Julia Reynolds never planned on becoming an expert on gang violence. But as a reporter covering towns like Salinas, CA, she found the carnage hard to ignore, and she wondered why so many young men were keen for a career that often ends in an early grave or a prison cell.
After a decade of getting to know gang members, their families and anti-gang law enforcement officials, she’s produced a vivid portrait of life and death in one of California’s most notorious crime organizations. Drawing on her own first-hand reporting as well as police surveillance tapes and court discovery documents, her new book Blood in the Fields: Ten Years Inside California’s Nuestra Familia Gang has a novelistic, you-are-there immediacy while remaining resolutely factual.
Austin indie rock band, Spoon, has a genuine sleeper on their hands with their 8th and latest album, “They Want My Soul”, that quietly reached no. 4 briefly on the billboard charts late this past summer. It’s sleeper because it might take you two or three listening’s until Spoon’s own infectious “Soul” creeps up and hooks you. For example, the albums’ catchy second track “Inside Out” that has a cascading keyboard solo that sounds just like a harp.
First new album in 4 years
Last fall, after a four year absence which is a long time in the music biz -the band members needed a break – singer-guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno reconvened Spoon – the group they founded some 20 years ago –and started laying down tracks for “They Want My Soul”. The album was released last August but in July, the band offered a one of a kind, vinyl gratification gift immediately handed out to anyone who pre-ordered the vinyl album – a ten inch 45 with 3 preview songs.
Less guitars – more synth
Working with new producers, Daniel has expanded Spoon’s sound with less electric guitars and more synth – pop and it pays off as it does on “Knock Knock Knock” and the very 80’s sounding synth of “Outlier”.
Not to worry though Daniels’ guitars still dominate a few cuts like the crunchy opener “Rent I Pay”, one of three songs off this album Spoon performed on John Stewart’s election “Democalypse 2014” TV special Oct. 30th.
Spoon still forking it over
When it gets right down to it, Spoon has always been singer Britt Daniels’ baby ever since the group’s inception back in 1993. Seemingly not interested in breaking away from it’s indie rock labeling and going after mainstream acceptance, probably by design, Spoon remains a relevant band by continually updating continually their sound- although somewhat slowly- with each new release. The 43 yr. old Daniels seems content to keep his group on even keel and steady as she goes while doing it his way on Spoon’s title track “They Want My Soul”. One thing for sure, he’s not caving in. Thank goodness for that. – Eric Berg
Spoon performing live at Seattle’s KEXP studios, July 24, 2014
These past few months I’ve been listening over and over to a brand new edition of an album that was released some 45 years ago – January 12th 1969. Led Zeppelin I – you know it- it has that black and white image of the exploding Hindenburg dirigible on the cover. Zep’s powerful blend of rock and blues on this album sounds more refreshing and addicting than ever. Why? Because guitarist and the guardian of Zep’s legacy, Jimmy Page spent the better part of this decade painstakingly remastering each of the band’s 9 albums with stunningly crystal clear results.
The Perfect Mix
Working with John Davis who remastered 2007’s Mothership compilation and later live reunion Celebration Day, Page used the original ¼ inch master tapes to punch up the over all sound of the band on Zep I. To my ears he has properly placed Robert Plant’s vocals and the band members instruments in the mix right where they’ve always needed to be in terms of superb, distortion free, high volume stereo separation as a good pair of headphones or speakers will attest. At last you can hear John Paul Jones’ bass and keyboards upfront and center and John Bonham’s drums are crisper than ever.
So far only Led Zeppelin albums I – III have been released, issued in lavish double cd cardboard packaging with lots of new photos. Each album comes with a second companion disc of alternative takes and rough mixes, although there are no real surprises. More like a glimpse of how Page and the band sculpted each song on their way to the finished product. Call them works in progress. Zeppelin I’s extra disc is the exception. It’s an edited mono version of a fiery live October 1969 Paris show that features several songs that appeared on their second album released that very month. Unlike the source material used for the companion discs on II and III, this one came from a file recording of French radio broadcast that was emailed to Page.
3rd Time’s the Charm
Although Jimmy Page hasn’t really put out any new music of his own since Led Zeppelin called it a day, he has done an admirable job of curating, if that is the word, the audio history of this band that was clearly his baby and vision from the beginning. Although this is the third time Zeppelin’s catalog has been remastered, Page can rest assured that with these editions he’s finally nailed it and he can now sit back and be proud.
Of the three releases, Led Zeppelin I remains my favorite of the entire catalog. This recording is simple and raw and was originally well engineered in the first place, without the overuse of filters, dubbing and extra tracking that was to follow. Led Zeppelin I is a monumental rock album that harkens back to a time when pop music was meant to stick in your head for months even years to come and possibly change your life. And the best part about this ultimate remaster? You can crank the volume all the way up to ten and it sounds absolutely gorgeous, despite what your neighbors next door might say – Eric Berg
Just released this week: Led Zeppelin IV (The “Stairway to Heaven” lp) and Houses of the Holy were released on Tuesday, Oct. 28th. I’ve listened to both of them once and the improved audio far surpasses any previous version. Next time I’ll critically listen with headphones.
Join NPR Music for a live video webcast of Robert Plant and his new band The Sensational Space Shifters.
CLICK HERE, Sunday, September 28th at 5:45 p.m. PT. a live video webcast featuring rock ‘n’ roll legend Robert Plantand his band. We’ll webcast the show from the Nonesuch At BAM music festival in Brooklyn. The former Led Zeppelin singer released a new solo album, titled lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, earlier this month.
Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters include Justin Adams (guitar), John Baggott (keyboards), Juldeh Camara (gologo and a one-string West African violin called the riti), Billy Fuller (bass), Liam “Skin” Tyson (guitar) and Dave Smith (percussion).
It’s taken decades, but women are finally catching up to men in the comedy business, with A-list stars like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman and Kristen Wiig. Have women comics achieved true equality? And if so, why’d it take so friggin’ long? We talk to Yael Kohen about her oral history, We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy. (Originally aired in 2012)
Gerald Wilson in 2009, at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Photo: Stephen Laufer / KUSP
Gerald Wilson, who was also a trumpet player, wrote the arrangements for such greats as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. He died Monday at 96 years old. He spoke with Terry Gross in 2006.
Note: Billy Childs performs at MJF, Saturday Sept 20th, with: “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”, including special guests Shawn Colvin, Lisa Fischer, Becca Stevens, and Quartet San Francisco.
Photo: Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival.
The late Laura Nyro penned hits, including “And When I Die” and “Save the Country.”
NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with composer Billy Childs about his new album of tributes, Reimagining Laura Nyro.
After most species of sea stars suffered massive die-offs in 2013, researchers say there’s some hope for recovery.
Scientists still don’t understand why sea stars from Mexico to Canada started dying off. But the disease, which is called “sea star wasting syndrome” has affected most species and in many locations killed off a majority of sea stars, says Peter Raimondi, who studies marine ecology at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz.
“It’s unlikely you’ll go to a location and not find any sea stars but the numbers are fractions of what they used to be.”
The ailment begins with tissue death – parts of the sea star may fall off. Then bacterial infections kill the animal.
Now Raimondi says there’s a chance sea stars may recover. He and other scientists have seen the largest number of baby sea stars they’ve ever seen. That goes especially for a site near Raimondi’s lab.
“We’ve seen more babies in the last 6 months than we’ve seen in the last 15 years combined. ”
Raimondi cautions that the large birth year doesn’t necessarily promise a return to normal populations. These new sea stars could still get the disease.
“The comeback would be when these individuals actually make it through to the adult stage.”
He says that would take a few years, once this year’s babies reach maturity.