Friday, September 21, 2012

We Are In Control Now

Hello... This is the Central Scruuuuuuuuuutinizer.

It is my responsibility to enforce all the laws that have been passed by our corporate overlords. It is also my responsibility to alert each and every one of you to the potential consequences of various ordinary everyday activities you might be performing which could eventually lead to *The Death Penalty* (or affect your parents' credit rating). Our criminal institutions are full of little creeps like you who do wrong things... and many of them were driven to these crimes by a horrible force called MUSIC! 

Our story begins with a young man named Jason. It seems that while most of his friends were attending CSO-sponsored youth social events, Jason was heavily involved with the unapproved cyber-social criminal organization commonly referred to as TEH DEMONOIDS.

That was Jason's first confrontation with The Law. Naturally, we were easy on him. One of our friendly counselors gave him a do-nut and told him to stick closer to church-oriented social activities.

The WHITE ZONE is for loading and unloading only. If you gotta load or unload, go to the WHITE ZONE. You'll love it...

Oh, hi, it's me again: The Central Scruuuuuuuuuutinizer. Okay, so... It seems that Jason did not heed our friendly warnings and continued to utilize TEH DEMONOIDS for his own nefarious purposes. When questioned, he would only mumble unintelligibly about out-of-print 24-bit Blue Note releases.

Clearly the Communists had already gotten to him, and so for the good of society, we shut TEH DEMONOIDS down once and for all. We also tried to abduct his girlfriend Francesca, but she was not at her weekly social club meeting the night we went looking for her.  It turned out, she was sucking cock backstage at The Armory in order to get a pass to see some big rock group for free...

Jason says Francesca has messed his mind up, but, was it the girl or was it THE MUSIC? As you can see...girls, music, disease, heartbreak... they all go together... Jason found out the hard way, but his troubles were just beginning... His mind was so messed up... He could hardly do nothin'... He was in a quandary... Being devoured by the swirling cesspool of his own steaming desires... The guy was a wreck... So... What does he do? For once, he does something SMART... He tells his blog readers that without TEH DEMONOIDS, he can't finish his new 5 disc set The Best of Chillout (1967-69).

The WHITE ZONE is for loading and unloading only... If yah gotta load, or if yah gotta unload, go to the WHITE ZONE. You'll love it... It's a way of life. That's right, you'll love it, it's a way of life, that's right, you'll love it, it's a way of life, you'll love it.

Hello there: This is the Central Scruuuuuuuuuutinizer... Jason was sent to a special prison where they keep all the other criminals from the music business... You know... The ones who get caught... It's a horrible place, painted all green on the inside, where musicians and former executives take turns snorting detergent and plooking each other with Telefunken U-47s.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


The era of the major labels developing new artists is over.

The trend right now for folks under 30 or so is playlists. They want the music of their choice, in the order they choose, for as long as they want it to go. And since most people just don't have the time or the motivation to browse the internet for hours in order to track down what they want, a reasonably priced streaming service like Spotify or MOG is just what the doctor ordered.

It's streaming that will ultimately keep what's left of the "music industry" afloat; not lawsuits and other draconian tactics designed to reestablish a defunct paradigm. You have to roll with technology, not fight it. Just think what would have happened if there was a powerful horse-drawn carriage lobby in the 1890s!

But the more I think of it, the more I realize that there really is no reason for the majors to exist anymore, or at least as we know them now. Distribution? I can take one of my songs right now and upload it to YouTube, and anyone in the world can hear it near-instantaneously.

So that leaves marketing and promotion. The problem being, I don't see major labels promoting anything these days that doesn't have a shot at making the Top 40. If you're in a rock band, I would honestly question why you would ever sign with a major at this point. How are they going to help your career? By taking a huge percentage of your merch and tour receipts in a 360 deal that screws you eight ways from Sunday?

Wouldn't it be better to work with indy promoters and management, make your music available on the web via a streaming site, and focus on your music and building your fanbase? At least if you make it, you'll know that you got there on the strength of your sound, and not because you were forced upon a disinterested public via the hype machine. Instead you've built something that will last a lifetime-- a grassroots fanbase.

The majors are a modern day equivalent to The Emperor's New Clothes; yelling at anyone who will listen how they are entitled to keep the money machine rolling, while the general public simply laughs and points at them.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Through a Vast Crystal Sphere Presents: History of Chillout vols. 4 & 5 (1964-1966)

Compilation (various artist)

It’s been said that love is many things. In the simplest of terms it can be defined as a strong bond or attachment between individuals. But if we are all truly bonded at the subatomic level, then does it not stand to reason that love itself is universal?

And yet we are all, to some extent, victims of our own perception. It’s easy to get hung up and miss out on the bigger picture. This is especially true when dealing with matters of ego.

Evolutionary human biology is tricky business, but mating rituals have remained remarkably similar throughout the ages. Tribal members evaluate potential partners, consciously or not, primarily on the basis of physical appearance and virility. So while society has evolved greatly over the course of the last 250,000 years, biology has been very slow to catch up.

Or to adapt one of Alvin Toffler’s great analogies to serve my own point: If society is a sleek, $150,000 Audi R-8 blowing by you at 120 mph, biology is more like a broke down school bus, stuck in the exit lane with its blinker on.

Ask most sensible people what they look for in a mate, and you’ll tend to hear the same answers: compassion, wit, sensitivity, honesty, intellect, and so on. And yet while these are highly evolved social traits that demonstrate refinement, this is really all they are. Because while society continues to evolve at a lightning quick rate, we are inevitably still rooted in primordial mud.

The Evolutionary Totem Pole: There is an inescapable hierarchy for both male and female species based on physical appearance and virility. In simplest terms, it is an X-axis starting at 0 and extending to 10, with a near infinite number of plot points in between. And since none of us are either the most or least desirable members of our species, we all fall somewhere into the vast middle of the spectrum.

Scenario #1: After careful consideration, you have identified somebody whom in your estimation would make a fantastic potential long term partner. In your mind, you can visualize the two of you together, engaging in routine day to day activities. You plot out dinners and vacations. You fantasize about what it would be like to lay next to them, to feel their skin against yours or the warmth of their breath. Yet unfortunately for you, this person does not view you in the same light, and after an open exchange of emotions where the truth is laid bare, you retreat, feeling as though life is suddenly not worth living anymore if you cannot live it with them. Sadly, these emotions can take weeks, months or even years to recover from.

Scenario #2: A long-time acquaintance of yours approaches you and indicates in no uncertain terms that they have been harboring feelings for you for quite a while. While this person might exemplify many if not most of the character traits you may normally claim you’re looking for in a significant other (compassion, wit, intellect and so on), you simply are not attracted to them-- they don’t “do it for you”. What’s more, no amount of additional refinement, generous gestures or even outright bribery on their part could ever change the fact that you just are not interested in them that way! You try to let that person down gently, tell them that it’s not them, that there are plenty of others out there and so forth, but your words ring hollow. Now you are wracked with guilt, because at one time or another, the same thing happened to you.

This, in essence, is the human condition.

"Sometimes I go about in pity for myself. And all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky".

4 | 5

Friday, July 13, 2012

Well isn't this awkward!

Well isn't this embarrassing?

So where to begin... Okay, I got 4 days back in payment to Sendspace and they apparently deleted some stuff.

I mean what the fuck is up with that? I go two months without paying Sprint and they don't cancel my cellphone service, but you miss a few small days with Sendspace and they're all DELETE! DELETE!

Totally my bad! And I know I owe you guys a few somethings somethings:

VH-1s Top 100 Hip-Hop Songs
Obsession, Lust and Betrayal vol. 3
Mike Nesmith - Carlislye Wheeling
Davy Jones - Davy!
Fleetwood Mac - Then Play On (disc 1)

So I'm driving down to LA tomorrow to see The Association in concert, hit Sunset and cruise back up on Sunday. I will get the billing squared away and re-up all the lost content on Monday. And that's a Crystal Sphere promise.

You have to realize the life of a blog operator. I do what I can to keep this site updated. Most of the time I expect very little in the way of feedback-- this is okay. I put the stuff out there in the hopes that anyone would actually want to check it out.

But the curious part is that, due to lack of response, I don't think anyone's even checking it out-- until the stuff goes offline. Then I hear about it!

I guess what I'm saying is: if you enjoy what we're doing here, feel absolutelyfuckinfree to post a comment. Supportive, critical... it doesn't matter. I just need to know someone cares. Or else, as you can imagine, I'll find other things to do with my time and let this place slip into the cyber gutter.

Oh, I've got something real nice for you guys lined up. Something new and unbooted and very very groovy.. You might even say a little Byrd told me about it.

I'm happy to hook you guys up, but do me a favor and let me know. Are the Chillout CDs doing it for you? Is this the type of stuff you'd like to see here, or would you be happier with all classic rock, all the time?

Retardedly Yours,


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Through a Vast Crystal Sphere Presents: History of Chillout vols. 2 & 3 (1959-1963)

Compilation (various artist)

It's been theorized that the universe exists in two complimentary states. While we as humans are all acutely aware of the lives we are living, some metaphysicists argue that there is actually an infinite field of invisible energy that bonds everything in the universe together. Whether this is the push/ pull of subatomic particles, or something even more esoteric as described in certain sacred texts, has yet to be completely determined, but the general idea is the same: we are all inexorably linked to one another.

There's an episode from one of the later seasons of the TV show The Sopranos where Tony is recovering from an assassination attempt and becomes fixated on an Ojibwa koan on the hospital wall that reads: “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.” Now whether this is actual Indian wisdom or just something thought up by the show's writers I'm uncertain of, but nevertheless when I reflect on the words they offer me great comfort.  To put it another way, it's reassuring to me to feel that in this chaotic and seemingly disconnected world, that there may actually be a unifying force acting as a mechanism to advance and guide us.

To some degree the concept defies semantics, or any religion vs. science arguments. Whether one is a proponent of the big bang theory or of intelligent design, the idea of a unified transcendental force that comprises the universe can still be applied. But, the question may arise, how does any of this apply to me? To what end does the interconnectedness of the universe affect my life?

Well, I am no guru or prophet, but I can offer you the benefit of my own personal, subjective analysis. I do believe that the interconnectedness between us is tangible in the way we relate to ourselves and to one another. There exists within each of us defining characteristics that make us human. I'm not talking about the ability to walk upright or to utilize our opposable thumbs, but rather that which can be defined in terms of feelings or emotional reactions-- basically the mid- to upper-echelon stuff found in Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs.

I'll go out on a limb and venture that there is not a person living amongst us who does not in some way crave love, attention or recognition, or who does not feel pain and heartache when confronted with a significant loss. When we express our own true feelings and emotional reactions with one another through conversation, human bonds (or friendships) are formed, and we find that in reality we not too dissimilar from one another.

But to extrapolate this connection to a greater amount of people requires a bit more work. Thankfully in today's world, inventions such as radio, television and the internet have made it possible to relay a message to thousands or even millions of individuals at once. Let us put aside for a minute the potential negatives of such mediums (I speak here essentially of propaganda, which is always driven by those most human of characteristics: greed and fear) and focus on the benefits. Messages of positivity and healing can now be broadcast all over the world, and potentially reach those that stand to benefit from them the most.

In case you were wondering what any of this has to do with a series of CDs called The History of Chillout, think back and try to consider what I discussed earlier in both my previous post and this one. Great music, as with any art form, has the power to reach people if they can connect with the message.

Whether the medium is broadcast in real time or pre-recorded makes little difference generally speaking, so long as it can be clearly interpreted. The goal here with this set was simply to utilize the greatest information medium known to mankind-- the internet-- to deliver a musical message of love, introspection, relaxation and positive thought.

The message itself can be expressly verbalized or concealed in a melody. For instance, those of you who listened to disc one may have noticed a lyrical theme of heartache and loneliness amongst the few vocal tracks that were included. While this will not be the case with most of these volumes, I thought it a good idea to include these songs, simply because someone out there may perhaps find them to be therapeutic.

Having dealt with these issues a bit over the past year or so, I took solace in hearing cuts like these, because they told me I was not alone in the universe when it came to feeling like this. If such a great, influential artist as Frank Sinatra, who had all the riches and fame life had to offer, could still sing a song like "Can't We Be Friends?" with total sincerity, then it's no longer just my problem.

Do you know people who refer to certain records as their "friends"? Well that's really not so strange. The recording artists are simply taking on the role of friends by doing what any good friend would do.

But the music itself can possess a message, and for that reason several of these cuts are instrumentals. While what the composers were trying to say might not be outwardly stated, I believe it's easy enough to pick up on just based on the mood, the chord changes and the tempo. It's no different than looking at a painting really, and hopefully you will agree that these compilations provide fine accompaniment for appreciating other forms of art, including of course nature's own splendor.

So please, relax and enjoy these recordings, and hopefully even make friends with a few of them!

2 | 3

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Through a Vast Crystal Sphere Presents: History of Chillout vol. 1 (1946-1958)

Compilation (various artist)

Stress: it's a factor that none of us can hope to avoid. Sure, I've devoted a large portion of my life towards running away from it, but as with its close cousins heartache and loss, stress is simply an inescapable inevitability. As such, the acceptance that one must deal with it as one must with every other facet of existence can actually lead to an overall reduction in the adverse side effects normally associated with stress. Thus, we are faced with a paradox, but one that can ultimately be manipulated if not controlled outright.

It is theorized (correctly, I believe) that stress is created when the challenges we face begin to overwhelm us. As such, it is the opposite of boredom, which arises only when one is not adequately challenged. In between these two intolerable extremes lies flow. When one is flowing through life, the challenges are surmountable and become interesting, never tedious. It is through flow that one finds passion, the basis of meaningful existence.

It is critically important that when a person finds themself overwhelmed with the peculiar negative energy that only evolves out of stress, that they step back, disassociate, breathe and finally refocus their energy. You see, unlike with anger, stress is often not a choice, but it can be coped with using the simple mechanisms I just mentioned. Once one makes the decision to remove oneself from stress-induced trauma by means of re-evaluating or re-prioritizing their immediate challenges, they may see that life is not so chaotic after all.

It is often possible to actually lessen or even eliminate stress before it starts. The key to preventative stress management is acknowledgement. If a person is logical and clear-headed in their daily interactions, there is a good chance that they will not only acknowledge the onset of stress as it begins to affect their psyche, but they may actually (consciously or subconsciously) employ anti-stress measures at the outset of these emotions in order to keep their cool and maintain control.

One very groovy method for alleviating stressful thoughts is reflecting on nature in all Her beauty. It's been observed by many a philosopher throughout history that when man is in the grips of nature's radiance, all Earthly concerns fall by the wayside. Much in the way of great art and music has been achieved while its creators were enraptured under nature's gentle spell.

Modern studies in the field of neuroscience have actually dealt with questions regarding stress, boredom and flow. One of the bigger questions humankind has often wondered about has to do with personality types. For example, how is it that children of similar ethnocentric and societal makeup, born under seemingly similar circumstances, can grow so different from one another later in life? This argument is often referred to as "nature vs. nurture", as doctors, scientists and philosophers have long argued over whether parental upbringing or societal norms have more overall impact on human development.

While this question will likely never be answered to anyone's satisfaction, medical surveys conducted by neurologists have yielded some fantastic insights into brain development. For example, Dr. Richard Davidson, who surveyed numerous individuals for his book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, monitored their cerebral activity using CAT scans and found that overall the participants with the highest degree of adult brain development (or neuroplasticity) were those who actively partook in both meditation and aerobic exercise. The ancient practice of yoga has also been found to be extremely beneficial to both physiological and psychological well-being.

Taking the previous factors into account, it becomes self-evident that the life best led for most people is one that contains a significant assortment of challenges, but one that is also tempered with an appropriate amount of both relaxation and introspection. Socrates himself is famously quoted as saying, "the unexamined life is not worth living", and as time passes on his wisdom surely continues to resonate.

The pace of the modern world can be exceedingly hectic, and as such it is increasingly important for all persons from all walks of life to remember that stress, while a great motivator, can be toxic in large amounts. What is most important, however, is not what you do to alleviate yourself from your daily burdens, but only that you find a way that works for you.

We sincerely hope that this new compilation, along with its upcoming counterparts, will help you to achieve your flow!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MONKEES ’69: An Alternate History

So at the risk of coming off sounding like a complete dork, I’m going to go ahead and post this anyway. Yes folks, this is what I actually think about when I get bored.

 I guess it’s no worse than collecting comic books or, God forbid, action figures, but holy Jeff Spicole do I feel like a loser by even sharing the fact that I spend my free time considering stuff like this, when I should be out getting laid or doing other approved alpha male activities like ultimate fighting while riding motorcycles.

Wait a second!  Do you see what I just did there? I just admitted feeling guilty over my own pet passion. I mean really, why should I be ashamed?  Just because I spend far too much time making up fantasy career paths for a 45 year old manufactured pop band?  Now that’s just silly!

Okay, so anyway let’s set the scene. It’s November of 1968, and The Monkees were just experiencing the first major commercial failures of their collective career: the motion picture Head, its corresponding soundtrack album and its accompanying single “The Porpoise Song”/ “As We Go Along”. This lack of success in the charts reflected a group that was splintering at its core.  Since the departure of producer Chip Douglas only a year before, the four Monkees were now operating as a coherent recording entity in name only. While they would still tour together for the time being, all studio recordings were now being held at independent sessions by each band member. Each of the four could pick whomever they wanted to work with in the studio and produce their own sessions if they so chose.

This arrangement was inarguably most beneficial to Michael Nesmith, who during the past year had been writing music that was less Monkee-like, and more in the emerging vein of what would soon be labeled “country rock”.  Back in May, Nesmith had taken a sojourn down to Nashville to record a handful of sessions with many of the city’s crack backing musicians, known collectively as Area Code 615.  The resulting material was of the highest quality, and it brilliantly anticipated the coming country rock trend that would weave its way throughout the pop landscape over the next few years.

With the addition of a few cuts recorded back in L.A., the results were released by Dot Records in December of 1968:

The album was largely ignored commercially (#108 Billboard), but found favor amongst musicians and “in the know” industry types, ultimately laying the groundwork for Nesmith’s post-Monkees deal with his First National Band. Jim Miller, writing for Rolling Stone, gave the record a positive review citing both Mike’s improved singing and his ability to pen memorable material.  A single pulled from the record, the Glen Campbell-esque “If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again”, did relatively well on both the Billboard country and adult contemporary charts, as well as briefly scraping the bottom reaches of their pop charts at #87.

As mentioned previously, despite the band’s independence within the recording studio, The Monkees were still being sold to America as a self-contained entity. And so to honor the terms of the network deal that ended their TV show after just two seasons, the group set about working on the first of three planned made-for-TV specials. 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee would be directed by legendary Shindig! auteur Jack Good, with music produced by Bones Howe who was currently riding a hot streak with The Association, The 5th Dimension, The Turtles and others.

As with Head, 33 1/3 was a surreal Rafelson/ Schneider mind fuck designed to simultaneously mock and tear down viewers’ preconceptions of The Monkees.  Yet despite guest appearances from everyone from Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino to Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll and Buddy Miles, the TV special failed to register with mainstream America, most of whom were busy watching the Oscars during the premier of the Monkees' new special on April 14, 1969. Nevertheless, Colgems did compile a limited edition soundtrack LP and released it a month after 33 1/3 debuted. The soundtrack was to be sold only in Hallmark stores, instantly turning original copies into sought after Monkee collectables.

During the interim period between the filming of 33 1/3 and its release, the busy Monkees also released their first non-soundtrack studio album in nearly a year.  Titled Instant Replay after the newly invented technological gimmick, the new record was the result of a long standing group initiative.  Since the end of the Chip Douglas era, an idea had been circulating throughout the Monkee organization to release a double LP featuring one album side devoted to each band member.  With the amount of individual recording sessions the four had been holding throughout the previous year or so, realizing this ambition was not hard to do; and in the wake of the successful Beatles White Album, it was decided that the time was now right for The Monkees to release their own double album masterpiece the following February.

However, unbeknownst to the general public, Peter Tork had already made a decision to part ways with the group prior to Instant Replay’s release.  Following the band’s 1968 tour of Japan, Tork was exhausted and generally disenchanted with the way things were going within the group, as he was the main proponent of keeping The Monkees a self-contained recording entity.

Wrote Micky Dolenz in his autobiography I'm a Believer (1993 Hyperion Press; co-written with Mark Bego): "Peter had never gotten over his disappointment when we decided not to go back into the studio and work together as we had on Headquarters. He even cited that as his main reason for resigning. But I suspect there were other influences as well. The truth was, we were all living in the eye of a hurricane. The world was falling apart around us, the winds of change were tossing our careers and our lives around like so many paper puppets, and, for the most part, we were oblivious to it all."

After his strong contributions to both the Head and 33 1/3 soundtracks, Peter donated six more of his songs to Instant Replay to fulfill his contractual obligation and quietly bowed out of The Monkees for nearly another 20 years.

A shame then, as unlike with the group’s past few efforts, Instant Replay was ultimately both well received and a modest commercial success, peaking as high as #15 on Billboard’s pop albums chart. For perhaps the first time in The Monkees’ career, reviews in the press were mainly positive, largely focusing on the individual talents of the four musicians as heard within. And since Colgems’ publicity machine was now for the first time making no effort to portray The Monkees to the public as a unified group, the critics tended to be much less concerned with that fact in their respective analyses.

Of course the main reason for the relative success of Instant Replay was the fact it contained the group’s strongest batch of new material since Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd.  While The Birds, the Bees and The Monkees had been bogged down by some weaker songs, and the Head soundtrack presented some great musical selections engulfed in a sea of oddball sound clips from the movie, Instant Replay was simply a heaping helping of great tunes that most everyone could enjoy.

The new album’s artwork was quite unique as well, featuring an eye-catching collage on the front cover and a famous black-and-white Henry Diltz photo in the gatefold. In the picture the four Monkees are seen standing around in a rundown section of San Francisco. Michael, wearing his black leather jacket while standing next to a cherry 1969 Pontiac Ram Air IV Judge GTO, is in the foreground looking perturbed, while Micky is seen leaning over the car’s open hood, admiring its engine. Davy is further off to the right hand side of the photo, smoking a cigarette and seemingly trying to hustle a disinterested looking blonde, while Peter stands on the far left in a flowered Nehru and Indian boots, pensively looking off towards something far away from the rest of the action.

The track order for Instant Replay was also conceived in a distinctive fashion. Rather than tagging either face of each disc as side 1, 2, 3 or 4 respectively, each label on the original pressing simply bared the name of whichever band member the side belonged to. However, observant fans would note that the track credits in the gatefold are listed side by side, left to right, in the following order: Michael, Peter, Davy, Micky. This would heretofore be seen as Replay’s “proper” running sequence.

Two singles were ultimately derived from Instant Replay, one as a trial balloon and one shortly after the release of the album proper. “Teardrop City”, an old recording of a Boyce & Hart number that had been dusted off and sped up, did quite well, hitting #23 and giving the group its biggest hit in a year, while its flip “A Man without a Dream” also charted in the lower regions, peaking at #88.

The follow-up 45, the Bones Howe produced “Someday Man”, experienced the rare occurrence of actually being eclipsed by its own flip side, Mike’s own “Listen to the Band”. An embellished version of a track first found on Carlisle Wheeling, the re-worked Instant Replay take of “Band” caught on with certain radio programmers who began flipping the record over, pushing it all the way to #34 nationwide. (“Someday Man”, still the featured side in certain U.S. markets, would also make the charts, reaching as high as #62).

With the relative success of Instant Replay providing a much needed kick-start to the group’s ailing career, plans were immediately drawn up for the now-trio to tour and record a follow-up album. Complicating the scenario however was one David Jones, who with the tacit approval of Colgems had recently arranged for a covert, multi-album deal between his independent production company and Bell Records. This deal would not only allow Jones to record any artists he signed, but also allowed for the licensing of any unused Colgems-owned masters of his material.

Out of such a complicated business arrangement came the new album Davy!, released by Bell in July of 1969. Despite being cobbled together out of songs that were mainly deemed unworthy for The Monkees, and featuring a cover clearly designed to play off Jones’ teen idol image, the record was not too shabby artistically speaking and became a modest hit, rising as high as #38 on Billboard.  The associated single, “Love To Love” b/w “Don’t Listen to Linda”, also did well, peaking at #26.

While the group continued to make the rounds on a variety of television shows in support of Replay (including a memorable performance of Mike’s “Nine Times Blue” on The Johnny Cash Show) their main agenda remained the summer ’69 North American tour. While out carousing on Sunset one night, Mike stopped by a small club on the Strip called Soul'd Out and discovered a black r&b unit by the name of Sam & The Goodtimers, whom he thought would make a perfect choice to both open for and back The Monkees during this upcoming set of dates. The Goodtimers had previously functioned as Ike & Tina's backing revue and were all crack instrumentalists, and they agreed to go do the tour. While the venues The Monkees were now booked at were for the most part smaller than the ones they played during their previous American tour back in ’67, they still performed to enthusiastic crowds, and the reviews in the press of their new stage show featuring The Goodtimers were generally superb.

But while the collective conglomeration known as The Monkees could still pack ‘em in, it was becoming apparent to all but the most unobservant listener/ spectator that this was no longer a band in any real sense, but rather an amalgamation of three individual performers with little in the way of common ground to hold them together.  While Micky’s soul music influence, Davy’s Broadway pop sense and Mike’s countrified leanings gave the group an attractive assortment of modern sounds, for the most part each individual was incapable of assisting the other, apart from the occasional exception such as Nesmith’s “My Share of the Sidewalk”, which he wrote and produced specifically with Davy in mind.

Thus the trio’s final album together, The Monkees Present, effectively represents the work of three separate individuals more than anything approaching a unified group sound.  While this approach made sense on the clearly delineated Instant Replay, when mixed together indiscriminately the results now sounded a bit haphazard, though the songs themselves remained strong for the most part.  The best of the new tracks was Micky’s reading of Chip Douglas’s “Steam Engine”, which was released as a single (backed by Mike’s own “Little Red Rider”) just before the album hit stores.  This soulful rocker gave the band their final hit, charting as high as #44 in October of ‘69.  (Present itself would fare slightly less well, peaking at #50 on Billboard.)


With the departure of Mike Nesmith during the waning days of the decade, The Monkees were over in all but name.  Accordingly, Colgems flew Micky and Davy out to New York for a final series of sessions with producer Jeff Barry in a last ditch attempt to capture lightning in a bottle.  Comprised mainly of leftover compositions by Barry and his protégés Andy Kim and Bobby Bloom, the resulting LP Changes and its accompanying single “Oh My My”/ “I Love You Better” weren’t half bad, but underperformed on the charts.  Dolenz and Jones amicably parted ways to pursue solo careers, and despite a final single released in 1971 (“Do It in the Name of Love”/ “Lady Jane”) The Monkees were over, and would remain so until their 1986 reunion.

However one interesting curio managed to find its way onto the trader’s circuit later in the decade: a discarded mono master reel of an early assemblage of Instant Replay. This fascinating oddity not only revealed many never-before-heard vintage mono mixes, but it also featured a slightly different track line-up including several unheard alternate versions of familiar songs, and even contained two previously unreleased Peter Tork compositions, "Alvin" and “Tear the Top Right Off My Head”. This was a great discovery for Monkees fans who may have thought they had heard it all.

The Monkees story doesn’t end here thankfully, as the 1986 reunion saw the original four members get back together for the first time in nearly 20 years.  We hope you all have enjoyed this latest installment of phony Monkees history, and as always, we invite you to please dig the music and spread the word!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Phish - A Live Pass

Compilation (single artist)

Phish is one of those bands that can alternately thrill me or bore me to death.  At their best they are capable of reaching spellbinding heights of instrumental glory, but alas they're nearly as likely to lose my attention whenever their focus shifts away from the structured grooves that generally make them so formidable. Likewise, I find that their songwriting runs the gamut from inspired to insufferable. I think one could easily make a case for them as the most consistently inconsistent band of their era!

Oh, you can try to recommend various soundboards to me-- God knows many have-- but I can assure you that I will find even their best of shows to be hit or miss affairs. And that's not even considering their stinky patchouli-scented fan base!

While this long-winded introduction describing my relationship with the band may seem pointless (just like everything else I write), it may also go some way towards explaining why I decided to create this latest effort of mine. You see, for once I wanted a Phish CD I could spin in my car that was packed end to end with what I consider "the good stuff". No endless vamps, atonal wankery or mouth solos. Just tight songwriting and badass jams.

For sources I simply used my two favorite Phish concert recordings: 1997's Slip, Stitch and Pass and disc one of 1995's A Live One. The essential task was to whittle away the weak/ sloppy/ boring stuff from each disc and cram the good shit onto one 80 minute CD-R. Obviously a few halfway decent moments would also have to be sacrificed amidst the dross; but if the end result was the best single disc live Phish experience known to man, then it would all be worth it.

I'll never forget the marathon editing session that led to this mutant release. It was late Thursday night, I was all set to drive down to San Diego the next day with a girl I liked, and I needed this one for the car. 

To prepare for the session, I retrieved several tall bottles of a locally brewed double IPA called Drake's Hopocalypse (9.3% ABV, 100+ IBUs, in case you were wondering) and sat my ass down in front of the computer. The waveforms I had amassed were lossless and totaled over 110 minutes. Some surgery was clearly needed, but the surgeon was already well on his way towards being hammered.

With reckless abandon I nevertheless jumped in, quickly tossing aside a few of the lesser tracks and steadying myself for the core task of editing this fucker down to just under 80 minutes. Soon markers and splice points decorated the waveforms on my display. Sure I could have resorted to hackwork and just cut off arbitrary chunks of audio in order to fit within the time limit of a recordable disc. But would any good surgeon simply splice off his patient's appendages just to get them down to their target weight? No effing way! I had been tapped on the shoulder by a higher deity and commanded to make the world's first completely listenable Phish CD, not just for the good of my road trip but for the good of all mankind!

Click! Click! went my fingers on the mouse. Glug! Glug! went the Drake's down my throat. I sweated and slaved (by which I mean, barely moved) to create the perfect Phish concert. The edits were meticulous, the crossfades sublime. I remember the spirit of Trey Anastasio hovering above me at one point, advising me of the exact spot where his third solo in "You Enjoy Myself" got slightly less "crunchy" and thus could be justifiably spliced out.

By 2 a.m. I was completely finished, both with the beer and the mix. Final run time, 79 minutes and change. I passed out and then struggled through a few hours of work the next day before picking up the girl and doing the nine hour drive down to San Diego. Needless to say, we never did hook up on that trip, but at least the music was good. Thanks, Phish... and thank you, Drake's!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

TAVCS Back Catalogue Re-Upped!

Well, not too much to report here other than the obvious, so have at it gang! All links should once again be active with maybe one or two exceptions.

Peruse deeply enough and you may notice a couple of new Easter eggs: an expanded essay here, newly minted mono and stereo recreations there.  You never know what you're going to find by stumbling around this place, and we like to keep you guessing.

Oh happy day!

Anyway please have a pleasant stay while you're here, and as always we'd love to hear from you.  Unless you're the taxman or something, in which case you can get lost!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crystal Sphere hits 100,000 page views, millions weep.

What the hell is going on here?

Whoo-ee, gang, can you believe it?: 100,000 page views of this here blogspot! You people seriously have too much free time on your hands!

But just the same, I would like to offer my thanks to all of you who've taken the time to come and visit me over in my little corner of the cyberspace universe. It's been a proverbial long, strange trip, and I must say I've learned a lot about the thankless existence of a blog operator. No, I keed, I keed!! I loves you guys so much, I am going straight to RapidShare and opening an account and re-upping the entire enchilada, which means all your favorite Sphere content will be available once more.

Thank you again for your patience. As you all realize, life has a funny way of getting in the middle of the best laid plans, and so I appreciate you all sticking around.

You may notice some upcoming changes as I intend to focus more on my writing in the future, but as I said all previous content will soon be made available on an archival basis, which means if you missed it the first time around, you'll have another opportunity to get what you need.

So thank you again fellow space cadets. Without you this place would have a black hole, and me an untethered, flailing cosmonaut!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Re-ups. What to do?

Hi kids! Well February is here, and with a bunch of you asking for re-ups of vintage Sphere content, I would like to find a suitable home site to host our wares. However, unless you've been living underground, you are most likely aware of the little issue MegaUpload has been experiencing lately. As such, it occurs to me that it may only be a matter of time until SendSpace experiences the same sad fate.

So rather than continue on with SS, I wonder if there is a newer or better alternative out there in terms of file hosting. Certainly there must be some sort of next-gen online storage medium that will be a little more full-proof? Something safe and secure?

So please, if you're aware of a viable long-term file storage option (preferably on the level of free-to-dirt cheap) won't you let us know? Then once we get the tech side ironed out, we can commence with the tunage. Arriba!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

California Feeling

Hey! What's happening? Yeah, I know I haven't really been doing much of a job keeping this place up and running lately. My motivation to do so has been, shall we say, less than extreme. Nothing to do with you fine folks, but if you must know, I've been going through a rather intense period of self-examination lately. It could be viewed as a something of a crossroads I suppose. Probably the sort of thing a lot of divorced 37 year old males have experienced throughout the ages, but it's been a gigantic pain in the ass nonetheless.

Without getting too in depth about it, I'm in a rut. A lot of it has to do with what I perceive as a lack of growth, or maybe a need for more perspective. Basically I'm stuck, you see. My life's passion has always been music, and my free time has been centered around going to live shows since I was a wee lad of 14. But lately, that's been something that hasn't been providing the same amount of joy it used to. In theory there should be no reason why I don't enjoy seeing live music, but damned if hitting (or now being well past) 30 doesn't seem like a death sentence to this once happy club goer.

It's just weird checking out a show, looking around you and noticing how young everybody is. Whereas I once felt surrounded by brothers and sisters at these gigs, lately I'm starting to feel like the proverbial drunk uncle, or "drunkle" as I've recently become fond of saying. Not that I'm always drunk, but you guys probably get where I'm coming from here. Against my better instincts, somewhere along the line I became just another schlub with a job and a mortgage. My interest in keeping up with fashions and trends is dying steadily, and as much as I try to rail against the march of time there is really nothing much that can be done about it.

I go to dance shows in San Francisco looking to have a good time, but the thought of grinding on some girl fifteen years my junior just seems so unseemly all of a sudden. I often ask myself what the hell am I doing here exactly? In my heart I know I have little desire to settle down again, but mainstream society isn't leaving me a whole lot of other options either. One by one, my friends are either shacking up and dropping out of the scene, or becoming victims to their own vices. Yet neither of those options really appeals to me.

So I generally come home from work, slam a bunch of PBR and listen to my old Chris Montez or Sergio Mendez & Brasil '66 records, dreaming of some beautiful alternate reality where men wore white tuxes and ladies were dressed in exquisite evening gowns, and everything was groovy and simple. I burn lots of incense and candles, and have taken to smoking cigarettes again, mainly out of boredom.

On weekends I hit the dive bars, but it's a shitty situation in Oakland. Insufficient public transportation and my general unwillingness to not get arrested for driving under the influence usually has me dropping $40 a night just on cab fare, which on some evenings pales next to my bar tab. It's not like it's a guaranteed good time either. I meet and talk to a fair amount of women, but it's like I've become so picky about what I'm looking for that I'm just searching for any excuse to disassociate myself from them, rather than judging them fairly on whatever charms they do possess.

I touched on this briefly in my previous California Music post, but the overwhelming ennui of the thirtysomething California lifestyle is tangible. Nothing's ever really bad out here for those of us that are fortunate enough to be healthy, not broke or destitute, and to be living in a neighborhood where we don't have to worry about getting shot at on a daily basis. But damned if it's all still not what I thought it would be.

Since I moved to the Bay Area, I've partied in $20 million houses, and I've partied at warehouses in what we fondly call around here the "super ghetto", and yet (shockingly!) I haven't found what I'm looking for at either. So is it a case of searching inward for answers then? I feel like maybe I ought to meditate, or start getting into yoga and new age literature, but to be honest I just can't be arsed. I've toyed with the idea of forming an internet start-up numerous times, but it just seems like such an overwhelmingly competitive environment for someone such as myself who really isn't the least bit competitive.

I haven't written a song worth a shit in over a year. The boundless joy I used to get from just playing guitar or drums has been reduced to a mild sense of enthusiasm. Lately life seems to be centered around waking up to an alarm clock and making sure my bills are paid on time. I actually sort of like my job, so that's not a major source of stress (thank God!), but advancement opportunities there are unfortunately few and far between.

Furthermore, I live in an area where I'm surrounded by artsy, cool young people on one hand and rich douchebags on the other. A lot of the quote unquote "normals" around here I see out driving or waiting in line at the CVS just look beaten down zombies. I'm happy to say that I still possess enough enthusiasm not to look like that.

Maybe it's the economy, or the pace of 21st century living, but something about the times just doesn't agree with me. Which is weird because I'm a huge tech junkie, but it seems as though everyone's buried in their gadgets, and real conversation is becoming a thing of the past these days. And generally I find most people to be overly preoccupied with their own internal drama anyway, or overwhelmed with obligations and the like. I know I'm fortunate to possess a great nexus of individuals I consider close friends, but they fall trap to the same things I've been talking about, and I suppose I'm not immune either. And we all know about the level of drama that can exist between friends at various times.

Anyway, I'm just posting this missive by way of letting those of you who care enough to post here why the lack of updates and such. Please understand that I'm not going through a depressive state or anything of the sort; it's more a case of persistent though not overwhelming boredom. It's a daily struggle-- the fight to remain vital, to not become the proverbial wet blanket. Maybe if you've been through something of the sort, and feel as though you can relate, you might care to leave a message. No obligation though. I'll be back at it soon enough, and until then, you can find me somewhere around Oakland, hiding in plain sight.