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PiL rarity ‘Steel Leg Vs. The Electric Dread’ is the missing link between ‘First Issue’ & ‘Metal Box
10.01.2013
09:43 pm

Topics:
Music

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The folks at Light in the Attic Records were kind enough to send me their nicely packaged recent reissue of PiL’s landmark First Issue album—the record that was thee line of demarcation between punk rock and post punk music—and I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. It also caused me to go dig up some PiL stuff I haven’t listened to in a while.

When I was a kid, PiL were probably my main group (tied with Throbbing Gristle) and I even ran away from home, in part, so I could see them play in New York (it’s a long story). Along the way, I have collected a lot of PiL bootlegs and I still have every one of them, despite getting rid of 99% of my vinyl many moons ago. One of my favorite PiL rarities, though, isn’t a bootleg at all, it’s the one-off 12” EP that was released by Virgin in 1978 under the title Steel Leg Vs. The Electric Dread.

The EP was recorded at Gooseberry Sound Studios (the same cheap reggae studio where PiL finished off their debut album after spending all the money) by Jah Wobble, “Stratetime Keith” (Keith Levene), Don Letts and Don’s pal Vince Bracken, called here “Steel Leg.” The hooded figure on the cover was long rumored to be John Lydon but he had no involvement with this record whatsoever according to the PiL fansite Fodderstompf.
 

 
Nothing earth-shatteringly brilliant here—it’s damned good, though, I’ll go that far—but Steel Leg vs. The Electric Dread‘s four free-form, anarchic numbers most certainly point the way for what was to come next with the deliriously dumbfounding dub-heavy genius of 1979’s enigmatic Metal Box.

“Haile Unlikely by The Electric Dread”

“Unlikely Pub”

“Steel Leg”

“Stratetime And The Wide Man”

Here’s what Seth The Man wrote in his inimitable way on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage website. Pure rock snob poetry, I love this guy:

It goes beyond mere punky reggae partying—it’s a PiL t-shirt worn by Syd “Family Man” Barrett with the words “D-U-B” replacing “P-i-L,” as the Finsbury Park crew’s ancestral memories of multiple Hawkwind records works its way through the mix with electronics like Dik Mik meets The Aggrovators.

Although long an impossibly rare item to find, the Steel Leg vs. The Electric Dread EP was released on CD in 2005 along with two PiL-related tracks by Vivien Goldman (see below) and (not PiL-related) tracks by Glaxo Babies, Les Vampyrettes (a Holgar Czukay and Conny Plank team-up) and This Heat’s 15-minite-long epic “Graphic Varispeed” as The Post Punk Singles Volume One.

And speaking of the new Light in the Attic release of First Issue, it is incidentally, the first US release of the album. (First Issue was so heavily imported at the time of its original 1978 release that Warner Bros. Records opted not to even bother releasing it here because they thought the market had already been tapped out for an album deemed far too uncommercial for most Americans). The packaging is quite nice and stays true to the original release. “The Cowboy Song,” the B-side to the “Public Image” single is included on a second CD along with an extended 1978 interview with Lydon conducted by Vivien Goldman that’s quite fascinating [In it, Lydon makes an obviously knowing aside about the horrific BBC sex predator Jimmy Savile.]

I compared the new CD to the older UK Virgin disc that’s been on the market for ages and found that they sound noticeably different, although it would be a matter of taste to say which is better. The older disc has more raw THUMP to it, especially in the drums, and there is slightly more distortion present than on the newly mastered version. The new CD, well, here the drums CRACK across your eardrums more, and the bass is tighter. Usually when I A/B CDs, there’s a clear winner, but I can’t say that in the case of the older 80s CD versus the newly minted First Issue package from Light in the Attic (which comes with PiL decals, too), because I like them both. If I had to pick one, it would be the new one, just for the attention to detail in the packaging and the extras.

“Death Disco” on TOTP, 1980

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Monty Python: The true story behind the ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’
09.25.2013
12:49 pm

Topics:
Television

Tags:

nilapeseelctorrapdaed.jpg
 
John Cleese would spend hours finessing a script—choosing the right word, or considering where best to place a comma for greatest comedic effect. His writing partner, Graham Chapman preferred to sit quietly, listening, smoking his pipe, and from time-to-time suggest an idea that would often turn an average sketch into something extraordinary. One such example, was Chapman’s inspiration to insert a dead parrot into some old material that led to the writing of one of Monty Python‘s most famous routines.

The “Dead Parrot Sketch” developed out of something Cleese and Chapman had previously written for a one-off special called How to Irritate People. Produced by David Frost, How to Irritate People was a collection of sketches introduced by Cleese, and co-starring Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Michael Palin, Connie Booth, Gillian Lind and Dick Vosburgh. The programme was notable for being the first time Palin worked with Cleese and Chapman, a year before they created Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as Palin explained in Bob McCabe’s biography of Chapman, The Life of Graham:

‘...that was the first time I’d ever worked with John and Graham, as an actor, and that was very much like a miniPython, except that I wasn’t writing with Terry [Jones]. I was an actor with their material, but we changed it a little bit in rehearsal and we’d really enjoyed doing that, even though the end result had not been successful, largely due to problems with recording.’

The show appears never to have been shown on British television, but was aired in the US on January 21st, 1969. The programme contained elements of material later used on Python, in particular the “Car Salesman” sketch, which eventually became the famous (Dead) “Parrot Sketch.”

The “Car Salesman” was more than a piece of creative comedy, it was an idea suggested by Palin, and based on his own dealings with a less than scrupulous garage owner, as Cleese explains:

‘..that was based on a man called Mr Gibbins, which is Helen [Palin’s] unmarried name. And Mr Gibbins ran a garage somewhere in Michael’s area, and Michael started to tell me about taking his car in to Mr Gibbins if there was something wrong with it, and he would ring Mr Gibbins and say, “I’m having trouble with the clutch,” and Mr Gibbins would say, “Lovely car, lovely car.” And Michael said, “Well, yes, Mr Gibbins, it is a lovely car, but I’m having trouble with the clutch.” “Lovely car, lovely car, can’t beat it.” “No, but we’re having trouble with it.” “Well, look,” he says, “if you ever have any trouble with it, bring it in.” Michael would say, “Well, I am having trouble with it and I have brought it in,” and he’d say, “Good, lovely car, lovely car, if you have trouble bring it in,” and Michael would say, “No, no, no, the clutch is sticking,” and he would say, “Sign of a quality car, if you had a sticky clutch first two thousand miles, it’s the sign of good quality,” and he was one of those people you could never get to take a complaint seriously. And Michael and I chatted about this, and I then went off and wrote a sketch with Graham about a man returning a second-hand car…’

The sketch has Chapman, as a Jacques-Tati-like customer, dealing with Palin’s furtive car salesman.
 

 
More on the metamorphosis of the “Dead Parrot Sketch,” after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’: A talk with director Frank Pavich
09.25.2013
01:46 am

Topics:
Movies
Pop Culture

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Poster art: Kilian Eng.
 
Of the dozen or so films I’ve seen so far at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin there are two that actually enter the realm of unrestrained awesomeness that I associate with the word “fantastic.” Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity are head trips that leave one in a state of elation and hope. Both are pure cinema, head trips that take you to places you knew might exist but never thought you’d actually encounter.

Even though Jodorowsky’s Dune is a documentary it weaves a story as compelling and dramatic as any narrative film. And it is imbued with the magic of its subject: the fiery and brilliant Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Jodorowky’s El Topo was a life-changing film for many of us who saw it when it was released in 1970 and it continues to inspire awe in generations of audiences since. I have spent over four decades turning people onto the movie, either through rare underground screenings, bad bootlegs or the lovely remastered digital versions released in the past ten years. Giving someone a Blu-ray of El Topo is the electronic equivalent of placing a hit of Owsley on their tongue. Jodorowsky is all about changing your mind…in big and profound ways.

It was Jodorowsky’s dream to make a movie version Frank Herbert’s Dune that would give you the acid experience without the drug. Until now, I could only imagine what a trip that might have been. But thanks to Pavich’s wonderfully insightful and skillfully executed film, the Jodorowskian mindfuck has been unleashed like a tsunami of particularly psychotropically potent melange.

Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles the herculean efforts of Jodorowsky and a crew of extraordinary collaborators as they attempt to create a film version or riff on Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel. It’s a story that is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. You feel Jodorowsky’s pain in not being able to bring to fruition “the greatest film never made” while at the same feeling the buzz of the passion fueling Jodorowsky’s vision. In addition, by deftly animating Jodorowsky’s storyboards, director Pavich gives a glimpse into what might have been. These scenes may be the closest we’ll ever get to acutally seeing Jodorowsky’s sci-fi epic.

For me, Dune will be the coming of a god. I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective. Open the mind!”

The journey of Dune involves a collection of “spiritual warriors” who, despite not arriving at the end of their destination, ultimately managed to alter cinema forever. H.R. Giger, Moebius, Dan O’Bannon, Michel Seydoux, Chris Foss and countless others infiltrated pop culture through a trajectory mapped out in the alchemical forces generated by one of the great magicians, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

While it may never have been embedded in silver nitrate, in many ways Jodorowsky’s Dune has had a life that transcends celluloid. It moves through the ethers waving an invisible wand over the theater of our minds. Its influence is incalculable. Pavich’s film makes a case that virtually every science fiction made since the mid-seventies has borrowed or stolen ideas, design and visual concepts from Jodorowsky’s plans for Dune.

Jodorowsky’s Dune won the Audience Award at Fantastic Fest and Best Documentary. It will be released in early 2014.

I had an opportunity to meet director Frank Pavich and we talked about his film. What was intended to be a conventional interview became a lively rap session in which we both sang the praises of our hero. I normally don’t inject myself into an interview to the degree I do here, but I couldn’t help myself. Frank and I are kindred spirits and we were both on a Jodo roll.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
God’s Angry Man: Dr. Gene Scott, live in concert
09.24.2013
12:51 pm

Topics:
Belief
Idiocracy
Kooks
Television

Tags:


 
In 1993, I attended an extremely curious Easter Sunday “church service”—and I use that term loosely—along with a motley crew of congregants assembled in downtown Los Angeles. Dr. Gene Scott, the mad minister of America’s low watt TV stations, presided over this occasion. I convinced a British friend of mine—who had never heard of him or seen his show—to go with me because I thought that it would be totally hi-larious, a veritable laff riot… but we’ll get to what really happened soon enough.

Dr. Gene Scott was the utterly unhinged UHF television evangelist who grew in fame (and apparently fortune) during the Reagan era with his berserk, conspiratorial lunatic rantings that occasionally—only very occasionally—mentioned Jesus or had some sort of what most people could agree was “religious” content. Mostly he talked about UFOs, gambling on horses and his much-hated ex-wife. I first became aware of him on WPGH, a Pittsburgh market UHF station. He must have purchased late night airtime from them and from a number of other channels around the country. As the 1980s wore on, Gene Scott became very, very hard to miss on cable: If you were flipping channels, depending on the time of day, the guy might be on as many as five of them simultaneously. He continuously boasted of being broadcast in South America, South Korea,  and the Caribbean. That in America, he was on, somewhere, during each hour of ever day, seven days a week, 52 weeks out of the year.

Now that’s a lot of TV, you might be thinking, and you’d be right, but Gene Scott could talk. And talk and talk and talk. Like a speedfreak can talk. And smoke cigars. And stare directly into the camera, refusing to “preach” unless the donations started to roll in. When Scott’s show first came on, it was extremely low budget. Often—very often—Scott’s show would consist of him sitting in a chair on a bare studio floor with a chalkboard behind him, holding a stack of index cards. He would pretend that on each of these cards was written the sum of a very large donation that had just come in over the telephone and he would rattle them off, rapid-fire, and throw the cards over his shoulder as he did so. Scott would have you believe—although it was an obvious lie—that he was getting a thousand dollars, not twenty bucks, not even $100, but a thousand dollars—if not more—from each and every caller!

In a flat monotone, Scott would say “Dallas, TX—$1000. Portland, OR—another $1000. Phoenix, AZ, a donation of $3000—see they aren’t CHEAP in Phoenix like they are in Portland an’ Dallas—Scranton, PA—that’s $4000 from Scranton. Maybe I will preach after all…” and so forth and so on. He would often claim five figure donations several times an hour. To hear him claim even that a $100k donation had just come in hot off the wire was not unusual in the least. What did the IRS make of all this, I wonder?

It was patently obvious that Scott was lying, but even if the threadbare set and the absurd amounts of the supposed donations he was claiming didn’t clue you in immediately, the band who “appeared” (after he’d ask for a “little tinkle on the keyboards”) were from another show entirely, like he had purchased stock footage from another low watt religious broadcaster. Or something. He would pretend they were in the studio with him, even though they obviously weren’t. The phone bank operators that he cut away to, they, too, were from someplace else entirely, but he would pretend they were in another room, just down the hall. It was absurd. He would have no interaction with them, because, of course, no interaction was possible! Scott was crazy enough to think that no one would notice, but everyone did. I’d guess that he had no more than three or four crew members to begin with—when Scott’s show first came on, it was extremely low budget—but his operation seemed to grow pretty quickly. Eventually he hired an actual band, a bigger studio, and real phone operators.

Gene Scott would berate, belittle, bully and bark at this viewers with extreme contempt and tell them that they weren’t deserving of his “teachings.” When he did deign to “preach,” he did a variant on the trick that Glenn Beck uses today to browbeat his lowbrow listeners: Scott would take his blackboard and scrawl something across it that was supposedly written in Greek, or Hebrew or Arabic and then he’d go off on a long-winded diatribe that had nothing to do with that or with anything else. In one memorable program Scott asked his audience if they were any “more tired” this year than they were last year. He couldn’t exactly hear them, but assumed the answer to be “yes” and concocted a ridiculous fantasy about radio waves emanating at the Tropic of Cancer that were making everyone docile, sleepy and compliant.

And then he’d say something like “The government wants to have me killed. Because I know too much. If you want me to LIVE so I can come back here to tell you more about this IMPORTANT INFORMATION tomorrow night that nobody else has, then you need to send me money TONIGHT so I can protect myself!”

The following night, Scott appeared with two vicious-looking, growling Doberman Pinschers and a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He read off the various things trained Doberman attack dogs were capable of (like ripping your head off, etc) and after each one, he would nod affirmatively, look directly into the camera and say flatly—and meanly—“My dogs can do that.”

Dude was a showman, but Dr. Gene Scott was also the most out-of-his-mind person who had EVER been on television up to that point on a regular basis. I didn’t watch his show every night, but I did watch it frequently enough. I’d usually flip between early Letterman and Scott’s ranting and raving.
 

 
Another distinguishing characteristic of Gene Scott’s enigmatic TV preacher shtick was that he always sported different kinds of hats, like a pith helmet, a fisherman’s cap or a sombrero. On more than one occasion he wore a handkerchief tied in four knots like a Monty Python “Gumby,” with square Johnny Rotten sunglasses. One night he would have long hair and a beard, the next night, the beard was gone and the hair short again. The night after that, he’d have a new mustache. His glasses changed a lot, too. Every night he would look totally different.

If you watched his show regularly, the first thing you would wonder would be “Who would give this incoherent, incomprehensible crank their money?” The second thing you would notice, especially if you’d been gone for a while, was how his production values continued to rise over the years. Obviously people were sending him money. But who were they?

I was about to find out. I called the RSVP number listed in an LA WEEKLY ad for Scott’s church and before I could politely inquire about tickets, I was yelled at by a woman with an accent who identified herself as “Doc’s assistant.” She GRILLED ME about WHY I wanted to attend that Sunday’s service. I wasn’t prepared for how aggressive she was but managed to (perhaps) convince her that I just wanted to check it out and that my request for entry was an innocuous one.

It was obvious that she was trying to tamp down any potential disruption of the Easter Sunday service and that it had happened before. She was hardcore and deeply suspicious of me, it was quite apparent.

So as I mentioned at the top of this article, I planned to go to see Gene Scott with a friend of mine, and that she had never heard of Gene Scott and had absolutely no idea what she was in for, only, as I promised, that it was going to be extremely amusing. So on Easter Sunday, at the appointed time, we showed up at the United Artists Theatre in downtown Los Angeles at 927 S. Broadway.

Twenty years ago, downtown Los Angeles was only barely starting to become gentrified and the stark human horror the area was then known for has been gradually moved east since that time.

This was not the case in 1993 and I assumed that the United Artists Theatre would just be some shithole that Scott and his low rent hijinks were taped at.

Au contraire! In fact, this was not just any old United Artists Theatre, it was THE United Artists Theatre that was built by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.

It’s an incredibly opulent movie house—one of the greatest in Los Angeles—a Spanish Gothic masterpiece with marble floors and brass accents. Flanking the stage there was an amazing tapestry curtain made from when the Theatre originally opened depicting scenes from famous silent movies with a big UA logo when the curtains were closed. My memory of the tapestry is that it was around 150 ft tall. Even in the late 1920s, something this elaborate and this size, still would have cost over $100k. I couldn’t believe that Gene Scott owned this building.

Before we could poke around for more than a single minute, we were warily greeted—if that’s the right word for it—by the woman on the phone who identified herself as “Doc’s assistant.” She was a mean-faced middle-aged Korean lady and she sternly told us not to whisper to each other, not to fidget, not to do anything that would break his concentration or disturb “Doc” in any way, not to go to the bathroom and don’t dare yell something or else we’d be in “big trouble!”

After that stern warning, she told us that these two security guards would take us to our seats. They did and then they sat right down on either side of us!

The lights went down and the service started soon enough. The stage was huge and a large group of musicians, the sort you might see at the Grand Ole Opry, walked on and started up on a Statler Brothers-sounding hymn. Then they started to build the suspense for “Doc” who soon arrived onstage with diamond encrusted sun glasses (we were inside of course), an expensive black suit, and cowboy boots. He was greeted like he was Elvis. Exactly like he was Elvis.

Scott immediately sat down on a chair, crossed his legs and lit up a cigar. His opening remarks had to do with marrying a couple in Saratoga, where he’d gone to watch his horses race, the day before. They were sitting in the front row and he made reference to the fact that they’d both been committing adultery behind the backs of their previous spouses and he laughed about it, like it was all a big joke to him.

Like “Doc’s assistant,” most of his congregation, more than half, were of Korean descent and then the next largest group was a mix of what can only be described as cowboy hat-wearing rednecks and their families, but they were a “type” that you do not get in Los Angeles, but that you would see in Texas maybe. Hispanic cowboys, too. There were also several members of the audience who didn’t fall into either of those disparate camps, Korean or cowboy, but who appeared to be people who’d come in from local homeless missions. And us. We were probably the most conspicuous people there, in a sense.

After some decidedly non sequitur preaching, the proceedings went right off the surrealism scale when “Doc” announced—by grabbing a mic, pulling it close to him and saying this in way that you could tell it was a sort of anticipated catchphrase of his—that it was “Offerin’ time!”

The entire audience jumped to their feet and started waving sealed tithing envelopes around, like they were on the fucking Price is Right or something. It was super tweaked. I wasn’t about to give a dime to this dude, so I merely sealed an empty envelope and stuck it in the plate when it was passed to me.

When the rawkus “Offerin’ Time!” settled down, “Doc” preached a lil’ more and then he asked for a “tinkle” on the keyboards. A tinkle, he said, for “a piss-ant.”

The audience roared!

What? Yes, I said a piss-ant. The band struck up the tune and sang a song called “Kill Some Piss-ants for Jesus.” You probably think I’m pulling your leg, but I’m not (see below). Who could—or would—make up something so damned stupid? It’s not like I am boasting about this or anything!
 

“Kill some piss-ants for Jesus”

After this he did another nonsensical Easter-themed lecturette and then he announced that there would be a SECOND “Offerin’ time!” This one transpired with the same jump up and down, wave your envelope around mania as before! I mean, wouldn’t most people just split their intended donation into two envelopes? Why were they so EXCITED? Did he get noticeably more money with two than one? Perhaps he did. Perhaps his congregation simply were that stupid.

All I know is that by this point, we’d had it. It was such an incredibly deflating encounter with a small segment of the human race that neither of us had known existed an hour before. These people were brainwashed by NOTHING WHATSOEVER—at least Scientology gives you a little pop psychology—Gene Scott offered his flock not a damned thing, just piss-ants, supposedly biblical jabberwocky and two opportunities to give him money in one hour! Was L. Ron Hubbard ever that blatant?

The entire thing was bonkers, barking mad, paranoiac, you name it, but I can’t exactly say that it was the fun, fun, fun time I’d promised my friend it would be. In fact, it was probably one of the single most depressing things I have ever witnessed in real life. These people were devolved, the types you might see at a Sarah Palin book signing, but with less intellectual focus. To sit among them was not the cheeky good fun I anticipated. It was just sad, demented and horrifying.

My friend took the lead and told the security guard, “Look, we have to go. Let us out of here, I’m not feeling well, I think I’m going to throw up.” The sea parted immediately with that line, but before we were out the door “Doc’s assistant” was demanding that we stop, come back and report to her immediately! Her attitude was a joke—-like she was Ilse Koch or something—and we told her to go fuck herself and walked out.

We barely said a word in the car. We went to an outdoor cafe for lunch and hardly said a word to each other there either. After an experience like that one—watching cud-chewing fools being parted from their money by a megalomaniac master grifter who didn’t even have to try—we found that there was nothing much left to say.

There’s almost ZERO evidence of the many thousands of hours of television Gene Scott taped over his career to be found on the Internet. This is the largest chunk I could find. Although it doesn’t cut away to Playboy playmates riding Scott’s horses and the normally bullying “Doc” is seen here in a somewhat uncharacteristically jovial mood, this long-winded, apparently drunken diatribe about women wearing pants is still classic mid-period Dr. Gene Scott.
 

 
Werner Herzog’s 1981 film about Dr. Gene Scott, God’s Angry Man:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The Band live at The Academy of Music, 1971: The ‘Rock of Ages’ concerts
09.19.2013
07:00 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:


 
If I am to judge the product purely on the quality of the music and how much I enjoyed it, I would be obliged to give the new box set Live at the Academy Of Music 1971 by The Band a 5/5. It sounds really good. The performances are nothing short of incredible. It blew my doors off.

The four CDs and one DVD are encased in a nice glossy hardback cover with slick embossed lettering, short essays and color photos. It’s a nice thing to hold in your hands and it got me listening to The Band again. Box sets are good that way and I reacted in the expected Pavlovian slobbering fanboy manner.

Oh children, believe me when I tell you that I can rhapsodize about The Band and this is them at the height of their powers, playing their hearts out over the course of a four-night stint at the old Academy of Music on 14th Street in New York, the cavernous venue that would later become the Palladium nightclub, the set of Club MTV and is now… NYU dorms! They were accompanied by a crack horn section arranged by Allen Toussaint that gave their Civil War folk rock a Stax/Volt swing. Bob Dylan even showed up for the encore of their New Year’s Eve set and performed four numbers with them.

The recordings of these shows are what became the Rock of Ages album, a 2 LP release from the summer of 1972. That album went to #6 in the album charts and is considered by many to be one of the greatest live albums ever recorded.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to all of the box yet, but the 5.1 surround, mixed by Bob Clearmountain is quite good and discs 3 and 4 with the raw “you were there” soundboard mixes from New Year’s Eve are also pretty cool. But why anyone would require seven of the same songs from the first two discs to be repeated—well same performance, with a different, more immediate, less hi-fi mix—on discs 3 and 4 is beyond me. The 5.1 mix is the same songs (minus the Dylan numbers) from the first two discs. There are only seventeen unreleased tracks here. Most people who would want this already have Rock of Ages and in fact may have purchased it in multiple formats. There have already been several CD versions.
 

 
The problem with reviewing this box is that I like the music, I like it a lot, but it’s so repetitive that the idea of asking fans of The Band to plunk down $109 (Amazon discounts it to $73) and expecting that they’ll do it seems frankly insane to me.

What gives?

The initial Amazon reviews of Live at the Academy Of Music 1971 have been nothing short of brutal, slamming Robbie Robertson for ripping off his biggest fans and decrying the repetitive nature of the box set. They’ve got a point!

What I can’t believe is that the 5.1 mix is just a (lossy) Dolby file on a DVD and not an HD DTS version on a Blu-ray disc. There’s no high-res stereo file, either, just one encoded at 448 kbps/48kHz. For audiophiles, this is a massive turn-off and although this seems to be news to the major labels, they’re the ones who are still buying those round shiny silver things that you can hold in your hand. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bob Clearmountain’s mix, but I’d sure like it a lot more on a Blu-ray disc! It sounds great, but it could sound a lot better. Me, I’d rather have that superior version, especially at this price point.

It stands to reason that the majors would want to appeal to the people—cater to them, kiss their asses—who would *actually buy* what basically amounts to three versions of Rock of Ages by giving them some value for the money. Even those intelligence-insulting Pink Floyd box sets with the drink coasters and Pink Floyd marbles had the surround audio portion on Blu-ray discs. They overlap in the material here, too, is simply so shameless, that you just have to laugh. At either $109 or $73, it’s not a good value for the money.

By comparison, the upcoming Van Morrison Moondance box set has 4 CDs and a high-resolution 48K 24 bit PCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix on a Blu-ray and this will sell for $56. I reckon that this is still too high of a price to ask when everyone knows that each and every song on those 4 CDs would fit onto the Blu-ray. I think a $35 list price for an expanded catalog classic that’s been plundered for profits over and over again is where the multi-generational sweet spot is.
 

 
Fact is, if I was given the option of buying classic albums on Blu-ray, with either a 176/24 version of some album I love or a 5.1 surround mix (or preferably both) and the list was $35, I’d still be buying the same amount of music that I bought back in 2004. But I’m not offered that option or if I am, it’s not at that price point and I get stuck with a bunch of stuff I don’t want, like a “Dark Side of the Moon” scarf… Go much over $35 and you lose me as a customer.

But this is hypothetical, because seldom does what the accountants at the labels think will sell and what the fans want overlap, it’s just that obvious. Many people have excellent audio-visual equipment in their homes and a desire for quality software products to enjoy on their electronics, but the labels never even attempt to engage these consumers. It’s so completely ass-backwards that it’s… annoying.

There are some rays of hope. For instance Panegyric’s upcoming XTC and Yes reissues done by Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson—who has previously worked his magic on the King Crimson catalog—feature a CD and a Blu-ray disc combo with high-res audio, 5.1 surround mix and music videos. There’s also a CD/DVD version that will sell for about $25; the Blu-ray/CD pairing goes for around $30.

DING-DONG, this is the perfect formula. I can’t see why the big labels don’t get that. The majors need to look at what Steve Wilson is doing—and no one else but Steve Wilson—and get him to advise them so they stop falling on their faces so hard each and every time they put out these sorts of releases! DO WHAT HE DOES. HE GETS IT. COPY HIM. When they let bean counters and marketers make these decisions they make them based on faulty assumptions of what record buyers and fans want. Steve Wilson? He knows what I want!

In the case of The Band box, the blame for the list price should probably be laid at the feet (or the ego) of the producer, Robbie Robertson. As one Amazon wag put it, there’s only so much ore in that mine. I expect Robertson understands what he means by that. Anyone paying full retail for this box would. The Band’s vault has simply been plundered too many times. The high list price of Live at the Academy Of Music 1971 turns off the most ardent fans and insures that no new ones will be coming aboard. That’s a shame.

Don’t get me wrong, what’s on the discs, well, it’s fine. It’s magic. It’s like having gold poured into your ears. It’s The Band at their very best.

But it’s overpriced like crazy and I gotta call it like I see it. If this was a Blu-ray disc with the Clearmountain 5.1 mix in HD DTS and a high-res stereo mix, plus the soundboard mix as an extra, at a $35 or under price point, I’d be raving like a lunatic telling all of you to run out and buy it. Now.

Not to be a buzzkill(!) here are four songs (“Time to Kill,” “The Weight,” “This Wheel’s on Fire,” “Up on Cripple Creek”) from The Band performing live at The Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh on November 1st, 1970.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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