Why Make Albums in the Age of the Single?

 

What is the point of making  albums in this age of the single?  Few people are going to listen beyond  the first three songs, and many will flip through those three songs in less than a minute.   If you don’t turn them on in that first minute, you have lost any chance at reaching them.  So would it not be  smarter to take that time you spend in making an album and put it all into one song, a song guaranteed to hook even the most fragmented listener?  Well, I suppose that depends on who you are, and why you are writing songs in the first place.  For those more interested in taking people’s money than giving people a memorable listening experience, making albums  may seem an archaic absurdity.

Why take a chance with 12 untested songs when you can beat the odds with one tried and true  formulaic hit?  Maybe because some of us don’t equate making music with playing roulette.  I, for one, have always thought in terms of albums.  Although I grew up during  the infancy of rock music, when singles were the currency and albums usually consisted of one hit, one potential follow up hit, and ten songs that were just filler.

The typical teenager of the fifties and early sixties measured their record collection in terms of singles, not albums.   You might find a few greatest hits collections and maybe an Elvis soundtrack or two, but there was as yet no concept of a thematically unified album, unless it was one of your moms Sinatra records on Capitol or your little brothers  Songs of the Civil War. It wasnt until 1965, with Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, that a rock and roll album came out in which every song was a crucial pat of the album as a whole.

In the wake of that album’s success, record companies jumped on the album oriented rock bandwagon.  Fewer and fewer songs were popping up intermittently as stand alone singles. FM  radio began playing albums in their entirety on new release night.   Concept albums became popular, and albums without a concept were being listened to and appraised on their entire contents, not just the hit song.  Of course, the hit song hadn’t lost any of its importance.  It still took a hit single to sell the album, and people still bought singles, but the album was the medium, and the best of the post Dylan artists were thinking in album terms. as were most of the serious listeners.

And it went on this way for the next 30 years, the last masterwork of album oriented rock being  Suedes Dog Man Star, although it certainly wasnt the last time a band released a great album of thematically related material. But it may well have been he last album the general public listened to in the sequence intended by the artist, and the last time an album  was universally experienced as a unified work of art.

So why waste time making albums that nobody will listen to in the preferred way?  It’s the way I think.  I’ve been sequencing imaginary albums since I started writing songs.  And when I write songs now, they come in batches that have some underlying commonality.  Each song might be a chapter in a novel, or a scene in a movie, and sometimes an essay in a series of think pieces.   I don’t think hearing just one of my songs, or anybody elses for that matter, is going to tell anybody what im about, either as a writer, musician, or performer.  You have to listen to one of my albums, from start to finish,  alone with headphones on, to get to know me and my work.

Why Blue Tower Records?  Over the last few years I have been participating in various song writing challenges, which have led me in and out of the music of dozens of songwriters whose work is as good as anything I have heard through a lifetime of working, in one way or another, in the music business.

With so many people complaining that  there are no good songs being written anymore, I had to do something to back up my feeling that there is plenty of excellent music being made, every day,  all over the world.   So I came up with the concept of Phase4Music as the music of the present with roots in the past and hands on the future, and got the idea to disseminate some of this music through a monthly audio magazine,  inspired in part by Fast Folk magazine from NYC in the late 80s, which introduced several of the songwriters who emerged as the leading  talents in the Northeastern Folk Revival of the 80s and 90s.

So I ask you to give it a chance.  Listen to the January issue of our songladder audio magazine.  It is possible that, taken individually,  many of these songs might have been blown away in the wind of a few airings on college radio, but there is strength in numbers and, if listened to in sequence, may well reward the listener with a memorable journey  through the diverse creations of these 11 handpicked performing songwriters…..and you may even discover someone who wins your heart and  mind with their offering.

When you go to the bandcamp site to listen to the album, you will see the download for sale for $10.  Ignore that.  If you would like a free download, send me a message at BWhi51@yahoo.com  and I will send you a code for a free download and if you then want to subscribe, you can send $10 to BWhi51@yahoo.com via paypal to receive a full year, 12 issue subscription.  or if $10 is more than you can afford,  send what you will.  As I said earlier, we are more interested in giving you our music than in taking your money.

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Phase4Music Releases the January Issue of songladder, its monthly audio magazine

The first issue of the Phase4Music audio maagazine, songladder, is now available for streaming and download at https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/album/songladder-january-2019. A one year subscription to songladder is available by sending a suggested donation of $10 to BWhi51@yahoo.com. Otherwise, single issues can be purchased through bandcamp. the january issue offers cutting edge songs by lowhum, ustaknow, eric apoe, bill white, frances smith, and john nicholson, bluesy jazz from tim fatchen, impressionistic music from nadia cripps, live funk from dan bonow, free jazz from john voigt and billy bang, and garage rock from the big dig.

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Nadia Cripps..Finding the Music in the Picture

 

For London composer Nadia Cripps, every picture is a  song, She finds the pieces of melody that course through the image, and weaves those notes into the harmonies
implicit in the colors and shapes before her. Sometimes she offers both the picture
and the music to whatever lyricist accepts the challenge of invoking the poem that
breathes in the music, seeking narrative life in the human breath. I am one of the
many who have accepted the challenge, and the results, via ustaknows production skills, can be heard here….

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/kindness-shines-2

when the music is complete in itself, something like this might result


But these examples are just two steps into the vast labyrinth of Nadia Cripps
musical world. a third step can be taken with her Handelesqe Waterfalls, which will be included in the January issue of the Phase4Music audio magazine, songladder. A one year subscription can be had by sending suggested $10 donation to BWhi@yahoo.com  via PayPal.

In the meantime, follow these links for more about Nadia Cripps and her music.

http://www.soundandmusic.org/artist-area/profiles/nadia-cripps

https://nadiacripps.bandcamp.com/

Who is Ustaknow (alias)?

 

Ustaknows recent music can be heard here………

https://ustaknow.bandcamp.com/album/three-5090-2018

“OK, about the music: As far as I know, it is not genre specific and does not fit into any label. If you know of one, or think differently, — run it by me, I’d love to know. No one particular song is my sound. I think it would take someone ten to twenty songs to “get” to know me. However, I am told that once someone has listened, they know me when they hear me and if they like me, well, they like me (my music, songs, lyrics). All of my songs, past, present and future as far as I am able are all based upon real life events and people. Some early songs were simply prayers, — turned into a song. I think many “blues”, “r&b” songs were heartfelt angst, joy, love, hate expressed unashamedly musically, and so are mine.

I like a song when/while I am actually singing it, however, usually not when listening to it, — well, initially after writing it. In the long run I love listening to my own music. (I do have my favorite other bands and talents that I follow.) I have a hard time picking my own “good songs”. Fortunately, I have enough folks who like my music to let me know. Often, songs I would have thrown away, are the most loved by others, — go figure. However too, occasionally there is one or two I really like and that is the reaction that I as well get, — yeah! I’ve never experienced any shortage for anything to write about, — the morning-mourning news is a full trough of ideas the beginning of every new day. I write songs, engage music and people who authentically engage music because it is a heart felt passion, — I have done, do it now, and will do it within whatever future I may have from/for this passion.”

 

Phase4Music Goes to Australia

In a  recent poll, the top Australian bands, according to Australian musicians, are  AC/DC, INXS,  Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil,  Crowded House, The Bee Gees, The Divinyls, Silverchair, The Easybeats, You Am I, Little River Band, Nick  Cave & the Bad Seeds, and Powderfinger.  One thing that is immediately obvious from this list is the incredible diversity of popular music styles.What we don’t see is the richness of genres such as country, folk, and jazz.   And when we peel away the household  names from those walls, we find the obscure riches of  individual musicians who have followed their own paths …… outside the music industry.

 

Tim Fatchen's picture

 

Tim Fatchen forsook his training as a classical pianist to pursue a career as a   scientist.  That  accomplished,  he has  returned to the  piano,  Ask him for a song, and you may get anything from grand mythos to a bluesy rag.   He has a wicked  sense of humor, which you can glean from his introduction to his satirical take on public transportation,  Trams That Cant Turn Right.

“Since 2012, I’ve kept satire away from State-based politics. There was an Opera to protect, and SA is renowned for the longevity and vitriol of its political haters, both Left and Right. As the Opera now has crashed and burnt and is unlikely ever to arise in the present political climate or in my lifetime, I see no point in holding back any further.

All of the following is true, and told truly. I would like to say it’s a figment of FT’s diseased imagination, but it’s all true. I recognise the surreal aspects of my own existence, but people in SA seem unable to recognise surrealism in real-life, even when their watch melts over them. Ah, SA is a mine of goodies. Have you heard the joke about the one-way freeway? The joke is that it wasn’t a joke.

The tune is the Traditional “The Wild Hills of Wannie”, but it’s not its fault. The fiddle part mimics the setting (to the same tune) and performance in Tommy Armstrong’s “Marla Hill Ducks”, well worth a listen.”

 

 

You can listen to Trams That Cant Turn Right here,,,,,,,

 

I  can imagine Fats Waller singing this  back in the 1930s. I  love the collision of so many piano styles all unified into the blues. Fatchen displays a wonderful diversity, both musically and lyrically His writing here is excellent, and the story one worth telling. I love it that your satire indicts both the right and the left.

This Winters Waltz displays another of his many sides, It is so lovely, so elegant, and a standing reminder to all that there is  much more to a waltz than a 3/4 time signature

 

 

More about Tim Fatchen can be found on the following websites….

https://www.youtube.com/user/flyingtadpole

https://www.patreon.com/timfatchen

http://flyingtadpole.com/

Look for the elegant piano instrumental Lost at Midnight Blues on the January issue of songladder, Phase4Musics audio magazine songladder

 

album highway of life  https://johnnicholson.bandcamp.com/?fbclid=IwAR3jb9C9fLtMwpgnXt55Le_UBe_xdXSM_TkQ44jznXHcHaqOeSblZHV41swn

 

John Nicholson wrote 144 songs from July to September of 2018. I liked most of them, especially  You have your Mothers Eyes, about which he says,

“This is the most personal song i have done so far this year I have to admit this was true once. After losing my wife to illness when my children were young. Seeing them grow into her likeness was incredibly bittersweet. It was a long time ago now and life has been good to me in many ways but i remember that feeling well. i could probably sing it better but really only had one take in me. stripped down just me and the piano – with a tweak on vocals”

His vocals here are perfect. It sounds like he is   singing   directly to his children. It is such a sad story,,,for everyone..but the expression of sadness often evokes the beauty that the lost one has given you. The lyrics are impeccable. and the piano stately in its sorrow.

In contrast, im dreaming of you is a  naff bubbly 60’s style song.

if there is anything i like more than john Coltrane and Phil Ochs  It is bubblegum music i think that you must love it too, but like Frank Zappa and myself, cant help but throw a few jelly toll gum drops into the mix, still, you come pretty close to classic bubblegum with neither irony nor subtext,

But my favorite of all  Johns songs from  last year is  Last  Flag Flying, which  is featured on his new album. Highway of Life, and can be heard here…

https://johnnicholson.bandcamp.com/track/last-flag-flying

We will be featuring an earlier, acoustic version of the song in the January issue of Phase5Musics audioi magazine, songladder.

A one year subscription t.o songladder is available for a suggested donation of $10, payable to BWhi51@yahoo.com  via Paypal

Bassist John Voigt, and the Phase4Music Aesthetic

In Phase4Music, the musician plays himself through the instrument. While conventional musicians play the notes on the page, the Phase4 musician teaches the instrument to play the notes written on his own soul. I once made the mistake of telling John Voigt to walk his  bass. You dont tell a Phase4 what to do with his instrument. That would be like instructing a man on how to make love with his wife.

Yo Yo can summon Bach from a cello, but can the cello draw forth the spirit of Yo Yo Ma? Were music no more than the melodies, harmonies, counterpoints, tones, and rhythms one can learn to apply to the mechanical manipuations of an instrument, there would be no such thing as jazz, blues, or rock and an roll. With sufficient practice, anyone can sit down to the piano and play Chopin, but only Cecil Taylor can play Cecil Taylor.

Voigt has played the bass with everyone from Keith Jarrett and Captain Kangaroo,
to Bill T, Jones and Jemeel Moondoc. He would feel just as comfortable with The Fugs or Sonic Youth as with the United States Navy Band. He knows his instrument so well
that he doesnt have to think about what he is playing. He just goes at it and the spirit
rises and flows. Its not like one of those hotshot bassists such as “Jaco” Pastorius, who is eager to impress audiences with his chops. voigt plays for the angels, not only theones riding the high cymbals in the sky, but the angels within, beating out the rhythms in harmolodic blood.

To describe the duet between violinist Billy Bang and John Voigt is too difficult for words, so here is a link to the sound file  https://web.archive.org/web/20160407010630/http://art-energy.org/media/duet.mp3

and here are Voigts own words on the experience……

“On September 17, 2005 I was playing bass in a small park in downtown New York City with some of the best avant-garde jazz musicians ever. The star of the evening was violinist Billy Bang. That night Bang took over: he was conducting, he was bringing friends up to sit in with the band, he was disappearing into the bushes with beautiful women from the audience. Angry band leader, Jemeel Moondoc, decided to throw me into a musical duel with him. But I was in difficult straights: Bang was arguably the best string player in jazz–his bow technique is killer good. And I was on bass (big-awkward) and Bang was on violin (small–facile). Always a gentleman, Bang thought he would start this musical contest by taking it easy with me before musically crushing me. He played a singing high jazzy phrase that made the people in front of us begin to dance. I used a Daoist chi kung trick I knew and moved my fear out of my sexual chakra into my hands; my bow began to glow with energy. I watched and listened as I unbelievably soared above him (me on the much lower bass). I took his beautiful phrases and turned them into a scream of ecstasy: It was still jazz, but it also was the Music of the Spheres; it was exploding clumps of Divine gamma rays, and it bested the violinist. The audience went wild and awarded me the loudest applause of the evening. You can hear all this on the attached audio clip from the concert. The set was over. Trumpeter Roy Campbell, trumpet, hugged me, saying “We’ll play together soon.” The drummer—I believe one of the best in jazz today, Chad Taylor (and also one of the most taciturn) said quietly under his breath “Yes John.” The meaning was clear: I had made it into the New York Downtown scene. Bang laughed, jumped up and down and forgetting that we had played together years ago asked, “How come I don’t know you?” We bonded like musical blood brothers and he lightly kissed me on my cheek. The moral of this true story: By controlling and directing your vital life energy with a focused Intention anything is possible. Anything!”

For more on John Voigts discography,  go here  https://www.discogs.com/artist/320331-John-Voigt

Phase4Music Invites you into the world of Frances Smith

 

Whenever I listen to Frances Smith,  I think of Emily Dickenson.  Both are writers of painstaking precision, completely engaged in their own unique visions, ignoring the trends and  the templates of their contemporaries,  polishing their own apples, not stealing those of their neighbors.  The worlds of Smith and Dickenson are not easy to penetrate, but a tenacious explorer will find the journey both edifying and exhilarating.

Frances Smith is a modern poet with a solid background in symbolist tradition.  Her music comes from the heritage of  Celtic folk rock  groups such as  Clannad and Fairport Convention.  But she rides a narrow path, ignoring the adornments of commercial products, letting the poetry determine the flow of the music.  Her melodies are minimalist, and could easily be developed into more delightful airs, but to do so would compromise and endanger the strength of the poetry. So she fights against those who encourage her to conform her vision to traditional modes of popular acceptance.

To change a note of a Frances Smith song would be to commit the crime of Emily Dickenson´s publisher when he altered her punctuation.  So much of the poetry of these two women is so delicate, so subtle, yet so exacting,  that to alter one word or note is a desecration. So when  you  enter her world,  take off your boots.

Phase4Music is thrilled to include the title song from her new  album, Again the Night, in their first issue of their audio magazine, songladder. are available for a recommended donation of $10 ayear, which includes twelve issues, payable via  paypal to BWhi51@yahoo.com. You can hear her songs right now, though, by visiting

https://francessmith.bandcamp.com/album/again-the-night

 

Picture of the Winter

There was a picture of the winter
of the saviour, of the warrior, of the lost
it was there like disappointment
laid out across the hills
moving down towards the river
“it’s the tears of god” he said
as he walked along the lane
that led to the wounds the quarry made

I’d been digging up the old roots
when I found the fragments of the past
was a picture of the winter
of the sainted, of the wanderer, of the feast
and I knew he’d loved them once

And he was looking at the low sun
across the fields he heard the noise
she said she was trying to protect him
but she was there to meet her needs
for silence in the face of fear

There was a picture of the winter
of the saintless, of the weakened, of the last
and the child had grown into the person
who had been around him, and he cried
he had always wanted to be freed

The grey mist was lying longer
and the day was like a dream
the ,man walked as if he were a shadow
into the small white house, with a blue door ane
it was a picture of the winter

Copyright Frances Smith @ 2018

 

Fear Like a Hurricane

I was tearing apart all the thoughts in my head
and holding them out for the leaving
and lived for the dead
and it seems there’s no answer
to the reasons for love
and it seems there’s no reason
to live without some regret

And we were chasing around all the fear in the air
and it seems like a hurricane came around and came down

Oh fear was like a hurricane, yes fear was like a hurricane

I was following the birds
as they flew with the wind
they were fast and I was losing
all the love that they had
oh they will fly in the eye
there’s no fear there’s no tears
as the bird lives forever
in the body of the world

And we were chasing around all the fear in our minds
and it seems like a hurricane came around and came down

Oh fear was like a hurricane, yes fear was like a hurricane
oh fear was like a hurricane

Copyright Frances Smith @2018

The Streets of Absolution

Flowers were bending in the rain
watching the water as it falls
the dancer turned on the grave
trapped by the daughter, and she prayed

There’s a cold wind moving in
chasing the moderate man, afraid
who’d walked down the alleyway
he was so sure he’d found a stranger

And her breathing made him smile
as he walked into her sight
oh there’s a hunter closing in
and the young arms are barest white

chorus

The hands were opening wide
the churches were broken and dark
the keys were golden until
the doors weren’t there at all
and we’d walked down the streets
of absolution for long long time

The tempting of the traveller returned
was being acted out before our eyes
wearing the greyest clothes he gazed
into the nearness of the haze

It was the last time that I saw his face
his hair was grey and he was pleading
and I saw that you were a part of him
and I saw he had fallen to his knees

repeat chorus

Copyright Frances Smith @2017

Arlesford Creek

By Arlesford Creek I walked alone
in the morning
saw a wild bird flying free
in the sky, high and low
saw the tide that overflowed
as I walked, as I walked
by Arlesford Creek

By Arlesford Creek the wild goose fed
in the morning
her neck was long, her feathers grey
she seemed to me so sweet and strong
the sun shone down bright on me
as I walked, as I walked
by Arlesford Creek

By Arlesford Creek I felt the wind
howling round me
saw the fish die by the waterside
the salty tears were in their eyes
the dark water strange and still
as I walked, as I walked
by Arlesford Creek

By Arlesford Creek I met a man
in the evening
when the wild goose is gone we’ll be undone
with shaking head he said to me
the poison spreads until we’re all dead
as I walked, as I walked
by Arlesford Creek

Copyright Frances Smith @2015