Michael Fremer  |  Sep 01, 2003  |  0 comments

The Beatles made four unforgettable live appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 16, 23rd 1964, and one more, over a year and a half later on September 12, 1965. While the fourth was almost anti-climactic, the first three rightly retain a mythological status, with an amazing 73 million Americans tuning in for The Beatles’s first appearance. In those pre-VCR, pre-400 cable channels days, The Beatles literally appeared out of nowhere, drove the teenagers in the audience crazy, and then disappeared, leaving the kids gasping for air and wondering whether they’d actually seen their idols, or hallucinated them. There would be no taped playback at home, or excerpts on “Entertainment Weekly.” The Beatles didn’t make “the rounds” and visit other shows, because there really weren’t any. Some still shots in Life or in some teenybopper magazine were the best that could be hoped for.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 01, 2003  |  0 comments

Three of the most important elements in successful pop music making (I don’t mean the Britany variety), in my opinion, are tunes, craft and originality. Paloalto has two out of three, and that’s more than enough to push this pleasing disc into the spotlight. The missing element is the most difficult one to discover, create of whatever it is, and that’s originality. Paloalto follow partially in the footsteps of the British band Travis—and to a far lesser degree, Coldplay—and that’s all there is to it. Given that this sensitive, introspective genre is often called “shoe-gazing music,” in what else but footsteps would you expect them to follow?

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 01, 2003  |  0 comments

The heir apparent to the Elton John/Billy Joel musical fortune culled these 17 tracks from live performances recorded during a daring 6 month long nationwide solo tour. Daring because a guy and a piano needs to project like hell to fill some of the mid-sized halls in which Folds played, and he does. A guy and an acoustic piano can still fill a big space.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments

Jack Pfeiffer: The Last Interview

When I sat down at last January's (1996) Consumer Electronics Show with veteran RCA producer Jack Pfeiffer, I had no way of knowing that I would be conducting the final interview he would ever give. Pfeiffer suffered a fatal heart attack on Thursday February 8th, 1996 at his RCA office where he'd worked in the Red Seal division for the past forty seven years. He was 75.

Jack Pfeiffer was a pleasant man, soft spoken and easy to talk to. When my rather limited knowledge of the classical music world became apparent, he picked up the slack so I wouldn't feel too uncomfortable.

My reason for speaking with him had less to do with anything technical, and more to do with getting his take on the work being rediscovered and appreciated by a younger generation of music lovers thirty plus years later, and how, given the usual corporate bottom line mentality (yes, even then) such a dedication to quality could prevail. So yes, it was more People and less Mix and under the circumstances that's fine with me.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  1 comments

M.F.:Now that whole "Dynagroove" thing. Do you want to....

J.P.:Well, I'll dispose of it quickly. Some of them were great, great recordings too.

M.F.:Recordings yes, but....


M.F.:Once they got on to disc though....


M.F.:The difference was in the cutting, correct? It wasn't in anything else.

J.P.:It was in two places, basically. It was in the cutting, but it was also in the mix down, because the head of our engineering department came up with a device to make the translation from a high level of listening to a moderate level of listening that most people listen to. And to make that translation from listening to it at high level to low level or lower level, it changed the whole ear characteristic change.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 17, 2003  |  0 comments

The Police have always been a well-produced, superbly recorded group. The first album, Outlandos D’amour, was an explosive, starkly recorded document. Issued as the punk movement ascended, the band chose to emphasize a propulsive, reggae infused rhythmic thrust rather than its considerable instrumental virtuosity. Stewart Copeland kept his pounding beats relatively simple, jazz virtuoso guitarist Andy Summers made do with slashing rhythmic attacks, and Sting shot his impossibly high-pitched rasp seemingly out of a cannon. Engineers Nigel and Chris Gray complied by keeping the miking close and the production simple, yet dramatically immediate and natural sounding. The first album was “in your face” big.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

A cold-steel stoic intensity inhabits the faces of Canadian folksingers Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker on the cover of their 1965 Vanguard album Northern Journey. The photo’s low light and blue cast amplify the title’s message. Combine the front cover with the scholarly ethno-musicalogical liner notes you’ll find on the back—perhaps a reflexive reaction to the commercialization of folk music back then and an attempt to separate Ian and Sylvia from many trite, packaged folk acts of the time—and you have an almost forbiddingly chilly surface.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

You won’t be buying these two LPs for their sonics. Primitive television show soundtracks from a Compton, California based local program recorded before an appreciative live audience, provide listeners with a “way back machine” glimpse of another time, and seemingly another universe—especially when you consider the music for which Compton’s currently best known.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  1 comments

The good news is that playing before an audience, Alison Krauss and her crack back-up band Union Station can replicate the Bluegrass/pop fireworks—instrumentally and vocally—that they set off in the studio. That’s the bad news too, as whatever interplay there was between the group and the audience has been excised, and the arrangements and performances shed little new light on the mostly familiar tunes. That’s just fine by the fans, judging by the raucous, appreciative audience reaction at this concert, recorded at the Louisville Palace, in Louisville Kentucky, April 29th and 30th, 2002 while the group toured in support of New Favorite (Rounder 11661-0485 hybrid multi-channel SACD/Diverse Vinyl DIV001LP 180g LP). The fans at home obviously approved as well, as the album quickly went Platinum. One track, the familiar “Down to the River to Pray,” was recorded live on the “Austin City Limits” television program.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2003  |  2 comments


Jon Anderson was always busy exhorting listeners to “Get up!,” “Look around,!” “See yourself!,” etc. His lyrics feel like a Tony Robbins self-improvement course (“Take the straight and stronger course to the corner of your life,”), but Anderson and co. were doing it first and setting the self-help lectures to bombastic musical constructions. Because of Anderson’s lyrical themes, Yes could be preachy, pretentious, mechanical and cold, but you had to respect the musical craft—especially the rhythmic suppleness (it was smart to unleash Bill Bruford) and the group’s sophisticated manipulation of dynamics.