Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pandora.com gives music fans control over their music

Technology Column – Rick Galusha

With greater and greater rapidity the technological advances we see on computers are being applied to cellular telephones. Once ‘just a phone,’ the cell phone is now a music player, an on ramp to the internet, a credit card, a camera and video recorder, a planner, a calculator, a radio (including satellite), a video game, a tv (including cable) a key for real estate lockboxes, an audio/video GPS device and some allow editing on Excel or Word spreadsheets.

It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee that the advance of cellphones spells the death keel for iPods, PDA’s, GPS and other forms of technology. The move is afoot to condense numerous electronic gadgets into one and some advocate that it be the ever evolving cellular. The current cellphone networks play a trump card in the ensuing battle. In a recent product presentation for the Verizon ‘Juke’ phone it was said that Apple sold “one hundred million iPods” and that the Juke was being introduced in order to go after that market. The Motorola Q9 is already out and designed to hold a 32 gig chip for music and video – if you can find a chip that big. Clearly the audio/ visual assets of the new Q are also targeted after the successful iPod.

I’m no tech guru – I’m probably more like you, stumbling across things that friends recommend. Recently a fantastic music related website came to my attention; Pandora.Com. This is a music intense website that allows the listener to steer what’s played on the streaming musical broadcast. What’s more, you can influence the stream by choosing more than one ‘core’ artist to help Pandora’s algorithms pick more songs that may, or may not, appeal to you. As the songs play the listeners is invited to give a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ vote on a song/ artist. Two thumbs down on an artist and, unless you’ve picked them as a core artist, their music is banned permentatly from the station. So the ability to have some influence over what’s being played makes this site delicious. What adds to the flavor is that the site will inevitably play bands you’ve never heard of and suddenly you’re off on a new musical exploration. Listeners are invited to have numerous ‘radio stations’ on the site (up to 100), for multiple genres of interest, and you’re encouraged to share “your superior station” with that friend whose musical taste simply can’t hold a candle to yours.

Like a lot of websites, Pandora.com does have a mobile-phone aspect to it so, at least theoretically, you could stream it on your phone and then Bluetooth it over to your car or home stereo. So unlike a lot of music websites, Pandroa.com has a limited aspect of mobility to the website too. Currently Pandora works on only select phones on the AT&T and Sprint networks. At the bottom of the homepage is the ‘mobile’ tab. Also, you can subscribe to Pandora. I can’t imagine this website being around for long enough – it really is wonderful and the perfect at work audio companion – but I wonder how the income stream can support the Ivy League educated executives the website lists.

Under the “Pandora Presents” tab is an educational adjunct to the site. Created by serious musicologists, Pandora.com includes a series of podcasts that range from ‘what’s a trip hop beat’ to ‘the blues scale’ to ‘word choices in lyrics.’ So musicians as well as curiosity seekers can learn more about the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of how music is really made. These are near college level lectures filled with information and they can be automatically downloaded to your computer.

Album Review: Angels of Destruction

Rock n' Roll used to be about "down" with the man and "up" the establishment. It's used to be a young man's game. Like it or not I have matured into the establishment. Consequently I shy away from reviewing rock records. However Marah, the band, have released their seventh album, 'Angels of Destruction' and it is compelling.

Based in Philadelphia, Marah has seen more than its fair share of personnel changes over the past fifteen years. Entertainment Weekly columnist Stephen King described Marah as, 'the best rock band in America that nobody knows about." Since their initial national release, "Kids in Philly" Marah have been a critic's darling but seen little success outside of hipsters and record geeks. In spite of that horrible handicap, their latest album, "Angels of Destruction" is a superb example of an exceptionally well thought out rootsy based rock that brings together of bit of Springsteen's "Wild & Innocent" album instrumentation together with an earthy Subdudes-like Americana sound and a Patti Smith or Velvet Underground street sense into an immediately accessible rock record. Heavy on pop-like melody lines the band leans on obscure lyrics amid layered arrangements. Its clear this band has a rock-n-roll heart; a sense of history as they steal from the best and make it their own. On first blush the listener can easily get into the songs and, with repeated listens, dig in deeper to the vast textures. All the songs on the album were written by the band with brothers David and Serge Bielanko contributing the most.

On the opening track, 'Coughing Up Blood' the band uses an up-tempo beat that carries throughout the album. This panoramic tune is propelled across a sonic landscape by drummer Dave Petersen brushes on the snare emulating a purring engine. 'Angles on a Passing Train' is a cityscape epic that slowly builds into a beautiful near ballad of movement amid an urban setting where David Bielanko sings, "Here we go, its just around the corner, Angles on a passing train, Step into the light" Throughout the album the band uses Christian imagery at arms length much like early and now later period Springsteen records. While the overt texture of the album is roots rock there is a faint underbelly of electronic sound effects that come to presence towards the end of the song.

By the firth track, 'Blue but Cool' the band is in the pocket of an exceptionally strong album. Amid a heart achingly moving melody line Bielanko sings, "Reelin' from a tongue kiss on the outskirts of foreverness…I wonder what they think of this back at infatuationess. Now that we are home darling, how come we both keep starin' at the front door?"

This should be Marah's long predicted breakthrough album. Early in 1998 Lucinda Williams' album, 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' came out very early in the year under Spin Magazine's declaration that it was destine to be "the album of the year." While Willliams is an enigmatic figure, Spin's gesture came off as a premature bandwagon gaff. Marah's 'Angels of Destruction' will be this year's opening calling card that shines among a rather otherwise dreary release schedule.