IBM 1401

In 1971, the father of Icelandic musician and composer Johann Johannsson, bemoaning the deaccession of his office IBM 1401, and in one of the earliest examples of techno-romanticizational archival preservation(TM), made a recording of the sounds and electromagnet waves that the 1401 produced, utilizing a radio receiver and a reel-to-reel tape machine. It was nearly 30 years before his son rearranged these recordings, combined them with excerpts from an original audio instruction manual, and set the whole thing to a post-modern orchestral score. IBM 1401: A Users Manual is the result. You can click here to read a story from NPR's Song of the Day and listen to a sample track from the album.

The Only Band That Matters

The Band went from backing Ronnie Hawkins as The Hawks to backing Bob Dylan when he did his electric tour to being the most unsung band out there. While they achieved popularity in their time, scored hits, and certainly had the respect of all of their contemporaries, history unfortunately hasn’t yet brought Music From Big Pink and The Band to the forefront of classic rock must-haves like Let It Bleed, Who’s Next, or any The Rutles record.

Graduation by Kanye West

Graduation is the third installment in Kanye West's "education" series. This CD is fresh and innovative (and even somewhat eclectic). If you like hip-hop music, you will love Graduation. In my opinion, it is the best hip-hop CD of 2007!

I Don't Feel Like Dancing

As far as my musical tastes go, I have two main tenets. Firstly, I hold that Queen is the greatest band that ever was or will be. Second, I don’t much fancy music in the "Dance/Electronica" genre: just not my cup of meat. That being said, I tuned into Saturday Night Live back in 2004 and saw the obscurely obscenely named band Scissor Sisters. Taking one look at their falsettoed lead singer wearing a onesie and listening to the music, I realized something. These people love Queen almost as much as I do, because “Take Your Mama” (the song I was hearing) could easily be on any of Queen’s records.

Her name is Vega

American contemporary folk artist and popular musician Suzanne Vega is performing live at The Ark in Ann Arbor on Saturday, September 29. Vega began releasing albums in the mid- 1980s and her first big success came with the singles “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner” (you know, that song that always got stuck your head.) Her latest release, Beauty & Crime, brings further proof that she’s got something to say that’s worth listening to. You can see more of Vega at her website.

(Standing In The Shadows Of) Motown

The Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band, had as much to do with the signature Motown Sound as anybody else at the studio. The group of jazz and blues musicians integrated their non-pop musical background into creating the arrangements and style now associated with Motown. Also, like Booker T. and the MGs—their Stax Records equivalents—they were an integrated band, a rarity in the late 50s, early 60s. Their story is outlined in the insightful, rocking, and occasionally touching documentary Standing In The Shadows of Motown.

Cheer Up Sleepy Jean: The Monkees Story

The National Broadcasting Corporation formed a band in 1965 called The Monkees. Their moptop haircuts, singer/tambourinateer with a British accent, jangly rhythms, tight harmonies, and misspelled-animal-as-band-name were all bold and revolutionary... when The Beatles did it. Combine the fact that their first two albums—More of the Monkees and The Monkees—featured little to no original material and studio musicians playing the backing tracks, and the band that doesn’t it make it easy for music snobs to like them. But once this band, which consisted of two very extraordinary musicians and two… other people, had the reigns of their career, they went forth to produce some very fine and very overlooked material.

If you like Irish music....

This Friday evening, September 14, Liz Carroll, fiddler extraordinaire will be performing with equally talented guitarist, John Doyle at The Ark. Carroll's and Doyle's joint performances, in concert and on cd have been described by the Irish Echo as "...a magnificent balance of virtuosity, drive, and finesse .... Carroll's bowing and Doyle's picking represent a kind of soloing in sync, each supporting and inspiring the other without a whiff of self-indulgence."

Check them out, if there are still tickets left. And look for a sizeable collection of Irish music at the Library.

The Jitterbugging ‘00s, Part I: Britney Spears and Other Mistakes

Part of me is surprised that I didn’t write on this Monday when I came into work. At the time, The Zombies seemed much more important. But I’ve reconsidered the significance of Britney Spears’s poor performance at the VMAs last weekend. People went nuts over her lackluster dancing/walking, poor lip-synching, and her out-of-shape body (of course, people, she wasn’t out of shape. Certainly less in-shape, but not out of shape,) but beyond all that, the incident marks a shifting trend and now Britney Spears, for the second time in her life finds herself the harbinger of change.

Oh, You're My Best Friend

Queen were big in the United States. But many Americans don’t realize that everywhere else in the world, they were gigantic. Europe, South America, Japan, you name it, Queen are number two only to The Beatles as far as popularity. Most people in the U.S. would be familiar with the content of Queen’s Greatest Hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Under Pressure," "We Will Rock You," and "Don’t Stop Me Now," (thanks to it’s prominent use in Shaun of the Dead,) but may be less familiar with their amazing studio albums like A Night At The Opera, A Day At The Races, Jazz, and The Game.

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