Monday, February 29, 2016

Playlist: February

  • Joe Bonamassa—Blues of Desperation (2016)
  • Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop—A Love Letter for Fire (2016)
  • Jansen, Barbieri, Karn—Bearable Moons, session outtakes (2016)
  • School of Seven Bells—SVIIB (2016)
  • The Besnard Lakes—A Coliseum Complex Museum (2016)
  • Francis Dunnery—Vampires (2016)
  • Field Music—Commontime (2016)
  • Bent Knee—Say So (2016)
  • Justice Cow—Quone (2016)
  • Bob Marley—Legend (1984)
  • This Heat—This Heat (1979); Health & Efficiency (1980); Deceit (1981)
  • Neil Young—Harvest (1972)
  • The Who—Who's Next (1971)

Sleeve Notes

I am honored to have written the sleeve notes to the newly released Porcupine Tree vinyl box set, The Delerium Years: 1994-1997. It was fantastic to work with the folks over at K-Scope and Carl Glover did a great job designing the box set and its beautiful book.  I interviewed the members of the band for the 7,000 words history of the band during those years. Steven Wilson remixed and remastered the music for this release. As he put it to me:

"There have been two releases of this music before. The first one was basically at a time when people didn’t pay any attention to mastering at all. My mixes were all over the place and I was mixing on anything I could beg, borrow, or steal. So the mixes are thin and tinny and some of them are more fuzzy and muffled. At that point, you sent your tracks off to a CD plant and they just pressed them flat. So the original mixes are quite dynamic, because they are not squashed or anything. But they’re also quite eccentric EQ-wise. They’re painful to listen to.
The second edition, which was the first set of remasters that came out in the first part of the millennium between 2000 and 2005, I tried to remaster myself. I corrected a lot of the EQ levels, but this was the height of the “loudness wars” and I got sucked into it too. I mastered them very loud, very compressed. Again, when I listen to them now, they’re painful. 
So, this time, I think I’ve got them right. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a lot—not just for my own music, but from mixing other people’s music—about the quality of sound and not crushing things. So I fixed all the EQ. The dynamics are all there. I’m not saying it sounds great, because the recordings still betray their origins: ADAT tapes with low-resolution recording and some very primitive and mixing on my part. They do sound like independent DIY recordings, which they are. But they have charm. At least they sound as good and warm and vibrant as they ever have. The sound is good as it can be. And, actually, I think they sound good."
Read more about it and purchase it here.

In related news, I am now creating content for Steven Wilson's newsletter. We've just released our fourth issue which features a live audio exclusive. Each issue includes new interviews with Steven about his latest activities, past albums from his vast catalog, and his own music recommendations. It's more like a mini magazine than a newsletter. To subscribe, go here and you'll receive a download of a live version of "Drive Home."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Now on Newsstands: Tight but Loose

Over the past two years, Jimmy Page sat down for more interviews about Led Zeppelin than at any other point in his career. Of all those many interviews, there were two that stood apart from the rest: Page's consecutive interviews with Dave Lewis for Tight But Loose, the long-running Led Zeppelin magazine.

Most music writers tended to ask Page either tediously generic questions or probed for salacious details about what, exactly, Led Zeppelin got up to inside the Starship, its luxury airplane that included a fireplace. (I doubt an airplane equipped with a fireplace would pass FAA regulations nowadays!) By contrast, Dave asked Page perceptive questions that took readers deep into the creation of music that has withstood the fickle changes of time and fashion. Indeed, Page told Tight But Loose about how the recent deluxe reissues of the catalog, brimming with unreleased material and alternate mixes, enhances the group's legacy.

"It’s like a portal, it’s like a view point into that time when those recordings were made for those particular albums, those classic albums," Page said in TBL issue 38. "And I knew right from the beginning, in thinking about this project, that it was for you, the fans. Because we sort of understand the difference between just hearing Led Zeppelin and really listening to it. I knew that people with that level of understanding would really get off on it, hearing all of these different versions and things that they haven’t heard before."

I first came across Dave Lewis, the world's foremost authority on the band, when he published the book Led Zeppelin: A Celebration in 1990. In those pre-Internet days, the comprehensive guide to the history and recordings of the British four piece was a revelatory education to this young fan. The book, and many others Dave has published over the years, occupy a hallowed space on my bookshelves. His magazine Tight But Loose is also an indispensable read for Zep fans. (It's available as a handsome print publication from here, and also newly available in digital format from here.)

I'm honored to have contributed to TBL over the years. For the 40th issue, I penned an in-depth two page overview about Robert Plant's most recent tour. (I also wrote a short review of Plant's Sept. 2015 show in Boston for Classic Rock magazine.)

Visit for details about the magazine plus all the latest news about Led Zeppelin and its members' solo activities.