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A Fantastic New Pressing of a Miles Davis Masterstroke

Posted by Rick Frystak, January 15, 2014 01:51pm | Post a Comment

Miles Dewey Davis may have been many things, but he was certainly a forward-thinking artist with an eye out for what was happening at any given time in the musical landscape, and an urge to not repeat himself in his journey toward a newer, “hipper “style, like it or not. Some, myself included, would argue this point vigorously towards various stages of his career output, especially later. This week, the formidable Impex Record company releases one of Miles’ most contemporary and timeless albums of music and cultural relevance: 1965’s “ESP”.  

 

Miles Davis Quintet

E.S.P.

Impex Records IMP 6018

180 gram LP (2014) 

 

So… Miles Davis in 1965? ‘Trane releases “A Love Supreme”, “Rubber Soul” comes out, Horowitz plays Carnagie Hall, Otis Redding , The Byrds and Bob Dylan release classic, timeless music, and new Miles Davis Quintet members Wayne  Shorter and Herbie Hancock had just presented “Speak No Evil” and “Maiden Voyage” to the universe. Miles' previous band had already left, but he had the next great quintet already assembled, Wayne being the final glorious recruit. "E.S.P." would be their first studio recording together, and what a record it turns out to be, produced by Columbia Records' A&R man Irving Townsend, he of “Kind Of Blue”, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, etc. fame. The cover features a bewildered Miles and an adorable Frances Davis, with Miles sporting quite the flummoxed facial expression. "Man, does she have 'E.S.P.'?" 

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Happy Birthday, The Whistler! - rated by independent research the most popular West Coast Program in radio history

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 16, 2012 12:25pm | Post a Comment
Adventures of the Lone RangerMy introduction to old time radio was listening to a 1957 Decca 12” The Adventures of the Lone Ranger that my dad presumably procured as a child. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I don’t think I ever made the connection that the album’s tracks were old radio episodes… I don’t think I even knew about radio dramas until I think I became vaguely aware of – but not interested in -- The Shadow sometime later.

It must’ve been around 2000 when I was hanging out with my friend Josh Beckman one night and he excitedly turned his radio on and dialed in to AM 1260 KNX to catch The Whistler. I’d never heard ofThe Whistler before but Josh was obviously a fan and whistled the Whistler’s theme as the program began. I listened and was entertained and surprised at how much more mature the story was – having previously assumed that all old time radio consisted of nothing but adolescent serials.

*****

The Whistler debuted on CBS on 16 May, 1942. For most its run it was sponsored by Signal Oil Company, an oil company founded in The Harbor’s Signal Hill community. Regular fans from any era feel their ears prick up when they hear the sound of clicking shoes, the haunting, whistled theme and the announcement, "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler.”


In 1944, it was adapted into a Columbia Pictures film, The Whistler, directed by the great William Castle and launched a franchise that ultimately included The Mark of the Whistler (1944)*, The Power of the Whistler (1945), Voice of the Whistler (1945)*, Mysterious Intruder (1946)*, Secret of the Whistler (1946), The Thirteenth Hour (1947), and The Return of the Whistler (1948).


The signature whistle was provided by Dorothy Roberts, who was backed by the theme’s composer, Wilbur Hatch and his orchestra. The voice of the titular Whistler was provided variously by Bill Forman, Bill Johnstone, Everett Clark, Gale Gordon, Joseph Kearns, and Marvin Miller but regardless of the actor, the opening announcement was always the same, “I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes... I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak.”


Unlike most programs, the protagonists of The Whistler were criminals and most episodes began with their having committed a serious crime. Ultimately justice is served thanks to a twist in the final act or something that was overlooked in the beginning having been overlooked. The Whistler’s shadowy narrator was undoubtedly inspired by the Shadow but was no superhero -- rather an omniscient narrator who provided ironic commentary and programs it was more in line with mystery anthology programs like NBC’s Mystery House, the Blue Network’s Inner Sanctum Mysteries, and Mutual’s The Mysterious Traveler and The Strange Dr. Weird -- but in my opinion it’s superior to all of them. 


For the shows first two seasons it was overseen by writer/producer J. Donald Wilson. He was succeeded in 1944 by director/producer George Allen. The scripts were written by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directors included Sterling Tracy and Sherman Marks (who went on to direct episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.GrindlTammy and other TV series). 

  
                       Bill Johnstone                                          Cathy Lewis                                    Elliot Lewis


    
            Gerald Mohr                         Hans Conried                     Jack Webb                        Lurene Tuttle

Strangely, whereas its fellow and-not-dissimilar CBS anthology Suspense frequently featured famous Hollywood guess stars, most of the actors who appeared on The Whistler were better known as the stalwarts of Hollywood’s so-called “Radio Row,” e.g. Bill Johnstone (The Shadow, The Line-Up, Cavalcade of America, Suspense, Lux Radio Theatre, This Is Your FBI, Dragnet), Cathy Lewis(The First Nighter Program, My Friend Irma, Suspense, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen), Elliot “Mr Radio” Lewis (The Amazing Nero Wolfe, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, The Adventures of Maise, Broadway is My Beat, Suspense, Crime Classics), Gerald Mohr (The Adventures of Bill Lance, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe), Hans Conried (The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show, My Friend Irma, Suspense), Jack Webb (Dragnet, The Jack Webb Show, Pat Novak for Hire, Johnny Modero, Pier 23; Jeff Regan, Investigator; Murder and Mr. Malone, One Out of Seven), and Lurene Tuttle (The Adventures of Sam Spade, Suspense, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Great Gildersleeve, Brent House, Dr. Christian, One Man’s Family, The Red Skelton Show, Hollywood Hotel, Those We Love, Duffy’s Tavern).


Its final episode aired on 22 September, 1955 -- at a time when radio audiences were flocking to TV, where its influence can certainly be seen in anthology TV programs like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone (and later series like The Hitchhiker, and Night Visions). More than 200 of the 692 episodes are currently considered lost. Most of the rest are available on online, on LP, on cassette, on CD and other formats. 

*directed by William Castle 

Happy Birthday to Night Watch - radio's first reality show

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 4, 2012 10:00pm | Post a Comment
With a few, shining exceptions (Blind Date, COPS, ElimiDate, Jersey Shore, Joe Millionaire, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, The Real World seasons 1and 2 (true stor-ay!), and maybe a couple dozen others, tops) I hate reality TV. To me most reality shows are endurance-defying and totally depressing in a consumerist dystopian way. My aversion to most reality TV is not  really out of some moral disapproval of schadenfreude nor a principled dislike of unscripted entertainment. No, I usually just find them painfully boring and unpleasant. I remember first hearing about Survivor and was rather excited by the concept, hoping for naked castaways with no common language forced to fight tooth and claw just to stay alive. Imagine my disappointment upon finding out it involved little more than people unpleasant from the get go undertaking a series of challenges for prizes in a tropical setting and talking about alliances. Yawn. The good reality shows (as determined by me) offer anthropological thrills, exposing the strange mating rituals of exotic subcultures and paint portraits of people in a way rarely seen in the stylized fictions of the day. 
One of the earliest reality programs was on the radio, Night Watch. It was preceded by the hidden camera prank TV show Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 but, though both reality shows, could scarcely be more different. Night Watch debuted on CBS on April 5th, 1954, a few years after the popularity of TV exploded, threatening film and radio's dominance. To compete with TV's popularity, film offered things not available on TV like widescreen, technicolor, married couples sharing a bed, and
  black people. Old Time Radio ultimately died out in 1962 but in its last days offered other things in short supply on TV, namely adult content, intelligence and exploitation that would never pass muster on the beloved family idiot box. Radio programmers seemed to be OK with a bit of gore and tawdriness since it all took place in the mind and because it was at least packaged as a cautionary public service rather than the exploitation which it really was. The first time I heard it was an episode involving a suicide attempt (there were several) and I was hooked.

Nigh Watch was developed and hosted by Culver City police reporter Donn Reed who in each episode rode around with Sgt. Ron Perkins from 6:00 pm till 2:00 am. Reed was assuredly inspired by the greatest of all police procedurals, Dragnet, which debuted on April 5, 1954 (after two auditions in January and February) and followed the dramatized adventures of LAPD officers but was widely praised for its realism. Night Watch took realism to a new level, with Reed capturing the action with a dry-cell powered reel-to-reel recorder and a microphone concealed inside of a flashlight. It was directed, produced and supervised by Sterling Tracy, produced by Jim Hadlock and Sgt Perkins additionally worked as technical dvisor.

Donald Reed, the youngest of three sons, was born to a doctor in Los Angeles, California. After completing high school, at the beginning of World War II, he joined the Army Air Forces. After the conclusion of the war, he worked for KNX where he created Night Watch. In the program, Reed never
 conveys a sense of self-importance even though his progrma presaged the development of both Cinéma Direct and Cinéma Vérité by a few years and shared many of the same hallmarks -- the lack of non-diegetic sound and a for the most observational approach of the former as well as Reed's end-of-program interviews with the subjects characteristic of the latter. Chief W. N. Hildebrande's wonderfully robotic, stilted epilogues make Mitt Romney sound like Oscar Wilde.

My feeling has long been that the so-called "good ole days" weren't that different from the present -- crime rates today are fairly similar to those in the '50s (although crime coverage has increased dramatically). The mere fact that Night Watch titles include "The Nude Prowler," "Child Desertion, Gabby and Kicker," "Old Fashioned Suicide," "Kid Explosives," "Strippers and Pix Stash," and "Goddam Lady and Mr Peepers" should give potential listeners a sense that it's a fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. To me, it's also absolutely fascinating to hear the relaxed, natural accents, rhythms and speech patterns of regular 1950s folks and to recognize how completely is from the snappy, highly artificial and frequently corny dialogue of con
temporaneous TV and films.

Night Watch only ran for about a year, till April 22, 1955. I'm not sure why it was so short-lived -- althoughproducer Jim Hadlock's son was hit by a car whilst running an errand for his mother and suffered from a skull fracture. Reed auditioned another similar program, provisionally named, Police Recorder. Police Recorder was to have combined Donn Reed and Detective Sgt. Ron Perkins' recorded field interviews with a police psychologist. The project never progressed beyond the audition stage. Reed subsequently joined KABC-AM Radio in 1957, where he joined Captain 'Max' Schumacher on Air Watch, an early drive time traffic report show. He remained there until 1960 after which, in 1961, he moved to KMPC where he remained until 1981, receiving several Golden Mikes in the process.

Perkins went on to serve as Culver City's mayor and died in 2008. As for Reed's later partner, Captain Schumacher, he died in an air accident with his helicopter and an LAPD one over Elysian Park, in which he and to cops were killed.

You can listen to all 52 episodes for free here. Old Time Radio shows on CD are also available in the store.


Special thanks to the folks at The Digital Deli Too for their invaluable research and preservation efforts
 

*****

CBS News Interviews Amoeba Owner Marc Weinstein

Posted by Amoebite, December 2, 2011 02:50pm | Post a Comment
CBS News recently spoke with Amoeba co-owner Marc Weinstein at Amoeba San Francisco about the origins of Amoeba, wanting to build the ultimate independent record store, and our plans for the future. It's a pretty nifty piece about Amoeba. Unfortunately, the video isn't embeddable, but you can watch it here.

Marc on CBS

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Fairfax

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 10, 2011 03:17pm | Post a Comment
THE FAIRFAX DISTRICT

The Fairfax District is a small Midtown neighborhood with a long history as one of Los Angeles' primary centers of Jewish culture. The boundaries, like many Los Angeles neighborhoods, aren't universally agreed upon but I place them as Melrose Ave on the north, N La Brea Ave on the east, W 3rd St to the south and N Fairfax on the west.
  
To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here. 

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