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Road Trip, Milan

 

With Paolo Barsotti in Milano.

There are certain cities around the world that just ooze music. London, Nashville and New Orleans are three places that immediately come to mind. Music towns!

While chasing after what looks to be Roger Waters of Pink Floyd’s final tour I recently ended up in Milan, Italy. It’s tough letting go of that amazing concert experience that Roger is known for. So, there we were, two incredible sold-out shows in front of a wild audience that knew all the Floyd music and warmly greeted his three or four new tunes from Is the Life We Really Want. The crowd really reminded me of the passionate, heavy duty Roger/Floyd fans in New York that would show up at Madison Garden all the time. The hard core rock fan who KNOWS all the tunes and the stories and myths that go along with Roger’s legacy. It was nice to experience all that over in Europe with my Italian friends Paolo and Francesco from Lucca.

Milan’s music tradition goes way beyond our times. There are statues to Richard Wagner and the Italian superstar opera composer, Giuseppe Verde in squares all around town. A street named after Mozart and then there’s the greatest opera theater of all time; La Scala. Known world over, it’s ground zero for the finest opera productions of the last couple of hundred years. And still going strong. Being a history freak I got a real strong sense of time as well the power of musical passion and creativity over the years. It was definitely goose-bump time as I stood outside and headed into the lobby. Much like the first time I walked on stage at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville or bringing on a jazz band at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Tons of tradition and a feeling of musical excellence that seems to hang in the air.

I couldn’t help thinking that just maybe Roger’s music might make it crosstown to La Scala one day. True, he wrote the finest rock opera of all time with The Wall but I was actually thinking of Ca Ira his traditional opera set during the French Revolution. It’s starting to be performed around the world by various opera companies. I sure love those blurred lines when it comes to music genres and Milan, Italy is just the place for it to happen.

By | 2018-05-09T00:41:07+00:00 May 9th, 2018|Ray's Travels|0 Comments

It’s on Showtime (Finally)

It’s a new documentary called “New Wave: Dare to Be Different”about a cool little New York radio station back in the 80s. A real punk David & Goliath tale. WLIR-FM was a hip, low-powered station broadcasting from Long Island, the crowded suburbs of New York City. Management and the crazy staff made a decision in 1982 to abandon the corporate rock of the day and switch all their energies and airtime to the new music scene. That meant out with the Grateful Dead, Charlie Daniels, Styx, Billy Joel and Journey. Taking their place was the new wave sound of Nick Lowe, the Clash, U2, Billy Idol, Joan Jett, the B-52, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Talking Heads and Soft Cell. Watching the film you witness a dumpy little station (it was a hole!) broadcasting from the burbs. You meet a lovable, obsessed crew of DJs, phone volunteers, record shop owners, club promoters, record executives and clever publicist all before the arrival MTV. Some say that MTV’s appearance happened all because of WLIR’s sound and the powerful new music scene that was unfolding.

Stream the movie (Showtime required)

WLIR was the little musical engine that could. Along with KROQ in LA, it helped change the music world in America. To have been there, sitting in the front row of this zany story, is one of my proudest moments. I used to do the afternoon shift, doubling as music director with an office that you couldn’t even walk through the door of because of the constant avalanche of new vinyl everywhere. Yeah, those were the days.

By | 2018-03-31T20:53:24+00:00 March 31st, 2018|Press|Comments Off on It’s on Showtime (Finally)

The End of an Era

Once upon a time there were huge record stores that roamed the earth. All decked out in bright orange and yellow. They were called Tower Records and you couldn’t miss them. Russ Solomon was the man who had a dream and vision selling about recorded music and he started the chain in a corner of his family drugstore in Sacramento. On Sunday while watching the Oscar ceremonies he asked his wife for a glass of Scotch whiskey and moments later made his transition. He was 92. His record retail journey is quite a story.

Granted, there are still some record stores around. And with vinyl’s resurgence they’re doing better than they have in years. But there was nothing like hitting Tower back in the day. There seemed to be been one on every block, like Dunkin Donuts in New England. Over the last few days through emails, Facebook and Twitter there’s been one great story after another about these record and CD superstores with their awesome inventory, passionate (almost always friendly) clerks and that industrial lighting. Spending all your paycheck at Tower on payday, meeting a future spouse in the aisles of Tower or running into music stars (especially at the Sunset store in LA). The old philosopher Bruce Springsteen once said “everyone is your friend for 20 minutes.”

In 2015 an indie film saluting the chain came out called All Things Must Pass. Directed by Collin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son) it’s a terrific documentary about the history and loyal employees that worked for their charming founder Russ. It’s part love letter, as well as a truly fascinating tale and a delicious bit of music biz history. It’s all there; the humble start, the mighty expansion and the breathtaking collapse.

So, how could this company fail? Thanks to director Hanks we get the whole back story to this invincible, musical Titantic cruising toward it’s rendezvous with the big iceberg called the internet (Napster). If that wasn’t enough, the record companies were dying and management had opened too many stores. We meet the charming founder Russ Solomon and his loyal and lovable staff as well as some very famous Tower customers like Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl (who used to work for the chain in Seattle). You’ll love their comments about hanging around Tower’s miles of CD and record bins.

Whether it be the original San Francisco shop on Columbus (with the classical annex across the street), the star-studded outlet on Sunset, their giant eight story superstore in Shibuya, Tokyo, the packed outlet in Austin, Texas or NYC’s uptown and downtown stores it was always a fun (and expensive!!) hang.

Thank you Russ Solomon. I have so many memories of talking music in the aisles amongst the bins of your stores. Vinyl may live on but there will never be another Tower Records (unless you go to Japan where they still exist).

By | 2018-03-14T23:53:17+00:00 March 14th, 2018|Ray's Thoughts|Comments Off on The End of an Era

Neil Young Blasts Google

They’re neighbors actually. Neil Young’s ranch is just a few miles from Google’s campus yet they are a million miles from one another philosophically. After the collapse of Neil’s pet project called Pono this past year which he blamed on the record companies, he’s now put Google (YouTube’s parent company) in his sites.

“The Tech Giants have figured out a way to use all the great music of everyone from all time, without reporting an art’s number of plays or paying a fucking cent to the musicians. Aren’t they great companies!!!”

He has a point. Here’s the entire text of his email.

Young artists today, great authors, songwriters and musicians at the beginning of their creative output, are challenged to make ends meet in the digital world, a world where the artist is paid last, if at all, by the Tech Giants. This came to mind somehow today, listening to Broken Arrow, an album I made with Crazy Horse about twenty years ago, in 1996.

Broken Arrow is an overlooked album. It was the first Crazy Horse album after the death of David Briggs, our producer since the beginning’s lucky “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” It was engineered by Greg Archilla, who David had just introduced to us. Broken Arrow is soulful. Real. Not trying to be anything it wasn’t. I was beginning to see that hits were overrated and that hit-makers were falling like flies.

There’s a comet in the sky tonight.
Makes me feel like I’m alright
I’m movin’ pretty fast
For my size

Those lyrics from “Music Arcade” are kind of how I felt at the time. Today, in the age of FaceBook, GOOGLE, and Amazon, it’s hard to tell how a new and growing musical artist could make it in the way we did. The Tech Giants have figured out a way to use all the great music of everyone from all time, without reporting an artist’s number of plays or paying a fucking cent to the musicians. Aren’t they great companies!!! It makes you wonder where the next generation of artists will come from. How will they survive?

‘Don’t Be Evil.’ That was GOOGLE’s corporate motto as they directed users to pirate sites to get artists’ creations and not pay!! Amazing tech breakthrough!! Meanwhile, they reap the bucks from ads people read while listening to music made by the artists. GOOGLE just changed their motto to ‘Do The Right Thing,’ but haven’t changed anything else as they continue to rip off the artist community, building their wealth on music’s back and paying nothing to the artists. WOW! Brilliant tech breakthrough! BTW, GOOGLE is YOUTUBE! Guess who’s next?

I am so happy to be able to share my music and albums like Broken Arrow with you here at NYA, where you can actually hear what we did. Xstream high resolution music makes me feel like I was there. I hope you can feel it too. The more you enjoy this music, the happier I am to share it with you. NYA is moving into a future that is really different from what we have now. It will not be easy. We are going to break a few rules and give you what you want.

PEACE
NY/NYA

By | 2018-03-02T01:05:50+00:00 March 2nd, 2018|Press|Comments Off on Neil Young Blasts Google

Thoughts on the 2018 GRAMMYS

The uproar over Bruno Mars’ landslide at the 2018 Grammys is the latest fiasco and frustration at yet another ceremony. I’ve been around the block a few times and this stuff doesn’t make me crazy anymore but it sure is annoying.

First, let me say I was happy about some well deserved Grammy recognition that went to:

1. Taj Mahal and Keb Mo. Loved their acceptance speech contained here…

2) War on Drugs

3) Christian McBride and his Big Band

The Grammys have always been real hit or miss stuff. And this year there were lots of obvious “misses”. As a young, passionate music fan back in1965 I was stunned when Tom Jones took the “Best New Artist” from my Byrds. Tom Jones, Come on! Then in the late 70s when all the fresh energy of Elvis Costello, the Clash and Peter Gabriel was overlooked I knew I was just wasting my breath.  Recently music editor Robert Baird over at Stereophile Magazine laid out the problem and addressed it in a great column.

By | 2018-02-23T00:51:21+00:00 February 23rd, 2018|Ray's Thoughts|Comments Off on Thoughts on the 2018 GRAMMYS

Itzhak, The Film

Photo by Lisa-Marie-Mazzucco

An infectious smile, his focused intensity and, of course, that magnificent violin sound; there is no one quite like Itzhak Perlman. Some call Perlman the greatest living violinist. A new film documentary by director Alison Chernick called Itzhak sheds light onto this musical ambassador. Premiering in NYC this week, this independent film will be shown on public television as part of the American Masters Series on PBS in 2018.

We really get insight into this very likable, larger than life man. The film covers his travels from Israel, contracting polio at a young age, displaying stunning virtuosity on the Ed Sullivan Show when he was just 13, and moving to New York to study at Juilliard. Along the way, he captured our hearts and became a superstar in the world of classical music.

Over the years Perlman became quite the New Yorker. He lives in Babe Ruth’s old apartment off Central Park West and in turn, is a huge baseball fan. Playing the national anthem at a Mets’ game last year was a complete thrill for this guy who’s played everywhere. We get to watch him hang out with his friends, pianist Evgeny Kissin and cellist Mischa Maisky, over a Chinese dinner. Actor Alan Alda shares over a glass of wine that he too had childhood polio. Together they talk about the effects of the disease on their careers. He never seems to stop sharing his amazing gift with the world – and his master classes with young violinists are a thing to behold. Would you believe that his most requested piece is the main theme to Schindler’s List which he recorded with his friend John Williams for the award-winning movie?

Itzhak allows us to be a fly on the wall and watch one of the legendary violinists live his life, move through his career and behold the love he has for his wife and family. Aren’t we lucky?

By | 2017-11-14T00:25:33+00:00 November 14th, 2017|Contemporary Classical|Comments Off on Itzhak, The Film

FAREWELL 2016

Goodbye to so many we lost this past year.  And a loving thank you for all your incredible music…

DavidBowieNatalieColeLeonRussellRudyvanGelderGeorgeMartinMoseAllisonMauriceWhiteDaleGriffinPaulKantnerSigneAnersonScottyMooreNikolausHarnoncourtSandyPearlmanDanHicksKeithEmersonGregLakeGibGuilbeauPrinceGuyClarkDaveSwarbrickHenryMcCulloughWayneJacksonTootsThielmansRobWassermanGlenYarbroughPrinceBusterPhilChessNevilleMarinerBobbyHutchersonLeonardCohenBobKrasnowAphonseMouzonCandyeKaneCoryWellsMicGilleteGlennFreyCynthiaRobinsonGiorioGomelskyNanaVasconcelosMerleHaggardAndyNewman&PierreBoulez.

 

By | 2017-01-18T00:38:01+00:00 January 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on FAREWELL 2016

TOP OF THE CHARTS WITH WOLFIE

 
Billboard Magazine has done all the tabulating and the results are in, the kid from Salzburg is the winner! Who would have ever believed that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be a top best seller for this past year? This is for 2016 NOT 1816. W.A.M. left the planet in 1792 at the young age of 36 with so many great years ahead of him. His early death was a tragedy of the first order. Yet, his genius matters more than ever. His music touches us generation after generation.

Billboard reported that the $400 boxed set of 200 CDs with every piece the man ever wrote has sold close to two million copies. Right up there Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Adele.  Hats off to Decca Records who curated this impressive release which was timed for the 225th anniversary of his death.  The collection features sixty orchestras and six hundred world class soloists along with an impressive book. They did it right.

 

By | 2017-01-18T00:32:28+00:00 January 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on TOP OF THE CHARTS WITH WOLFIE

Ben Fong-Torres' Profiles

I’ve been a long time fan of writer Ben Fong-Torres from his old Rolling Stone magazine days. In “Almost Famous”, Cameron Crowe’s loving portrait of a young music writer in the heyday of the 70s rock scene, captured the early days of the magazine’s talent staff. And that included Ben Fong-Torres. He stopped by and visited with me while on the air at KDFC and then did this marvelous profile for the SF Chronicle. Thanks Ben!

The original SF Chronicle article

 

By | 2016-11-13T18:37:21+00:00 November 13th, 2016|Press|Comments Off on Ben Fong-Torres' Profiles

A NEW JAZZ STATION

I’ve just jumped on-board a new internet jazz radio station. It’s called; thejazzgroove.com Yours truly is on Monday through Friday 7PM till Midnight, stretching out with a monster library playing the likes of John Coltrane, Miles, Dave Brubeck, Joshua Redman and Diana Krall. We’ll be slipping in releases from the new faces and sounds like Joe Alterman, Eldar Djangirov and Nora Jones.
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From NYC to the SF Bay Area I’ve been on some great stations. I even worked in a very cool jazz record shop once upon a time in Hartford, Ct. It’s a worldwide celebration of America’s true art form and a pure delight every time I open the mic and play some of my favorites.
Whether you’re entertaining, reading, studying or just chilling out, I’ve got some terrific laid back jazz for you on thejazzgroove.com or with our app. And, did I say NO commercials? It’s true. Jazz Tonight, come check us out.

 

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By | 2016-11-13T18:37:02+00:00 November 13th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A NEW JAZZ STATION