Saturday, July 22, 2006

iTunes will be my downfall...

I don't have an iPod. My wife does, my daughters Rachel and Eileen each have one, most of my composer cronies have one. But I do have a Mac and I use iTunes, and so a while back I started nosing around the iTunes store to see what I could find. Not much, at first. But, eventually I pulled out a few British Invasion hits that I wanted to drive around with, and then scooped up the Patti Smith tunes that I really couldn't live without, and then I started looking in earnest for all of the strange stuff that occupied my attention for about ten years, from 1976 to 1986. (All of the LPs that I no longer have, but wish I still did...) Didn't find much at first. But recently iTunes has expanded their catalog by a tremendous amount, and the selection has become a bit frightening, especially for an old prog-rock fan like me. Here's what I've been downloading:

Van der Graaf Generator. (See my earlier postings on this band) Most of the band's catalog is available on iTunes, along with bonus tracks. Remastered and sounding as relevant as ever. Their live album 'Vital' is downright scary in its visceral impact. And now it's available again in its original form.

NEU! A German duo consisting of two original members of Kraftwerk who left after the first album. "Motorik" was the term they coined for their style, and it fits. Their first album is remarkable, their second has some dreadful tracks along with some brilliant ones, and a later EP was excellent. Thanks to iTunes, I only buy the good stuff.

Magma. I have to say that I searched iTunes for this band with absolute certainty that nothing would turn up. Nothing did, except something like seventeen albums. If you know who Magma is, the astonishment that this statement should evoke needs no explanation. For those who don't: Magma was/is a French band led by jazz-rock drummer Christian Vander, and featured a constantly-changing lineup. Their unique sound was mainly owed to the fact that their primary influences were late John Coltrane and Carl Orff. They also sang in a language of their own invention, epic compositions of a science-fiction saga that I never quite understood. A band that helped define the term "acquired taste," but somehow I acquired it, and now I can relish their stuff yet again. They sound even better than I remember, maybe because now I can more easily perceive all of the polymetric stuff that they were doing back then. Expect a separate posting on this band soon. 'Magma Live' is their best.

Other stuff that I'm astounded to find on iTunes:

Captain Beefheart. iTunes has a great selection of his stuff, and I hope more will arrive soon. A thrill was finding "Here I Am, I Always Am," in both demo and released versions. This amazing song, which I've long wanted in digital form, is notable for being one of the few pop songs with metric modulation.

Ange: a French prog band that was really quite awful, but I liked 'em for a while. I could try them again, if I want to.

Faust: a German band whose LPs were amazing pieces of audio and visual art. Minimalist and noisy, they've recorded a lot since I stopped paying attention to them.

Be Bop Deluxe: a British prog/pop combo led by guitar virtuoso Bill Nelson. Lots of their stuff still sounds great. If they start putting out Bill Nelson's gigantic solo catalog, I'll be really excited.

Cecil Taylor: Lots of Cecil's recent recordings are out on iTunes. Frank Zappa once said: "If you want too learn how to play the piano, buy a Cecil Taylor record."

Tangerine Dream. I loved this band, up until about 1980 or so. Some of their early stuff still appeals, and they are a bigger influence on my own music than I'd probably care to admit. 'Stratosfear' and 'Rubicon' were as good as anything that Pink Floyd did, I think. 'Phaedra,' too.

I'm sure I'll discover more soon. Expect updates.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Are you feeling iPod-less, Dear?