Here is what I hope you will consider good news. There’s the short version for those who only read headlines, a fuller explanation follows if you are on the company computer and pretending to be working.
THE SHORT VERSION:
There is good news if you want to know about interesting or slightly different music which isn’t being reviewed in the mainstream media or played on radio.
If you are a bit past some of the heavily marketed pop and rock and r’n’b, or that whole "indie scene" that clutters up magazines and airwaves, then I am here to help.
On my Elsewhere website here
I have instituted a weekly section Music From Elsewhere in which, every Monday, I will spotlight four or five albums that it’s unlikely you will read about anywhere else. And even less likely that you’ll hear on radio.
And! I will be posting a SAMPLE TRACK for each album. So you can read what I have to say, see the cover, and listen to the what the artist themselves do.
And another "And"! If you like what I say and what you hear then there is a link direct to that album at Marbecks Records where you can buy the thing on-line. Simple.
These aren’t "reviews as such because we’re all busy these days, so why would I waste your time writing about a lousy or even mediocre album? What I’m doing is filtering out those things and shining a spotlight on really interesting, very cool or damn terrific albums that might otherwise go past you, just as they are going past reviewers and radio programmers.
They may be pulled from the alt.rock or world music catalogues, they might be neo-folk or groovy trip-hop, they might be sung in a strange tongue or they might be just plain lovely. But they will all be, in my opinion -- seasoned by decades of listening to and writing about diverse music -- worthy of your serious attention.
To be honest, I have an idea of who I am aiming at: it’s is YOU if you love or are curious about new music, don’t mind mainstream pop or rock but are looking for something different, and probably don’t have the time or even know where to start looking for something to suit your changing tastes.
It’s YOU if the sheer number of albums being released every week meant you gave up trying but would like to get back in the game. I can help. You might have lost interest in music because of family commitments or the hours you spend at work, but that doesn’t mean you want to give up on listening entirely. I can help.
I am going to be the filter so you won’t have to wade through stacks of new release CDs in record shops by people with names you’ve never heard making music you might not like anyway.
I can help if you listen to as much music in the car as you do at home, if you listen to music by yourself but also want to have something new and interesting for when friends come around. I’m guessing you want albums with a bit of longevity about them, and something that really engages you on an emotional or amusement level.
You don’t mind jazz but not the boring shit, you don’t mind world music but have never thought that it is necessarily morally uplifting or a political statement to listen to it.
You may be a musician yourself, or work for an ad agency and are looking for the next interesting new sound for your big campaign. You may even be a radio programmer. But I’m guessing you are probably just kinda ordinary doing the day job.
If so, then I have the site for you.
Each week I will be looking specifically at new releases, but there will also be surprises like something from the vaults which still warrants your attention and will give enjoyment, there might be classic reissues, one-off wonders and weird little gems just to put a smile on your face.
Check it out right now here
A splendid time is guaranteed for all. And that Juanes track is very cool.
HERE’S THE LONG VERSION IF YOU WANT MORE BACKGROUND AND WHY THIS HAS HAPPENED.
A couple of months ago a friend of mine -- around to borrow some CDs, of course -- asked me what the first album I ever reviewed was. Other than writing a primary school essay about Johnny Horton’s terrific Sink the Bismarck single (which my parents bought for me at Beggs Wiseman) it was George Harrison’s massive three album set All Things Must Pass from about 1970.
I wrote an extensive, and I’d like to think insightful piece, for a student magazine I had started at North Shore Teachers College while being bored witless between lectures and stranded on the Shore.
I told this to my friend and laughingly noted, “God, that was over 25 years ago”.
He said, “It’s just as well you work with words because you’re hopeless with maths -- that was more than 35 years ago.”
And so it was. And what a lot of music I have heard and written about in that time. And musicians I have spoken with, travelled with, interviewed or just tried to ignore. I can reflect on having spent a day in Auckland with wee Billie Piper (when she was just 15-year old pop-poppet Billie), have toured with septuagenarian bluesmen, interviewed forgettable and forgotten stars like Chesney Hawks and Go West, been bored senseless by Duran Duran at a press conference in London, had my intelligence insulted by Tommy Lee, been enthralled at meeting jazz geniuses like Ornette Coleman and Joe Henderson in New York, and have been shouted at by hip-hoppers.
Hundreds and hundreds of interviews, which probably means I have heard many times that more vinyl singles, records, double albums, CDs and whatever other format has come along.
Japanese prog-rock, Cantonese pop, Dunedin drone, Korean rap, French hip-hop, Scandinavian jazz, Tunisian folk . . . Yep, heard ‘em all. And then some.
And written about them, sometimes had my own radio shows where I played them, and spoken about them to friends and strangers alike.
For about 20 years I had a column in the New Zealand Herald -- usually entitled “Elsewhere” because the music I wrote about wasn’t rock or classical but just, I figured, elsewhere.
Times have changed as they should, and I no longer do that with the frequency I once did. I miss it however and -- if I can believe what people tell me at gigs, in bars and in record shops when I am trawling for the new Pearl Jam or Sonic Youth album because I still love that kind of stuff too -- some people also seem to miss me doing it.
(I choose to ignore the accountant who said recently I should be reviewing more Dire Straits albums, and I had the unfortunate task of telling him they had broken up years ago so thankfully there would be no more bloody boring Dire Straits albums)
So, encouraged by flattering comments from those who have followed and trusted my taste down the years -- decades in some cases I am told -- I am doing it again, in a new and different way -- and one which I hope is better.
If music is to be heard rather than just written about then the internet is the way to go.
As of right now if you check my
link (Elsewhere, of course!) you will see the customary travel stories, photos, collected Snapshots columns from the Herald, and also a collection of the essays on jazz I wrote for Real Groovy some years ago (which still stand actually). Lots of “elsewhere” stuff.
But there is now something new and improved: Music From Elsewhere.
Every Monday I will be posting four or five reviews of albums (with cover photos) that it’s unlikely you will read about anywhere else. And even less likely that you’ll hear on radio.
Actually, these aren’t “reviews” as such because we are all busy these days, so why would I waste your time writing about a lousy album? What I’m doing is more like shining a spotlight on really interesting, very cool or damn terrific albums that might otherwise go past you, just as they are going past other reviewers.
They may be pulled from the alt.rock or world music catalogues, they might be neo-folk or groovy trip-hop, they might be sung in a strange tongue or they might be just plain lovely. But they will all be, in my opinion -- seasoned by more than 35 years of writing about music, ho ho -- worthy of your serious attention.
And! I will be posting a sample track for each album (yes, paid my APRA fee to do this) so you can read what I have to say, and listen to the music itself.
And! If you like what’s there, then there is a link direct to that album in Marbecks Records where you can buy the thing on-line (no messing about with parking problems or unreliable public transport ever again!)
So why Marbecks?
As a matter of course, Marbecks has always had the kinds of Elsewhere albums I have listened to and reviewed -- and they will have all these in Music From Elsewhere.
Marbecks has a proven track record for reliability and customer service (and I have been just another customer), and they have a small but knowledgeable staff of music lovers.
But best of all, and I think this is the clincher, when you call the shop and get the inevitable answerphone options one of the choices is, “if you want to speak to Roger”.
I know of no other big company -- and Marbecks does a lot of business so it’s big in that sense -- where you can talk directly, on a first name basis, to the guy who runs the place. I like that. A lot. It’s the way I like to work too.
A couple of disclaimers now: Yes, I am “clipping the ticket” as they say if an album sells through this system -- but Marbecks is NOT supplying me with albums and is NOT asking that I write about anything in particular because they want to shift product. And nor are record companies.
Of course I hope record companies and distributors will send me things I ask for (or just send things unsolicited), but what I write about and choose will only ever be what I want to write about, because I like it and believe that others might too.
So I now have the best of both worlds, part magazine/part radio. I get to write about music again every week, and I get to choose some tracks for you to listen to (for free). Cool.
Might I also add a special thanks to those like Roger Marbeck, Russell Brown and people in various record companies who have been not only supportive but genuinely enthusiastic and can see the potential in this idea.
But a particular BIG THANKS goes to Daniel at Interactive Pulse who is a web designer like no other: he speaks my language, has made this incredibly easy, and there is a link to him at elsewhere.
If you are looking for a web designer I unreservedly recommend Daniel. (First name terms, I like it!)
So have a look and listen to my site -- for a week the albums will be up there with sample tracks then they will go into an archive (without the sample tracks).
If you’ve got any questions flick me an e-mail. Unless I have a triple CD to listen to urgently or have some paying work with a deadline, I’ll get back to you asap. I’m good like that.
The first albums are up there right now. And that Juanes track is well cool.