Kraftwerk (German for “power plant” or “power station”) is an influential electronic music band from Dusseldorf, Germany. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive electronically-generated rhythms with catchy synthesizer-generated melodies; mainly following a Western classical style of harmony, in a minimalistic arrangement. The group’s simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. In the mid to late 1970s and the early 1980s, Kraftwerk’s distinctive sound was revolutionary for its time, and it has had a lasting impact across nearly all genres of modern popular music.

Kraftwerk were formed in 1970 by Florian Schneider (flutes, synthesizers, electro-violin) and Ralf Hutter (electronic organ, synthesizers). The duo had originally performed together in a quintet known as Organisation. This ensemble released one album, titled Tone Float (issued on RCA Records in the UK) but the unit split shortly thereafter. Early Kraftwerk line-ups from 1970-1974 fluctuated, as Hutter and Schneider worked with around a half-dozen other musicians over the course of recording three albums and sporadic live appearances; most notably guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger, who left to form Neu!.

The input, expertise, and influence of producer/engineer Konrad “Conny” Plank was highly significant in the early years of Kraftwerk and Plank also worked with many of the other leading German electronic acts of the period, including members of Can, Neu!, Cluster and Harmonia. As a result of his work with Kraftwerk, Plank’s studio near Cologne became one of the most sought-after studios in the late 1970s. Plank co-produced the first four Kraftwerk vinyl albums.

That is Kraftwerk (1970), Kraftwerk 2 (1972), Ralf und Florian (1973) and 1974’s Autobahn. Especially auobahn stand as a landmark in the music history with much critical acclaim and it was also Kraftwerk’s first album that serious commercial success. The commercial success meant that they could build their own studio, the legendary Kling Klang studio. And Autobahn became the last album Conny Plank engineered for Kraftwerk. The follow-up to Autobahn was 1975’s Radio-Activity, based on a theme around radio communication. Commercially the album was let-down compared to Autobahn. In 1976 Kraftwerk created a innovative music sequencer for their Kling Klang Studio. The Music Sequencer controlled the band’s Minimoog, which in turn created the next albums’ rhythmic sound. The next albums being their two masterpieces Trans-Europe Express and The Man-Machine.

After the release and subsequent tour of Computer Love in 1981, Kraftwerk quite touring untill the late nineties, spending more and more time in their Kling Klang studio and their releases schedule was much more sporadic. They released Electric Cafe in 1986 and a album of re-recorded back-catalogue track called The Mix in 1991. After laying low the most of the 1990’s Kraftwerk returned with seemingly renewed creative energy around 2000. The acclaimed album Tour de France Soundtracks was released in 2003, while a remastered box-set called the The Catalogue was released in 2004, followed by a live album in 2005 called a Minimum-Maximum.

Dead Moon was a Portland, Oregon band fronted by singer/guitarist/songwriter Fred Cole. Toody Cole, Fred’s wife, played bass and Andrew Loomis played drums. Formed in 1987, the band combined garage rock, punk, and country in their stripped-down sound. Most of their records have been released through their on label Tombstone records, named after Fred and Toody’s musical equipment store, which they operated at the time.

Their first long player was 1988’s In The Graveyard, followed by Unkown Passage in 1989 and Defiance and Thirteen Off My Hook in 1990. Fred Cole engineered most of the band’s recordings and mastered them on a mono lathe that was used for The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie”. Not gaining much recognition in America, Dead Moon toured a lot in Europe and gained a big following. They also signed up with the German label Music Maniac Records, which have been handling most of Dead Moon’s releases in Europe.

Since 1990 and until they finally disbanded in 2006, they released 11 further albums. In 1991 they released Live Evil and Stranded in the Mystery Zone and in 1992 Strange Pray Tell, three albums that further cemented their reputation and position as one of leading garage rock bands in the world. By the mid-ninties they had already achieved cult status among garage rock fans in Europe and their following in America was also growing steadily. The albums Crack In The System (1994) and Nervous Sooner Changes (1995) was followed by the much acclaimed live album Hard Wired in Ljubljana from 1997, which captured the Dead Moon at their very best. For new fans of Dead Moon, this record is a recommended starting point. Which very well could be followed up by Dead Moon’s two next albums Destination X (1999) and Trash & Burn (2001), both are in my opinion excellent albums.

Around the releases of Alive In The Unknown (2002) and Dead Ahead from 2004, the band was followed by the filmmaking team of Kate Fix and Jason Summers, who produced the 2004 documentary Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story, which played in independent theaters around the U.S., New Zealand, and Melbourne International Film Fest, and was released on DVD in the fall of 2006. Their last record was the compilation Echoes of the Past and in December 2006, near the end of the Echoes of the Past tour, Dead Moon announced their disbandment. Their last gig was at the Vera club in Groningen on November 26, 2006.

Fred and Toody currently own the Tombstone General Store in Clackamas, Oregon, and are building a shopping center nearby. They also have new band called Pierced Arrows continuing where Dead Moon left off.

Garage Rock History

February 12, 2009

Garage rock is a raw form of rock and roll that first became popular in the United States and Canada from around 1963 to 1967. During the 1960s garage rock was not recognized as a separate music genre and had no specific name. However, in the early 1970s, some rock critics began to label it as punk rock and later the name was changed to garage rock or ’60s Punk to avoid confusion with the music of late 1970s punk rock bands such as the well-known Sex Pistols and The Clash.

The garage rock the style had been evolving from regional scenes as far back as 1958. Mainstream examples of the genre in its formative stages are bands like “Dirty Robber” by The Wailers, and “Rumble” by Link Wray, Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs, but there are also a number of other bands that that had a significant impact in shaping the genre and by 1963 singles released by garage band were creeping into the national charts in greater numbers, including the Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Trashmen and the Rivieras. Other influential garage bands such as the Sonics never made it into the Billboard 100 though.

In the early period of garage rock there was a cross-pollination between garage rock and frat rock. Frat rock, which is another major influence and precursor to punk rock, was also a vaguely defined genre of rock and roll, which was characterized by raw, enteric and usually party-themed anthems. Frat rock is today mainly viewed as a sub-genre of garage rock.

The “British Invasion” of 1964-1966 is another key influence on garage rock as garage rock bands were to a large extent influenced by the British “beat groups” with a harder, blues-based attack, such as for example The Kinks, The Who, The Animals and The Yardbirds among others. However, another major influence on garage rock, which should not be left unmentioned, is the folk-rock of the Byrds and Bob Dylan.

Looking back it is commonly agreed that garage rock peeked both commercially and artistically in 1966. What happened was that the genre entered a slow, but irreversible, decline with fewer and fewer records being released, and by 1970 the genre was, from a general interest standpoint, by any practical means dead.

So how exactly did the genre get its name? Well, the name Garage Rock comes the common view that many of those performing within the genre were young and amateurish, and often practiced in a family garage. Naturally this connotation also evokes a suburban, middle-class setting. However, it is definitely not correct to draw the conclusion that that all garage bands had this demographic background. Some bands were made up of middle-class teenagers from the suburbs, while others were from rural or urban areas. Additionally there were also the professional musicians in their twenties.

The garage rock performances were most of the time characterized as being amateurish or naive. Common themes were related to the negative aspects of high school life and the lyrics and delivery were quite a bit more aggressive than what was common at the time, often with growled or shouted vocals that often seemed to be more like screaming. A particularly common type of songs were songs about “lying girls”. This might imply that the music was very limited. However, in reality different garage rock acts were quite diverse in both musical ability and in style. Bands varied from one-chord musical crudeness to near-studio musician quality. Also there were regional variations in many parts of the country with the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon having the most defined regional sound.

Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era. Several dozen of these produced national hit records, while hundreds others produced regional hits. However, as expected most garage rock bands were commercial failures even though such bands were signed to major or large regional labels.

By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts and the local level as new styles had evolved to replace garage rock and since the music industry stopped supporting it. The only exception was in Detroit where garage rock stayed alive until the early 70s, however, with a much more aggressive. Among the true believers these later bands are not considered to belong to the garage rock genre. Instead they are often described as proto-punk or proto-hard rock.

60’s Music

February 12, 2009

The 1960s decade refers to the years from the beginning of 1960 to the end of 1969. However, the term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, which denotes the complexity of inter-related cultural and political trends in the west, particularly United States, Britain, France, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Spain, Italy, and West Germany. Nevertheless, political turmoil was not limited to these countries, but also included nations like for example Japan and Mexico.

The Sixties as they are known in popular culture in the United States, is a term often used nostalgically to describe the counter-culture and social revolution; and pejoratively to describe the era as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance. Also the decade has been labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the libertine attitudes that emerged during this decade. Experimental drug use became tightly associated with the counter-culture of the era, as pointed out by Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner: “If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren’t really there.”

There is no doubt the 1960s have become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical and subversive events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and beyond. Also in Africa the period was an important one as considerable political change was brought about. Altogether 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers during this period.

By some commentators it has been pointed out that this era was a classical Jungian nightmare cycle since a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. A vivid example is the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. However, as pointed out, this does not alone explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

During this period in time rock music became the most popular way of defining the new hippie aesthetic, and the style that arose with the stark, swirling colors and hallucinogenic imagery was coined with the term psychedelic music. Among others Bob Dylan demonstrated that expressive songs with surrealist imagery could be merged into popular music. Dylan though was one of few artists that did not jump on the psychedelic bandwagon. However, his efforts at the time inspired countless bands that did. The first psychedelic bands came from San Francisco, and some of these were the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Nevertheless, it did not take long before the psychedelic aesthetic spread musically to other places such as New York, where band like The Fugs and the Velvet Underground, Sly and the Family Stone and the Chambers Brothers were inspired and in England bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, among others, began producing the same kind of music.

During this period music entered and era of “all hits”, as an abundant number of artists released recordings beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm singles, and the radio stations most of the time only played the most popular of the large number of records being made. Also, bands most of the time only recorded the best of their songs to have a better shot at getting radio play. Among the best examples of American listeners expanding from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s and evolving to include psychedelic music is the developments of the Motown Sound, “folk rock” and the British Invasion of bands from the U.K.

There is no doubt that the rise of the counterculture, particularly among the youth created a huge market for rock, soul, pop, reggae and blues music produced by drug-culture influenced bands like the The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Deep Purple, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix Experience also was helping to create folk rock.

The sixties are today celebrated by some of the people, who remember the freedom and good times they had during this time in history, but the period is also widely celebrated by younger people all over the world, who have made the period an important part of their life by adopting the aesthetics, buying the records, wearing the clothes and approaching life with the open and free attitude which characterized this period.

Vinyl Records: ABC

February 12, 2009

A vinyl record is an analog sound storage medium made of polyvinyl chloride consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed modulated spiral groove usually starting near the periphery and ending near the center of the disc.

The history of vinyl records often begin with Emile Berliner, who invented lateral-cut disc records in 1888. However, the popularity of vinyl records as a sound medium first took off around 1918 when the patents for the manufacture of lateral-cut disc records expired, opening the field for countless companies to produce them.

Early disc recordings were produced in a variety of speeds ranging from 60 rpm to 120 rpm, and a variety of sizes. First around 1925 would the speed of vinyl records become standardized on 78 rpm. However, for some years it remained a difference between America and the rest of the world. In America vinyl records were played at 78.26 rpm, while they were throughout the rest of the world played at 77.92 rpm.

The early recording formats of discs were usually seven inches in diameter. By 1910 the 10-inch (25.4 cm) record was by far the most popular standard, holding about three minutes of music or entertainment on a side. From 1903 onwards, 12-inch records were also commercially sold, mostly of classical music or operatic selections, with four to five minutes of music per side. An obvious workaround for longer recordings was to release a set of records. Well-known is HMV’s complete recording of an opera, Verdi’s Ernani, on 40 single-sided discs in 1903.

In 1930, RCA Victor launched the first commercially available vinyl long-playing record, marketed as “Program Transcription” discs. These revolutionary discs were designed for playback at 33 rpm and pressed on a 30 cm diameter flexible plastic disc, however at the time they did not become a commercially success.

Beginning in 1939, Columbia Records undertook efforts to address problems of recording and playing back narrow grooves and developing an inexpensive, reliable consumer playback system. In 1948, the 12-inch (30 cm) Long Play (LP) 33 rpm microgroove record album was introduced by the Columbia and in February 1949, RCA Victor released the first 45 rpm single, 7 inches in diameter.

So at this time record labels like Columbia and RCA Victor were also competing on formats, first in the mid-1950s did all record companies agree to a common recording standard called RIAA equalization. Prior to the establishment of the standard each company used its own preferred standard, requiring discriminating listeners to use preamplifiers with multiple selectable equalization curves.

In the following years, the 12 inches LP, 10 inches EP and the 7 inches singles playing at 33 1/2 and 45 became standardized and work changed over to improving the sound quality of the recordings. Vinyl records remained the most popular sound format until the 1980’s when they were supplanted by the CD’s. However, as the preferred format of audiophiles and connoisseurs it remained available and recently it has made quite a comeback, with higher sales in a time when the overall sales of music as physical products are falling.

Have you just found some old vinyl records in your basement or attic and you are wondering how much they are worth? Well, keep on reading and I’ll go through some of the different variables that must be considered when putting a value on a record.

1. Condition
This is maybe the single most important factor when setting a value on a vinyl record. Does the record have scratches? Is the cover intact? These are some of subjective judgment you need to make when grading the condition of your vinyl records. There are several different grading systems and methods that can help. There is no standard system, however some are more widely accepted than others- I recommend using the system made by Goldmine:

Mint (M)
Absolutely perfect in every way. Certainly never been played, possibly even still sealed. Should be used sparingly as a grade, If at all.

Near Mint (NM or M-)
A nearly perfect record. Many dealers won’t give a grade higher than this implying (perhaps correctly)that no record is ever truly perfect. The record should show no obvious signs of wear.

Very Good Plus (VG+)
Generally worth 50 percent of the Near Mint value. A Very Good Plus record will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.

Very Good (VG)
Generally worth 25 percent of Near Mint value. Many of the defects found in a VG+ record will be more pronounced in a VG disc. Surface noise will be evident upon playing, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and fade, but will not overpower the music otherwise.

Good (G), Good Plus (G+) Generally worth 10-15 percent of the Near Mint value. Good does not mean Bad! A record in Good or Good Plus condition can be put onto a turntable and will play through without skipping. But it will have significant surface noise and scratches and visible groove wear

It is normal to use this scale to grade both the condition of the vinyl record itself and it’s accompanying sleeve. Giving your vinyl records (an their sleeves) an as honest and precise condition grading is the first and most important step towards understanding their value.

2. Supply and demand
Of course not all vinyl records is manufactured in the same number. Some records, by say The Beatles, could be mass produced in the millions, while most records released by smaller artists on smaller independent labels would just pressed in runs of a few thousand or even less. However, that vinyl records by The Beatles or Rolling Stones holds little value and that records by underground bands holds an higher value. Rather, on the contrary, some of the world’s most valuable records are by The Beatles. How? That is connected to release number, release year and the history and modern-day popularity of an artist or band. Let’s first look at History and popularity.

3. History and popularity
Vinyl records that represent a historic value today often commands high prices. Examples can be early Motown singles, as Motown grew to became one the biggest and most important institutions for soul music, same with original releases from genres like garage rock, krautrock, psychedelia that have grown in popularity over the years. Also, recordings from artists and groups that have grown in popularity over the years or first received the recognition they deserved after their demise often commands high prices.

4. Release number and release year.
Without the release number, which also tells you which label released the record and release year it is very difficult to set a value on a vinyl record. First of all, some labels might be more collectible than others. That is especially true of certain labels that specializes on one-off and limited vinyl releases. Secondly, and more important release number and year will tell you which pressing you own, if you own the original first pressing or a re-issue for example. Most popular records will be pressed in more rounds depending on popular demand. If you have original pressing of a Beatles record from 1965, you can be sure that this record is worth more than the same LP reissued in 1973 for example. The world’s most valuable vinyl records are often either test pressings or original releases that have been pulled off the market for various reasons and therefore very few copies are in circulation.

5. Extras and Limited Editions
Many vinyl records are also often pressed in two different editions. The normal one in a high number and a special edition in a very limited run. These often includes extras, inner sleeve with liner notes, gatefold cover, additional songs and similar. This is then also important to take into consideration when asserting the value of a vinyl record.

These are the five most important aspects to take into consideration when asserting the value of vinyl records. More information on value of vinyl records is available both online and in book form.

The vinyl format has always been popular between hi-fi enthusiast and music passionates. For these people the vinyl record was always considered to be the true release and the general opinion was that the format has a richer and more interesting sound. Despite of this the vinyl was loved by the few. However, over the last couple of years the vinyl record has increased its popularity enormously, which has manifested itself in a tremendous sales growth. This has partly given the struggling independent record stores a new chance and even huge retailers have started to sell vinyl records.

The question is how could a format that was virtually dead suddenly become so enormously popular again, especially with young crowd, who was not even born at the prime of the format. This article will take a brief look at the history of the vinyl record in order to understand what factors made this possible.

Vinyl was the first commercial physical music format and for a long time it therefore dominated the market for physical music. Several different types of vinyl records were developed, but in general, when people wanted to buy music to play at home there was no other choice than to buy it on vinyl. However, at some point the compact disc (CD) came around and that quickly put an end to the vinyl format for most people. The CD was smaller, cheaper to produce and some would argue that it had better sound quality. Also, people could easily bring the CD with them to play it in the car, while working out or on their Discman. At some point it also became possible to copy the content of a CD to another CD and a little bit later the content could also be copied to a computer and converted to mp3 files. The last part was the beginning of the end for the CD format.

As CDs could easily be ripped to mp3, people had better Internet connections and new file sharing services were developed buying music gradually became less of a necessity for the more technically savvy music lovers. It did not take long before whatever music you would want could be downloaded for free. So when the content suddenly was available for free, why should people then buy CDs? Well, of course there is the moral question, but except from that the CD format did not provide any extra value that would convince a lot of people to pay for it. As digital music online has become even more convenient to consume and we are living in a world where streaming music is the most convenient option this has become even truer. So the case is that the CD format has become a format stuck in the middle. It lacks the flexibility of streaming and the great physical characteristics of the vinyl format. The vinyl format and streaming are perfectly negatively correlated, and as a consequence of that perfectly compatible. While streaming offers superior convenience on one hand, vinyl offers the ultimate physical experience on the other hand by being a piece of art in itself.

So what exactly are these neat characteristics of the vinyl format? Well, one thing to start with is the cover art. The vinyl has much more space for cover art than a CD and is different from what can be thought of as cover art online. This makes it easier to enjoy the work that is put into create something unique. Another characteristic related to this is that people by nature are collectors. Everyone likes to collect something. Since digital music has no scarcity it just does not make much sense to collect it. Vinyl on the other hand is perfect for collecting. Music lovers like to show their dedication and support to a band by buying the record and it fits nicely on the shelf just as books do.

Another, and often debated characteristic, is the sound quality. Many vinyl lovers claim that it is the cracks, pops and hisses that create the special vinyl sound and make vinyl unique. It is for sure true that this is an important part of the vinyl experience, however, whether or not this is important depends on two factors. First, a person naturally needs to have a preference for this type of sound and second; the record must be mastered specifically for vinyl, which means analog mastering.

A final factor which contributes to the attractiveness of the vinyl format is the listening experience. Listening to music on vinyl is a ritual in its own. Picking the right vinyl, putting the needle on the record, getting up to flip the record before picking up a new one. This physical listening experience stands in stark contrast to the digital one and too a higher extent require that people take time to actually listen to a record and listening to it in its entirety. In that regard listening to music on vinyl therefore often can be experienced as a break from the daily stress and routines.

The future indeed looks bright.