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Blu-ray Audio won’t save music biz, but gourmet audiophile format is a step in the right direction
05.13.2014
12:26 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Grace Jones
5.1
SACD
surround sound
Blu-ray Audio


 
If you haven’t noticed—and it would be easy not to, because they aren’t showing up in many retail outlets yet, mostly just Amazon—over the course of the past year UMe, the catalog division of Universal Music Group that puts out all of those “super deluxe” two and three CD sets of classic albums, has started releasing high definition Blu-ray “Pure Audio” discs.

The BD discs contain no video content, although they certainly could (hint, hint), but what they do offer should be considered as close to the master tape, as heard in the recording studio, as is possible to experience in your own home. In terms of their HD-DTS Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD tracks, it’s probably not possible to give any more definition to a digital audio signal and expect the human ear to even be able to detect it. If it’s feasible to add a 5.1 surround mix to the discs, they do so (although when they don’t, it becomes a bit problematic from a consumer standpoint, but more on this below.)

So far UMe’s roster of “High Fidelity Blu-ray Pure Audio” discs include stalwart titles like Nirvana’s Nevermind and In Utero, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America, Miles Davis’ soundtrack album for Louis Malle’s L’Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud, White Light/White Heat and The Velvet Underground & Nico, Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, Derek & The Dominos’ Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, the fifty song Rolling Stones GRRR! comp, Let It Bleed, and Exile On Main St., Ella & Louis, I Put A Spell On You by Nina Simone, Selling England By The Pound by Genesis, John Lennon’s Imagine, Queen’s A Night At The Opera, Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire De Melody Nelson and a handful of jazz and classical offerings, about fifty in all. 5.1 surround mixes of The Who’s Quadrophenia and an expanded version of the Legend collection of Bob Marley’s greatest hits are scheduled to come out this summer via UMe.

Backing up a bit, the majors began releasing 5.1 surround and high resolution audio in 1999 with the introduction of the Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) which allowed for the reproduction of DSD audio streams that had the same “warmth” as vinyl. The music industry did such a terrible job of marketing the SACD format that few people even knew it existed before they more or less pulled the plug on it. (Bob Dylan’s entire catalog and all of the Rolling Stones ABKCO albums were released as SACDs, but for whatever reason, this fact was downplayed to the extent that it is barely noticeable in the packaging, although they can be easily identified in used CD racks simply as the ones in the digipaks). Elton John’s classic albums came out remixed in 5.1 surround. Ziggy Stardust was remixed for 5.1 surround in a way that made the album sound totally fresh (and much more muscular). Peter Gabriel’s catalog came out on SACD. Once it went out of print, the SACD surround version of Roxy Music’s Avalon—an album audiophiles have always gravitated towards—started selling used for hundreds of dollars....

The first time I heard an SACD of Blood on the Tracks, I was hooked because not only did it sound like Bob Dylan was actually singing in the room with me, such were the sonic details that you could literally hear the guitarist’s fingertips moving across the ridges of the strings. Back in the days of Napster and Limewire, it was said that SACDs were not only impossible to rip, but that the files were too big for easy transport across the Internet (yeah, they really thought that). SACDs can only be played in a special SACD player but since hardly anyone bought one in the first place, the format was basically DOA. I have a ton of them, they sound great, but… yeah, who cares about SACDs? Cut to a few years later and since everyone has a DVD player, now the new thing is DVD-A. Mute put out Nick Cave’s back catalog remixed to 5.1 surround, setting the bar high for archival releases. Rhino put out a box set of Björk’s albums called Surrounded and the entire Talking Heads discography came out on so-called “Dual Discs” (one side a 5.1 surround DVD, the other a “red book” CD layer). Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson became the undisputed go-to-guy for 5.1 and produced newly created surround mixes of several Jethro Tull and King Crimson albums.

Last year Blu-ray audio releases starting to edge out the DVD-A releases, notably the excellent 5.1 surround mix of Van Morrison’s Moondance album, Steven Wilson’s new mixes of Close to the Edge by Yes and XTC’s Nonsuch and the approximately fifty Blu-ray Pure Audio releases from UMe. After watching them fumble the ball so many times on the surround front for the past decade, I’m finally starting to think they might get it right this time (and I do hope that someone at UMe in the Blu-ray department is reading this.) The UMe BD releases, especially the ones with 5.1 surround mixes (which sadly ain’t all of ‘em) are nothing short of stunning. The two best that I’ve heard, in terms of their audiophile ability to knock your socks off are Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (you can actually hear the sound of his foot on the pedal of his grand piano, it’s sublime) and Beck’s Sea Change (I don’t give a shit about Beck, but this album is the first thing I grab to demonstrate the possibilities of high resolution surround sound.)

Until the newly remastered version of Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing came out a few weeks ago, I believe that UMe’s Blu-ray releases were only being test marketed in France (where they’re manufactured). Perhaps the “Pure Audio” discs were catching on as Nightclubbing is being released worldwide simultaneously on double LP, CD, as a deluxe two CD set, on digital download and as a Blu-ray Pure Audio disc. Apparently the Blu-ray disc is now being seen as another music format and for consumers, and for the record labels themselves, I think this is a good thing. I’ve been evangelical about surround sound—it’s simply the best way to listen to music outside of having the musicians show up at your front door—and high definition audio for years and at long last the industry seems to be sitting up and catering to the consumer wishes of the folks who still can be relied upon to buy music on discs.

Although I have noticed that the prices for the UMe BDs on Amazon tend to be in the $25 to $35 range prior to the street date for some of these discs, once they hit, the price drops to around $15 to $18 per. That’s not bad and considering that they are, in fact, noticeably better than regular CDs, I don’t feel like I am being ripped off for buying something that I have perhaps already owned multiple copies of—if I had to attempt to objectively quantify it in some way, I’d say that the stereo BDs are about 7-10% better than their regular CD equivalents and that the ones with 5.1 surround mixes, compared to CDs and even the best vinyl pressings, is like going from an old tube 20-inch TV set to a 50-inch HD flatscreen.

Consider the sort of leap in quality that gets made when a song like “Bohemian Rhapsody” is opened up from two speakers to six and the data used to reproduce the music employs six times (or better) the data found on a regular compact disc. Since so many homes are now set up with home theater systems, it makes sense that the surround thing finally seems to be catching on to a wider public. You watch movies in 5.1 surround, you can listen to music on that very same system.

At this point, though, as someone on the picky audiophile side of things, I gotta say, there aren’t a lot of titles that I would buy on Blu-ray audio discs unless they’d been remixed to include a 5.1 surround option. It’s THE LEAST the labels can do when asking the public to re-purchase classic albums already in their collections. Want me to upgrade? Sure, I will, and trust me I want to, but only if you can give me a surround mix. If I don’t get that, you don’t get any money from me UMe, it’s that simple (Dear UMe executive who might be reading this, note that I purchased the DVD-A of Histoire de Melody Nelson in 2013 BUT that I would have bought it again (for the fourth or is it fifth time?) had UMe offered the 5.1 mix on the Blu-ray. But you didn’t, which makes no sense because it would have been so easy to do, so I will not be upgrading… and I would have!)

To address Nightclubbing as a product, or rather as a product line, I’d have to say that if you’ve got a Blu-ray player, unless you are a die-hard vinyl person, there is no reason whatsoever to buy either the 2XCD set (it’s more expensive) or to buy a digital download. The BD is a much higher quality piece of software than the CD, hands down, but you also get a free digital download with every UMe BD purchase anyway (there’s a coupon inside each one), so why would you want to go that route and miss out on the vastly superior Blu-ray? It’s easily the best value for the money.

Although there is no 5.1 mix included on the Nightclubbing Blu-ray—WHY NOT?—it’s still great and I wholeheartedly recommend it for all of the above reasons. Unlike with many of the UMe “Pure Audio” releases, Nightclubbing isn’t something I already owned, so I think I’m probably being forgiving on the “no surround mix” point simply because I’m listening to the album on repeat twenty times a day and can’t get enough of it. But I do hope that when UMe is considering the next batch of Blu-rays to release, that they’ll opt for giving the discerning consumer the extra added value of a 5.1 mix. For me, it’s practically a requirement, but give me that and I’d be willing to rebuy half my record collection.*

*If my wife would allow this, I mean…

Below, Grace Jones in her A One Man Show live video from 1982.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Grace Jones in concert in ‘A One Man Show’
02.14.2014
01:22 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Grace Jones
James Bond
Jean-Paul Goude

ecargsenojeduog.jpg
 
Grace Jones has a theory that “men need to be penetrated…at least once in their lifetime.” The singer, actress and muse thinks it would help men “understand what it is like to receive,” which could (perhaps) “...help take some of the aggression out of the world.”

It’s a theory Jones has perhaps held for a while, as during the making of the movie A View to a Kill, in which she played villain May Day against Roger Moore’s James Bond, she (jokingly) tried out her theory. In a seductive scene between May Day and Bond, Jones surprised Moore by disrobing to reveal a large rubber strap-on attached to her body. She then pounced on the unsuspecting 007. The prank left Bond shaken, but not apparently stirred.

Grace learned all about male aggression from an early age. She was brought up by her grandparents, who were devoutly Christian, tough, hard, and violent. She was frequently whipped by her grandfather over anything he considered to be a misdemeanor.

“Sometimes we’d have to climb a tree and pick our own whips to be disciplined with. When you had to pick your own whip, you knew you were in for it.”

Such aggressive behavior taught Grace to hide her emotions form her family, though later it did inspire her to create a fearsome alter ego.

“I think the scary character comes from male authority within my religious family. They had that first, and subliminally I took that on. I was shit scared of them.”

A few years later, Grace moved to America to be with her parents. Without the brutish discipline of her grandparents, Grace started to rebel, and gave up religion for the world of music, art and theater. She became a model, and started to hang-out with Andy Warhol and his Factory scene, and in the late 1970s, she began recording.

Her collaboration with artist and designer Jean-Paul Goude produced several decade-defining fashions, music promos, and ads. In 1982, this perfect balance of Grace and Goude produced a video of Jones’ concert A One Man Show, which along with Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense is one of the best concerts of the 1980s—a brilliant piece of theater and music, which is long overdue a full release on DVD. Track listing, “Warm Leatherette,” “Walking In The Rain,” “Feel Up,” “La Vie En Rose,” “Demolition Man,” “Pull Up To The Bumper,” “Private Life,” “My Jamaican Guy,” “Living My Life,” and “Libertango/Strange I’ve Seen That Face Before.”
 

 
Bonus compilation of Grace Jones’ rarities, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Grace Jones and Deee-Lite backstage at The Palladium nightclub, NYC, 1991
07.03.2013
11:17 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music
Queer

Tags:
Grace Jones
Deee-lite


 
Grace Jones applies her makeup as Lady Miss Kier and DJ Dmitri of Deee-Lite ham it up for the video cameras in the dressing room of the legendary Palladium nightclub on 14th Street (now an NYU dorm, of course).

Worth mentioning is the fact that the wild costume Jones is wearing was designed by a guy named David Spada (seen in video wearing a polka-dot shirt). Spada, who died in 1996, was the designer of the iconic anodized aluminum Freedom Rings symbolizing LGBT rights that were launched in 1991.

Video shot and edited by Janet Speier and David Wallace Crotty. Mildly NSFW due to what is now called a “wardrobe malfunction.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Iconic album covers re-imagined with superheroes
11.06.2012
10:54 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
David Bowie
Beatles
Grace Jones
Yardbirds


Bowie’s Aladdin Sane cover artwork with X-Man Cyclops.
 
German artist Ewe de Witt re-imagines iconic albums with superheroes.

I think the Grace Jones cover with Luke Cage is my favorite.

Check out more of Ewe de Witt‘s superhero album covers at his Cover Parodies section on DeviantART.
 

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cover artwork with Dr. Strange.
 

Grace Jones’ Living My Life cover artwork with Luke Cage.
 
More photos after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Grace Jones: Modeling Card from 1973
08.30.2012
06:23 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Grace Jones
Modeling
Paris 1973

Grace_Jones_modeling_card_1973
 
This is rather fabulous - Grace Jones’ modeling card from 1973.
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude: Their classic advert for Citroën CX


 
With thanks to Tony Vermillion
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude: Their classic advert for Citroën CX

grace_jones_jean_paul_goude_citreon_cx
 
Grace Jones was muse and lover to Jean-Paul Goude, when they made this advert together for the Citroën CX, in 1985. For some reason it was banned in “various countries around the world”, and I’ve yet to find out why? (Answers please…) It’s a classic, iconic ad, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and once may have even tempted a non-driver like me to consider taking-up driving lessons. Well kinda.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Amazing Grace


 
I HAD to share this cartoon, because it really tickled me.

It’s from The Spectator magazine, and is a reference to the fantastic performance by Grace Jones at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, where she sang “Slave To The Rhythm” while hula-hooping non-stop for the best part of four minutes. She’s 64, in case you forgot. And as fierce & fabulous as ever. Grace is the REAL queen:

Grace Jones “Slave To The Rhythm” (live at the Diamond Jubilee)
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Bill Cosby hoodie


 
Unfortunately, I just discovered that this excellent Bill Cosby hoodie is no longer available from the online made to order website HeadHoods. Maybe if you write them, they’ll make you one? 

Oh, and if you’re a Grace Jones fan, they have a hoodie of her, too!

Below, a GIF that serves no real purpose:
 

 
(via reddit)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Grace Bones: Portrait of Grace Jones as a zombie
11.10.2011
10:56 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Grace Jones
Ben Brown
Grace Bones


 
Awesome “Grace Bones” portrait by Australian-based graphic designer, illustrator, and artist Ben Brown.

While looking through Ben Brown’s site, I also found his terrific Dinosaur Jr. / Planet of the Apes poster mashup for an Australian tour.

(via Coilhouse)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Grace Jones: the ‘Hurricane’ returns


 
With the east coast of America still recovering from the effects of Irene, it seems like today’s American release of Grace Jones’ album Hurricane could not have come at a more inopportune moment. But as the album was originally released in Europe in 2008 the question remains - why did it take three years for Hurricane to get an American release in the first place? Was it label hassles? Jones hassles? Or a renewed interest in the lady’s work post-Gaga?

Either way it’s still a good day for Jones fans, even the ones who already own Hurricane. The American release comes with a dub-remix album imaginatively titled Hurricane Dub, which is also being released in its own right in other territories. Hurricane Dub is highly recommended, not just for the Jones-heads out there, but for connoisseurs of dub in general. It’s excellent. In fact it’s maybe even better than the original album, and yes I know saying that is kind of sacrilegious.

It’s a dub remix album in the true sense of the term, using just the original tracks and a shit ton of spaced out fx, mixed and processed by producer Ivor Guest (is that his real name?!). Like the dub mixes of her work from the 80s, Hurricane Dub brings the classic rimshot-heavy sound of the Compass Point All Stars to the fore, and positively drips authentic stoner atmosphere. I was actually surprised at how good this album is, and I do count myself among the hardcore Grace Jones faithful. Strangely enough though, there’s very little of this album appearing online. I hope her label are ensuring this reaches as many ears as possible! So, while you will have already seen the fantastic and terrifying video for “Corporate Cannibal”, here’s the only readily available video clip from Hurricane Dub available online:

Grace Jones - “Well Well Well Dub”
 

 
Hurricane and Hurricane Dub are available to buy here.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Stryx: Italian TV Disco madness with Amanda Lear, Grace Jones, Patty Pravo & more

image
 
In my post about Rockets the other day, I mentioned the Italian TV program Stryx. Here’s some more bizarro music performance clips from the show, in its own particular late 70s batshit/fierce style. They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore! According to Wikipedia:

Stryx thematically referred to Hell, devils and underworld. The scenography featured elements resembling Middle Ages-like gloomy castles and caves… The show caused many controversies in more conservative societies, mainly because of its devilish theme and referring to underworld as well as exposing nudity. Due to numerous protests the show was taken off the broadcast and the production of following episodes was cancelled.

So in these videos, all of which are worth watching, we get two huge gay disco icons in the one clip (Amanda Lear & Grace Jones), Patty Pravo giving Gaga a run for her Illuminati wage packet, Mia Martini getting burnt at the stake in a fabulous glittery dress, and some more of those amazing Rockets. My favourite clip is Gal Costa performing “Relance” - it’s quite subdued for Stryx (apart from the dozen or so extras who are lying still at the front of the stage) but is carried by Costa’s no bullshit performance and the incredible gypsy funk of the track itself. But first let’s start with Grace and Amanda:
 
Grace Jones (introduced by Amanda Lear) - Fame
 

 
After the jump, more Grace Jones, Amanda Lear, Patty Pravo, Gal Costa, Mia Martini and Rockets…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Little known footage of “Vamp” era Grace Jones

image
 
Here’s some great, candid footage of Grace Jones on the set of the 1986 film Vamp. First there’s an interview in some amazing Egyptian headgear, and then a strangely intimate video of her rehearsing for the role as the two thousand year old vampire Katrina with the film’s director Robert Wenk. I’ve been a huge fan of Ms Jones for a long time, but have to admit I have never seen this film, even though the whole thing is up on YouTube. I will someday, even if it is just for her amazing outfits, and the Keith Haring body art.  Although I get the feeling that you could dress her in random items pulled from a garbage truck and she would still look breathtaking, it’s funny how different Grace comes off in her interviews to her public image - articulate, funny, warm, even slightly goofy. I’d definitely hang with her.
 

 
After the jump, Grace rehearses for a scene in Vamp, plus the scene itself.

Previously on DM:
Keith Haring & Grace Jones: Flesh graffiti and the Queen of the Vampires.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Grace Jones sings ‘Little Drummer Boy’ to a mesmerized Pee-wee Herman


 
Grace slithers around the playhouse set like a futuristic vision of Maria Montez’s Cobra Woman as she sings a wonderful version of “Little Dummer Boy” on Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse in 1988.

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Lou Reed, Miles Davis and Grace Jones selling Honda Scooters and TDK tape in the 1980s

image
 
I owned one of Honda’s flashy red scooters. It didn’t last long in Manhattan. Stolen.

The Lou Reed commercial captures a certain nitty gritty New York vibe, the kind of place where scooters disappear.
 

 
Grace and Miles after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Janelle Monae is the truth: Live & close-up in ‘07

image
 
If you generally detest today’s pop music, you may be sick of hearing Janelle Monae’s name so much. And considering that she’s firmly inside the music industry machine, it’d be hard to blame you.

But unlike many women in the pop and R&B realm, the girl has pretty confidently determined and shaped her own music and visual style. Synthesizing new rock and traditional soul into the kind of futuristic brew her foreparents David Bowie and Grace Jones served up back in the day, Monae’s still got the aesthetic zeitgeist at her back.

Let’s hope she retains the integrity and panache shown below. This video is excerpted from an appearance she made in the summer of 2007, just as she released her first EP on her Wondaland Arts Society label. And even though she was already officially signed to the megalith Bad Boy label, she saw fit to play the independent Criminal Records store in the Little 5 Points district of her adopted Atlanta hometown with her guitarist Kellindo Parker. Aaaand she tore it up.

Whatever happens to Monae’s career going forward—sometimes it pays to brace for disappointment, sell-out fuckery, etc.—we’ll be able to recount a time when she seemed like the future of pop. Go girl.
 

 
More Janelle getting real after the jump…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
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