1. In 1974 Fresh Air music critic Milo Miles went to a Grateful Dead concert in athletic field house at the University of Montana, a venue that presented some acoustic challenges. The solution? The enormous Wall of Sound. You can now hear the set on a new live album, Dave’s Picks Volume 9: 

"At every other arena show I had heard, the only decent-sounding place to be was right in front of the stage. Awed by the Wall of Sound I walked all around the Harry Adams Field house and it was like Jerry Garcia was picking guitar right next to me. There have been complaints that the Wall of Sound slighted vocals or had distinct tinniness. None of that is evident in the gorgeous sound mix of Dave’s Picks Volume 9. It was particularly satisfying to confirm that the version of the then-unreleased “U.S. Blues” was as fresh and forceful as I long remembered.”


photo of the Wall of Sound via Dead.net View in High-Res

    In 1974 Fresh Air music critic Milo Miles went to a Grateful Dead concert in athletic field house at the University of Montana, a venue that presented some acoustic challenges. The solution? The enormous Wall of Sound. You can now hear the set on a new live album, Dave’s Picks Volume 9: 

    "At every other arena show I had heard, the only decent-sounding place to be was right in front of the stage. Awed by the Wall of Sound I walked all around the Harry Adams Field house and it was like Jerry Garcia was picking guitar right next to me. There have been complaints that the Wall of Sound slighted vocals or had distinct tinniness. None of that is evident in the gorgeous sound mix of Dave’s Picks Volume 9. It was particularly satisfying to confirm that the version of the then-unreleased “U.S. Blues” was as fresh and forceful as I long remembered.”

    photo of the Wall of Sound via Dead.net

  2. grateful dead

    live music

    jerry garcia

    milo miles

  1. 
"To this day, the singer’s visual signature is the elaborate topknots in his hair. On Shaka Bundu, his aural signature is his party vibe — hearty but not frantic, more plain sexy than raunchy. And the whole album keeps coming up with fresh variations, such as the title track.”

Milo Miles reviews the re-release of South African artist Penny Penny’s 1994 album Shaka Bundu.

image via rolling stone 

    "To this day, the singer’s visual signature is the elaborate topknots in his hair. On Shaka Bundu, his aural signature is his party vibe — hearty but not frantic, more plain sexy than raunchy. And the whole album keeps coming up with fresh variations, such as the title track.”

    Milo Miles reviews the re-release of South African artist Penny Penny’s 1994 album Shaka Bundu.

    image via rolling stone 

  2. penny penny

    south africa

    party music

    shaka bundu

    milo miles

  1. Music critic Milo Miles on the new anthology of gritty folk musician Dave Van Ronk, Down in Washington Square: 

Down in Washington Square also emphasizes that Van Ronk would have nothing to do with the pretty tunes and sentimental sweetness that made too much ’60s coffeehouse folk music a soundtrack for nice people. Van Ronk’s grit comes across, not just in amoral murder ballads and salacious double-entendre tunes like “Ya-Yas-Yas” — more scandalous in 1961, but a mere naughty novelty now — but in his blunt declarations for low-life itself, such as his late-period original “Losers.”
View in High-Res

    Music critic Milo Miles on the new anthology of gritty folk musician Dave Van Ronk, Down in Washington Square:

    Down in Washington Square also emphasizes that Van Ronk would have nothing to do with the pretty tunes and sentimental sweetness that made too much ’60s coffeehouse folk music a soundtrack for nice people. Van Ronk’s grit comes across, not just in amoral murder ballads and salacious double-entendre tunes like “Ya-Yas-Yas” — more scandalous in 1961, but a mere naughty novelty now — but in his blunt declarations for low-life itself, such as his late-period original “Losers.”

  2. fresh air

    milo miles

    review

    dave van ronk

    folk music

    new york

  1. Fresh Air music critic Milo Miles is excited about “America’s finest sousaphone, washboard, and guitar trio” Tin Men:

    More than any other American city, New Orleans has bands outsiders never heard of. That’s because so many players make a living without having to go on tour (much). The three members of the Tin Men play in about 10 other bands, but they rightly claim to be "America’s finest sousaphone, washboard and guitar trio." The sousaphone is Matt Perrine, who also does trombone and sings, the washboard is Chaz “Washboard” Leary, who adds percussion and vocal and the guitar is Alex McMurray, who is also primary singer and songwriter. I discovered their third album, Avocado Woo Woo on a recent visit to the Louisiana Music Factory store and there’s a lot going on here, all of it very NOLA. First there’s a quality of make-it-up as you go along and anything-goes. Tin Men have done covers of Led Zeppelin, Sun Ra and on Avocado Woo Woo, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” McMurray’s original songs, though, are the prize. He manages to be funny-sarcastic and compassionate at the same time as well as, uh, swampland peculiar. For example, “Jesus Always Gets His Man” is a sort of Savior-as-PI tale. My favorite though, is "If You Can’t Make It Here," (audio above) a lopsided sea shanty that is yet another inside-out tribute to the city of New Orleans.



    Watch a video of the Tin Men doing "Blackbird Special" (not from the new album)


  2. fresh air

    review

    milo miles

    tin men

    new orleans

  1. How big a deal is electro-swing? Not very. But at least a few numbers will last as offbeat treats. And I’m fascinated by the story of its growth, which shows how, particularly in dance music, a tossed-off novelty sound can persist and become a full-blown school. Sometimes it amounts to a classy one-roomer like electro-swing, sometimes it balloons into a world-class university like hip-hop.

    — 

    Milo Miles checks out the electro-swing genre that’s got Europe dancing

    Meet us at a discotheque?

  2. fresh air

    review

    milo miles

    music

    swing

    electro-swing

  1. Milo Miles has a review today of the Electro-Swing dance-club style that’s popular in Europe (especially France). This hit from 1994, “Lucas With the Lid Off,” has some “staying power” and demonstrates the mixing of ’30s beats and more electro style. What do you think?

  2. fresh air

    review

    milo miles

    electro-swing

    lucas

    lucas with the lid off

  1. Fresh Air music reviewer Milo Miles did a piece on the 2012 soundtrack to the Festival au Desert, the world music festival that usually takes place near Timbuktu in Mali.

    The violence and unrest in Mali (due to Islamic radicals in the northern part of the country) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and, inevitably, the cancellation of this year’s lineup.  So now, instead, some of the artists are performing at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors, a long way from West Africa, performing as refugees.  Singer guitarist Mamadou Kelly referred to the nomadic show as "a ‘caravan for peace’ and a ‘festival in exile.’"

    The video above is Toureg rock band Tinariwen singing one of their most popular songs, “Amassakoul.”

  2. fresh air

    reviews

    milo miles

    festival au desert

    mali

    tinariwen

    toureg

    music festival

  1. Milo Miles on LGBT icon Sylvester:

In music, as in so many aspects of life, finding the right partners can make all the difference. When Sylvester hooked up with backup singers Martha Wash and her friend Izora Rhodes in 1976, it was clear he needed to bring back gospel heat to help his vocals carry the day. Showing a fine sense of humor, the substantial women called themselves Two Tons o’ Fun. Sylvester’s second album with them, Step II  in 1978, resulted in a couple of smash singles, “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” — and the LP itself went gold.

Image via The Washington Blade View in High-Res

    Milo Miles on LGBT icon Sylvester:

    In music, as in so many aspects of life, finding the right partners can make all the difference. When Sylvester hooked up with backup singers Martha Wash and her friend Izora Rhodes in 1976, it was clear he needed to bring back gospel heat to help his vocals carry the day. Showing a fine sense of humor, the substantial women called themselves Two Tons o’ Fun. Sylvester’s second album with them, Step II in 1978, resulted in a couple of smash singles, “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” — and the LP itself went gold.

    Image via The Washington Blade

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Milo Miles

    Sylvester

  1. Milo Miles on the new album Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu:

Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like and have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.

Image of the Festival au Desert via the Imaginative Traveller View in High-Res

    Milo Miles on the new album Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu:

    Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like and have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.

    Image of the Festival au Desert via the Imaginative Traveller

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Milo Miles

    Festival Au Desert

    Music

    Mali

    Timbuktu

  1. Music critic Milo Miles on the new Yo La Tengo album, Fade:
if I had to pick a favorite tune on Fade, most endearing, fresh but characteristic, it would be “Is That Enough” Kaplan’s extended sigh about the ambiguities of love in a long-term couple. Whether it’s unsaid jokes or undeclared affections, he notes “there’s just no way that it’s enough.” Kaplan even casts a quick shadow of despair when he sings “what can’t come back’s what we can’t bear to lose.” But the music and words on Fade as a whole are pure affirmation of life and living. For Yo La Tengo, if what they have is not enough, it’s plenty. View in High-Res

    Music critic Milo Miles on the new Yo La Tengo album, Fade:

    if I had to pick a favorite tune on Fade, most endearing, fresh but characteristic, it would be “Is That Enough” Kaplan’s extended sigh about the ambiguities of love in a long-term couple. Whether it’s unsaid jokes or undeclared affections, he notes “there’s just no way that it’s enough.” Kaplan even casts a quick shadow of despair when he sings “what can’t come back’s what we can’t bear to lose.” But the music and words on Fade as a whole are pure affirmation of life and living. For Yo La Tengo, if what they have is not enough, it’s plenty.

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Yo La Tengo

    Fade

    Milo Miles

  1. Yo La Tengo has a new album out called Fade and today on the show Milo Miles is going to share his thoughts on it. In the meantime, here’s a preview in the form of a video for one of the songs off the album. It’s called “I’ll Be Around” and the video was directed by Phil Morrison (of Junebug fame)

  2. Yo La Tengo

    coming up

    Milo Miles

    Fade

    Phil Morrison

  1. Over at the Paris Review Online, one of my favorite writers — John Jeremiah Sullivan — has a short essay about the tension between religious belief and religious music. It is also an essay about a new collection of old country music —Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard — collected by Kentuckian Don Wahle, who kept the records in boxes until the day he died. Says Sullivan about the track “Beyond the Starry Plane”:






From the abyss of the static come “dear Mother” and “no matter what I do” and “we shall meet again” and “Jesus is my God.” I listen to this song and imagine Don Wahle listening to it, leaning forward to hear it better. An infinitesimal point of communion, a shared pause before the obliteration.






Sullivan also wrote the liner notes for the collection, which Milo Miles reviewed for Fresh Air a few weeks back.
-Nell
Image by Tennessee Home and Farm via Flickr Commons View in High-Res

    Over at the Paris Review Online, one of my favorite writers — John Jeremiah Sullivan — has a short essay about the tension between religious belief and religious music. It is also an essay about a new collection of old country music —Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard — collected by Kentuckian Don Wahle, who kept the records in boxes until the day he died. Says Sullivan about the track “Beyond the Starry Plane”:

    From the abyss of the static come “dear Mother” and “no matter what I do” and “we shall meet again” and “Jesus is my God.” I listen to this song and imagine Don Wahle listening to it, leaning forward to hear it better. An infinitesimal point of communion, a shared pause before the obliteration.

    Sullivan also wrote the liner notes for the collection, which Milo Miles reviewed for Fresh Air a few weeks back.

    -Nell

    Image by Tennessee Home and Farm via Flickr Commons

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Milo Miles

    Don Wahle

    Work Hard Play Hard Pray Hard

    John Jeremiah Sullivan

    Paris Review

  1. Music critic Milo Miles on the new collection of old-timey music Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard:






A number of spoken skits are done as introductions, ideal for an audience used to listening to music on radio programs with a vaudeville format. And why so many fiddles making sounds like mules and trains and hounds? Well, listening to such stuff in your home was the hi-tech special effect of the early 20th century.







Image: Fields Ward courtesy of the Library of Congress
View in High-Res

    Music critic Milo Miles on the new collection of old-timey music Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard:

    A number of spoken skits are done as introductions, ideal for an audience used to listening to music on radio programs with a vaudeville format. And why so many fiddles making sounds like mules and trains and hounds? Well, listening to such stuff in your home was the hi-tech special effect of the early 20th century.

    Image: Fields Ward courtesy of the Library of Congress

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Milo Miles

    old time music

    Work Hard

    Play Hard

    Pray Hard

  1. Although he’s only been playing for 10 years, Yirga is quite the sponge. His mix of folk vernacular and jazz improvisations in vintage Ethiopian tunes most recalls a similar folky fluency in South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, who likewise has no use for categories of high and popular art.

    - Milo Miles reviews the debut album of Ethiopian pianist, Samuel Yirga

  2. Samuel Yirga

    Milo Miles

    Fresh Air

  1. The Analog Players Society was assembled by producer and percussionist Amon. From Milo Miles’ review of the album, Hurricane Season in Brooklyn:

    Albums made by collections of professional studio players once had a bad reputation with the traditional rock audience. Such works were supposedly arid and chilly — more like the results of a board meeting than the recorded adventure of an organic group of fabulous friends. Some music fans may still feel that way, but they are few. Nowadays, a tight-knit gaggle of session musicians like the Analog Players Society gets points from traditionalists simply because the music is made by flesh and blood…

    Another aspect of Hurricane Season in Brooklyn that might make purists suspicious is that the album works both as a party soundtrack and as a quick-changing jam that’s delightful while you sit in a chair. I would argue that this is a strength of successful studio-pro workouts: The sass and variety of Amon’s arrangements and writing tickle the body while the smarts and deftness of the playing captivate the mind.

  2. Analog Players Society

    Hurricane Season in Brooklyn

    Milo Miles

    music