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Hearing Boz Scaggs Again

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In my old age, I’ve come to care less and less about the regard in which certain artists are held – and about what others think of people who like those artists.  I guess it comes down to a disregard of “cool.”  I’ve been in pursuit of cool all my life, but I think I’ve given up that pursuit, because, after five decades, if I ain’t got it, I never won’t not got it.  All this is prologue to my confession of a sort-of love for Toto.  Their first album was one of the first records I ever bought, and, yes, I bought it for “Hold the Line,” a song I can still blast (okay, “blast” isn’t the word) with pleasure; but it was their second, Hydra, that I most loved, although I realize that it’s not thought highly of even by those people who admit to being Toto fans.  But tunes like “St. George and the Dragon,” “Lorraine,” and of course the Get Smart-based “99” still sound good to these old ears.

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Bowie's Recent Reality

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Reality As Seen By David Bowie

On the occasion of the recent release of David Bowie much- (and justly) celebrated new album, The Next Day, I thought it was time to look back at the album that immediately preceded it, Reality – even though that album came out a decade ago.  In fact, that ten-year gap, along with our new knowledge of what Bowie can still do, makes revisiting Reality a task that brings both instruction and delight.

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Forbert's 1979 Jackrabbit Slim--the Ubiquitous Dorm-room Album

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Can You Hear it on the Radio?

Sometimes when I hear an old favourite song, a song that was once a hit (complete with radio play – I’m talking about a long time ago!), I say to my wife or one of my children or anyone who will listen “Can you believe that this was once a hit?  That it got played over and over on the radio?”   By my rhetorical question I don’t mean to suggest that I now think the song isn’t or wasn’t any good; I just mean that some songs could have been hits only at a certain time, not because of any failings of their own and not even necessarily because they’re in a style that would be unfamiliar to modern listeners.  In a day when Rihanna, Beyonce, and Beiber dominate what now passes for the charts, it’s hard to remember what radio sounded like when, say, “Mr. Blue Sky” or “Hungry Heart” or “Sultans of Swing,” for goodness’ sake, could be major hits.

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Oh, Not Him Again!—George Harrison’s Extra Texture

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[Please scroll down and press play before reading.]

It must be difficult to imagine, in our digital age, for people who haven’t had the experience, what it is to hold an album cover the size of a laptop and interact with it while the music plays. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a visual book that you opened and pondered, read the lyrics on the back, read the picture on the front, wondered about Paul’s OPD shoulder patch in the middle, and considered the hints of his death. The package was a major part of the message.  Those of us who were lucky enough to sit there with those documents are now historians of an experience that no longer exists.  What a gap between the LP of Sgt. Pepper’s and the download of Sgt. Pepper’s!

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