Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For the birds...

Yes, I have collected records for over 40 years. Yes, I will continue to collect phonograph records. But I am also interested in birds now. I want to take bird photos, in a natural setting - if at all possible. Don't get me wrong, I love the aviaries @ San Diego Zoo! Astonishing! But I am much more interested in natural bird habitat.

Last weekend, I went to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California. I took tons of bird photos - and a guy in New Zealand kindly identified them for me (on my Flickr pages). Just like record labels & numbers - am I going to have to do a 'bird list'? Can't I be done with the eternal list-making? Can't I just enjoy the birds?

I would love to have a covey of California quails at my house. I have the room for them, out in the back yard. I could have a cage for them, so I wouldn't have to worry about the quails being attacked by cats (or other beasts). If I raised the quails from being chicks, would they get used to me? And not be so skittish?

I remember wanting a toucan, in the 80's. I was told that they are "messy birds" (being fruit-eaters). Ugh. I don't want to have to shovel tons of bird poop.

Photo is "Anna's Hummingbird" (by me) @ Rancho Santa ana Botanic Garden, Claremont, CA - last Sunday.

My Music Life today is: Flo & Eddie

Friday, August 15, 2008

One Title Per Day

Music Life: One Title Per Day

I’ve got a bijoux project-ette in the works this year; I am trying to listen to at least one full-length CD / LP title per day this year. I arrived at this experiment after realizing that at 50 years, I have been on Earth approx. 18,250 days – and that I have many more music titles than that. So, how to listen to ‘everything’ one more time before I leave? Well, I could start by trying to listen to at least one full-length music title per day. Just one.

To be honest, I have not been able to keep up with it. Some days, I do not listen to any music at all (despite having a small commute and several hours at home with nothing else going on). Sometimes, when I go to bed, I put a CD on – and absorb it in my sleep. Perhaps not the best way to hear music? Let’s not forget Mark Mothersbaugh “Muzik For Insomniaks” 2CD set!

It’s also fairly amusing (to me) that this year, I appear to have fixated on the Bob Dylan & The Band “Basement Tapes” 2LP/2CD set. I bought a book on this topic this year; it illuminated the subject matter, for me. I was pleased that I had kept my 2LP set of this title (there were other Dylan titles I did not keep copies of!).

But even one title per day is a fairly grueling schedule to keep up!

I do the usual ‘record collector thing’ – one title makes me think of another. I’ll get a band’s 2nd album on CD, and it’ll make me go back and check out the 1st album… etc. I find that it’s possible to listen to music (particularly 70’s music, these days – for some reason) and hear it in a way not previously possible. My advanced age (50!) is perhaps responsible for my ‘new-found patience’ with some music. “Let’s really give it a chance this time!”

So, the first six month of 2008 yielded approx. 182 titles, with only a few repetitions. For me, no real surprises – and only 3 or 4 titles “didn’t make it”. As in, “Time to get rid of stuff!”. Not so sure I will keep any CD’s on Isao Tomita. Weekend “La Verite” didn’t work for me, really. For the first time, a Hugh Hopper title didn’t immediately click with me, “Numero D’Vol” – perhaps it was ‘noodlier’ (jazzier?) than I anticipated? Several of Hugh Hopper’s titles are among my favorite records ever released!

I’m about a month behind keeping up with this project. It’s much more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s hard for me to find the necessary discipline to actually buckle down and listen carefully to one title each day. But I will persist. I will be most curious to see a list of all 366 (it’s a leap year, folks!) titles that I listened to this year.

I must add that I have listened to quite a few home-made ‘various artist’ MD’s & CD-R’s this year; for my birthday, I made 5 packed CD-R’s to play at my birthday party in Portland (which I gave away, as soon as I was done with ‘em).

With my milestone birthday, it is tempting to come up with projects of this nature; so far, I have been successful in keeping a list of all the restaurants that my girlfriend & I have eaten in together this year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Music Life

Just to be up front: this blog is named after the classic Japanese rock music magazine, Music Life. It no longer publishes, but I kept every copy of it that I ever bought and I love each and every issue. I pulled a random one from the rack (a Wishbone Ash cover, no less) to illustrate the point. Some time ago, someone ripped off a few of my 70's issues - whenever I go to Japan, I always look for Music Life back issues.

So, please read and enjoy my blogs, and know that I am respectfully paying tribute to one of the greatest music magazines that ever existed. This blog isn't just about Music Life magazine - it's about my life in music.

- Ron Kane,
Los Angeles

August 2008

SHM CD's - An Opinion

This was sent to me by Wes Oishi; I do not know where he got it. I would be happy to acknowledge the source and post it, if someone knows. This is a topic on all of our minds, I think...

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What most people seem to expect are macro changes and expect to hear a “wow” factor with the differences. Typically, what I noticed on all rock and jazz copies I have purchased is a better defined imagining focus, better depth and sound staging, a clarity as though a blanket has been lifted off the speakers without being ‘bright’ per se, just cleaner. A better analogy would be if someone had a pane of glass you were looking through. It seemed clean before but someone comes along and cleans it with super cleaner and now you can see through it without glare and pure, defined, images of the forest outside your window. Instrumental lines are easier to follow and more pure. Now, this is typical of the improvements along with low level detail retrieval as though the noise floor has just been lowered a notch or two. Better ‘air’ if you will is provided. This is NOT the case with all of them and you can not expect every disc to be, well, perfect. First, if not mastered properly anything will sound crappy at the hands of a poor engineering job. Second, it will not improve an otherwise flawed recording. It may allow you to hear back through the muck and mire to better hear what the original recording was and if it stunk to begin with, it will really stink now.

The improvements I have found in general are similar to what I have encountered with using “Art Du Son” CD optical treatment on regular CD’s. In every case on each disc I have used it on and that is discs in the hundreds, the improvement was not subtle. Glare, grunge, digital harshness and the noise floor all were improved upon immensely. Better instrumental overtones and far more natural balance is heard.

On one group of discs I found the SHM disc had startling improvements and they were far from subtle. The Police discs. Each one I A/B’d had huge sonic improvements in imaging and sound staging. Tea in the Sahara had a soundstage that was vast, without end, with instrumental lines emerging from pure silence all over the soundstage. Bass was tight, fast, defined and as deep as the foundation on my home. Vocals were pure, no grain. Everything was just fantastic and the best Red Book CD copy I have heard. I also have the recent mini LP version from last year that was DSD mastered. Both the SHM and the mini LP were from the same DSD mastered copies. There was no difference in gain between the two. Both registered the same dB rating on my dB meter at the same gain settings on my preamp. The SHM copy was just so much purer, natural and ‘there’ it was like a revelation. Don’t get me wrong, the mini LP DSD mastered copy was previously the best copy of the recording I had heard until I bought the SHM.

But, by and large the improvements one should really expect as a whole, all things otherwise being equal, are micro improvements. Non audiophiles may not care about those nor hear them. To those who strive for the ultimate sonic nirvana out of a given recording, the SHM pressings hold another improvement in technology not only for CD, but for SACD, DVD-A, DAD, HDAD, Blu Ray, etc.

With every improvement in technology it just brings us one step closer to the possibility of what a given medium could provide. In and of itself is it the sine quo non? No. With other technological advances in tandem does it provide yet another possibility to getting the best Red Book as to offer? Yes.

As I said many months ago I would love to hear a truly audiophile label company put out a superbly recorded, transferred and mastered copy of some of the killer recordings I own with the SHM pressing and see what happens. I am sure it will be positive and another step in the quest for wringing the most out of a given medium.

In the meantime, enjoy.

BTW, listening to some truly gorgeous jazz from Bill Evans last evening I was treated to a superbly warm, yet transparent and pure, recording from the 1960's on the SHM release. Transparent as heck, sweet and warm. Undoubtedly recorded on tube equipment from circa 1966. The imaging precision and defined image placements along with sound staging was quite an enjoyable listen, indeed. No, the gain was not higher, it was the same as another recent pressing of this disc I have as well. It is possible there are, of course, some that have been cranked up, but none of the copies of the SHM’s I own, have, and I own about 30 of them right now, with another 15 on order for September.

Richard Beyer