Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 9th (and 10th)

Well here it is folks!   We have a BIG change in television.  A new talk show coming up, a new host, and America is going to be facing a new era in the talk show, coast to coast.

and of course, I speak of "Mike Francesa" moving his Sports Show Simulcast to Fox Sports 1.

BIG news... Michael Kay can get his new set and doll up the graphics, add in his radio partner and dump coke bottles, but that was but the battle.   Now you have Tank showing up larger than life on a fully national Cable Network.    KAY, YOU LOSE.

I am thrilled at this news.  MSG would have been nice for the local market, but for people who didn't want to pay $13.99 a month to subscribe to the one dopey radio show on TV, we're in for a LOT of fun.    Now I can DVR the show too, although it may not do much for me immediately.

I can't wait, fellas!  Onward...

So Jimmy Fallon did his final Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon show on Friday night.   It was, in a word, wonderful.   I've been a fan of his for years.   He killed it -- kept it simple, had only one guest, Andy Samberg, and had his performance w/ the Muppets.  The whole thing was beautiful!  

Jimmy Fallon, to me, represents the first host of a television program I know that didn't act like he was bigger than the room.  It's not a *bad* quality to have, to be honest, but a guy NOT having that kind of ego is downright refreshing.  It shows!   Seems to me like guests LOVE going on the program.   I'll tell you right now, he's going to be great on the Tonight Show, and I mean *great.*

Now the guy from SNL taking over for Fallon at Late Night, Seth Meyers, I know nothing about.  I am fully unfamiliar with his work other than his role as the Weekend Update guy.  I may have to talk to the Oat Man to see what Seth Meyers brings to the table.   Hopefully he can fill me in.

The Beatles 50 Special last night was a pleasant surprise.  I really enjoyed it!  A few modern day artists with covers of Beatles' songs, followed by Ringo and Sir Paul on stage performing themselves.   It was sublime.

Man, you *know* a special is good when both Katy Perry AND Yoko Ono try to torpedo it, and it still keeps going! 

Among other highlights of the weekend, in a month where I usually put sports on the backburner, two albums I listened to for the first time, actually make that three:  It started on Friday when I heard Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album on Spotify. 

Well, drat, now I realize I heard a fourth album in there, more on this later.

"The Wall," was a true circle of life.  Everything my friends said it would be.  Damn good music my friends.  What an odd introduction to Pink Floyd LP's - their last complete work.  I think they did do some followup album before they broke up but I won't count it.

Album number two from the weekend was Steely Dan's "Aja."  I've wanted to hear this record for quite some time, but never found a good enough copy at a decent enough price to buy.  Finally, I got to hear it - on Spotify.  The journey to this moment was quite a story check it out:

I decided last week that I needed to finally move my backup amp, a NAD 7020 Stereo Receiver circa 1983, to my office.  It was something I wanted to do since the day I moved to SM, back in July, but it was only this week when I was allowed to borrow Coach's parking pass, that I thought to act on it.  After all, unlimited free access to Parking Garage 2 was quite the story!   I said, "let's do it."

But then came the matter of how to connect my computer to the stereo.  Take a look at where it is... it was on the desk, which has 3 feet between itself and the shelf where my stereo was at the office.   There was no way to do this with cables that wouldn't be ugly looking or resulting in some cable stretching across the doorway.  I had to figure out how to connect it wirelessly.

Then I did some research on Friday and learned there WAS a Bluetooth Digital to Analog converter, and a rather good one at that.  Basically it would act similar to a bluetooth headset, but instead of being just a headset, it would instead send the audio through an analog RCA input to the NAD Receiver.  It was brilliant!  So I said is there a high quality version of this and there was -- the Arcam rBlink DAC.   Magnolia (inside the Best Buy) had one in stock so I went "lock and load", let's get it.  And I did, and it rocked. 

I got the DAC on Saturday and, in an extremely unusual move, I took the car w/ parking pass and DAC device, AND a CD (more on THIS later, it's like Inception) to my office.  I *never* go to my office on Saturdays, but there was no way I'd install all this on the clock.  That'd take too long for anyone not to notice, so Saturday it was.

Nobody was in the building other than some people who were going to a talk that evening.   I took all this equipment upstairs to connect it.  First, the Amp, which I lifted all the way from my car about a quarter mile away from the office.  Then I took out the rBink and set that up.  Then I powered them both on and used my Macbook Pro to discover the rBlink on Bluetooth.  It took a while to get all the sound levels just right - and I say that because I heard the sound breaking up in the early moments... well as it turns out, the sound broke up because the line input into the stereo was too hot, it was just too loud, so I had to turn down the output from the Mac and from the individual programs (Spotify for instance).  THEN it sounded just fine.

As I was doing this, I started listening to music to get a feel for it.  First out of the box was Steely Dan's "Aja," over Spotify.   Sound clipping issues aside, that record sounded just glorious over bluetooth and a Spotify Premium upgrade.   Music really came alive, but such is the case with most Steely Dan music.  The true genius of Steely Dan is its ability to create such pretty melody against such disgusting and disturbing lyrics.  I love those guys. 

So I heard the sound clipping during parts of the album, then adjusted sound levels, and asked to myself whether there were internet connection issues.  To help me find out, I put on a CD, which needed no network connection.  It was Weezer's debut album.  and IT was great!  I've heard a bunch of the songs from their CD before, but not the whole thing, and the whole thing rocked.  Incidentally, no clipping issues.

Nonetheless, I noticed that as I turned down the volume, the sound didn't break up anymore, so I determined that output was the issue and I made the adjustments.  Here's what the setup looks like in the picture below.  It is so awesome to have full control of the sound, and have the ability to mute it with the Mac too, so that if I get a phone call they won't hear Loverboy blasting in the background or something.  Bluetooth will send the audio across the room wirelessly to the rBlink which is then connected to the receiver on the shelf.

The setup took about an hour but I was so hooked on the music that I stayed in my office for most of the evening.  I may have been there for over 3 hours listening to music and testing things out.  It was truly a marvel.  I heard Queen's "A Night at the Opera" album as well but I've heard that one before so it was not among my "first listens."  I even tested the ESPN and WFAN sports radio streams.  Never in my life did I hear Steve Somers and his callers with such crisp digital clarity.  Somers had some running gag about how people were concerned about him smoking and he said it didn't bother him because "when you die you die, why stress out about it?  Everyone will die at some point eventually" or some jazz like that.  Finally, after many pieces of music with some Somers in between, I turned everything off and left the office.  It was a very fun afternoon, if not an odd one.

My fourth album of the weekend  I heard at home the next day.   I got my first listen to Herbie Hancock's "Head Hunters" Album from 1973.   This one I came into with zero expectation... I thought "this might be interesting for a minute or so."  Then I put it on and IT BLEW MY MIND AWAY.

"Chameleon", it's opening track.  That song is just breathtaking!   I was fully unprepared for it, and it was so far ahead of its time too.   I read the liner notes and learned that Herbie did this cross between Jazz and Funk as a tribute to Sly and the Family Stone.  I'll tell ya, this thing was just rocking my socks!  Herbie would change the music landscape again ten years later when he did "Future Shock" and its opening track "Rockit".

It would seem, based on my cursory knowledge of Jazz History, that this album had huge influence on the creation of a format known as "Jazz Fusion," taking elements of popular music like rock and funk and adding them into jazz arrangements.   Rock was also added into folk music a decade earlier creating the format "Folk Rock," which otherwise would sound like an oxymoron.

I am certainly no stranger to Jazz Fusion, having listened to Bob James and Lee Ritenour's work on an extensive level.   I feel like Herbie was as big a contributor if not THE big contributor to the format's beginnings.  What a treat to hear such an influential album like Head Hunters, and to think, I picked it up as an afterthought in a 3 for 1 sale at Barnes and Noble... my first choice was "Foreigner's Greatest Hits" but I said "I want to try something different" and went after Herbie.  That was a great choice, my friends.

On that happy note, I wish you all a great Monday!  Have a good week everybody.

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