Bob Schwartz

Category: Music

Belated Record Store Day Post

When I saw that a number of readers have been viewing my Record Store Day posts from years past, I realized that I had missed this year’s celebration (April 22).

So here’s a message: If you think that the diminishing presence of record stores, and their cultural sisters book stores, is not a problem for civilization and society, you are wrong. That is not nostalgia; it is the truth. The world is a better place with lots of music lovers hanging out together in record stores and lots of book lovers hanging out together in book stores. If you are a music lover or a book lover, and you have never hung out with your kindred live in a lively non-virtual space, you are missing something. Seize the experience.

Spring: Max Richter Recomposes Vivaldi

Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring

“British composer Max Richter takes Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece “The Four Seasons” for Recomposed into the present and makes it accessible in new ways to a new audience. At the same time, he treats the original version and its history with respect, which means that also experienced listeners of classical music can enjoy “Vivaldi Recomposed”.”

Listen. (Listen also Summer and the other Four Seasons.)

My Birds

My Birds

I started the digital birds singing
Just as the real ones arrived out the window
Mine were louder
And under my control
The wild ones served no one
Least of all me
And would stop and go
At any time
Anyway I silenced mine
To be with
The real singers of spring

Arcade Fire: I Give You Power, I Can Take It Away

The Clash used to call themselves “The only band that matters,” based on their political and social stances.

Arcade Fire has never been overly political, or overly self-promoting, just great. Their latest single, released in January, doesn’t make them the only band that matters, but it does confirm that they are a band that matters, and it is a track that matters.

If the band had just added Mavis Staples to the track, that might have been enough. But what she and Win Butler sing for us is an anthem pointed right at the heart of today. A reminder, an aspiration, a truth you can listen to and move to and shout and follow, when you’re feeling discouraged.

I Give You Power

I give you power, over me
I give you power, but now I gotta be free
I give you power, but now I say
I give you power, I can take it away
I can take it away
Watch me

The Longing (When Joni Sings)

The Longing (When Joni Sings)

When I hear Joni sing
So early, so young
Love and longing
The longing of love
The longing for love
The love that is longing
The love
The love lasting everlasting evanescent.
The past is not more sweet
The present not more bitter.
A song to travel the sea
Shores seen and dreamed
When I hear her sing.

Spotify Throwback Thursday: Let’s Dance

Burn, baby, burn
Burn the mother down.
The Trammps

This week’s Spotify Throwback Thursday playlist isn’t hard to figure out: the theme is dancing.

Those raised on EDM may find these classic dance tracks a little slow on the BPM and a little light on the electronics. But if it means anything that the D stands for Dance and M stands for Music, this is the stuff.

Not all of this music was the greatest. But some of the artists are masters and some of the tracks are the mountaintop. An annotated selection from this playlist:

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (plus one other track), Michael Jackson
It’s so confusing to think about Michael Jackson, in terms of the way his life and his music went. But Off the Wall is one of the major dance albums ever. Yes, the guy on the cover is Michael Jackson.

Let’s Dance, David Bowie
Bowie being Bowie, he couldn’t make dance music like everybody else. He had to Bowieize it.

Take a Chance On Me (plus four other tracks), ABBA
One time I drove almost a thousand miles with ABBA Greatest Hits as my primary soundtrack. I don’t regret it, and would do it again.

I’m Every Woman, Chakha Khan
Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan. If you don’t know that music is magic and Chaka Khan is magic, you don’t know. Also, for those into woman-type statements, this is a goddess singing about being a goddess.

Disco Inferno, The Trammps
People getting loose, y’all. Getting loose to burn the mother down. Is this about dancing?

It’s Raining Men, The Weather Girls
Did you not want to have fun? And depending on your inclinations, not want to see what happens at 10:30 to get absolutely soaking wet?

Le Freak, CHIC
From small things big things come. Here Nile Rogers invents an entire piece of dance pop music.

I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
Women have been singing this message forever, on record and off. But never quite like this, before or since. I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give. You’re not welcome any more.

September, Earth Wind & Fire
It’s Earth Wind & Fire.

Last Dance (plus two other tracks), Donna Summer
The story of how the night ends at the club. Go home with the one who brought you. Go home with the one you met. Go home with the one you dance with last. It may not be Donna Summer. It can’t be.

Patti Smith

This weekend I experienced Patti Smith performing her iconic first album Horses (1975), along with other songs. She’s been on tour with this for a while, so you can read plenty of reviews elsewhere, as you can read about the significance of Horses and Patti Smith in the evolution of modern pop music.

If this was going to be a review, I’d mention her gifts as a writer, poet, musician, performer, woman, and human being, and how her infectious energy and presence aren’t just wondrous for an artist who is now 70—it’s wondrous for anybody.

I’d mention how awesomely cool she is, write about her on-stage patter. Some of it planned (after the first songs of the album, she showed the album jacket and explained that she had just performed Side A, and now we were going to flip to Side B, put it on the turntable, put the arm down, put the needle in the groove). Some of it spontaneous (a fan threw a T-shirt on stage, which she thought was a Jerry Seinfeld shirt, leading her to wonder why anyone would do that, tell her only Jerry Seinfeld personal story, and then realize that without her glasses on, she hadn’t seen that it was a picture of Jerry Garcia, leading her to tell her only personal story about Garcia, which was funny.)

But this isn’t a review. I just want to say that it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to and I’ve been to plenty of great ones. Here’s why:

Patti Smith is authentic, committed, open-hearted, honest, gentle, wild, loving and fierce. When you add that to her talent, it is totally inspiring. Still thinking about it days later inspiring. Not that most of us are or can be quite that talented, or as authentic, committed, open-hearted, honest, gentle, wild, loving or fierce, but that we can aspire to be all that. And when we aspire, we can be artists too.

Patti Smith also believes, performs and preaches the power of rock and roll, not a gospel as current as it once was, but no less true. At the end of the concert, she strapped on her electric guitar, and played some crazy, Hendrix-style riffs, wailing to heaven. And then she held up her guitar: This is a weapon, she said, a weapon of love.

Listening to Satie (3 Gymnopedies)

Listening to Satie (3 Gymnopedies)

Furniture music
He called it
Shaker table and chairs.
But even creators can be wrong
About their children.
A bare house
Elegant and inviting
Not cold.
Sit on the floor
Lie on the floor
Stroll around.
Dream awake
And don’t sleep.
Here comes another note.

Too Much Finding, Not Enough Searching.

Once you find, you stop searching.

I’m reminded today that once upon a not too distant time, searching was cooler than finding. It was a time when if people weren’t actually living in San Francisco or Los Angeles, they were experiencing the SF or LA of the mind. Which meant searching.

David Crosby’s underappreciated masterpiece album If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) (with appearances by Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Santana) is of that searching time, place and mind.

Here are the lyrics from Laughing. More searching, less finding.


I thought I met a man
Who said he knew a man
Who knew what was going on

I was mistaken
Only another stranger
That I knew

And I thought I had found a light
To guide me through
My night and all this darkness

I was mistaken
Only reflections of a shadow
That I saw

And I thought I’d seen someone
Who seemed at last
To know the truth

I was mistaken
Only a child laughing
In the sun

Music: Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

If the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) had lived into the late 20th century and completed his cosmic epic Mysterium as pop music, it might have sounded like Spiritualized’s Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, the title track and the album (1997). (Note: the brilliant and adventurous explorer Scriabin thought that when Mysterium was finished and played, it would bring about the end of the world.)

Spiritualized is descended from a group called Spacemen 3 (Taking Drugs To Make Music to Take Drugs To). Do not be misled either by album titles or by a sense that Spiritualized is either psychedelic music or some sort of New Age/space music. This is something you have never heard before. When you hear it, efforts to fit it into an aesthetic or artistic pigeonhole fail. Something is going on, and if you listen without prejudice (as you always should), you may find it an expansive and transporting experience.