Write Album Reviews? No Thanks

SKF NOTE: At some point, starting in 1980-1983, Modern Drummer magazine’s editorial staff decided the magazine needed record reviews.

Record companies, and drummers, were mailing us their new vinyl LP releases when MD wasn’t reviewing records. We might feature one notable album in one of our industry news columns, but we had no regular column dedicated to reviewing albums.

I remember moments of an editorial meeting in Founder/Publisher Ron Spagnardi’s office with Features Editor Rick Mattingly, Ron, and me.

Not one of us, as I recall, was excited. Writing positive reviews about albums we valued was easy.

Citing the old adage, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything,” I was not going to write negative reviews about albums. None of MD‘s editors wanted to write negative reviews. In the end we chose to write only brief, positive summaries of albums; with maybe 12 albums per column.

The whole business of ruling for or against someone’s music felt too subjective. How many times in my personal life had I dismissed music after one hearing, or with no hearing at all, only to reverse my opinion somewhere up the road?

All musics don’t speak the same to everyone. It doesn’t mean the music I don’t like deserves a public putdown.

Hearing is an art. Some music affects me immediately. Some music takes years and concerted effort to appreciate. Recently I listened again to music I was crazy about when it first came out in the 1960s. In 2021 or 2022 the music sounded dated.

For awhile I did co-write, and MD continued publishing, a record review column. But, it was soon no fun to write, and most certainly no fun to read. Writing and publishing only positive reviews grew boring.

My memory is the column died from lack of interest.

I do enjoy reading some music reviewers. The best of them know music well, have a respect for the music and musician(s) under review, and offer interesting analysis to their readers.

I can trade notes on albums all day with someone who has also heard the same albums. But, as for writing negative reviews about a musician’s album? I never had the stomach for it.

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Phil Collins, Genesis Sell Music Rights for Over $300M

SKF NOTE: I understand why musicians are making these deals, but still, I hate to see it happening. It truly is the end of an era when musicians could establish annuities based on their royalties.

Sept. 29, 2021

Phil Collins and Genesis Bandmates Sell Music Rights for Over $300 Million
Concord to buy solo and group works by English rocker and other band members

Take a look at Phil Collins now. The English rocker and his Genesis bandmates have agreed to sell a bundle of their music rights to Concord Music Group Inc., according to the company.

The megadeal—valued at over $300 million, according to people familiar with the transaction—includes the publishing copyrights and a mix of recorded music income streams and masters of Mr. Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks‘ individual careers and work as the progressive rock group Genesis.

Full story – https://tinyurl.com/4yrc374p

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Morello – I Never Use Half the Technique I Have

Back cover of the Dave Brubeck Quartet 25th Anniversary Reunion album.

SKF NOTE: An excerpt from my 1979 Modern Drummer interview with Joe Morello. Just prior to this part of the interview, I told Joe I was sad to read in the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 25th Anniversary Reunion album, Joe saying, “It’s nice to be remembered when you’re old and gray.” He was 50 years old in 1979!

Joe Morello: Well, sometimes I get down with it, but not too much. It’s been good to me. It’s been a lot in such a short time. And now, as much as I enjoy taking it easy and doing what I want to do, still, I want to start playing again.

Like, I could be teaching again if I really wanted to, heavy, but…. I even went up on the prices and they still want to come, y’know. I charge twenty-five [$25.00] a lesson – and they pay for it. They come.

I’ve had them come from Arizona, Dallas. I’ve had them come from Canada.

I used to tell them, “Jeez, this is ridiculous. I wouldn’t go across the street to see me play.”

All a teacher can really show you is how to play the drum. That’s all. I don’t care how much technique you’ve got, or how little you have.

When it comes to playing the drum set, I never use half of the technique I have. I don’t need to. For what?

Unless I’m feeling real hotsy-totsy one night, and I’ll come on with the power a little bit, y’know, if I’m up to it; and sometimes I feel like doing something like that – I’ll do it.

It’s good to know that I can do it if I want to, but I normally don’t knock myself out much like that. I’d rather do my playing first, and then if people want to see this kind of thing [Joe plays fast licks on his drum pad], then I can do it.

But, I like to do my playing first. Then I’ll play for the crowd, y’know.


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Remembering a Music Mentor

SKF NOTE: Leo Feinstein knew a lot about jazz and classical music. For example, customers at Sam Goody’s Walt Whitman Shopping Center store wanting to know which conductor/orchestra recorded the best version of Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique would get a learned answer from Leo.

Often Leo offered customers a choice. He’d say, “Well, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s version with Claudo Abbado conducting takes this approach to Berlioz’s music. Some people prefer how Louis Fremaux presents this music with the London Symphony Orchestra.”

This was the early 1970s. Before digital music. There was no way Leo’s customers could hear the albums he described. But, Leo knew the music well. His descriptions were a customer’s next best thing to hearing the music.

Leo performed the same educational service for young Sam Goody’s sales clerks, like me, hungry to learn about jazz. We were discovering the sounds of the great jazz musicians as fast as we could afford to buy their records. Leo, on the other hand, already knew the music. Not only from records, but from NYC jazz clubs, and NYC jazz radio too.

One day Leo mentioned Buddy Rich was playing that night, about a half hour’s drive from work. Leo told me he and Buddy Rich knew each other. Because we were working late we wouldn’t make the first set opening. But if we hurried we could get to the club to see part of the first set. And, said Leo, he would see if he could introduce us to Buddy.

Three of us drove to hear Buddy from Sam Goody’s that night. I don’t remember the third person with Leo and me, but he was someone closer to my age. Possibly it was a non-Sam Goody’s friend of mine interested in hearing Buddy Rich.

At any rate, we reached the club and parked the car. As soon as we opened the doors to get out we heard Buddy Rich’s band going full swing.

The club entrance door was open with a greeter checking ID. Because we were all of legal age to get in, the greeter surprised us when he told Leo only he could get in to hear Buddy. Our third companion and I were wearing blue jeans, which, the greeter informed us, was against the club dress code.

Standing at the club entrance we could see the club was packed. Onstage, stage lit above the silhouetted crowd, was Buddy Rich. We were looking at him from his right side.

Leo, always calm, negotiated with the greeter. These kids, he said, have come a long way to hear Buddy. How about letting them in just to hear the rest of the first set? It’s dark inside. No one will know they’re wearing dungarees, said Leo.

No, no, said the greeter. Finally, he did relent a bit by letting us, for just a few moments, stand and observe Buddy Rich from just outside the entrance.

The first time I was seeing and hearing Buddy, not on Johnny Carson’s tv show or on record, but in-person, I can still see him lighted within a darkened nightclub, hearing his sticks flying over and under, cymbal to cymbal, and to his drums echoing wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

Although I left the club disappointed the night hadn’t gone as planned, 50 years later it’s clear Leo gave me a musical night to remember.

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Art Blakey Music on Blue Note Records

SKF NOTE: My music library has all the albums featured in this August 1960 magazine advertisement – and more!

I remember, back in the early 1970s, while working as a clerk at Sam Goody’s in the Walt Whitman Shopping Mall, Huntington, NY, studying Blakey’s “Roots and Herbs” album cover. The great photo caught my eye, but I’d never heard Art Blakey.

“Is Art Blakey any good?” I asked Allen, a fellow clerk. Wrinkling his nose and shrugging his shoulders, Allen gave me his non-verbal, “Eh, Blakey’s so-so.”

But, looking at records in a bin directly across from me, a customer said, “Art Blakey is one of the great jazz drummers.” Emphasis on the word great.

The customer was right. Allen was wrong.

This 1960s ad reminds me of Blakey’s drum artistry, his exceptional bands, his great work on other musicians’ records, and the joyful education I get with each listen of a Blakey record.

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