What you will read may shock you.
Chances are it will appall you.
But the fact is we all do it when no one is looking.
We all play our music on someone else’s soundsystem.
Typically you try not to bring your musical stylings into the mix. So we find ourselves buying Smooth Jazz CDs or Bland Music that may/could be technically solid to play while at a customer location. But Every so often we get a window of opportunity to put our own tunes into that freshly installed soundsystem. To tag it with “I was here” !
So Last week I put a call out to REDBAND to send me a playlist that they would use to drive a soundsystem (sans customers) and leave it gasping for air. It’s a new system and let’s see what it can do. It’s like test driving an italian sports car in at rush hour. You know what you’re working with and you want to go full throttle.
You kindly and professionally wait till none is around. You check the halls and the parking lot and rush back in to get your MP3 player connected. You file through your playlist and find that Special Mix and not the mix tape you made in High School for your sweetie. No disrespect to your Sweetie, your formal audio training or your well-trained ear. This is unadulterated Ear Candy so hit the gas!
Underworld – Born Slippy (Single)
- From the Trainspotting Soundtrack will build into a 100 mph Dance Anthem. Searing describes it well.
Rage Against the Machine – All 4 Albums.
- Songs like “Killing in the Name“ , “Bulls on Parade”, “Pistol Grip Pump”, “Renegades Of Funk” will make want to keep an eye on the speakers and their warranty.
Guns N’ Roses - Appetite for Destruction
- Start to finish it’s one of the greats.
Gipsy Kings - The Best of the Gipsy Kings
- A change of pace and a personal favorite of mine . Anyone who can appreciate Spanish guitars plucked away with a pulsating beat will enjoy their music.
- I love everything this band has put out. The rhythm and the horns are infectious.
- Electric and Love Albums are 2 of the best and very high on my most played list. The Riff just flood the room with sound.
As I have gone back to my roots and re-entered the Event Staging world I do not have many opportunities to tune up and perform test drives on media room systems these days.
I do not hate surround sound -(regardless of the fact that I once caused a virtual right in 1992 on a BBS board by calling it “… Quad without the thrill nostalgia…” ) – but I am ostensibly a two channel guy with romantic tendencies toward the lo-fi genre.
Still there are times I am asked by a friend to help out for a few beers and dinner and when the manufacturers bring over a new system to test I have a few discs that I know all too well and provide a means to show off the capabilities:
The Creatures – Boomerang
- Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie from Siouxsie and the Banshees side project of evocative middle eastern rhythms and instruments all bundled into a post punk tent revival. The ,music swirls up into crescendos only to build up again and again layering in goth inflections with dance beats, electronic pace and arabic prayer like calls. While this does have a rock bottom heavy sound it is not so deep as to overwhelm the intricate sub melodies nor counter the subtle lilting opposition beats that crash around the songs like a tipsy musically adept conductor stumbling his way around the brass section. This is my go to desert island disc.
- John Coltrane – Hackensack NJ 1958. While not considered one of the best Coltrane records it is remarkable for the space and presence of the pieces. Long before surround sound was a pipe dream and Quad was losing out to the long play records, Black Pearls achieved a sense of transporting the listener into the room. The album, recorded by the renowned Rudy Van Gelder -(if you do not know of this gentlemen I suggest looking into him, his work is a revelation)- on a three track wire recorder dubbed ‘bandsaws’ by engineers at the time. A quartet Be-Bop band recorded live with three microphones onto a three track wire recorder - If this cannot be called F’n brilliant then nothing can.
Tori Amos Crucify: Smells Like Teen Spirit
- Tori Amos’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is what will make the original stand the test of time. The cut from the limited EP ‘Crucify’ lifts the veil of noise from the song and exposes the sheer craftsmanship of songwriting – the lyrical playfulness and dexterity Kurt Cobain had. Recorded with only Piano and Voice the song is all about the quiet, the space. Ms Amos’s version can give me chills each time I hear it but in a good room my skin flashes into goosebumps and knees literally grow weak. Audiophiles may rave on about capturing transients of the strings but I thrill at how a system handles the empty spaces just as well.
- Crazy gypsy dance music – crash, boom, bang music. but that voice is recorded BeAuTiFulY! Modern rock recordings tend to subdue and strangle the vocals. Granted this could have a lot to do with the quality of modern singers (need I say more than Auto-Tune?). The vocals in the Gogol Bordello songs are pushed right up into the forefront with a sound that I have only heard on the great Frank Sinatra albums.
Lucero – Nobody’s Darling
- Think of a genetically modified love child of Hank Williams junior and John’s Children and you might come close to describing the sound of this band. The sound is raw and jangly with harmonies and harmonics that shift from Sonic Youth squeals to the band X channeling Patsy Cline. Nobody’s Darling starts hard and flirts with being swallowed up in a rain of distortion but keeps the breakneck pace. Ben Nichols raspy voice is so present cutting through the chaff and providing a steady hand to the music which fills the room and leaves no corner untouched.
Metallica – S+M with the San Francisco Symphony (DVD surround)
- I have to admit that I am a secret Metallica fan. Despite some of the anti digital rhetoric from Lars Urlich the band knows how to nail down the accelerator. Metallica has always had fantastic production of their material, sometimes running right up to the line of too much but never over.
Sitting down to listen to S+M is a good surround system is an experience not soon forgotten – When Phil Spector talked about the ‘Wall of Sound” I am dead sure this is what he was hearing in head. (the disconnect between what he created and what he wanted may very well be what unhinged him. It’s a personal theory at least). This concert DVD does not envelop you in the standard sense but brings you right into it. The sound is raucous but never shrill , it is warm without being cuddly. The Strings pop right out, the vocals are direct and clear, the audience is with you. Play this loud and no one will be free of its draw.
The Video Vandal
The Sugarcubes – Birthday
Massive Attack – Exchange
Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Oh Suzanna
Frank Zappa -Watermelon in Easter Hay
Jefferson Airplane -Embryonic Journey
Play’em if ya got em. Rock on!
The Crystal Method - “High Roller”
- Has an awesome bass line that can be completely missed or turn to mush on poor systems.
Talking Heads “Love (Building on Fire) – Live”
- I just love the energy of this song and the horn section
Fiona Apple “Get Gone”
- Soft, brush strokes on cymbals, piano and Fiona’s great, sultry voice…
- I just love the lyrics and pain in Stipe’s voice
John Mayer “In Repair”
What’s on your personal Playlist? Share with us your personal mix in the comments below!
Since you got this far into the Post let’s commend your patients and provide a well deserved bonus.
Utah Saints – Something Good 2008 (Single)
- I included this song in the list not so much for its sound quality but its funny video that surely will give you a good laugh or have the song echoing through you head all day. ENJOY! … Click Here - Chris