Monday, July 31, 2006

Back To The Land Of The Living...

Wow! A week of vacation is a long time. It's been quite an odessey. The reunion out in Lake Tahoe was better than anyone could have possibly imagined. It was great to see everybody.

Lake Tahoe is an interesting place, one which affrirmed a few preconceptions and dispelled others. First, while Tahoe is a great summer respite, it is primarily a ski destination. The summer months are VERY short. A couple of guys who we golfed with at the Championship course in Incline Villege said that when they came up to play a round on Memorial Day, they had to pass since there was 5 inches of snow on the ground. Summer is definately the off season. Second, and on account of the short summer season, NOTHING is air conditioned including our rental villa. Coupled with record setting high temps during our stay, this made for some tough sleeping. I can do anything in the heat including play 18 holes in 110 degree desert heat (which we did), but I gotta have cool air to sleep in. Nonetheless, we all cowboyed up and delt with it.

I made sure my brood took advantage of every opportunity we had to hang out on the lakes beaches. The water was perfect, if not slightly chilly. It's so crystal clear that when I took my kid out on a jet ski, I could see golf balls on the lake floor 40 feet down that some teenagers were hitting into the water.

It was amazing how the climate was so different on the Reno side of the mountain (desert temps) compared to the Tahoe side. I did no gambling, but my lovely wife won $100. The vistas that provided the backdrop to everything in every direction you looked were so unbelievable you'd think they were fake.

I'll have some photo's later, but now I must clear up my 10,000 e-mails in my in box. For now I'll only say I'm glad to be back!

Friday, July 21, 2006

I hope you're all here when I get back...

Me and my gals are heading out West to Lake Tahoe for the first ever Phillips family reunion. As most of you know, I grew up in military family and my Dad was a career officer. In the same, my grandfather was a career man as well. We moved around a great deal before settling at West Point for the latter third of his 30 year career. We were lucky in the fact that we had the opportunity to live close enough to our aunts, uncles, and cousins every now and then and were able to get to know them. We don't get a chance to see them often, but whenever in the past we all get together (weddings, funerals, etc...) it's an absolute riot of epic proportions mostly because along with my brother and sisters and my cousins we wantonly goof on our parents. I'm sure one day our kids will do the same to us. I’d be disappointed if they didn’t. Thus is the circle of life.

Me, I look forward to playing golf until the sun burns the skin off my fat and bones, goof around in the clear cool waters of the lake with my kid, and drink and smoke cigars until I fall down.

I’ll try to post while out there if our swanky digs have connectivity and someone actually brings a laptop. If not, I’ll check in when I get back.

(No, that's NOT Mrs. Alva in the photo)

This is a bazaar story...

We're providing the equipment and logistics for the project this guy was working on. The only thing I can say is: "What the.."

Let's cut the crap Coffee Can...

I caught Kofi Annan condemning Israel’s actions against Hezbollah, Lebanon, and Hamas on this mornings news before coming to work. What blatant bullshit. Where the hell was his crooked scheming ass and his worthless army of smurfs when these TERRRORIST organizations kidnapped Israeli soldiers? Why is it that known terrorists can carry out a naked act of aggression without nary a word much less diplomatic intercedence on behalf of the U.N. or any other world player, but when Israel responds with force it’s worthy of everybody’s ire. Has the free world gone fucking mad? Why is this so complicated? Don’t shoot at them, and they won’t shoot at you.

It’s becoming clearer with each passing day as the trouble in the ME continues to boil. This is not a battle between Israel/U.S. and the ME states, this is the modern contemporary world coming up against stone age mentality. The sooner we stop fooling ourselves that it’s anything but, the sooner we can ally and defeat it.

For those that want to blame the U.S., Isreal, or anybody else, I dare you to argue with this women. I ganked the link from a great post by Michael Yon on the same topic Another well done piece on the world blame game.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I Write The Songs...

It has been said that when Manuel Noriega was holed up making his last stand in some Panamanian villa, U.S. forces pumped Guns and Roses music out of loud speakers as a sleep deprivation tactic. Soldiers claim to have seen Noriega through windows wearing a bandana wrapped around his head doing the serpentine dance to “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. We all know the outcome of that stand off. From what I hear, the U.S. Justice Department has allowed Noriega to appeal his sentence. Under the new terms, prosecutors agreed that the former general’s release from prison will coincide with the release of G&R’s “Chinese Democracy” album.

It appears that the G&R fan base has neutralized the effectiveness of using their music in deploying this tactic so military and civilian police agencies have had to switch gears a little with this. I think they’ll be able to use it for many years to come.

I wonder if this makes Barry cry...

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Kids Are Alright...

I have come to the conclusion that at this point in my life I must accept the label of being a classic rocker. My capitulation has nothing to do with my feelings on digital music technology (despite my strong misgivings on some aspects, I do believe that it will result in good things for both fans and artists), but more to the fact that I have been extremely skeptical of much new music. It started as grunge and college radio rock waned. I just had a hard time finding much new that I liked and could get excited about like I did with Soundgarden, REM, Pearl Jam, G&R, and Col. Bruce & The Aquarium Rescue Unit. There was an occasional glimmer of past success that made it through the din to corporate owned rock radio during that time, but they were few and far between. As my life got busy with a career, marriage, house, kids, etc… I found it harder to dig in the dirt for anything musically pleasing. I officially became a rock music curmudgeon.

Things began to change for the better when I reconnected with my old friend Jackson in 1999/2000. He invited me into his circle of musician friends and along with them, his brothers, and my brother, a steady stream of recommendations they’ve provided has begun to restore my faith in today’s youth and their capability to carry the rock and roll torch.

There are two that I’m completely engulfed in right now that I’m actually very excited about. The first came from Fred Wilson. While sitting in my office talking to a long time employee, I got a short e-mail from him saying: “Check out the Wolfmother disc, they’re the Black Sabbath of the new millennium.” I asked my employee about them since he only listens to heavy rock and also has a 17 year boy and he said he’d never heard of them. The next day he greeted me at my office door and said,”Man, you have GOT to check out that Wolfmother disc!”


That evening, I spoke with my brother who teaches high school in upstate New York and he was all over The Raconteurs new record. He STRONGLY recommended I get it.


Amazon ordered both the next day and have been listening to both steadily for the last week.

I like the White Stripes, but love everything else Jack White has put his hands on more. I also share Jackson’s thoughts about the White Stripes music sounding incomplete, but this album kicks major ass! I cannot stop humming “Steady As She Goes”. Lots of cool dry guitar sounds, The Who like vocal melodies, and a complete and competent band. This is a GREAT album.

Ditto for Wolfmother. Well recorded effects-less guitar riffs with great Black Sabbath like melodies. It is really something else.

Like I said, listening to records like this restores my faith the youth of this world like nothing else. Check these albums out if you get a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shine On You Crazy Diamond...

Now I'm bummed.

I've never been a huge fan of the Syd era stuff, but have much appreciation for his impact and inspiration. He was obviously loved by his former band mates and was never far from their minds when they wrote music even after they went their seperate ways.

Sad day indeed...

Monday, July 10, 2006

We Shant Work Together Again...

David Gilmore and Roger Waters, Garry Richwarth and Kevin Cronin, Ozzy and Bob Daisly/Lee Kerslake, Paul/Gene and Ace/Peter. All this acrimony in the rock world reminds me of Mick Jagger pleading to an uninterested Hell’s Angels contingency as they beat Altamont concert goers, “Who’s fighting and what for?” Many of you out there have heard me ask the question: “What the fuck happens between such long time friends that would keep time from healing old wounds, and isn’t the fact that you made such impactful art together a reason to forgive such age old transgressions?”

I guess not as far as The Monkees goes. Not sure The Monkees made impactful art, but I find it strange that they can't work together anymore. I'd love to hear one of them quote "Creative Differences" as the reason for the standoff.

Chrispy's Back!!!

After a long hiatus, our good friend and all knowing audio production master Chrispy is back on his blog. Go over and welcome him back if you feel up to it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fred at A VC: iTunes should be added to your axis of evil...

In the on going debate over the future of digital music, one of the aspects of the debate that I have anointed myself guardian of, at least in our blogging circle, is the decline or eradication of the album format as a result of the emerging technology (links to history here, here, here, and here). Others have spoken more eloquently on the topic of ethics, business opportunities being/not being realized, convenience of technology, and intellectual property law, etc... all of which are interesting to me, but the threat of demise to the album concept is of my biggest concern for a number of reasons. Obviously, readers and friends alike all seem to have some thoughts on the above mentioned topics, but many seem to have little understanding of how important the album concept is to both artists and labels.

One of the arguments offered by those supporters of the iTunes model (.99 cent singles of all titles on every album) is that by allowing fans access to a single song from a record, you tease a listener into wanting more and therefore buying more tunes from a particular release. This practice in really not at all different from the analog model of 45’s and LP’s with the important exception that labels and artists controlled which songs were released as singles, or whether or not to release any songs as singles at all. I have maintained in the past that many artists of today and yesterday would rather continue to release their music in album format for both artistic and fiscal reasons. I also maintain strongly that it is their right to do so, even if it MAY negatively impact overall sales revenue which makes the article I read in this months Rolling Stone Magazine that much more interesting.

In an article titled “The iTunes Holdouts” by Even Serpick, six major recording artists are listed amongst those who have not released their music for legal digital download to iTunes. Some interesting if not validating reasons are offered for their reluctance:

The Beatles – No real explaination is offered, but some facts surrounding the standoff are common knowledge, the Apple Records vs Apple Computers debacle most notably. But there is more that is not front & center with Beatles Inc. here. I would venture to guess that the surviving principles are interested in leveraging all they’ve got to secure higher royalty rate. They may also be looking to keep songs within albums bundled.

Metallica – The anti-download crusaders have inked a deal with iTunes and their catalog will be available shortly. It will be interesting to see what and how they release it.

Led Zeppelin – Zeppelin surviving members “…bristle at the thought of complete albums being broken up into singles”. iTunes REFUSES to allow them to sell complete album only downloads, so nothing is planned in the near future.

Kid Rock – The article hints at what I’ve read elsewhere about his feelings on the subject and those being not far from what the Zeppelin camp feel. The RS article couches the issue, but basically, he would rather sell albums than singles if it’s the only choice being offered.

Radiohead – This product of the tech generation flipped the bird to iTunes when they fed them their singles only policy, so Radiohead released their entire catalog for download as albums and EP’s only to

I would be willing to bet those listed above who don’t come right out and state it, nonetheless have a big problem with being forced to break up their body’s of work as digital singles and have spoken with their will by turning their backs on iTunes. Fred over at A VC has spoken at length about the negative impact iTunes and Apple have had on the progression of digital music marketing and I now understand this much better. I still insist that rightly or wrongly, iTunes has created the “I Have A Right To It” consumer mentality that now prevails over digital music and is ruining the album concept, but now I see the enemy as both greedy consumers AND Apple iTunes for not seeing past their bill folds and asking artists and rightful content owners their thoughts on how THEY want THEIR content released. iTunes has a stranglehold for now, but that won't last. I hope outfits like who are more sensitive to artists rights prevail.

That’s not all… In the same issue, Tom (F’n) Petty is interviewed and responds to a statement/question by Neil Strauss regarding his fight to keep album prices down during the 80’s:

NS: …Well, services like iTunes Music Store are helping restore the balance.

T F’n P: iTunes is a great idea. It reminds me of when you bought a single for .99 cents, and if you liked that, you bought the album. But it’s not as good for selling, or even acclimating people to the album as an art form. I was up until the middle of the night sequencing this thing (his new record). And I am starting to think, “Who cares? ‘Cause they’re just a bunch of button pushers.” But I’m not giving up my art. I make complete pieces of work, I like to think.

This is the gospel of the lord…

UPDATE: Jason at TRICKSTER! offers some very interesting detail on the state of music sales. Most notably this:

"Despite the staggering growth rates, the unit volume sales for digital downloads still lag CD unit sales by a whopping margin. Soundscan reported 14.7 million digital album downloads for the first half compared to 270.6 million physical albums sold."

Take that Bob Lefsetz...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

4th of July Weekend Wrap Up...

What a weekend! Here's the highlights:

The 9th Annual Watkins/Phillips Independence Day Party was again a smashing success. Most notable was the live music provided by former Capricorn recording artist Jay Memory. Jay set up a tent, plugged in a little live rig in front of his red VW van that included a small foot actuated bass and snare drum and played countless cover hits, a few of his own tunes, and a couple of improvisational pieces, the best of which was inspired by the Watkins chocolate lab Winnie. Winnies’ parents at one point were desperately searching for their beloved pet and calling her name thinking that she had wandered off when much to our surprise/relief she had only taken it upon herself to beat the heat by jumping into the tranquility of Jay’s van. Reluctantly, she poked her head out from behind large American flag and rejoined the party unplugging Jay’s iPod for the third time as she did. Jay allowed us to record his performance via stereo output of his rig into the control room of Gray Cat Sound. The results sound fantastic. Will edit down to the highlights and perhaps post a few mp3’s.

Fireworks were great (only one misfire) and the pavilion after party was one of the best in memory. Those VIP’s who endured chowed on Ms. Sunshine’s jello shots and deeked down as many glasses of Sweetwater 420 as they could handle. The ladies made smores while we listened to some kickass internet radio broadcasts on the pavilions most excellent wifi computer audio system. This inspired what I believe to be my only drunk dial of the night to Jackson when Alice Cooper’s “You and Me” came on. I’m not sure what message I left for him, but I’m sure it had something to do with how much I like the song, how long it’s been since I heard it last, how he was probably one of three people in America who felt likewise, and with the obligatory sniffing drunken sincerity that only comes with drinking beer past 2:00 AM, " I love him like a brother, man!" (All true statements even in the light of the next sober day). Near the hour of 5:00 AM, it was time to call it a night and prepare for the day of hangover hell Sunday.

Sunday was spent sleeping late and watching movies with the family. Hangover neutralized by supper time. All in all, it wasn’t that bad.

After a light day at work on Monday, I took my two lovely women out to our favorite Japanese steakhouse for dinner and after Katie went to bed, Circy and I watched my recently purchased copy of “Hail, Hail Rock and Roll”. What a fabulous flick. Two quick observations; While Keith Richards has made a career of steeling Chuck Berry’s licks, it is painfully obvious that Chuck has made a career of steal his piano player Johnny Johnson’s licks. Keith says during the films epilogue before credits roll, “I set out to give Chuck a great backing band to play with and I think I did a good job of it…”. Anybody who watches the performances cannot possibly disagree.

Tuesday the 4th was spent at Mom and Dad’s with many family members and friends swimming and eating more food than any person should. Basically, the kind of day that one reflects on in their twilight years as amongst the best ever spent.

Can’t wait ‘til next year!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Keith Get's His God On...

The story here.

Man... I've made two Christian records in the last couple of years and never thought to ask him.

Time Magazine: They Need To Get It Right...

Micheal Yon brings to light in a post written last week the story of Sgt. Brad Kasal. Back in November of 2004, after being shot seven times, Sgt. Kasal put himself in front of a grenade blast in order to protect his fellow Marines in the battle for Falluja. Sgt. Kasal may receive The Medal of Honor for his actions that day and I for one hope he does.

Sgt. Kasal’s story is remarkable enough, but unfortunately that is not the basis of this post. Yon reveals that TIME Magazine will be publishing a photo of severely injured Sgt. Kasal being helped out of the building in which he carried out his heroic deeds, underneath the cover story titled “Haditha”. The cover story involves new detail on the controversial and alleged actions by Marines fighting there and the deaths of Iraqi civilians. A story about alleged atrocities in Haditha, using a photo of a potential Congressional Medal of Honor winner fighting in Falluja. Yon writes:

We, as writers, photographers and journalists, must endeavor to hold ourselves to those same standards Brad Kasal lives and fights by. We should not play fast and loose with facts, especially when reporting about the people who bleed in our defense. This is not to suggest that we should gild any depictions. Men like Brad Kasal don’t need or respect that kind of false sentiment.

Many service members believe Brad Kasal should be awarded the Medal of Honor. Any editor who would place the dazzle and drama of a layout above respect for the reputations of people of this caliber could use a few minutes of quiet circumspection. Brad Kasal is an incredible warrior and defender of our way of life who has demonstrated time and again that his life matters less to him than his duty to his country and to his fellow Marines.

In Yon’s post, both him and Sgt. Kasal make a point to ask readers NOT to turn this issue into some crusade against TIME magazine and it’s editors and I respect that, but it does nothing to still my anger. This playing loose with the rules of professional journalism pisses me off, as it should anybody, and it seems more and more common place as I have written in the last couple of weeks. TIME Magazine damn well better post a clarification and it should take measures to keep it from happening again.