bob Wills was one of the most influential musicians of the western swing style.  Western swing is a combination of traditional country music and big band (imagine twin fiddles, steel guitars, and horns).  He was also influenced by blues and jazz.

When I was younger I used to shun the old country and Bob Wills.  I think that was a typical teenage reaction.  We all have to try to create our own identities and often the first thing we do is reject the things that we perceive as making up our parents’ identities.  However, I’ve long since gotten over that and gotten back into country.  I had bought some Bob Wills tribute CDs from Asleep At The Wheel, who remade a lot of the old songs with modern artists.  However, I recently saw this collection from Proper Records and decided to give it a chance.  I’m still working my way through it (on track 13 of disk 3 right now) and there’s some good stuff in the set.  It doesn’t cover everything (that would be hard to do since he was a prolific performer and writer), so it doesn’t have Across The Alley From The Alamo which is one of my favorite Wills songs.  But overall it’s a good collection of his stuff up to 1950.  My only complaint would have to do with the sound quality of some of the recordings.  My “modern” ears have become accustomed to full-fidelity stereo.  However, that’s not anyone’s fault.  The recorders used at the time simply didn’t have the capabilities of today’s modern equipment.

Of interest is that the set was published by a British company.  It seems almost sacrilegious to be buying a country music CD set from England smile .

More Power…

Jeff, at Alphecca commented on my boombox entry.

But then I got to thinking (and I’m older then him and so my days were earlier then his) we used to drive around the high-school with (brace yourselves…) our eight-track players in our cars blasting Black Sabbath and ZZ Top. Cars (in my day) didn’t have much of a sound system so we had huge, loose speakers sitting on our back-decks. So in reality we were all the same. And like all high-school kids, we were obnoxious. Some things never change.

You should have seen my last vehicle.  I had a 1996 Dodge Ram club cab with two 10” subwoofers in a box under the back seat, a CD/MP3 player, and two 100W/channel Rockford Fosgate amps.  It started out as a simple project: add an MP3 player and replace the speakers so I could run more power to them.  My reason was that I wanted to be able to hear the music while driving at highway speeds with the windows open (the existing stereo wouldn’t drive the speakers well enough to do this without serious distortion).

I enlisted the help of a friend from work who had an interest in car stereos (it’s interesting to note that he had to keep his rear license plate in the back window because the bass from his stereo had vibrated the rear license plate holder loose).  We met up at another friend’s house in Arlington one Saturday and went down to Trader’s Village where my friend knew somebody who would make us a good deal on the equipment.  We started working on it around noon, with my friend doing the wiring and me doing the mechanical stuff (I had to take the front seats out, pull the front off the dash, and take off the door panels).  We ended up finishing the work on my truck around 2:00 am.

Like all such projects, it kind of took on a life of its own, although the system sounded great.  It also had enough power that I never turned it all the way to the maximum volume setting.  The windows and mirrors would be vibrating badly long before I hit the maximum and I didn’t want to shake anything loose.

Please note that I was always careful not to annoy the neighbors with my stereo (I always turned it down when I left the highway and entered a residential area).  I hate it when people drive down your street at 2:00am making a lot of noise (and bass is the worst, since it travels further).

I’ve already replaced the factory radio in my Avalanche, but I don’t think I’ll take it to this level.  For one thing, the interior of the Avalanche doesn’t allow much space for subwoofers if you want to maintain the ability of the rear seats to fold down when you open the midgate.  The other is that I think I was starting to damage my hearing with the old system (the road noise from driving with the windows down would cause me to turn it up too high).

Finally Done!

It’s taken quite a while, but the cd ripping session has finally been completed.

Some statistics:
   Number of CDs ripped: 338
   Total number of tracks: 4333
   Elapsed time of all tracks: 302 hours 14 minutes 10 seconds (according to XMMS)
   Disk space used: 44GB (all tracks ripped at 320Kbps)

Musical Thoughts (and Crass Commercialism)

I’ve been going through my CD collection today in an effort to clean up my MP3 files.  I have a lot of MP3s that I made several years ago that don’t have ID3 tags, which makes finding the song I want more difficult in XMMS or with the Audiotron (mine is actually a surplus Gateway badged model—but the firmware is upgradable so I have all the features of the latest Turtle Beach model and it saved me $100 over retail on eBay).  I also plan to store away the CDs once I’m done so I can ditch the big rack and get back some space.

As part of going through the collection I was thinking about the origins of a number of CDs that I own.  From time to time I find myself hooked on a bit of music from a commercial.  Fortunately, the world is at my fingertips and information is only a few clicks away.  Here are a couple of CDs I bought after seeing the commercial:

As with most CDs these days, there are a few high points and then some filler tracks.  I would say that there is about a 50/50 split between filler and good stuff on each. 

Oddly enough, I keep getting drawn back to my swing out sister CDs (of which I have 7).  Maybe it was the cold, rainy weather this weekend.  In between swing out sister sessions I’ve been listening to Basia and Nickel Creek.  Alternately, it could be some kind of weird 80’s thing (but then that doesn’t explain Nickel Creek)

By now it may be apparent that I have eclectic tastes in music.  This is probably the result of my early attempts to escape the herd.  I finally grew out of that.  Fortunately it expanded my musical interests.  As an example, the stack sitting next to the computer awaiting ripping contains Adiemus, Gipsy Kings (Somos Gitanos), Bach’s Adagios, Bjork (Vespertine), No Doubt, Gorillaz, Jewel, Eminem, Thalia, Shakira, and Alison Krauss, just to name a few (I estimate that I only have about 250 CDs to go before I’m done).  I suspect that I’ll be ripping CDs for a few weeks at the rate I’m going right now.

Update: It turns out that title track from Adiemus Songs of Sanctuary was used in a Delta Airlines commercial a while back (a long while back).

Chicago Reconsidered

A few weeks ago I made a post on Chicago’s best-of CD.  I mentioned that I liked their older songs better than their “pop” songs from the 80’s.

Robert Prather made a comment that their last really good album was 17, which was with Peter Cetera and includes “Once In A Lifetime” and “Along Comes A Woman”.  I had been meaning to respond to this comment, but, as usual, my procrastination knows no bounds.  Upon listening to both CDs in the set a couple of times, I think I’m coming around on some of their later songs. 

One of the things that marked my musical tastes during the mid to late 80’s was an abiding hatred of anything remotely “pop.”  I could go on and on analyzing why, but I think it came down to wanting to find something different from what everyone else was gushing over.  If something wasn’t accepted by the “in crowd”, I was all for it (although I guess it helped to expand my musical tastes a bit in other directions).  Now that I’ve gotten older (and gotten over that high school clique nonsense), I can appreciate a lot more music from that period.  Our senior class song (“I’ve Had The Time Of My Life”)  was chosen by the “in crowd”, and I hated it at the time (now I see it was more likely because of how it was chosen) .  I actually like the song now (but don’t tell anyone smile ).


I caught Live by Request on A&E a couple of weeks ago and after seeing Chicago I had to get my hands on their “Best Of” CD .  It finally arrived this week and I’m listening to it now.

There’s something about their early stuff that just grabs you and pulls you in.  As the host of Live by Request pointed out, they’re one of the few bands where you find yourself singing along with the horn parts.  I’m listening to “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” as I type this and not only do I find myself singing, but it energizes me at the same time (I’m banging on the keyboard in time to the music smile ).

But, despite their great early stuff, I have to confess that I’m not much enamored of their later songs.  For example, “Hard Habit To Break” is a pretty good song (at least it was popular), but it just doesn’t have that “something” that pulls you in like the earlier songs.  Maybe it’s because (to me at least), the later songs sound too much like they’ve been tuned for a pop radio market.  They lack the energy of the early songs.

I’m not old enough to have experienced their older songs when they came out (they started as “Chicago Transit Authority” three years before I was born), but I came to like them more through their “oldies” than the contemporary songs that they put out (I came of age during their “pop” era in the ‘80’s).  But good music can transcend generations, and I was glad to see some kids in the audience on A&E.  Let’s hope that their music stays alive for another 35 years.

Labels backing off on protected CDs

According to, the labels are backing off on making copy-protected CDs.  Their fear is backlash among customers in the United States, which is their largest market.

The article points out that the use of computers to playback music is more widespread in the US than in other regions.  Further, the futility of these schemes (think black marker), fair use issues, and potential lawsuits have tempered their zeal for copy protection.

However, this doesn’t mean that copy protection has gone away.  It just means that they’re doing more study and planning before trying to ram this down our throats at some time in the future.  I know that I’m going to keep a watchful eye on them.  I don’t trust these bastards at all.

As someone who owns about 300 CDs and who generally purchases 15 or more of them a year, I will just quit buying if I can’t copy the CD.  Let me be clear:  I do not steal content nor do I want to.  I am perfectly willing to pay for the music to which I listen.  However, I absolutely refuse to be treated as a criminal because I want to choose the technology that I use when listening.  If I can’t copy a CD to MP3 files, I will not buy it and I will consider such a CD to be defective.  Further, if copy protection makes a CD unusable in a computer, it’s likely that the CD won’t work in my vehicle either, since I have a combination CD/MP3 player.

I consider the ability to choose how I listen to a CD as a non-negotiable item.  The labels certainly have the right to try to create new technology, but I have the right to take my business elsewhere.  In a capitalist¹ society, the customer is always right, because any business that fails to please the customer will no longer be in business.

¹  This supposes that the market isn’t distorted by non-market forces.  Which is exactly what the big media companies are trying to do by lobbying for atrocities like the DMCA.

Digital Militia

Aimee Deep has an interesting article about defense against copyright-holders trying to hack into computers and destroy files if they suspect that you are hosting content that is in violation of their copyrights.

At the end of the article, she asks:

Now tell me, scholars of the Bill of Rights, because I’m still in High School, what is a standing militia for?

To which I immediately wondered did she mean a standing army or a militia?  I can understand, given the sad state of teaching in this area of late (especially with the advent of politically-correct revisionist history), how this might be an area in which her education has failed her.

Our founders envisioned a country where the “regular” or standing army would be very small.  They (rightly in my opinion) feared what would happen with a large standing army, having just finished a very nasty experience with the (large, standing) British army.  Further, our founders didn’t believe in interventionism or entangling alliances with foreign powers (”’T is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”—George Washington).  Given that, who needs an army?

Their idea was that the body of the people* would comprise the militia, which could be called up in time of war to defend the country.

Perhaps in this case, all able-minded “hackers” could be thought of as the militia of the cyber-United States, arising to defend the country and themselves from the depredations of mauraders.

Of course, a requirement for a militia is that each member of the militia posess such arms as are generally accepted into use by soldiers at the time, such arms to be supplied by the soldier himself.

In the case of cyber-attack this would require certain tools that might run afoul of the DMCA as well as proposed anti-hacking legislation that is currently being considered.  Interesting how the politicians and big companies don’t want us to have the tools to protect ourselves, but will reserve them for their own use.  As an ardent defender of RKBA, I find the parallel particularly instructive.

Also, given the parallel to self-defense, there is the issue of pre-emptive damage to the other.  If someone is causing damage to your system, I think you would have a right to take whatever steps are necessary to stop that damage, up to and including causing damage to that other’s system.  Provided, of course, that you were actually under attack at the time.  In the case of self-defense, if I fire a gun at another person, I will have to show justfication after the fact (i.e. review by the police, the district attorney, the grand jury, and possibly a trial-if it comes to that). 

Anyway, to paraphrase from my RKBA roots: They can have my firewall when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

* The United States Code declares the militia to be able-bodied males betweeen 17 and 45 (see this for a definition of militia, or this for a quote from the actual section of the United States code).

Update:  Aimee calls me a scholar on her page.  Thanks, but I’m just an IT guy who takes an interest in these issues.

I enjoy my (fairly) large collection of (legal) MP3s and I believe that people should pay for what they use.  However, I don’t approve of the tactics being taken by the RIAA (and MPAA for that matter).

The DMCA is impacting the lives and freedom of programmers everywhere (the DeCSS saga is a good example).  I don’t want to see any more laws of its ilk passed.

Just because someone is running a P-to-P file sharing program it doesn’t mean that they’re automatically guilty of copyright infringement.  The industry already had legal remedies to illegal copying, they just didn’t want to use them.  This battle is alienating their customers, and no business can survive by doing that.  They have a very limited window in which to correct the problem, but I think they’re doomed, because they just can’t see the problem.  They’re scared for their business model and they’re afraid to take steps to find one that works (although I think we may be seeing some progress on this front from some of the smaller, independent labels).