Sunday, January 20, 2008

Aging Rockers: Listen to More Than The Old Masters

What got me to the point of taking up the guitar at age 50 was a love for vintage rock of the 60s and 70s and a burning curiosity around just how they did it. But, as good as that music continues to be, do not lose sight of the the great new music being made every day.

I did a survey of my own music purchases over the past year to see how well I follow my own advice. Here are my purchases by album, format, retail channel, and rationale (what prompted me to buy it).

Old Masters
The Beatles – The Capitol Albums VOL 1 & 2 – CD – Borders Books --> Includes Stereo as well as Mono Mixes
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – CD – Borders Books --> In honor of the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”
The Eagles – Hotel California – DRM Free MP3 Downloads – Amazon --> Test driving DRM free downloads at Amazon
Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading – iTunes – Apple --> This was a big album for me during college and had not got around to transferring it from vinyl yet
The Allman Brothers Band – Live at Fillmore East – iTunes – Apple --> The South may have lost the war but they got the Allman Brothers; a good deal if you ask me. This is a must have for anyone regardless of musical taste.

Modern Times
Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full – CD – Starbucks --> I felt his deal with Starbucks was noteworthy enough to support, luckily it is a good CD too
Nevertheless – Live Like We’re Alive – iTunes – Apple --> Ran across them on late night TV and used the immediacy of digital downloads to explore them further
White Stripes – Icky Thump – CD – Starbucks --> Got into the White Stripes starting with “Elephant” based on reviews in Rolling Stone and Guitar World magazines
Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – CD – Target --> Vaguely aware of the name but Rolling Stone reviews piqued my interest; I was hooked 15 seconds into the first track
Robert Plant and Alison KraussRaising Sand – iTunes – Apple --> Was already an Alison Krauss fan and the seemingly bizarre match up was too interesting to avoid; they mesh amazingly well, definitely worth a listen
Bruce Springsteen – Magic – CD – Target --> Had to give it a listen given the raves in the music press
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls In America – iTunes – Apple --> This was a download prompted by a mention in Rolling Stone magazine; digital downloads facilitate impulse purchase
Brand New Sin – Tequila – iTunes – Apple --> My neighbor recommended them based on their rendition (one of millions) of “House of the Rising Sun”
John Fogerty – Revival – iTunes – Apple --> Influenced by reviews in Rolling Stone and of course being a long time “Creedence” fan.

My brief survey shows I am following my own advice although I may be cheating a bit given much of the new material comes from the old masters. However, these albums are actually good rather than being afterthoughts seeking to generate cash based on past glory. "Raising Sand" and "Magic" especially.

Another interesting aspect is the variety of retail channels where you can purchase music these days. Amazon’s service is interesting given how many labels are now providing DRM free music for download, which will put pressure on Apple's iTunes service.

So, as good as vintage rock was and is (the attention around the Led Zeppelin reunion is a case in point), there are great new artists and new material out there to explore. Exploring is easier than ever before given all the retail outlets to choose from.

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