Roku Rocks

This blog is meant to be about music and not gadgets, but I just got myself a new music-gadget, so I have decided to write a gadget-review.

Roku Soundbridge M1000

The Roku Soundbridge does two things: It can play music files (in my case mp3) that are located on your PC, when the PC is running, and it allows you to listen to Internet radio stations. You can connect it to your network either through Wifi or a regular Ethernet Cable.
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Heart Surgery

I have sucessfully changed the battery on my iPOD, as the original one didn’t last very long anymore… Let me tell you it’s not for the faint hearted and probably the closest I’ll ever get to heart surgery (as a practitioner).

The iPOD is charging now, I hope to see an improvement.

Rolling Stones Express

I guess everybody knows that the Rolling Stones are coming to France this summer. They have already sold out the Stade de France once and have added a new date for July 2nd (which is in the middle of the World Cup, but a day without a match…).

I’ve always very much liked the Stones for what they did before the 80’s and quite clearly they were by far my favorite group when I was young. I also have all of their albums (except the more recent live albums) and Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Let it Bleed and Beggars Banquet are absolute classics that everyone should have.

The thing that makes me write this post though, is that they have have partnered with (ie sold out to) American Express, which means that Amex card holders (like me) get to buy the tickets before everyone else. How non-Rock’n’Roll is that?

If Rock’n’Roll was originally for the young and poor, we have clearly left that era. I saw the Stones in East-Berlin (coming from the west) not very long after the wall came down (1991?) and there plenty of people for whom seeing the Stones was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. Today they could maybe scrape together the cash to pay the ticket (80 -148 EUR, nevertheless) but they would still have to wait and see what the Amex Card members left over for them.

So here you go, the primary target group for the Biggest Rock’n’roll band in the world are people who are entitled to an American Express card. I wasn’t planning to go anyway, after finding the last time in Stade de France pretty disappointing, and I’ll leave my slot to someone else.

Ryan Adams – 29

First of all I must correct a post I did a couple of weeks ago. So alive is not Ryans Adams’ latest single, but in fact a track taken off his (poor) Rock n Roll album from 2003. If you follow this link I think you will agree that the communication by Lost Highway is pretty misleading here.

29

29 is the title of the third album released by Ryan Adams in 2005. Strangely enough it was actually recorded in August 2004…

What can you expect from someone who puts out three studio albums in one year, one of which being double? Even more so if the person doing so has in the past published very good (Gold) as well as very disappointing stuff (Rock n Roll, see above). Just like his live shows I’ve seen : Great and memorable in the Trabendo; boring almost unbearable in the Bataclan.

So consistency hasn’t been a strong point for Ryan Adams in the past. I quite liked the two albums he put out with the Cardinals in 2005, and I was wondering what the solo album woud be like. Even more so, as it is produced by Ethan Johns, who was also responsible for Gold.

29 is not a masterpiece but it is above average. Ryan Adams is not reinventing himself it’s more of his trademark melancholic country-folk-blues. It’s nice to listen to, but I wonder if I will take it off the shelf again, once I’ve put it away, as it tends to be more of the same, even if it’s not bad at all.

You end up imaging what kind of amazing albums Ryan Adams would make if he limited himself to one CD every two years. But at least he has found some consistency and will probably continue recording non-memorable, but quality albums for many years to come. A bit like Neil Young nowadays, I guess.

Free mp3 for Vinyl buyers

This is the perfect solution for a problem that I have been facing…

So far the only practical solution (other than hooking up your turntable to the PC) seems to be, to go p2p for the digital version of an album that you own on vinyl. I have always wondered how illegal that really is….

(found on largehearted boy)

Arctic Monkeys – New Single

The Arctic Monkeys are releasing a new single next week. You can already check out the video here. The song is called When the Sun Goes Down and I would say it’s a bit like Franz Ferdinand meets the Libertines. It’s definitely not such an instant hit as their first single I Bet you Look Good on the Dancefloor.

The album is coming out on the 23rd, we’ll see if they can survive the hype.

Beck – Guero

Beck’s Guero actually came out in March last year, but I totaly snobbed it, mainly due to the fact that I found his last two albums (Sea Change and Mutations) totally boring. But after the album appeared in some Best Of 2005 lists and reading the respective comments, I changed my mind and decided to give it a listen. (ie buy it)

Guero

I must, of course, also say, that before the two albums mentioned above, Beck was a total hero. Loser was a song that shaped a generation (or something along those lines) and Odelay was a sensational album when it came out (almost 10 years ago), although I’m not sure how well it it has stood up to the test of time.

So what about Guero? The easiest coment to make is “Beck is back”, and I’m sure I’m not the first to make that comment. The album is produced by the Dust Brothers, who also produced Odelay, which is surely one of the reasons why Guero seems to pick up where Odelay left us. But this is also part of the problem. At least for me, Odelay was a sensation in 1996, but now we’re in 2006 and Beck is back to playing his old tricks, even though some of the meelow stuff from his more recent albums shines through.

Overall it’s a good album, which is worth listening to, but it’s nowhere near his past glory. But I’m looking forward to Beck’s next album (no, not Guerolito) which will tell if he can re-invent himself again.

Johnny Cash – The Legend

For Christmas it’s always a good idea to put a box-set on your wish list. This time it was Johnny Cash – The Legend for me.

The Legend

There are many Johnny Cash compilations and box-sets, this particular one was released in 2005 and got a very favorable review on Pitchfork.

As the title of the box set says, Johnny Cash is a legend, and as with most most legends hardly anyone nows the actual story. I guess this box set can help you in this case.

Johnny Cash started in the 50’s pretty much as a contemporary of young Elvis and died as a hip star, produced by Rick Rubin in 2003. That’s quite a career by any standards. But I must admit, that I only really knew the Rick Rubin stuff and the big hits such as Ring of Fire, so I am in no position to comment on the particular selection of songs, and I trust pitchfork’s 9/10 to take this as a representative choice. Listening to the whole set should thus fill my lack of knowledge about The Legend, the good thing being, that there is no overlap with the American Recordings.

First of all, you should be warned, this is country music all the way. So it’s “mainly country” for once. As the man sings:

I didn’t ever play much Rock’n’Roll
’cause I’ve got so much country in my soul

Four CD’s full of Boom Chicka Boom… It can get to you, and I couldn’t be listening to this all of the time, but over all it’s an interesting (in the positive sense) and enjoyable experience. Considering the, at times, fairly primitive music, the lyrics play a big role. I personally am not such a fan of the religious stuff but there is are also some (naive) political songs, plenty of songs about criminals and prison and much more. Some stuff is pretty cheesy but I guess you have to put it into the context of the period it was recorded in.

So how does the rest of Johnny Cash’s career compare to the Records he did with Rick Rubin at the end of his life?

I would say that somewhere in the early-70’s Johnny Cash lost his soul to whoever. Most revealing are the cover versions and collaborations he did in the pre-Rubin era. The Springsteen song Highway Patrolman is drowned in the kind of arrangement that has made generations turn their back on Country music, and of course the U2 song The Wanderer stands no chance to Cash’s version of One. (in fact it doesn’t stand a chance to many songs…).

Disc four is titled Family and Friends and it really has the least interest. I guess it’s more for Johnny Cash fans who don’t want to buy other people’s records. I could really do without it… I’d rather take Redemption Song with Joe Strummer from the Unearthed box.

But overall I recommend The Legend. There are also pretty good liner notes, including all credits for all of the songs and, best of all, the CD’s are black, on both sides, which I really find pretty cool.