Audio – Mono

In high school I had a friend (Bob WTF are you?) who was really into stereo equipment, and consequently knew a lot about them. Audio receivers, turntables, amplifiers, and speakers

Everything I learned about home audio equipment I learned from him. I couldn’t afford any of that kind if equipment, but I could dream.

If you are the least bit interested in electronics (or batteries) as a kid, one of the first things you learn is positive and negative. I was one of the few kids who was given a copy of the Bantam Science books from their Knowledge Through Color series, (‘color of course being “colour” ‘ 🙂 ) Book No. 9: Electronics

My copy of the book (looking at right now) cost $1.95. This was back when American and Canadian published books had the same price.

[Enter: small political rabbit hole]

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney, and whatever clown was President decided on the “Free Trade Agreement”, I believe the quotes were “Good For Canada”, “Good for Canadian and American Business.”

The quote you DON’T see: “Bad for the Canadian consumer”

Books that would cost (let’s pick a current -2021- number) $9.99 US, Costs Canadians $12.99. Some how free trade meant Canadians paid more. Then you have that orange clown who said the US got screwed over the Free Trade Agreement.

Apparently Mulrooney has such an imposing physical and politically presence that the US caved on his demands. Sounds just like what they’d so [snrk]

[Exit: small politcal rabbit hole]

Anywaay… this book gives the proper scientific names of positive and negative. Namely: Anode and Cathode. If that second term sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve heard the term “cathode ray tube”. That’s what “tube” TV’s and monitors were. CRT for short. Unless you watch an old TV series or move, you probably won’t see one of those. If you are young enough, you probably don’t know what they are.

I kid the Millenials. Dumb as posts and don’t know it. Strains of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick are playing in my mind right now.

Even people who know nothing about electronics “know” that it flows positive->negative.

And then you take an Electronic course.

You find out that “positive->negative” flow is called “hole” flow or “conventional flow”. When you take an electonics course, you start off with textbooks that are “conventional flow”, when you get used to the basic formulas they hit you with “negative flow textbooks”. That’s what you need to know when you are solving circuit diagrams.

That’s a longer and more jargon laded explanation than wasn’t needed. For soldering RCA cables you solder the black wires to black (or to the negative terminal) and solder white or red wired to the white or red wire (or positive terminal).

I got very good at soldering RCA plugs. Of course you can buy solderless plugs, but if you don’t get that crimping right. Just saying…

To circle around back to the title of this blog. Mono is one speaker (and not just the left or the right channels of a stereo, or the others I will get to) it includes all the sound from the source (you will all the channels).

Bose has a great Soundtouch Color series that has great sound. Expensive but you really do get what you pay for. They also make Soundtouch 10 series, that you can link together from once source, or even pair to stereo.

JBL also makes great standalone mono speakers, with same kind of options. I have a red Soundtouch Color because it reminded me of a red transistor radio I got as a kid for Christmas. Nostalgia went a long way into the decision to buy it.

I also have a JBL Charge 3 bluetooth speaker I use for gaming speakers on my gaming machine.

And I have 2 of the JBL Flip 4 speakers I have paired in the bedroom. They are loud and last a long time on a charge, but remembering to charge them before you want to use them is a pita.

Stereo talk goes in a follow up blog.

Eddie Van Halen

Given the nunber of music posts I’ve written, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t post on this subject.

My mind was changed when he first got married and they showed “Valarie and Eddie at home” He was sitting on the couch playing an acoustic guitar, and I saw that he was good. ‘Course then he lied through his teeth saying the groupies were over. For some reason thought they didn’t have long as a married couple. I was surprised when I found out they were married 26 years.

Full discloser: He wasn’t my favourite guitarist. At first I thought he was too flashy (a la Jimi Hendrix teeth picking the guitar but not showing any other skill than that).

Van Halen’s firt album is great. Shows off his talent, blah blah. But then the rest of the Van Halen albums came out. Each invidiually sucked in their own way.

C’mon fanboys (or girls) listen to the first album, and then ANY of the other albums. They are too commercial. Don’t even come close to showing off his talent.

Frankly I’m surprised he didn’t want to put out a solo album of guitar work.

The list of people who invented tapping is long. Sure, he took it to a technically proficient level. But Billy Shehan does the same thing on bass.

And Tina S. plays “Eruption” like is was a plain ordinary daily dump.

Just sayin’

Who is my favourite guitarist. I have a few for different reasons. For Blues style, Robin, Trower, Stevie Ray Vaugn, Rory Gallagher

For that “boogie shuffle rhythm” Johnny Cash or Marc Bolan

For technical profiency and for a guitar lead that “fits” the song. Ritchie Blackmore, Ace Frehley-ish, Tony Iommi, Kelly Johnson, Samantha Fish. A few others

So my list of NOT the best guitarists who are and will ever be forever in the whole universe, goes like this: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen.

Yup, not a popular opinon, but I go by good output, not the hype.

Sure. Prove me wrong… I’m waiting…

Thick As A Brick

Without our fearless leader, Darcie and I are left floundering in the dark. Onwards (see what I did there? 🙂

 

A  long time ago, for some reason, I was looking for some new music (to me) that was keyboard heavy. What I was looking for at the time, and didn’t realize it until recently was a group that had what I like to call the “heavy organ” sound. That’s not an original phrase. I got that from Virgil Fox.

I went down to my favourite record store, and found an album where one of the instruments used on it was a “mellotron” I knew that was a keyboard of some type so I thought I’d give the album a try.

I also knew the album wasn’t going to be a total wash because it was Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” I liked that particular song. Albums back then had the unique quality of having more than one good song (that was the release single). I could get lucky and the whole album was good.

And it, was, but not my favourite Tull album.

The second Jethro Tull album I picked up was “Thick As A Brick”. My copy pictured below:

tab1-folded

If it looks like the top half a a folded newspaper, that’s because it is. Sort of. It’s a clever take on a gatefold  album cover, if you open it up, un-fold it, it looks like this:

tab1-unfolded

And if you, open it up like a newspaper it looks like this (this is page 1 and 2):

tab1-openp1

 

And this is page the last page:

tab1-lastpage11

You’d have to zoom in to the top right hand corner of the right hand page. But it says “11”

(ok that was weird. I’ve written two 11 references today, totally unintentional)

This was a parody of concept albums at the time. But ended up being one of the best selling concept albums of 1972. And I’m guessing the irony is not lost on the genius that is Ian Anderson.

It’s one continuous piece of music over two sides of a vinyl album. Of course on CD and live it plays much better.

In 2012 a “sequel” was released by Ian Anderson, called “Thick As A Brick 2”. I’m not sure if it was ever released on vinyl, BUT:

tab1+2

From left to right (top row): The box of this box set, “Thick As A Brick” original album, but non-gatefold sleeve.

Bottom row: “Thick As A Brick 2” (in vinyl!), hard cover booklet (which happens to contain all the text of the original “newspaper” from the gatefold version, plus notes, photos, etc. As far a i know you can’t get this anymore. (Amazon, etc.)

When  Jethro Tull toured for this album, they played the in its entirety. That would have been some show to see. They are one of the few bands that can duplicate their album sound (other’s include Yes, Deep Purple)

After TAAB2 was released, Ian Anderson did at least one show of the contents of both albums:

tab-ice

This is, of course, is the 3 album set on vinyl of the concert, 2, cd’s (that were included in the numbered copy (mine is 475 of 3000), and I also picked up the Blu-ray of it.

I haven’t listened to it yet. Saving it for a rainy day. 🙂

 

T.REX – Greatest Hits

We used to have a regular indoor mall where I live. They turned it into an “outdoor mall”.

This is just a theory, but I have this idea that, City councils, city planners, and architects get together every once and while, and design, plan and execute the stoopid effing dumb things they come up with.

No matter how often we vote out the wasteoids, the replacements do the same thing.

One of the greatest hits (see what i did there?)  they came up with was a massive facelift to one of our regular indoor malls

.

So instead of strolling around the mall, maybe take your coffee  to one of the many tables or benches that were scattered throughout, maybe look over your purchases that day…or just hang out, you don’t.

The outdoor mall concept kills that. And replaces it with stoopid dumb effing parking.

So anyway, way…waaaaay back when it was a real mall, it used to have a store called “Tape Mart”. I gather from the name they intended to specialize in cassettes (millennials look that up….and it’s relation to the pencil),

[as an side, i liken that last comment to giving a dog a cracker with peanut butter on both sides to keep it busy while the adults talk]

I probably went into the store maybe twice, it didn’t really have a good record selection which could be why it went out of business before the mall did it’s magical stoopid transformation.

After I had picked up a copy of the The Slider i was on the desperate hunt for T.REX albums. I knew there was more because of that  Encyclopedia of Rock book, but I knew they were rare.

It was the summer and suddenly I remembered that this Tape Mart place had a T.REX album I didn’t have. I scrounged up a lot of change and ran to the bus stop just down from where I lived.

Ran into the mall and into the store, and tada, there is was. The last copy, now my copy, pictured below:

T REX GreatestHits2R

This was a double album set. And while it contained T.REX hits (current up to the release of that album) it had Tyrannosaurus Rex “hits” also.

Before Marc Bolan shorted the name, the band was an flower power acoustic duo with Tolkienesqe themes for songs. I had never heard any of those songs, and to be fair they are an acquired taste, some are catchy, but back then Marc Bolan was doing a Mungo Jerry style of vocals, that doesn’t really appeal to me.

[sigh, millenials look up Mungo Jerry in the summertime]

ok sorry, in joke dolphin laugh there.

One of the things that Marc Bolan did, was that he would not release singles (aka 45’s at the time)  of songs that could be found on the currently released album. So you literally had to buy the 45’s if you wanted those songs. You wouldn’t feel ripped off by buying songs you already had on the album. Of course later albums, like the one pictured above would gather the various singles and put them on the 33 but you had to wait for that.

One of the other things Bolan did was put 3 songs on a 45, most releases have one song on Side A, and one on Side B. T.REX singles had your main release on Side A, and 2 other songs on Side B. He probably drove record companies crazy doing that.

Marc Bolan didn’t want to rip off the fans, record companies be damned.

So that one was my third T.REX album. I was in the lead.

Liona Boyd != Twisted Sister

After reading Everything Now I wanted to relate some of my own concert experiences…sorry Darcie, stealing your idea ‘cause i have to crank out two of these before the end of the month. 🙂

The very first concert I ever went to was in Edmonton, it was Liona Boyd. She’s Canadian, a classical guitarist (knows as The First Lady of the Guitar). She was one of the best  classical guitarists in the world, she had a very unique style that I haven’t seen any one else attempt successfully.

She now suffers from Focal dystonia,  which is what Keith Emerson also had.

I went with a friend, and he knew that my favourite band was T.REX, but at the time I was also getting into what I like to call “progressive metal”. This is heavy metal, but not done by morons.

A perfect example is the group Iron Maiden. Yes it’s heavy metal, but it’s not simple music. Early Deep Purple, early Black Sabbath could be considered progressive metal. I think even Metallica could fall into that category. Anyway, that’s the kind of stuff I was listening to when I went to see Liona Boyd.

My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, we were both guitar fans, so it was a no brainer to go.

When we were waiting for the bus to get back home (Edmonton has one of the best bus systems in Canada even later on at night) he said I was the only person who could go to a Liona Boyd concert and then go home and listen to two hours of Twisted Sister.

He was right.

After I moved I went to see her in the local theatre four or five more times.

I went to see KISS in Ottawa, it was the second “reunion” tour. So my review would go something like: “It was the second reunion tour”. ‘Nuff said.

I’m leading to something here, stick with me if you’re eyes haven’t  glazed over yet.

My wife and I went to see Blue Man Group at the local large venue centre we have here. I had been a fan of theirs way before anybody else when i first saw them on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. That live show was a lot of fun.

We saw the stage play Jesus Christ Superstar at the same venue. Ted Neely was still doing the show and his voice was still able to crank it out. The show was so good that I tell people I would have walked out of the building, turned around, paid twice as much and watched it all over again and not thought twice about doing it.

The next show we saw was Steve Howe. He was the second guitarist for the progressive rock band Yes. If he had come up to me before the show started and asked for a set list of what he should play I would have given him the exact songs he played…and pretty much in that order. He is one of those artists you don’t ever expect to be able to see if you live in a smallish town.

Then we saw The Stampeders. They are a great Canadian band that had their biggest success in the early ’70’s. I wasn’t as familiar with their music as I should have been. Something i’ve rectified since the show. The very first Stampeders song I heard and one of my favourites of their’s is one called “Ramona”. It’s a heavier tune than most of their music, so I didn’t really expect them to do it at the show, because frankly, you’re talking about an older audience of fans going to see them, and that might  not sit well.

But they performed the song. Not only that but the whole audience participation thing they did for the song was great. Was worth three times the price of admission. Just that one song. The next time they were in town we saw them again, no hesitation about buying tickets.

Once our town got it’s large entertainment venue, bigger acts started showing up. Elton John, Deep Purple, Heart.

I’m not a big enough fan of Elton John’s to actually buy tickets as I am of the latter two. But I chose not to.

Here’s why. I can’t speak for everyone that likes classic rock, but you get a picture and sound in your head of your favourite groups, and you want to keep it.

You do NOT want to see that shattered. Ok yes, the band members get older. With musicians, they  maybe not jump around like they used to but they can still play, and usually better because they’ve played the songs so many times that it’s second nature for them on stage.

And here is where the disappointment starts. When I  went to see KISS in Ottawa, Ace Frehley’s guitar solo was…embarrassing.

Because of Liona Boyd’s medical condition her shows could now  be best described as singing poetry. Which is not what I would want to see from one of the best classical guitarists in the world.

And even though Ian Gillan is back  with Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore isn’t (and i’m sorry fans, Steve Morse just isn’t cutting it for me). Jon Lord is no longer with us either. He’d be 50% of the reason I’d pay to see the band. Ian Gillan doesn’t have the pipes any more to crank out “Child in Time”….but he still sings it.  The word i’m looking for is: Fremdschämen. It’s a German word that basically means you’re embarrassed for someone else.

You can find videos on youtube of Gillan cranking that out if you want to see what I mean…check out the “before” videos, then check out the later ones. Fremdschämen. Just sayin’.

As for Heart, Ann Wilson can still crank it out. I heard that the show they did here was really good, but it was from someone who was not “musically informed” (read the previous blog if you don’t know what  i mean”) so i take that with a grain of salt. I might be tempted next time [if] they show.

The other group I’d be hesitant to pay for is Jethro Tull. As musicians, Ian Anderson has always had band members with the musical chops, so no real worries there. But his voice…it wasn’t that he can’t crank out the high notes, because that really wasn’t his style of singing, it was the lower register he seems to have a problem with. I read somewhere that he had a vocal chord injury, so that may have something to do with it.

If they did play locally though, I think I might get over it, and see them at least once. Bands from the 70’s who don’t really have to promote a new album, tend to play their classics.

And some bands, it’s sad to say, absolutely suck live. Just listen to any Rolling Stones bootleg…even my favourite band, T.REX doesn’t really sound good live.

The best live bands, imho are those that can recreate their album sound in a live venue (Deep Purple, Yes, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd)

Those are all classic 70’s bands…hmm, i sense a pattern.