Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

STAX RECORDS RELEASES 27 LPs IN MAY 1969

 

 People ask me, "Why do you read books about music history?" and I say, "To avoid others mistakes."

  Here's one from the authoritative book about Stax Records,  Soulville USA: The Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman, and published by Shirmer Trader Books in 1997.

       In 1968, Stax Records had a falling out with it's major label sponsor, Atlantic Records, which resulted in them losing the rights to all of the Records they had released under that Agreement. In response, Al Bell, the head of Stax Records, came up with the idea to simultaneously release 27 LP's in May of 1969.  It was almost certainly the worst music business decision of all time.  Out of that 27 LP release, one record, Hot Buttered Soul by Issac Hayes was a chart success, everything else failed.  This decision, the first significant decision that Stax Records made as an independent label, was, itself, enough to doom Stax Records.  Bowman tells the story:

    [Everyone] at Stax were in an absolute frenzy attempting to ready twenty-seven albums for simultaneous release in May.  This audacious move was orchestrated by Al Bell with the singular purpose of creating an instantaneous catalog to replace what had been lost in the termination of the Atlantic distribution deal.  To put the size of this release in perspective, the company had issued only forty-three albums in total from inception through the dissolution of the agreement with Atlantic.

    Stax Records was bankrupt and indicted by 1972, and although they experienced interim sales success, this one illustration shows the kind of ship they were running at that label.  I love a good music industry flame-out- Casablanca Records in Los Angeles CA is another classic.   But Stax Records putting out 27 records in one month is up there.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

BOOK REVIEW
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
originally published 1886
this edition Barnes & Noble Classics
2003 w/ Introduction and Notes by Jenny Davidson


  Is it fair to Robert Louis Stevenson to say that he's over-represented in the original edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die?  He's got four books on the original list: Treasure Island- his break-out hit- published in 1883.  Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- both published in 1886- and The Master of Ballantrae- 1889.

  Having now read all four novels- I feel like the answer is yes, he is over-represented with four titles in the original edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  There is no way to deny Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- but considering the sheer number of possible contenders, it's rather harder to make a case for Kidnapped and The Master of Ballantrae- even though they both possess the outstanding quality of being action packed, brief and easy to read.

   Stevenson is an Author who was as popular as he could be for a while- and then had that favor rescinded in a way that is familiar to students of other artistic genres- his success created a back lash, mostly by inspiring his followers to make him into some kind of bohemian hero saint.  ANNOYING!

  Still, there's no denying the enduring appeal of the Stevenson canon- Treasure Island- pretty much directly responsible for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise- and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde having entered the popular consciousness as a synonym for a schizophrenic personality.  Quite an achievement evening leaving out Kidnapped and Master of Ballantrae.

  Stevenson was hardly original in his subject matter- but his treatment of familiar themes was bracing and engaging.   Stevensons prose style was effortless- a forerunner to the airport novel style of the best seller list- and he's probably contributed as much to popular fiction as any other Author.

  Shame he's not taken more seriously today- I think his work could teach would-be Artists of many different genres how to maintain Artistic integrity while pleasing a broad Audience.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sony To Buy The Orchard & IODA, Which Are Merging

          The Orchard is merging with IODA and Sony Music is making a major investment in the new company, according to several reports. Sources tell Hypebot that talks began with The Orchard hoping to purchase IODA, which Sony owns a major stake in. Dimensional Associates, the private equity arm of JDS Capital Management and owners of The Orchard, had reportedly hoped to roll up several distributors including The Orchard, The Orchard and IRIS into a digital music powerhouse. But Sony had other plans. (HYPEBOT)


    Not sure what that means for the physical and digital distribution elements of IODA and The Orchard, but considering that IODA stands for, "Independent Online Distribution Alliance." It does not seem like a particularly positive development for independent music.  Then again, Ingrooves is straight up owned by Universal Music, so pick your poison I suppose. 

MRS MAGICIAN LP 1 STRANGE HEAVEN AVAILABLE DIGITALLY TODAY

   Strange Heaven, LP1 by San Diego's own MRS MAGICIAN (SWAMI RECORDS) is out TODAY, digitally, and available on Amazon etc.

   I am a huge, huge, huge fan of putting out a record digitally and then waiting for the physical to arrive.  First, it gives you multiple dates for a writer to focus on.  Second, and this is especially true for a new Artist (less then 50k plays on last fm at time of album release) it allows the record to exist in space and time for a while before confronting prospective buyers with a buying choice.   Mrs. Magician, launching an LP from 7000 plays on last fm, has a long way to climb in that regard, so the record should be out there even if people can't buy the Vinyl or CD yet.

  The physical versions have reached the lower part of the Revolver/Midheaven weekly chart, which is impressive considering the existing Audience.  It probably bodes well, as does the current tour with Cults.   To have any chance of picking up fans from a tour like Cults, people will need to be able and get the music at their house for free if possible.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano

The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano
by Olaudah Equiano
p. 1789
this edition read on ipad ebooks program 2012


  This is one of/the first accounts of the horror of the slave trade in the 18th century.  Olaudah Equiano was a real guy- and African born or African American born guy from the mid 18th century.  This book supposedly tells his life story- from his beginnings as a kidnap victim in Africa, to his life as a slave in the New World and Europe, to being freed by his owner and his adventures.   According to the Wikipedia article on the author, there is some doubt as to whether parts of the book- particularly the details of his kidnapping from Africa- actually happened- many think Equiano is from the U.S., and I suppose that's why I learned about it in a source that is devoted to listing Novels, rather then biographies

 I suppose the issues about authorial identity are rather besides the point- considering that this was a book published in 1789, the smooth writing style is commendable.   Also worth the effort are the horrid scenes that accompanied the slave trade in the 18th century- as Schopenhauer wrote, anyone familiar with the details of the slave trade in the Americas in the 18th century can never be shocked at man's inhumanity to man.

 This is the first book I've read on an electronic reading device- in this case the IPAD my wife owns.  The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano is a good eread candidate- it costs more than a penny on Amazon, is available in a free ebook version- in every format, I would imagine.  Also, it's short- many of the 18th century classics I've downloaded on the IPAD run to 500-600 pages in the Ebook program.

 I did find that I read faster- some of that is page size, but part of that is also that the IPAD is easier to read then a book- most definitely - something I would not say about performing a similar task at a desk top computer or lap top.

  However, there is little question to me that my Ebook interest is limited to free titles. It is hard for me to imagine paying five bucks or more for a book and not receiving hard copy, i.e. a book.
  

ESSAYS AND APHORISMS BY ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

BOOK REVIEW
Essays and Aphorisms
by Arthur Schopenhauer
translation/adaption by R. J. Hollingdale
Penguin Classics 2004 Edition

  Schopenhauer is the essential  unrecognized genius of the 19th century.  His biography reads like a romantic poem.  Schopenhauer's major work,  The World as Will and Representation, was published in 1818.  Basically ignored at the time, Schopenhauer would live for another 40 plus years, but only find widespread acceptance in the early 1850s.  Key to that acceptance was the publication, in two volumes, of Parerga and  Paralipomena- the source material for this book- called Essays and Aphorisms  in the English translation.

  Essays and Aphorisms is not a simple translation, much editing and rearranging has occurred.  In this way, Essays and Aphorisms is the functional equivalent of a "SCHOPENHAUER'S GREATEST HITS" LP- with material has been taken out of the original context and re arranged for the convenience of a modern audience.

  Schopenhauer is a key figure in the development of 20th century anti-modernism- his work pre-figured many of the concerns with boredom, the autonomy of Art and the deficiencies of reason that characterize much of 20th century anti-modernist thought.  He influenced the German Marxists of the Frankfurt School and French post-modern philosophers alike.

 He also was influential in the field of Aesthetics.   Here's what Essays and Aphorisms has to say about the importance of Music as an art form:

    Music is the true universal language which is understood everywhere, so that it is ceaselessly spoken in all countries and throughout all the centuries with great zeal and earnestness, and a significant melody which says a great deal soon makes its way round the entire earth while one poor in meaning which says nothing straighwaway fades and dies:  which proves the content of a melody is very well understandable.  Yet music speaks not of things but of pure weal and woe, which are the only realities for the will: this is why it speaks so much to the heart, while it has nothing to say directly to the head and it is a misuse of it to demand that it should do so.   (pg. 162) (1)

 Of course, Schopenhauer wrote about many things besides music- he was a big fan of despair and ennui, a critic of religion.  He also likes to write about the meaning of "genius" and it is hard not to see biographical details of failure steeping into his theoretically untrammeled philosophical speculation.

  One of the points that R. J. Hollingdale makes in this excellent introduction (which dates from 1970) is that Schopenhauer was a stylist and that much of his success stems from the fact that he had an accessible style that non-specialists were attracted to.  That's funny, because much of Essays and Aphorisms is literally devoted to castigating "ordinary" man as a half animal, unthinking brute- he criticizes the masses while writing in an aphoristic style that seems calculated to generate a wider audience for his ideas.

  You might say that is Schopenhauer would do such a thing, the Greatest Hits format is a proven market widener for a specific Artist or critic.

  His criticism of contemporary society is insightful and far reaching- his big example of how cruel and debasing life is derives from the state of slavery in the American south before the Civil War.  Touche, Schopenhauer.

  Schopenhauer's own life is as romantic as that of better appreciated contemporary thinkers, but notable mostly for the lack of appreciation that he experienced while alive, and his refusal to compromise belief in his own genius despite a corresponding lack of appreciation from the public.


NOTES

(1)  An example of the pieced-together nature of this edition comes in the List of Correspondences that follows the main text- you can see parts have been removed.

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