Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Music

Below are some favorite Christmas songs. If you have Rhapsody, you can click here to automatically load the tracks in. I guess like any music recorded in the analog days, I think these classic Christmas songs have something special to them that I don't find in modern Christmas music. I know this is totally a subjective statement, but nothing of the last 20 years has made it into my list of Christmas classics. There's something about the old recordings--with the real orchestras, the booming reverb, rich choirs, and the reverent lead vocals--that really makes an impact. A modern recording with a glossy, crisp production and some sleigh bells overdubbed just seems so weak compared to these tracks. "Warm" has been overused to describe analog recording, but since it's Christmas, I get to trot out a cliche.

I wonder if in 20 years people will view 1980s-90s Christmas recordings as classics or if we'll keep coming back to these from the 40s,50s, and 60s. I think the recordings from the 40s,50s, and 60s represent the golden age of Christmas music and I don't think it will be equaled. Kind of like the Beatles and rock music.

Related to my posting on acoustic recording, I wonder if there are any vocal Christmas recordings done during the acoustic era. I'll have to check out the Tuesday antique music show to see if they play anything.

Merry Christmas.

1. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
2. Santa Claus Is Back In Town - Elvis Presley
3. Silver Bells - Bing Crosby
4. Joy To The World - Nat King Cole
5. O Little Town Of Bethlehem - Frank Sinatra
6. Silent Night - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
7. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Ella Fitzgerald
8. Do You Hear What I Hear? - Do-Re-Mi Childrens Chorus
9. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear - Johnny Mathis
10. Mistletoe And Holly - Frank Sinatra
11. Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day - Brenda Lee
12. What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) - Mahalia Jackson
13. Frosty The Snow Man - Gene Autry
14. O Holy Night - Mahalia Jackson
15. We Three Kings of Orient Are - The Beach Boys
16. I Wonder As I Wander - Joan Baez
17. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Bing Crosby
18. If Every Day Was Like Christmas - Elvis Presley
19. The Christmas Song - Booker T. & The MG's
20. Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental) - Vince Guaraldi

Technorati Tags: recording, music, christmas

Friday, December 09, 2005

Acoustic Recording

Whenever you read about the history of popular music, things tend to start around the 30s with Bing Crosby or Louie Armstrong. That's all fine and dandy, but there were around 35 years of the recording industry before that time. Hard to believe but from the late 1800s to the middle of the 1920s there was an entire recording industry built around recording without any electricity. This is the ultimate analog recording experience, and we haven't gone that far at Silent Stereo. For now we're still with magnetic tape.

But the acoustic era was a fascinating time and it's something that is totally forgotten by modern audiences. How many people today ever talk about Billy Murray (not the guy from Ghostbusters), Ada Jones, Vess L. Ossman, or Arthur Collins? These artists are never cited as influences or mentioned in the "Top 100 Artists of the Century". Granted their styles are pretty far removed from modern music. It's the same as a modern actress being influenced by Lillian Gish. Gish's style is too drastically different to fit into the modern artform. Also, a lot of the records are not PC with lots of racist and ethnic humor. But we can't turn a blind eye or ear to our history; and it's interesting to hear how much things have changed in 100 years.

Like silents, acoustic recordings are a great window into the past to see what the public enjoyed. Also, the musicianship is impressive. No edits, no overdubs; just get the orchestra in the room and go for it.

Here's some great places to check out acoustic recordings: - Antique Phonograph Music Show (also check out Thomas Edison's Attic show). This is the show that got me interested in acoustic recording. A great variety of material- comedy bits, vocal numbers, and I've even heard some old exercise recordings. - UCSB just put an archive of cylinder recordings online. After you find some artists you like on the Antique Phonograph show, look them up here for more recordings.

Technorati Tags: recording, music, acoustic

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Faded Americana: A SSR Look At Our Changing Culture

The Fullback Era

On a brisk, windswept day at Chicago's hallowed Wrigley Field, a emblematic figure charged up and down the gridiron. After one run, a hapless defender was carted off with a broken shoulder. An attempted tackle left another out cold. And on one fearsome run, the ballcarrier burst into the end zone with such ferocity that his momentum carried him into the brick wall beyond the end zone. According to legend, the brick wall cracked from the collision with this mighty behemoth. Bronko Nagurski, 6'2'', 228 pounds, was the prototypical, all-American fullback. His responsibilities on the field were many: blocking, running the ball, catching short passes out of the backfield. He even passed the ball, throwing two touchdown passes in the Bears' 1933 Championship
winning victory. On the other side of the ball, he played linebacker, mercilessly driving his opposite numbers into the turf on drive after drive. Nagurski's battles with one such adversary, fellow fullback Clarke Hinkle are the stuff of legend. Although Hinkle gave up at least three inches in height and 25 pounds in weight, he matched Nagurski's savage passion and was nearly as versatile. In one epic clash in 1934, Hinkle pounded the ball upfield, only to come face with face with Nagurski. As he later told the press, his only choice was to "get Nagurski before he got me." Lowering his head and squaring his shoulders, Hinkle pounded into and through Nagurski, shattering the gladiator's nose and fracturing one of his ribs. LikeNagurski, Hinkle also played linebacker on defense, viciously shutting down not only the running game but the passing game as well. On special teams, Hinkle was the Packer's punter and place kicker. Hinkle and Nagurski were both consumnate fullbacks, dynamic players who each helped their teams in a number of ways. But their fullback brethen, while not nearly as celebrated, were equally as important to their teams. The fullback has been called 'the heartbeat of the offense,' and in many ways the position of fullback, which flourished in the 1930's, represented the larger American culture. The fullback's main job was to sacrifice himself for the good of teammates, using his size and exceptional field vision to block for the smaller tailbacks and quarterbacks. However, the fullback was pressed into a number of duties, depending on the situation. In some cases, the fullback was used in crucial short yardage situations, where his larger size allowed him to bull past defenders. The fullback also was asked to catch passes out of the backfield when the offense's play broke down. Oftentimes, the fullback also played linebacker, where his size and vision also served him well. Of course, many Americans in the 1930's could emphathize with the fullback; with the country mired in a deep depression, the population knew sacrifice, knew the value of hard, oftentimes unappreciated work, and knew the need to do whatever task the situation demanded.

The Fullback in Decline

After World War II, American culture began changing dramatically. The Depression was over and a new period of prosperity arrived. Rapid technological advances brought an unprecedented level of comfort to the average American citizen. In some ways these changes were reflected in the fullback position. Although this era produced a number of Hall of Fame caliber fullbacks, such as Frank Gifford, Larry Csonka, and Jim Brown, these fullbacks were more precursors of the modern running back than throwbacks to Nagurski and Hinkle. By this time, increasing specialization in both football and American society stripped the fullback of his myriad roles. No longer did players play on both offense and defense; running duties were increasingly handled by the running backs and fullbacks such as Hall of Famer Joe Perry used more of a slashing, elusive running style than the power running typically associated with the fullback. As the years passed, football teams began employing more of a "hybrid" back; a player with the size and strength of a fullback but the speed of a running back. Similarly, an increased reliance on passing brought more wide receivers and tight ends into the formations and in many cases they were called on to perform the blocking chores normally relegated to the fullback.
Now, the fullback position is a dinosaur, an echo of a bygone era. Many teams do not even have a dedicated fullback on their roster, instead employing tight ends or, ironically, linebackers in the role if need be. On teams with fullbacks, the player's role has been reduced to the bare minimum: block. Lorenzo Neal of the San Diego Chargers, widely regarded as the best fullback in the current league, averages roughly 3 yards per game; in contrast, the running back he clears holes for averages about 4 yards a carry. Neal realizes that he may be the last of a dying breed.
"If the position dies, it dies. But as long as I'm in this league, the fullback won't die. I'm not going to let my position die."

Technorati Tags: football, nfl, sports