Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Hunger Games Soundtrack Review

The Hunger Games Soundtrack: Songs from District 12 and Beyond will be released March 20, 2012!

This is such a highly anticipated, hyped up soundtrack, and for good reason. The movie itself, coming to theatres March 23rd, 2012, is very highly touted and is likely to be THE movie of 2012. It's based on Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games trilogy, which features the books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and the third and final book in the series Mockinjay. The film is based on the first book of the harrowing saga The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins highly acclaimed trilogy has won numerous writing awards including:

    New York Times - Book review Editors' Choice
    Barnes & Nobles - Best books of 2008 for Teens & Kids
    Amazon - Best books of 2008: Top 100 Editors' Pick & Top 10 Books for Teens

The executive producer is none other than renowned Oscar and Academy Award winner, T Bone Burnett. You will be blown away by the rich and diverse sounds and talents which resonate throughout the album. Hooking up to assure that this soundtrack will garner a huge cult-following now, and likely for years to come are: beautiful, mega-talented, chart-topping, Grammy Award winning Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, Kid Cudi, Jayme Dee, Miranda Lambert, and many more. It's a roster chalk-full of uber-talented artists that will not disappoint.

Check out the final tracklist:

    Arcade Fire - Abraham's Daughter
    The Secret Sisters - Tomorrow Will Be Kinder
    Neko Case - Nothing To Remember
    Taylor Swift - Safe & Sound (Feat. The Civil Wars)
    Kid Cudi - The Ruler and The Killer
    Punch Brothers - Dark Days
    The Decemberists - One Engine
    The Carolina Chocolate Drops - Daughter's Lament
    The Civil Wars - Kingdom Come
    Glen Hansard - Take The Heartland
    Maroon 5 ft. Rozzi Crane - Come Away To The Water
    Miranda Lambert - Run Daddy Run (Feat. Pistol Annies)
    Jayme Dee - Rules
    Taylor Swift - Eyes Wide Open
    The Low Anthem - Lover Is Childlike
    Birdy - Just A Game

Taylor Swift did a masterful job in the lead video, "Safe & Sound," from the film soundtrack, which she debuted on MTV.

Arcade Fire will also be contributing to the soundtrack with the song Abraham's Daughter. Don't leave the movie early and miss it because it plays during the final credits.

You are able to pre-order the soundtrack now, through Amazon. And don't worry about a thing, because they protect your purchase with their Pre-order Price Guarantee, which assures that even if the price drops, between your pre-order date and the actual release date, you still are guaranteed the lowest price... Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music Review

I just recently finished reading the book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. I'm kind of mad at myself for waiting so long to read it. It's been in the "to read" pile for a long time and I just got around to reading it. It's a fantastic look at the evolution of music over the past 20 years or so. From the rise of indie bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes, to Prince's record label, to mp3's and the "pay what you want" model introduced by Radiohead and NineInch Nail's Trent Reznor.

I can't honestly say that I remember much about my 7th grade history class. I couldn't even tell you my teacher's name, let alone what we "learned" that year. The one thing that I do remember is that there was a banner hanging above the chalk board. It read, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

If you are going to be a musician today, then you need to understand how the music industry has changed so that you can try to figure out where it's headed. Sure it's great to know about the writers in Tin Pan Alley from the late 1800's to the early 1900's; it's important to understand radio's role in the emergence of popular music and how payola controlled that; it's important to know that the first video ever aired on MTV was The Buggle's "Video Killed The Radio Star" (seriously think about that for a minute).

In the last 20 years, the music industry has changed more than it has in nearly its entire existence. Or, certainly in this century. The current music industry that we operate in is still changing at a rapid pace. There's speculation on the extinction of CD's within 2-3 years, there's been a major resurgence in vinyl (who saw that coming?!), the major record labels as we knew them may cease to exist within 5 years, mp3's and file sharing are now a good thing and a major source of world-wide distribution (what?!).

Greg Kott's "Ripped" is one of the most fascinating books on current music history I've ever read. He jumps right in with the first chapter about the major consolidation that all of the big 5 (at that time there were 5 major record labels, as opposed to the 2 1/2 there are now). This was a huge shift in the record industry at the time. It scared a lot of artists and put a lot of people out of work.

Greg does a great job in detailing the consolidation of the majors, the rise of indie bands, the fight against and for sampling on hip-hip records and new mashup records and artists, Prince's record label and his do-it-yourself approach, the rise of mp3's and the fall of Napster and the "pay what you want" model that Radiohead started with "In Rainbows," that Trent Renzor "improved" upon.

I don't want to give too much away, because I want you to be able to enjoy this book. It isan enjoyable book. It discusses in detail the many things that have happened over the past two decades that have changed the face of the music industry dramatically.

You can read each chapter as a vignette about each band or person or aspect of the industry. But when taken as a whole, "Ripped" reads more like a cautionary tale with a hopeful ending.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Give Your Electric Guitar A Performance Upgrade

If you happen to be a keen guitar player and treasure your particular axe of choice, you'll no doubt at some stage have contemplated the most effective way to offer your guitar a performance upgrade. So what possibilities may be out there that won't involve butchering the guitar and are comparatively straightforward to undertake? Needless to say, if your guitar is a costly model there is every probability that it sported top of the range components, but let us assume for the sake of this particular article, that it is a mid-price to budget model.

The most clear and audible improvement can be had in the pickup area. The materials and the production process of some stock pickups may be less than great, which is reflected by the sound. Some really great replacement humbucking pickups and single coil pickups are available from the big-name companies and additionally some smaller boutique pickup makers. Replacement pickups are generally produced with a more hands-on approach and bespoke versions are offered by several of them.

In my opinion, another early port of call are the original machine heads or tuners. Often the stock tuners are not that great and are maufactured with less good materials. If your guitar is struggling to keep in tune then this is a must (check that your pickups are not too close to the strings as the magnets can occasionally cause tuning issues). You might also just fancy the quality feel and functionality of a top of the range set of tuners. Schaller are an organization who make superb examples for the many various kinds of guitar around.

In case your guitar arrived with a plastic nut then this could also benefit massively from an upgrade. You can buy a new ready-made nut in many different materials such as brass or graphite, or if you are handy with a file you may be confident enough to cut and file a new nut out of bone. This is not the most simple upgrade and the procedure is beyond the scope of this article. Search on line for additional information on this upgrade.

The bridge and tailpiece is another area worthy of consideration. Quite often guitars come with cheaply manufactured versions from China or Korea and impressive gains can be had by utilising versions made from lightweight aluminium and other fancy materials. Again the Schaller range is worth looking at.

There are some other simple upgrades for example changing the standard strap buttons with strap locks to keep your guitar secure if standing and playing, those talked about above are the most essential.

If you really want to go all out there are companies out there who will give your guitar a complete refinish in whatever colour you would like. Not everyone's cup of tea but if that normal sunburst finish is no longer cutting it for you, this may well be just what you need.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Top 5 Myths About The Music Business

If you are involved in the entertainment business then you've probably heard a few tall tales. The following is a list of some of the top myths about the music business.

1. People in the music business will help you out of the kindness of their hearts.


The music business is called the music business for a reason. It is a business that just so happens to sell music. Businesses are in business to make money. They are not in business to make ART, however they will sell it. You may find a handful of good Samaritans willing to help for free but generally speaking if helping does not benefit the other party, they won't help.

"People (not counting loved ones) will help you if they think your art will make them money. They will not help you if they think your art will not make them money." -David Naggar, Esq. from  The Music Business Explained In Plain English-

2. Since the economic decline people aren't buying music anymore


People are buying music, but they aren't buying it in the same way they used to. Sales of CDs may be down but the sale of single tracks is up! If you are still an unbeliever just check iTunes sales records. Reportedly, Apple has sold 10 billion and counting!

3. Music superstars have and are making tons of money.

This is one of the biggest myths in the entertainment business. When you see a Sean Kingston or Lady Gaga on television you may think that they are living the good life, but really the amount of money he/she brings home is really dependent on the terms of their contractual obligations as well as their money management skills. Simply put, if you spend more than you make you are bound to go broke sooner or later.

Need examples:

MC Hammer

Marvin Gaye

Michael Jackson

Willie Nelson

Toni Braxton

Billy Joel

George Clinton

Isaac Hayes

Jerry Lee Lewis

Ron Isley

Need anymore? The list goes on.

The fact of the matter is that all of these artists have seen the highs and lows of the music business. Micheal Jackson, the "King of Pop", even had his money woes. No "superstar" is exempt. Good money management skills are needed in order to maintain a "superstar" lifestyle.

4. You can become an overnight celebrity in the music business.

This is one of the most common myths about the music business. People believe that you can sign a record deal and then all of sudden you are magically on magazine covers and receiving Grammy awards. All of this talk is nonsense. At the end of the day it takes a decent amount of leg work, dedication, passion, perseverance, and strong networking relationships to achieve "success" in the music business. NO ONE HAS BECOME SUCCESSFUL OVERNIGHT however, some people have achieved their goals faster than others. Artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West, and Eminem spent years building their reputation and brands to become the people they are today. This is why working smarter and not harder is essential in the music business.

5. Talent Trumps Work Ethic

In today's music business, talent still counts but work ethic counts for more. An extraordinarily talented person with average work ethic will generally not do as well as someone with extraordinary work ethic and average talent.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Divine Weeks

Most of us go through a stage in our life where we really want to do or try something but most of never take that step. 33 Days tells the story of a group of southern California rock band members who did take the step. Three of the four members had never been on their own on July 29, 1987 when they climbed into a rented van and left LA for a national tour. They had no idea of how they would be received nor what affect the trip would have on each of them.

Bill See, the author of the book and the singer/leader of the group, felt the urge to break away from an unhappy home life and believed at the age of 22 he was ready to let his music help others break away from their own problems. For three years his band, Divine Weeks, had been playing around in the LA area. They had been received well enough that Bill knew they could become a national name.

His closest friend, Rajesh Makwana, was the guitarist in the group and was having an extremely hard time leaving his Indian family. Their culture did not joyfully accept his band association. Raj had been subject also to much taunting both in England before the family moved to the states and then in this country. Bill was the closest and best friend he had ever had. So Raj was definitely in on the idea of the tour since music had been the best release from his somewhat unhappy life.

Another of Bill's close friends was George Edmondson who was not only the band's bassist but had been dubbed by some to be the best bassist in the LA area. George was also fired up about the trip because he also had become somewhat depressed with his college life and wanted to see Divine Weeks become a national name. However though unhappy with college he still had plans to go on to grad school and he had become quite serious with a young lady.

Dave Smerdzinski was the fourth and final member of the group. Somewhat older and used to living on his own he had recently joined the group and become a powerful force due to his nature, his drumming ability, and his showmanship.

Ian Bader was the group's road manager and pretty much the steadying influence and caretaker of all of them.

For 33 Days they traveled through the western part of the country playing concerts in every type of venue that can be imagined. The shows were played before some packed houses and some very small groups but everywhere they were well received and built quite a following.

However they also had many problems and everything was not as easy as they had imagined it would be. Food, lodging, travel expenses in general were hard to come by for a new practically unknown band as they started out.

Each of the individuals did some growing on his own and they definitely grew as a group as their music and style spread across not only the country but even to MTV and other outlets.

There are many, many references to rock songs of the era as well as groups that were the idols to Divine Weeks. It sometimes seems to be necessary to be a fan of the music and participants to get full enjoyment from 33 Days. The author also tends to lose the thread many times because he moves from present day to past happenings without always making clean breaks.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd - The Enhanced iBook

It was the most famous love triangle in the history of rock 'n' roll, spawning one of the most iconic songs of all time and arguably, the best known guitar riff ever.

Mention the name Pattie Boyd, and most people over the age of 40 will know who you mean. Mention the word 'Layla' and younger, puzzled eyes light up. Any child learning guitar wants to play those opening notes.

Pattie Boyd's story is extraordinary. It epitomizes the wild excesses and free love of the sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll years, an era which ignited in the early sixties and had burned out by the early 1980s with most of the protagonists either dead or hopelessly addicted to alcohol, drugs, or both. Bands that did remain were ripped apart by in-fighting between surviving members. Hard rockers throwing TVs out of trashed hotel room windows were replaced by fluffy New Romantics who would never tear through a hotel lobby on a motorbike for fear of wrecking their hairdo or smudging their makeup.

Memorabilia from the sixties and seventies changes hands at auction for increasingly ludicrous amounts of money and Pattie Boyd clearly has a trunk load of it. This 'enhanced' version of her autobiography, 'Wonderful Tonight' (the original paper version was oddly named Wonderful Today in the UK) is packed full with letters, photographs, drawings and images that apparently haven't seen the light of day for decades.

The opening chapters tell of her childhood years - usually a dull necessity in an autobiography - but before flicking forward to the juicy bits, it's worth taking a look at her childhood photos. Presented as a movie slideshow, Pattie talks through a series of snaps, just like a friend showing you their photo album. It's an original approach that is repeated later in this iBook with a collection of photographs of The Beatles in India, with the Maharishi.

A photograph of George & Pattie with Frank Sinatra is accompanied by an audio description of how they joined Sinatra in the studio for his 'one take' recording of My Way.

Further into the iBook, she talks about the cover shot of George's solo album, Living in The Material World, explaining that the chauffer and nanny were simply part of the set.

Beatles' anoraks, or indeed anyone interested in that era, will be fascinated by memorabilia such as postcards written by George to Pattie whilst on tour with the Fab Four, George and Pattie's marriage certificate, a childlike Christmas card created for Pattie by George and even George's concept for his own record label.

A letter written by George to Pattie whilst in New York for the Concert for Bangladesh has also been given the audio commentary treatment. In his letter George writes that the journey on the SS France to NY was not as much fun as the previous one on the QE2. Pattie explains that Tommy Cooper had entertained them on the QE2 voyage. Why does George write that he has seen a washbasin but doesn't know if they can afford it? Surely he was one of the richest rock stars on the planet! Pattie explains that they never carried money and had no idea if they were rich or poor. Cleverly, the presentation allows the reader to listen to the commentary then read the letter.

Most magical of all perhaps is a letter written by John Lennon that has been buried in a drawer for almost forty years. In the letter he talks of the grass outside their window (Central Park), that thankfully he doesn't have to mow. He describes an amazing new invention he has discovered - the Polaroid camera - and how the picture leaps out of the camera and develops before your very eyes. He suggests Apple (The Beatles record label which was causing them huge grief at that time) should be given to the lowest bidder or sent to animal slaughter, and talks of spending old age in the Wilfred Pickles Memorial Home. It really is Lennon at his eccentric best.

The story that everyone wants the inside track on is what exactly went on between George Harrison, Pattie Boyd and Eric Clapton, and this iBook version lays it all on the table. She tells of how a letter arrived addressed to 'Dearest L...', which she assumed was from a crackpot fan; of how Eric sat her down, played her a tape and it was the most powerful song she had ever heard and she knew it was about her. The song, of course, was Layla. At this point you can touch your iPad screen, connect to the iTunes store, listen to Layla and buy it, if amazingly, you don't already own it.

The lunacy of the period between 1970 and 1974 when George and she finally divorced is extraordinary and difficult to keep track of. Popular opinion was that Harrison and Clapton fell out and there was much animosity between the two, but in this iBook Pattie produces a note from George to them both which seems to give his blessing to their affair.

Besides the letters the iBook contains another Christmas card, this time drawn by Eric. Were these 70s rockers so desperate to cling to their childhood that they created greetings cards like over exuberant primary school children?

Ronnie Wood, who allegedly had an affair with Pattie during the George / Eric kerfuffle, gives his take on this special enhanced version of the book with a video foreword, and pops up later in the book to talk about a drawing he did of Pattie at Friar Park (the Harrison mansion).

Wonderful Tonight, the enhanced iBook, is an exceptional example of what can be done with Apple's iPad platform. The subject matter and accompanying content really do lend themselves perfectly to the 3D eBook treatment and the use of clever techniques (such as commentary on photo slideshows) works very well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Guitar Aerobics by Troy Nelson

Book Review: Guitar Aerobics by Troy Nelson

This book is an astonishingly good book except for the audio content that comes with it. I believe that the audio content could have been organised in a more easy to understand way.

There are two CDs that come along with the book and the first one consists of audio tracks, one for each week which plays the different licks that you require for the week. This helps you to hear them out and understand the sound by getting accustomed to it. It is important that you go through all the lessons in order to get to any other lesson that you want and this sometimes gets a little annoying.

Timing is one of the most important things required for being a good guitarist and CD 2 helps you with that by using the number of metronomes and different rhythms that it contains. Go through the book to understand how to go about and mix and match both the CDs together in order to optimize its usefulness. You can play the licks first in order to memorize them and then play the metronomes for the rhythm. Although changing the CDs again and again for licks and rhythms makes it a little annoying but if you keep your head about, then it is worth the effort.

I think that an independent audio track for each lesson accompanied by the licks as well as the metronomes and rhythms would have made for a better and more useful CD. Having said that the book is still immensely useful as is. The book contains each of the lessons along with the musical notes, the tabs and the chords plus the strumming and picking patterns. The same techniques are practiced on again and again meaning that every Monday will be an alternate picking exercise while every Tuesday will be string skipping exercises and so on. All this and more makes this book to be one of the best guitar books available in the market and I would advice any guitar student to use it.

Guitar Aerobics by Troy Nelson is a smart and natural way to improve your guitar technique and is highly recommended by myself and my friend who has played guitar for over 15 years.