Friday, November 17, 2006

The fine art of a well-crafted comp

I want to apologize straightaways for being a lazy and bad blogger; my buddy Todd is a hell of a lot more prolific than I am, and mad props to him because of it. My wife is also a lot more prolific (hence the higher page-view count). I honestly could take a lesson.

But the only excuse I can offer up is that I don't always have a bunch of new entertainment product coming in the pipeline. I can hear it now, you'll all say, "Murph, you have a wonderful life: a great wife and kid, a job you don't mind going to every day. Who the hell are you to complain that you're not buying as many CDs and DVDs as you did in your irresponsible twenties?" Point taken. (Aren't imaginary dialogues with yourself wonderful? Or is that a sign I oughta get my head checked? Hmm...) But sometimes I use that lack of incoming product as excuse for being A. Lazy Blogger, at your service. So what's my immediate remedy for not having new product? How do I simultaneously spice up my musical life, satisfy the frustrated DJ within, and not spend any $$$$$? You guessed it: the almighty compilation CD.

I came into a piece of software called Magix Music Studio, which is possibly my favorite software of all time. Essentially, you (well, I) import the songs from existing CDs into lossless .wav files, which graphically converts it into a waveform. You then can adjust levels, equalize the sound (didn't think the original recording had enough bass? Guess what...). Best of all? You can SEGUE the songs together!!!!! AWESOME!!!!! Now those of you who have recently gotten comps from me have noticed, that I put a hell of a lot of time, precision, thought process, and care into compilations now that I can do them this way. For me, I get to program the songs together radio-style, and sequence them just right. It's heaven on a platter, and it gives me the chance to recontextualize my existing music collection. Believe it or not, that helps me get through the dry patches (I can hear the inner monologue again; stop pissin' and moanin', Murph!!).

My most recent series of comps I'm calling "The Portable (artist's name here)". Essentially, the concept goes that if an artist has a lot of great songs spread out over a bunch of albums, fit as many of those onto a single 80-minute CD. So far, I've done this successfully for Deborah Holland/Animal Logic, Bob Mould, and Men At Work. Actually, the Men At Work wasn't quite an entire success; my personal musical tastes dictated that between their first two CDs and the acoustic Colin Hay songs on the Scrubs soundtrack, I was unable to fill the entire 80 minutes available to me. Their loss, not mine. There are certain artists for whom this concept (for me, at least) would automatically be unworkable; Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan (to name but three) have WAY too many good songs to fit onto a single CD. I'd have similar problems with Cheap Trick, but I'd probably be able to bang out a good Aerosmith single disc. Are these collections definitive? Hell no; by definition they're not. They do, however, offer a good overview of their career, and serve as a great introduction for someone unfamiliar with an artist's body of work.

Which brings me to my current compilation: the Portable Webb Wilder. I want to give a good CD to The Safes when I see them Wednesday night at the Beat Kitchen; Patrick O. sent me an advance CD-R of their new disc Well Well Well, and it's fucking kick ass. I want to say thanks in return with a compilation CD, and I thought they might be able to appreciate ol' Webb, the swampadelic, Dixie-fried rocker from Mississippi who crawled out of the swamps of Nashville in 1987 or so and has been serving up excellent Southern-tinged rock ever since. So what's my problem? Well, it's that 80-minute CD limit. Right now as it stands, I've already had to make some heart-breaking cuts, and I'm still at 90.25 minutes (songs are rounded to the quarter-minute to get a grasp on how much time I have to work with). I know that I have to include "Hitting Where It Hurts" and "Human Cannonball" from Webb's second album, 1989's Hybrid Vigor. It's broken my heart to have omitted "Is This All There Is?" from 1987's debut offering It Came From Nashville, and a pair of Ian Hunter-written covers, "Big Time" (which can be found on Webb's Doo Dad from 1991) and "The Original Mixed-Up Kid" (from Webb's 1995 all-covers CD, Town & Country). It wasn't as heart-breaking to have to cut out "Tell Me Why, Charlene" from 1996's Acres Of Suede, but it would have been cool to include it, too. The other decision I might need to face is whether or not to go to a second CD. If I put all the out-of-the-park tracks on Disc One, is the remaining material gonna be collectively strong enough to support its own disc? For that matter, are two 80-minute CDs just too much for the neophyte? So many questions; so few clear-cut answers.

Either way, there are two, count 'em TWO concerts I'm hoping to catch: the first is gonna be the Safes, playing this Wednesday before Thanksgiving, at the Beat Kitchen. The second one is, you guessed it, Webb Wilder, playing at Fitzgerald's on Dec. 29th. Maybe that'll be a birthday gift to myself; the missus has mentioned she's not a fan of Webb. Oh well; maybe my buddy DarthMaher might be interested in going...

Finally, since Ian Hunter got some mention, check out this video of his from 1983; it is as good as I remember it. And the title is the single man's (and woman's) lament: "All Of The Good Ones Are Taken".


Your faithful correspondent in Rock,
Jack T. Murphy

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