The Final Rip: A (+Numbers)

Here is where I talk a little about various artists whose music I own, beginning with the A’s. (S/T means self-titled.)

Since MTV was a big part of my early music experience, I tried to find videos of one song for each band just for fun. Apologies in advance for some of the more lurid examples, I mostly picked them based on the song, not on the video content!

Complete(ish) Collections

Alice in Chains (1990 Facelift, 1992 Dirt, 1992 Sap, 1993 Jar of Flies, 1995 S/T, 2009 Black Gives Way to Blue, 2013 The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here) — When I was working at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland as a Research Assistant, I was sharing an apartment with a postdoc who owned a copy of Dirt. I picked it up out of curiosity and immediately fell in love with the dark, brooding sound. RIP Layne Staley, but also glad to see the band release new material.

Alice In Chains - Rooster

Fiona Apple (1996 Tidal, 1999 When the Pawn…, 2005 Extraordinary Machine, 2012 The Idler Wheel…) — Accidentally got a chance to see her in 1996 at the LIVE105 “Green Christmas Ball” when she was just an up-and-comer. Love her voice and the mix of melancholy and playfulness in her songwriting.

Fiona Apple: “Hot Knife” (Official Music Video)

Aqueduct (2001 Power Ballads, 2005 I Sold Gold, 2007 Or Give Me Death, 2015 Wild Knights) — “The Suggestion Box” was a big hit in the Seattle area shortly after we arrived, and the first album turned out to be quite enjoyably quirky, with interesting complex rhythms throughout and fun pop culture references in the songs.

As You Wish- Aqueduct

Arcadia (1985 So Red the Rose) — Famously self-described as the “most pretentious record ever,” I just don’t care. This is one of my all-time favorite albums, pretty much all the aspects of Duran Duran I loved the most amplified and stripped of all the other stuff. Moody, dark, complex, with some awesome videos and guest appearances by Sting and Grace Jones, what’s not to love? Only bummed they stopped after one release. (And sadly their awesome videos are not online.)

Goodbye Is Forever (2010 Remastered Version)

Jon Astley (1987 Everyone Loves the Pilot (Except the Crew), 1988 The Compleat Angler) — Wait, wait, this is NOT Rick Astley (unrelated) and this is NOT a rickroll. Jon Astley is a producer turned songwriter who dropped two albums in the late 80’s of droll British pop infused with great wordplay. “Jane’s Getting Serious” was his one hit, but the rest of his stuff is absolutely worth a listen, especially if you enjoy wordplay.

I'll Show You Bastards - Jon Astley - The Compleat Angler

Audioslave (2002 Audioslave, 2005 Out of Exile, 2006 Revelations) — Rage Against the Machine with Chris Cornell on vocals? As with many supergroups I think expectations were too high, and although I ended up buying all three released albums, I’m not entirely sure they hold up. Will have to revisit them.

Audioslave - Show Me How to Live

Avenged Sevenfold (2001 Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, 2003 Waking the Fallen, 2005 City of Evil, 2007 S/T, 2010 Nightmare, 2013 Hail to the King, 2016 The Stage) — When we got a new car in 2012 it came with Sirius/XM radio, so the wife and I started listening to the hard rock/metal station Octane, which is where I first heard these guys. It’s been a while since I added a new rock/metal band to the mix, but they hit the right mix of dark and epic for the most part. I even don’t mind too much when they get a little country in their ballads. Note that the video below is only for horror aficionados.

Avenged Sevenfold - A Little Piece Of Heaven [Official Music Video]

Partial Collections

2Cellos (2011 S/T) — Two dudes beat up their poor cellos playing vigorous covers of rock tunes. A fun novelty.

2CELLOS - Smooth Criminal [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

311 (1995 S/T) — These guys had a very interesting sound. I got hooked on a couple of singles from this album (“Down” in particular) and eventually picked it up. I always enjoyed the album but never quite got to the point where I wanted to do a full dive into their catalogue. A few years later they released my favorite tune, “Beautiful Disaster,” but I never picked up the album it was on.

311 - Beautiful Disaster

AC/DC (1980 Back in Black) — I owned a few early AC/DC albums as a cassette collector, due in large part to needing to come up with 11 stamps for the record club subscription. When I switched to CDs, I chose to leave these guys behind. Eventually I decided this was the one album I couldn’t do without. The opening riffs of “Hells Bells” and the title track are the standouts here.

AC/DC - Back In Black (Official Video)

Tori Amos (1992 Little Earthquakes, 1994 Under the Pink, 1996 Boys for Pele, 1998 From the Choirgirl Hotel, 1999 To Venus and Back, 2011 Night of the Hunters, 3 singles) — When we arrived in the Bay Area in 1995, Tori Amos was a fixture on the local radio. Loved a lot about her earlier stuff, but interest kind of petered out after a few albums. Her vocal shenanigans (more prevalent in her live and later stuff) can kind of drive me crazy! But she also has quite a collection of hauntingly beautiful songs as well.

Tori Amos - "Winter" (Official Music Video)

Greatest Hits

Adam Ant (2003 The Essential Adam Ant) — Adam Ant was a huge staple of the early MTV years. I remember (for perhaps obvious reasons) that they were playing the videos for “Goody Two Shoes” and “Strip” all the time. When I finally picked up this collection, I was particularly struck by how “tribal” his music sounded, especially the early stuff. Very unlike almost anything else.

Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes

Aerosmith (2006 Devil’s Got a New Disguise) — While the treacly ballads that seem to dominate their recent output really don’t do it for me, “Dream On,” “Rag Doll,” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” are worth owning this. I actually paid to see Aerosmith when I was a teenager, but skipped the main concert because I really only went to see the opening band Dokken.

Aerosmith - Rag Doll (Official Video)

Art of Noise (1988 The Best of the Art of Noise) — I identify this album very closely with my college dormmate Brian, who was a total AoN nut. My MTV days introduced me to “Close to the Edit” and I was a huge Max Headroom fan so “Paranoimia” was by definition awesome.

Art of Noise - Close (To The Edit) Version 1 (ZTPS 01)

Asia (2003 20th Century Masters) — So many times I heard these guys on MTV. The videos for “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell” are permanently etched in my memory. Major nostalgia wave watching them again.

Asia Only time will tell

The Final Rip: Preliminaries

Since I feel like reminiscing about the CDs I’m re-ripping as I go through my collection, I figure it’s worthwhile to provide a little bit of background.

I began buying music — on cassette tape — in 1977. I remember picking up Styx‘s Cornerstone album from the local drug store. Then I joined the Columbia and/or RCA record clubs on and off over the years as a quick way to acquire more music.

In the mid-80s the Compact Disc was introduced and I was an early adopter. I rejoined all the record clubs to replace my cassettes with CDs and have been collecting ever since. I am also an avid shopper in used CD stores, always meticulously scanning through the piles of used discs, looking for a great deal or something new to try.

Over the years my tastes have wandered from American Top 40 (with Casey Kasem!) to MTV to hair metal to new wave to techno/industrial to grunge to 90s alternative to techno to now where it’s pretty much anything that strikes my fancy.

If there’s one common theme across all these genres, it’s that I particularly enjoy music that is dark, moody, epic, and/or minor. (Which contrasts nicely with my generally upbeat personality!) This is not a 100% hard and fast rule, but it is a pretty obvious thread when I step back and look at my favorites.

And so with that background out of the way, look for my next post where I’ll start in rip order (aka alphabetically) through the list….

The Final Rip: Intro & Tools

I have a massive CD collection, close to 1,500 titles, split about 70:25:5 Rock:Classical:Soundtracks (those being very broad categories).

Of course, being a good nerd, I had long ago ripped them all and stashed them up on a server for my Squeezeboxen to stream from, or to copy to USB sticks for playing the car.

Ideally I would have done all my rips losslessly at the time and been done with it, but 1TB of storage was not cheap back then (figure 1500 CDs times 60 mins/CD times ~10MB/minute), and so I went with decent quality MP3.

Fast forward to now, and 1TB ain’t no thang, so it’s time to revisit that decision and do one last rip.

Of course, the tools now are better than they were. Being a longtime adherent of EAC (Exact Audio Copy), I naturally began the process with that old beast. Super configurable, it works really well in most cases, and cross references the rips against online databases of known good tracks.

The issue is what to do when you can’t get a good read. EAC would try hard (often TOO hard in my opinion), but for some discs, it just wouldn’t happen. Later versions of the program suggest maybe trying something called CUETools to repair the damaged tracks.

Curious, I did just that. Although the repair process is implemented in a rather cryptic fashion, it does seem to work for a lot of situations. I also noticed that CUETools came with its own ripper called CUERipper.

CUERipper pales against EAC in terms of features, but its simpler interface handles the basics just fine, and it handles a few things (like multiple metadata entries) much more smoothly than EAC, so I’ve switched to that.

At the time of this post, I’ve made it alphabetically up through and including my giant Depeche Mode section and have been able to produce 100% verified copies for everything, so I think this will remain the plan for the rest.

Once ripped, I’m compressing them all with FLAC, in part because it is natively supported on the Squeezebox, and also because I like that it’s simple, open source, and independent.

Having set out on this project of course has made me nostalgic and wanting to revisit much of the collection, so I think I’ll follow this up with some random musings about what I run into….

Messiah Rehearsal Tracks

For several years now, I’ve run the site to privately host rehearsal tracks for choral groups that I participate in.

With the holidays fast approaching — and with them the inevitable Messiah sing-a-longs — I figured it was finally time to share something more broadly useful: a set of Messiah rehearsal tracks.

They are now available for free usage in two categories:

All part numbers, measure numbers, and page numbers are based on the Bärenreiter Urtext edition of Messiah, but I expect that they should line up pretty well with most other editions.

There are a couple of specific edits in the versions presented here, as compared to the version in the full Bärenreiter edition:

  1. For “How beautiful are the feet of Him/Their sound is gone out,” the version presented here is the second version (34a/35a) instead of the longer versions (34/35) that appear earlier in the edition.
  2. For “O death where is thy sting?” (44) the cut from measure 5 to measure 23 is removed.

Feel free to give them a try! And if you find any errors, be sure to click the “Report an Error” button to file a report, and I’ll be sure to get it fixed as soon as I can.

Summer of Song

September is finally here, and with it, the start of a new choral season.

I recall when I first started singing a certain disappointment that the singing generally stopped in May or June, and didn’t resume until the fall.

Eventually I discovered that I could cover the time with continued voice lessons, or participation in some of the Seattle area’s excellent sing-alongs during the summer.

A couple of summers ago, I decided to step things up and participate in the Midsummer Music Retreat held at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. For one week of intense participation, this was great, but the summer still felt kind of empty outside of that experience.

Last summer I tried something new in addition to the retreat: a barbershop quartet, practicing most week in the basement of our local church. Great learning opportunity, but without a final concert or other end result, it felt incomplete.

This summer, I feel like I finally nailed it.

In June I got the chance to participate in the “Star Spangled Spectacular” with the Seattle Wind Symphony. Two rehearsals with a performance on June 29 at Benaroya Hall, this was a fun little project singing classic music from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” to the “1812 Overture.”

In July, I had the opportunity to take a class on Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Polyphony from Michael Alan Anderson at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. We spent a week learning about history, notation, musica ficta, and other great topics, then performed a Vespers service and concert on July 26.

In August (and in all the summer spare time prior) my new group the Summer Fling Vocal Ensemble kicked off its compressed rehearsal schedule, going from zero to concert in three weeks. We rehearsed a collection of early American music in the context of the American Revolution, and had our inaugural concert on August 27.

So, one concert per month throughout the summer. Some great opportunities in both large choral settings and more intimate ensembles. A really unique experience putting together my own concert and ensemble.

Feels like going back to regular church and community choir participation will be akin to “taking a break” — and hopefully I’ll be recharged for next summer!