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Opinion & music talk

Opinion & Music Talk

Opinion & music talk


RIP David Sanborn

30 July 1945 – 12 May 2024

David Sanborn

Nearly twenty years have passed since the birth of Michael Valentine Studio (online). While only a few of those early analogue photographs of Joe Sample, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn survived later quality control checks, I will never forget the time and kindness many musicians have offered.

We recently lost the great David Sanborn (12 May 2024) and my mind went into time warp mode straight back to that 1997 gig at the Brixton Academy. I was surprised to see the likes of Rick Astley in David’s dressing room. When I asked Rick if he was a fan, his response was clear. “YES, David is a great player and I have always admired his work!” Rick Astley also advised that David’s wife (of that time) was also a good friend of his own wife.

I have since seen other pop icons at various jazz gigs throughout the years. It certainly goes to show that great music produced by great musicians certainly has no boundaries.

Here’s looking forward to another twenty years…

Robin Francis
26 May 2024

Lenco L-30 turntable advert

What is wrong with the above advert?

Probably nothing if you were born in the last five minutes and thirty seconds! Those of us who have been here a little while longer and have invested much time, effort and money in our record collection (and equipment), will express possibly more than the customary ‘Roger Moore eyebrow lift’ after reading the advert blurb.
On a positive and ‘honest’ note, the advert does highlight that the deck ‘… sounds good for the price’.

This advert appeared in one of the free daily ‘throw away’ rags available as a ‘left over’ on any train or tube within the national transport system. Of course the idea of purchasing a turntable to impress anybody seems insane to me (whatever age you may be), however, I realise this mainly media fueled fashion trend and push to promote turntables as the next best buy does help record companies re-sell back-catalogue music on vinyl AGAIN (even if the quality of much of the vinyl is questionable). Ironically, the beauty of using such a low-fi turntable is the fact that new listeners will not probably notice! I also wondered for some time why you would want to consider converting a record to MP3 format. At first the thought seemed ludicrous (considering the greater resolution and depth of a well pressed, well recorded record)? It took weeks to finally register that it was perhaps better to have music on a record and MP3 (depending on quality) rather than MP3 alone (for the convenience of using portable devices perhaps?
Perhaps I am showing my age?

Robin Francis
©Michael Valentine Studio
25 August 2018

What was your first record purchase?

Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing The Four Seasons - December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)

What are you listening to now?

My first two record purchases were made in 1976 from a small record shop within South London’s Tooting Broadway Market. With a budget of £1.10 I was able to walk away with Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” and The Four Seasons “December, 1963 (Oh what a Night).”

My taste in music has shifted a little over the last forty years. I was seriously into soul / jazz funk with sprinkles of lovers rock from the late 70’s to mid’ 90’s. I swung towards smooth jazz from the late 90’s to early 00’s.

Now, these albums have been on rotation for some time now.

Who knows where I will be musically 40 years from now?

Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage Herbie Hancock - Inventions & Dimensions Wayne Shorter - Adam's Apple Wayne Shorter - "Speak No Evil"
Wayne Shorter - The Soothsayer Ahmad Jamal - Blue Moon The New York Session The Ahmad Jamal Trio -  The Awakening McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy
Ron Carter  - All Blues John Coltrane - A Love Supreme Alice Coltrane - Ptah The El Daoud Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else
Stanley Turrentine - Salt Song Stanley Turrentine - Cherry Stanley Turrentine - that's where it's at Stanley Turrentine With The 3 Sounds - Blue Hour

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio
17 April 2017

Quality & quantity?

Ed Sheeran - X

Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” is still the best selling jazz album of all time (and for good reason)!

There have been various reissues, remastered or just plain re-released versions of this seminal album made available over the years.
I am one of many who have fallen foul of ‘THIS’ must sound better because… I have purchased at least five different copies of this album in the hope that I could finally replace previous scratched or worn copies. Last year I purchased a new copy from HMV (DOL label) 180 gram HQ VIRGIN VINYL - £10.99! Obviously, fine details such as ‘180 gram’ and ‘virgin vinyl’ are a as mesmerising to an audiophile as the words ‘blood bank’ to a vampire! Unfortunately such fine details did not deliver quality fine detail playback. I quickly reverted to listening to my original copy (scratches and all).

Thankfully someone has been listening to my prayers. However, I did not expect a multinational company to come my rescue. DeAgostini’s Jazz at 33 1/3 RPM series is a must for all who appreciate good music delivered on a true quality 180 gram vinyl format. Everything delivered under the DeAgostini banner to date has been of the finest quality (and very reasonably priced). I have not only been able to replace my worn Miles Davis “Kind Of Blue” album, hopefully I will now be able to add many more titles to my collection with confidence.
Further DeAgostini as well as other company reissues are discussed within our hi-fi section “Reissues Issues?”

Use the link below to view titles reissued under the DeAgostni banner.

DeAgostini’s Jazz at 33 1/3 RPM series

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
5 March 2016

Brit pop / rock / soul?

Ed Sheeran - X James Bay - Chaos And The Calm

Whatever the genre, it just doesn’t matter. This is just great music!

Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” from his album “X” (Atlantic) is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.
Strange to say perhaps, however, something about this song reminds me of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

James Bay’s “Let It Go” from his album “Chaos And The Calm” (Virgin) is another stunning composition.
Bay’s gentle guitar on this track is mesmerising.

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
5 March 2016

Just two albums with messages that never seem to age...

Marvin Gaye - What's going on Philidelphia International All Stars - Lets Clean Up The Ghetto

It is Friday 19 July 2015. It seems with every year that passes the messages from the albums featured above are more prevalent than ever. These albums were released in 1971 & 1977 respectively (I would have been six & eleven years old). I don’t remember much about being six, however, I do remember at age eleven being a little anxious about being a bit thin, the heatwave in the UK( 1976), listening to family conversations about Harold Wilson and the Labour government and my first visit to America with my family. I was beginning to explore music around the mid-seventies. I never missed Top of the Pops on BBC1… Thankfully there were many gifted singer songwriters and soul artists in the mainstream charts back in the day so I was being slowly educated. In the mid-late 1970’s My sister (being a few years older) got the ‘soul bug’ long before myself and frequented clubs such as Crackers in the West End, The Cats Whiskers in Streatham and Global Village to name just a few. I was only interested in Abba’s latest releases at the time. Those were fun times for a youngster as we seemed to have the time and space just to be!

This week UK news headlines explored the Charleston Church shootings, thousands of desperate individuals drowned trying to reach European shores from war torn parts of the world, a man falling from the undercarriage of a plane onto a roof in South West London... Now, I am not suggesting defining headlines are a new phenomenon. However, today’s defining headlines seem to be distracting, destructive and definitely still shock this world weary traveller who has to ask the question… “What’s Going On?”

It is hard to believe Marvin Gaye’s classic album “What’s Going On” almost did not get released due to the fact that Motown was notoriously ‘anti-message’ in their music.

Marvin Gaye - What's going on Keni Burke - Changes

What’s Going On track listing:
Side.1 What’s Going On, What’s Happening Brother, Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky), Save The Children, God Is Love, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
Side.2 Right On, Wholy Holy, Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto track listing:
Side.1 Trade Winds, Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, Ooh Child, Now Is The Time To Do It, Year Of Decision
Side.2 The Big Gangster, New Day, New World Comin', Old People, Save The Children, Everybody's Talkin'

“Clean Up The Ghetto” features The Philadelphia International All-Stars, Lou Rawls, The O-Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Dee Sharp Gamble, Intruders, Archie Bell & The Drells, The Three Degrees & of course the phenomenal song writing skills and musicianship of Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff.
Philadelphia International Records reserved 100% of its net profits from “Let’ Clean Up The Ghetto to fund future Community Development Programs.

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
June 2015

What are your desert island discs?

What are your desert island discs?

If you were allowed just 2 albums to take with you to a desert island, what would your choice be?

A question I frequently ask musicians and music lovers. The answers have brought further questions and debates. There are a few names that are continually mentioned such as Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles…! Some musicians reel off their 2 desert island discs quickly with a rye smile. Some ponder and respond reservedly. “Does it have to be just 2” is a common reply. Of course it is easy to include compilation albums, however, I normally do not allow such a cop out.

Admittedly, I have pondered the desert island disc question for many years myself and still wince in pain at the thought of choosing 2 albums! I can afford to allow myself poetic license on this occasion. So here are my ‘12’desert island discs…

Donny Hathaway - In Performance Keni Burke - Changes Joe Sample - Spellbound Hugh Masekela - Home is Where The Music Is
Abdullah Ibrahim - Water From An Ancient Well Bheki Mseleku - Home At Last Luther Vandross - Forever For Always For Love Kurt Elling - nightmoves
Kirk whalum - InThis Life Gene Dunlap - It's Just The Way I Feel Bobby Lyle - Ivory Dreams Meditation - various classical (including Thais Opera)


A ‘Hard’ Day in the Life of a Music Artist photographer

Stevie Wonder @ the 02, 30 September 2008

The elusive press pass (Click to go to the Stevie Wonder page)

I see it as a privilege to be able to listen, watch and photograph the many gifted musicians you see here on this site. But the saying… “No pain, no gain” is not just applicable in the gymnasium. Below is an edited log of what it takes to achieve results. I must also say it this point that it is not always so painful…

09:00 AM – Send 16th email to PR company requesting confirmation of press pass.
10:00 AM – Telephoned PR company… left message on answering machine…
12:00 PM – Telephoned PR company again… no answer…
14:30 PM – PR company called me to confirm press pass and tell me to pick up press pass from representative at 02 at 19:30.
18:00 PM - Arrive at the 02 arena and look for representative…. Ask several 02 staff for directions and get sent to various incorrect locations around 02. I spend ten minutes outside the Indigo in error…
18:20 PM - Finally arrive at correct area to meet representative… camera bag is searched… 02 staff advise me to wait till 19:30 for rep to escort me to the pit.
19:50 PM – Representative arrives and begins escorting both myself and three other photographers to the pit, but screams at us for not having our press passes. We try to explain that we were told to collect them from him, but he continues screaming and advises us that ‘We should know where to collect passes!’
19:55 – 20:10 PM - We are herded into the press pit (front of stage) and briefed on protocol… No flash, do not move to right of stage, do not get too close to the stage, time limit for photographs is 60 seconds!
20:15 – 20:30 PM We are removed from the press pit and positioned in one of the aisles in front of many disgruntled patrons who slowly become verbally abusive and demand a refund from both 02 staff as well as Stevie Wonder’s own PR. 02 officials and Stevie Wonder PR lock horns and quietly negotiate…we are eventually moved back to the press pit in front of stage (much to the delight of the cheering patrons who feel they have won a decisive victory). We are then given further instructions from Stevie Wonder’s PR…

“…Stevie will enter stage left with his daughter (Aisha) and begin to play the harmonica; you will be permitted to take photographs up to this point. Stevie will then walk over and sit down at his keyboard: you will not be permitted to take photographs at this point. You can proceed with photography when he begins to play the keyboard; your time limit is 60 seconds!”

20:45 PM - Stevie Wonder arrives on stage. We nervously jostle for position and keep our fingers on the shutter release while keeping one eye on PR officials. I receive a warm wave from Aisha (Stevie’s daughter) and one of his backing singers… 60 seconds later we are herded out of the arena.

Now click Stevie's image to see the results…

Stevie Wonder @ the 02... (click to go to his page)

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
… For the Love of Music!! LOL

Your personality & music?

Professor Adrian North of Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University has been studying the links between people's personalities and their choice of music…

Apparently this was the largest study ever conducted into individuals’ musical preference and character, researchers asked 36,518 people from around the world to rate how much they liked 104 different musical styles before taking a personality test.

The results

Rock & rap listeners - Fans of rock and rap are rebellious and outgoing.
Opera listeners - Fans of opera are wealthy and well-educated.
Jazz & classical listeners - Jazz and classical music fans are creative with good self-esteem, although the former are much more outgoing whereas the latter are shy.
Country & Westen listeners - Hardworking and shy.
Indie listeners - Lack self-esteem and are not very gentle.
Soul music lovers - Those who like soul music are creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease with themselves and have a high self-esteem.

Those who choose to listen to exciting, punchy music are more likely to be in a higher earning bracket, while those who go for relaxing sounds tend to be lower down the pay scale.

If Adrian North’s studies are correct then I presume if you listen to all of the above genres, you should be in a straight-jacket!

Kwame Kwei-Armah

Soul music
By Kwame Kwei-Armah

I love soul music! Now I like R&B but I love soul. Some may ask what the difference is, some may already know - But to me soul is an indefinable feeling that begins its form deep within, then somehow fuses with the rawest elements of our emotional hinterland and finds itself manifested as Bobby Womack's scream or a Teddy Pendegrass growl. As a Roberta Flack melody or a Luther Vandross cry. Now, make no mistake, when I hear a good R&B track it makes me joyous, sexual and most of all want to express myself in that most primal yet sophisticated way known to person kind (dance). But I have yet to find the modern R&B act that creates the three dimensional music of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, or Curtis Mayfield. I say three-dimensional because I believe music is not simply there as a motivation to move our feet or express a trite couplet or two about sexual intoxication, but it is there to also elevate our spirits, our minds. It exists to speak in the universal language of higher desires. Yes I hear the political rap of Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, or Mos Def. But what of the soulful male singers today? Has the most profound music on earth found contentment in only speaking or singing of things physical?

Now please don’t think that I’m asking the singers / songwriters of today to subscribe to yesterdays politics, but surely we want more out of music than the stomping of feet? We have minds too. Keen poetic minds. But our sung music needs to show that. Or else we run the risk of stunting the mental growth of the next generation. Yes, we talk of love, but lets make it challenging. I leave you with the lyric of a song I heard when I was twelve. It has stuck with me, challenged me, and inspired me since then. Stevie Wonder’s “Rocket Love”.

I longed for you since I was born
A woman sensitive and warm
And that you were

With pride and strength no one would test
But yet have feminie finesse
And so much more

You took me riding in your rocket gave me a star
But at a half a mile from heaven you dropped me back
down to this cold, cold world
Took me riding in your rocket gave me a star
But at a half a mile from heaven you dropped me back
down to this cold, cold world

A female Shakespeare of your time
With looks to blow Picasso's mind
You were the best

Your body moved with grace and song
Like symphonies by Bach or Brahms

Man that’s food for my soul!

Kwame Kwei-Armah

MOBO flag

An evening at the MOBO's... well, not exactly!

My first reaction to the news that the Jazz category had been removed from the 2006 MOBO Awards ceremony was to create the headline MOBO madness! It took a few days of further research, and gentle aromatherapy relaxation sessions for me to tone down my reaction somewhat.

Credit where credit is due - Founder and CEO Kanya King has worked tirelessly negotiating many political obstacles. Somehow she has been able to convince the faceless grey haired pinstripe suits that the MOBO’s should exist. Yes indeed, the MOBO’s has come along way, attracting much varied criticism since it’s humble beginnings in 1996. Love it, hate it, or just tolerate it - The MOBO’s has surely assisted in selling many more artists’ albums, downloads, ringtones etc, and attracts celebrities and fans from many corners of the world. All eyes turn towards London during MOBO time. It is almost like having a mini Oscar night!

Was it the correct decision to remove the Jazz category from the MOBO’s? Of course not. Without a doubt this decision seems mindless and is not only insulting to jazz musicians past and present, but in a strange way undermines the achievements of winners of the remaining categories.

Will the MOBO Awards ceremony end up like the beleaguered Jazz FM radio station? It seems to be heading in that direction.

Composer / singer and trumpet guru - Abram Wilson, in association with Jazz Services led a lively brass powered protest outside the Royal Albert Hall. Wilson’s personal involvement comes as no surprise considering he was rightfully nominated in the Best Jazz Act category at the 2005 awards.

In the perfect world - Jazz would have it’s own awards ceremony, but considering the demise of the aforementioned Jazz FM, who would be brave enough to take on such a challenge?

Click an image to enlarge

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall Abram Wilson & band outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall Brenda Emanus & associated press @ the MOBO'S

Jazz musician outside the Royal Albert Hall

Jazz band outside the Royal Albert Hall Abram Wilson outside the Royal Albert Hall

Abram Wilson's trumpet!

It is not fair to ignore musicians who won other categories on the night;

Best R’n’B act – Rihanna
Best video – Beyoncé
Best hip-hop act - Akala
Best UK male – Lemar,
Best UK female - Corinne Bailey Rae
Best UK newcomer - Corinne Bailey Rae,
Best song - Beyoncé ft Jay Z – Deja vu
Best group - Black Eyesd Peas
Best International male - Jay Z
Best international female – Beyoncé
Best DJ - Steve Sutherland
Best African act - Batman Simin

Report by Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio
25 September 2006

Artist mood swings

I have no doubt that on many occasions it must be a real drag for musicians. After giving their all on stage physically as well as mentally, they then have to deal with eager fans who want that little piece more. Then they get photographers and ‘The press Pack’ who want their slice. All part and parcel of success some may say. But I cannot help but empathise with many ‘real’ musicians who just want to ‘chill’ after revealing so much of themselves through their music, as well as during live performances. I do ‘hold back’, though I am passionate about music and photography. I have learned to ‘quietly’ express my passion with musicians and have been fortunate to receive much support from many of them. Of course there have been just one or two individuals who do not want to take the time to listen. Read the Abdullah Ibrahim Trio review. I do understand and respect their decision. (Their loss as well as mine)!

The power of music (The bigger picture)

There have been many debates asking the question:
“Does music really influence individuals or even a generation of people, and if so how much?”

The 1970’s & 1980’s saw many musicians produce a sea of music, which was both inspirational and timeless. I firmly believe that if the teenagers today had greater access to such inspirational offerings from the start of their journey into the abyss, ‘or more accurately’, were open enough to receive the messages on offer from much of the music produced during these times, they would have a different attitude. Of course what we listen to from a ‘music perspective’ and digest mentally is a small part of that ‘bigger picture’. Of course every generation believes that ‘the era they were brought up in produced the best music. I believe much of the ‘mass music’ produced today is awash with negative messages, both lyrically and visually (in the form of the music video). Of course the term role model today is as overused as the term “I’ll call you back!” I have heard many ‘so called musicians’ names being branded as role models. (May the Lord help us). My main role models were my mother and father, uncles and aunts etc. (not necessarily in that order). Unfortunately, I realise that today there are more single parents than ever. And couples do not see the need to ‘get married’. All down to individual choice and part of this wonderful democracy we live in. But we are just beginning to receive the ‘pay back’ for the many selfish choices we have made without truly studying that ‘bigger picture’. Oops, now I am starting to sound like a grumpy old man! (Believe it or not I had similar beliefs in my late teens!

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
September 2005

Reality check

When I began putting this site together, the main goal was just to highlight a few photographs of my favourite musicians. If this small gesture alone assisted in a few more albums being sold, then great. As you have possibly realised, this site is growing into a bigger beast.

I definitely had no intentions of becoming involved or getting sucked into the music industry and it’s foolishness in any form or fashion. I want to stay on the outside looking in. I adore music and felt that if I became too involved I would not be able to sit down, shut my eyes, just listen and enjoy.’

Recent events have re-enforced my thoughts! Well… about the industry anyway! Don’t get me wrong, I will still continue to photograph, review and highlight great musicians and their music, but I want to stay as far away from the business as possible. I take my ‘hat and the rest of my clothes off’ to musicians because they have to deal with the industry on a day-today basis. What a chore! It wouldn’t be such a chore if the majority of these ‘STAR PEOPLE’ (as George Michael put it) in the industry were competent.

I recently ended up wandering the eclectic streets of Camden town in London, waiting for a PR agent from a well known Jazz label, to arrange entry into a well-known venue, to enable me to photograph and review a not so well known Jazz quartet. I had done my bit regarding organising a pass for myself to photograph the quartet while performing etc. Unfortunately when I arrived at the venue, I received a voicemail informing me that my ticket had not yet been sent on. I was assured that the ticket would soon arrive, but the individual holding it had not yet left home. When I enquired how long this would take to sort out, I was told forty-five minutes. Nearly three hours later the ticket had still not arrived. When I telephoned and asked the individual holding the ticket where she was, I was informed that she would be with me in a minute and not to worry. When I pushed for further information regarding her actual location, she told me that she was “just crossing the river in a mini-cab”. NOW by my calculations, the river Thames was approximately twenty minutes away by car AND if you consider traffic it would hardly take ‘one minute’ to reach my destination. I politely informed the individual on the phone that I was leaving. By now the quartet where nearly halfway through their set and I had lost all enthusiasm anyway.

The funnier side of Camden. (Depending on which angle you are looking at it from)!
The funnier side of Camden. (Depending on which angle you are looking at it from)!

I do take some of the responsibility for the failure of this arranged rendezvous and apologise to all PR agents and alike for the need to run this site like a well planned military campaign. BUT I have wants and needs. I want to photograph and write about every musician and their music, and how it has affected my life and those around me. I also need to be able to do this while I am able.

I am country boy at heart. So the thought of hanging around music venues in London befriending crack dealers, crack heads, smack heads and prostitutes is not really part of my medium - long term plan. London does contain one of the richest and diverse populations this side of the hemisphere. BUT until I decide to add drug and prostitution counselling to my many skills, I would really prefer to just do what I feel I was put on this planet to do! Unfortunately the losers in this situation were not only myself, but also the musicians, who I’m sure would have truly appreciated the free publicity on this site.

In hindsight, perhaps these same very crack dealers, crack heads, smack heads and prostitutes have better planning skills than both myself and some of the PR gurus employed by some record companies.
Do you remember the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places!

The funnier side of Camden. (Depending on which angle you are looking at it from)!

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio
20 March 2005

History repeating itself?

In the early 1900’s, the most important and popular song ‘according to the masses’, was a song titled “Everybody Loves A Chicken”. One hundred years later it appears we have all gone “Crazy Frog”. Do you get the feeling we have gone back in time!

Looks like my song could get a re-issue!

The demise of Jazz on commercial radio

I could have also titled this piece, ‘The dumbing down of commercial radio’. Or 'The dumbing down of terrestrial television' etc. It all amounts to the same thing. And maybe you need to read no further to understand my concerns. The term ‘commercial radio’ really does conjure many visions. I have recently resorted to listening to Jazz via the Internet through my P C. Nothing wrong with this generally; I just don’t like being forced into minimising where, and how I listen to music. Though expected, it’s still a shame that good music has been forced to the later parts of the day. Fine if you can stay up till all hours, but that’s not always possible.

Looks decrepit, but sounds great!
No comment!

I do not own a DAB radio ‘yet’. I have listened to a few and cannot bear the harsh lifeless sound. SHOCK…. DAB radio is supposed to be crystal clear, pure digital heaven! SAYS WHO? Again, this is what we are told, but my experiences are different. Perhaps if the digital signal was broadcast at it’s full bandwidth and broadcast equipment was being used to it’s full potential, things would be different. Instead, we end up with a brittle, compressed sounding end result. Of course I will be ‘forced’ into listening to digital radio when the plug is pulled on analogue broadcasting. But until then I will continue to listen to my old crystal set. LOL.

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio
20 July 2005

Music revolution required!

The music industry is constantly shooting itself in the foot, especially regarding new talent. As soon as someone comes along with an ounce of musicality in his or her bones, who may be able to tap out a few notes on the piano.
The marketing machine (or music media) has kicked in proclaiming this person is ‘the next big thing’!

One of my best friends is an accountant!

Meanwhile the ‘real musician’, who has been composing, writing, playing instruments for years and has been thrilling audiences with their live performances is given a hard time by ‘record industry and company accountants’. (Unless they can find a slot to fit him, or her in of course). I know all of the above is not a new trend in the industry, but it does seem to be getting worse. Especially as record companies appear to employ a greater number of accountants over real musicians! There are exceptions. The Blue Note Label is noted for not ‘playing the numbers game’ so intently. It has been said that Blue Note allows artists to express themselves without nailing an accountant to their ‘instrument’.Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Prince was interested in striking a deal with this label (allegedly)!

A few years ago my fourteen-year-old daughter surprised me (fortunately in a pleasant way). She was intently watching a R‘n’B group perform live on a popular chart show on television and commented on how clever she thought they where?” When I asked her exactly what she meant by the term “clever”. She replied;

“I have never seen a group sing and play instruments at the same time on television!”

Well, when you consider that her favourite groups at the time were S Club 7 and the Spice girls, you cannot help but smile. Thankfully she has matured and her taste in music has changed. (No disrespect to S Club 7 or the Spice girls… honest)!

Quantity over quality

I have spoken with friends and colleagues who have collected vinyl albums / 12" singles over many decades. Over the last few years they have spent time copying their precious vinyl onto
C D, then onto their P C for archiving, space reasons and convenience.

As an ex DJ, I can understand the importance of convenience / ease of access etc especially when you are actually working. The need to reproduce quality sound is also not a major priority as sound level usually overrides quality. We discussed the quality and realism sound issues regarding C D / MP3 etc and I was shocked at the response. The need to access their music at home quickly was more important than their need to hear their precious investment through a reasonable quality system, therefore actually ‘listening to their music and getting the best (or near best) enjoyment from music.

I did consider the content of their collection when I heard comments such as, “There is not much difference in sound quality between my hi fi and home PC because I have added a sub woofer to the PC recently!” Not a totally surprising comment when I discovered their ‘staple music diet’ was modern R‘n’B!

One individual I spoke to has actually completed the transfer of all his music onto computer. He is selling his collection of CD’s and vinyl albums and singles as he feels he no longer needs them and space is an issue. He is also constantly connected to the Internet and receives regular downloads. I hope his files do not get infected with a virus!

I am aware we all listen too, and enjoy music in many different ways. When I am at home relaxing I prefer to sit down and ‘experience’ whom, or what I am listening to. I look at the album (or CD) cover and even read the sleeve notes. I will listen to music while I am doing housework, or have music playing low in the background during a social gathering, but I often feel cheated as I cannot really hear all that is going on within those black shiny grooves of vinyl (or even the clear holes of a CD).

The mobile phone phenomenon

Call it ‘old age’, call it ‘unwillingness to accept new things’. I have always had an issue regarding mobile phones. The fact that I regularly see two people together, maybe in a car or walking side by side, talking on their mobile phones to someone who is not with them. Yes I know that is the whole point of a mobile phone, to be able to speak to people anywhere at any time, but why are two people in each other's company not talking to each other? Yep I know I'm probably exaggerating, but my anx’ towards mobile phones does not stop there. I accept that a mobile phone in certain 'emergency situations’ can be a lifesaver, but I believe we have become too reliant.

Music Ring Tones

I can imagine the first non-standard ring tones were probably a great novelty and progression is inevitable. What concerns me is the fact that so much 'so called music' seems to sound like it was created specifically for mobile phones. I have come to this conclusion because when I play much of today's modern R‘n’B on my HI FI, it seems to sound extremely two dimensional, flat and lacking in musicality! (And no I do not have a problem with my ears or my finely tuned Hi FI). Don't get me wrong there are exceptions and I know that the saying “give the people what they want”, has some bearing on what we get. But are we that easy to please? I am not saying that all music has to be serious, but we have slowly wised up to the negatives of fast food, when will we wise up to the negatives of certain 'fast music'. (And I do not necessarily mean fast as in BPM)

I have met a few individuals who have 2 / 3 /4 mobile phones. When I asked one particular gentleman why he had 3 mobile phones in his possession, he replied;

"One phone is for business, one phone is for my girls to contact me, and the other is for everybody else!"

Mobile phone induced stress

I managed to persuade a close friend who was suffering with 'mild stress' to switch off her mobile phone for a few hours. She came back to me a few days later and admitted that after she had got over the initial anxiety of the fact that 'nobody was able to contact her', she felt calmer.

One of the few areas where you can escape from the 'blings' and 'beeps' from mobile phones (to date) is the underground tube network. Who would have thought that such an area would become a peaceful sanctuary from such day-to-day noise pollution?

Mobile Phone Dangers

I remember expressing my concerns to a mother in early 2003 with regards to her four-year-old son using a mobile phone, as I had been pre-warned of the possible dangers. The mother in question smiled at me and said;

“But there is no proof!”

Have we become so unwilling to think for ourselves?
Do we trust absolutely every new technology, or life saving pill that has been issued by The Big Brother (or sister) state for our well-being?
Does the mobile phone really stop us from being concerned for our loved ones when out of sight?

Do we use our mobile phone to communicate and manage our time and appointments effectively? Or do we leave things to the last minute and make that hurried call saying;

"Sorry I will be late because...!"

The list of questions could continue!

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio.
21 May 2005

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