Archive for December, 2009


The Egg Performance Center (Albany, NY) – Your Lame!

So get this; I purchased two tickets for the January Al Dimeola concert back in AUGUST thinking I would get the best seats possible if I acted early.  According to The Egg (the venue) the first 4 rows were “reserved” for Egg members exclusively and all other seats would be open to the public.  So, I purchased my seats and was able to get 5th row for the show, lucky me I thought.  As the months have passed I have checked the website periodically to see what seats were left, about a week ago it appeared the show was nearly sold out since the last row of seats was all that was available.

This morning I decided to check The Egg’s website and discovered that FRONT ROW seats are  now available!  This is the most lame policy I have ever heard.  Shame on The Egg for rewarding those who purchase their tickets last minute getting the best seats.  I’m pissed and now am slightly bitter about going to this show.  I don’t hold Al DiMeola responsible, but I do hold The Egg for screwing his fans over in this way.

I’m sure the show will be great and yes, my 5th row tickets are still very good, but they could be better. Screw you EGG!


Happy Holidays from HiFi!

Who knew?

Happy Holiday’s from your friends at HiFi!


Le Grand Tango – Christopher O’Riley & Carter Brey (2009)

Yes, I know it is a shock that we here at HiFi Central would actually listen to classical…and perhaps even more bizarre and random, Tango music!  However, if you have been following this blog since its creation all of our contributers listen to just about everything; any good self-proclaimed connesiour of music should; would you not agree?

Often when I am searching out for a good classical album I specfically look for cello heavy albums; for me the cello creates a depth to classical music that most other instruments do not.  Cello and piano duets are like peanut butter and jelly, perfect together and made for each other, add perhaps the occasional “glass of milk” (oboe, viola, or bassoon) and the culmination will create the perfect sounding classical album.

One of my favorite cello and piano albums is by Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax Beethoven: Cello Sonata Opus 102 No.1 on Sony Classical; it has been a very difficult one to top (Ma and Ax have collaborated on several other titles on the Sony Classical label), however I believe that O’Riley (piano) and Brey (cello) have produced a Tango album that just may rival Ma and Ax.  I understand that there is a very large contrast between listening to works by Ludwig Beethoven vs. Astor Piazzolla.  My point is the overall quality of the music, not the specific era styles.  First of all the sound quality is superb and the playing top notch; secondly, the selection of songs are excellent.  This albums really provides the listener with a better understanding with regard to the complexity and beauty of Tango music.  Please know that this is not a Latino-Salsa album, it is strictly classical.

Highlights on this album are the songs Escualo. Milonga En Re, and Le Grand Tango.  These songs are intense and then change to being mellow and serene in an instant; clearly great care was taken in both writing these pieces but also understanding how to play them.  If you appreciate classical music and wish to expand your collection this is a perfect album.  Yes, I’m sure you have a raised eyebrow with regard to Tango, but check it out on and see for yourself.  I was very impressed and ended up buying the album, I can’t stop playing it.

Le Grand Tango gets 4 out of 5 stars.


Frank Zappa – Playground Psychotics (1992)

During my recent binge on Zappa I came across an album I had never heard called Playground Psychotics.  This album is a 2-disc set that is one of the most random of Zappa albums I’ve ever listened to; most of the album is comprised of side conversations and random babble of Frank’s first band The Mothers of Invention.  Apparently Mothers fans had been pleading for years for some new vintage material and this is what Zappa ended up releaseing.  Granted the album material is from the 1971 tour of various locations (Fillmore, UCLA, and London), it actually contains very little music.  Is it waste of your money? No, but if you are looking for an introductory album to Zappa or Mothers it is not a good choice.

I compare much of the album to a 1970’s version of Twitter;  Psychotic’s simply provides a way to find out what the band was doing at any given time, at the airport, behind the scenes of recording, in their hotel rooms, and what they talk about after a show.  Although much of the dialogue is mildly entertaining it is only worth listening to once.  There are some highlights to the album such as the song Concentration Moon Parts 1 & 2 and the 30 minute masterpiece Billy The Mountain.   I must say that some of the banter between band mates is funny, especially track 16 on the 2nd disc entitled “Its  a good thing we get paid to do this”; basically a goofy monologue of the band bad mouthing Zappa and poking fun at themselves and why they don’t get laid since they play “this comedy shit” and why no girl would take what they do seriously.

This album does reflect the rumor that Zappa recorded EVERYTHING over the years (including the goofy conversations he had with his band, it’s pretty kooky).  This album seems to be something Zappa truly put together just for the loyal fans; clearlythey would be the only ones that would truly appreciate its content.

If you are a diehard Zappa fan you will appreciate this album since it is “something old and something new”.  Playground Psychotics simply provides you a peek at a bunch of guys who liked to play music, have fun being absurd, and joking on one another all the time. 

The album sells on Amazon for $20 but I think that is simply too much to ask for what you don’t get.  I would put the money towards multi-disc collections such as Lather, The Best Band You Never Heard or any of the You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore volumes.  You’ll get far more listening pleasure for years afterwards.

Frank Zappa’s Playground Psychotics gets 2.5 out of 5.


Elliott Smith – New Songbook Released

As a follow up to the Christopher O’Riley Elliott Smith tribute album review, I was informed by a HiFi reader that a tab songbook of Elliott Smith has just been released in time for the holidays by the Hal Leonard Corporation and arranged by Fred Sokolow; very cool eh?

The ISBN is 1423440137 and runs about $20.  It is rather hearty at 80 pages.  There is an urban legend out there about a comprehensive Smith tab book entitled “The Essential Elliott Smith”, but I’m not sure where this you?

I’m sure this would make a pretty nifty gift for the holidays.


Christopher O’Riley – Home to Oblivion (Elliott Smith)

Being an Elliott Smith fan I was really sad to hear about his passing a few years ago; it was a huge loss to the music world.  Smith’s work, although popular among certain circles, remains still unheard by many, even posthumously he has not received the accolades he deserves for his profound contributions he made with his music.

A few years after his death I was introduced through a segment on National Public Radio (NPR) about a number of tribute albums being released in his honor.  One in particular that caught my attention was by classical pianist Christopher O’Riley.  O’Riley had been a fan of Smith’s compositions and noted how complicated and uniquely structured they were for someone who was not formally trained in writing music; he decided to transcribe them for piano in honor of Smith’s genius. 

Home To Oblivion: An Elliott Smith Tribute (2006) is O’Riley’s fantastic representation of a variety of Smith’s work in the classical style.  O’Riley hand picked the songs he liked from a broad spectrum of albums spanning Smith’s early work on Roman Candle (1994) to his last album A Basement On The Hill (2004) which was unfinished and released shortly after his death.

The album is sincere and slow, clearly O’Riley’s intentions were to create an album that would both represent the beauty of Smith’s arrangements yet also create a mood for the listener to reflect upon how much more could have been if Smith was alive today.  O’Riley has done several tribute albums reflecting the music of Radiohead and the late Nick Drake. 

Although a solid album a  highlights  would be “Let’s Get Lost” and “I Don’t Understand”, simply incredible and worth buying just for those songs alone.  You can listen to the album in its entirety prior to buying by going to LaLa Music and typing O’Riley’s name in the search bar.

Christopher O’Riley’s Home To Oblivion: An Elliott Smith Tribute gets 4 out of 5 stars.


“The Burnout” Op Ed worth reading

Having been a “closet metalhead” in nerds clothing myself in middle and  high school I completely relate with Jim Shearer’s  years of torment at the hands of “burnouts” or what we in the Northeast called “metalheads” or “potheads”.  These guys were usually the kids that often developed facial hair in 8th grade (often due to having repeated a grade or two), wore a different metal band shirt every day (not to mention the matching jean jacket), excelled in “shop class” or “vo-tech” and not anything else, beat on every nerdy kid they could find and decreed the back of the bus their domain…and it was!  

Oh how I wanted to be accepted by them at that time…looking back I’m glad I didn’t.  Most of them dropped out and became “baby daddies” at 16 and rarely completed their GED if they were lucky! 

If you weren’t tormented by this group of teenage Neanderthal’s you won’t relate, but man does Shearer’s comment on “industrial strength slingshots” bring back the memories! I had to laugh (after I got a chill) remembering how terrifying it really was to get shot at while riding my Schwinn Stingray home from school.  Getting tagged in the back with a BB gun from woods was so painful.

But hey, it was part of being a teenager in high school in the mid 80’s.  At least the one thing I can say they had going for them was their taste in music…

Read Jim Shearer’s opinion editorial about ‘burnouts” here, hilarious.


LaLa Online Music

Upon my recent review of Pandora and my excitement to share it with the masses I have discovered that has become first of all limited in its availability worldwide, and second, the artist profile that one creates barely plays the artist’s songs.  Sorry Pandora, but I’m not impressed any longer.  My “Zappa station” now plays ONE Zappa song per 10 songs and often, the same song? Lame.

I was introduced to an alternate online music source called LaLa and I have to say that I am rather impressed with the variety of artists available and also the amount of control the user has over listening to what you want (and all songs in their entirety!).  Please check this online source out and ditch Pandora since they are clearly a “bait and switch” site.  When they first introduced Pandora it was much cooler, not anymore.

I’m impressed how much Iron and  Wine, Nick Drake, and Elliot Smith they have, you can buy whatever you like at any time, but you can also create personal playlists to play, nice.  Ok, so here’s the catch- you can only listen to one song in its entirety once then you have to purchase it.  So, yeah, it’s free…but then it’s not, but the songs appear to be cheaper (.79 cents vs. .99 cents or more depending) to purchase than iTunes and the variety is pretty good. 

When you initially visit the site they give you 25 credits towards web songs you can add to a LaLa player which is free.  Each song is one credit and you can build a 25 song playlist after setting up a free account.  A cool thing is that you can listen to as many songs as you would like in their entirety prior to adding them to your playlist.  So, if you customize a playlist of things you might listen to all the time you might find the value in it.

Granted, Pandora is absolutely free but it has very serious limitations and becomes horribly redundant in its variety. 

Check out LaLa by clicking here and tell us what you experience.  Worldwide readers, please let us know if you can access this player as well.


Strunz and Farah – True “Guitar Hero’s”

Although this album was released in 1997 I felt it important to inform the masses about and hopefully you will take the time to learn more about Jorge Strunz (Costa Rica) and Ardeshir Farah (Iran); two exceptional musicians in the world today. 

As a college student in Boston in the mid-90’s it was not uncommon for me to begin my afternoon studying to background music.  At the time Emerson College had a fantastic radio show called Jazz Oasis that was a 2-hour program immediately following a World music show called something I cannot recall, but it was a great prelude to the jazz show.  One day whilst listening and working on a paper I remember that I stopped writing to listen more closely to what was playing.   After the song was over I was introduced to Strunz and Farah; I recall that the song was off their (at the time) newly released Live album and it was a must to run out and get (I just was so eager to hear more!). After that one song and numerous albums afterwards…I am still hooked.

Musicians like The Gypsy Kings and Ottmar Liebert are household names in guitar,Flemenco, and world music circles but sadly not for Strunz and Farah; however, they should be.  The Live album was the first album I ever bought and it remains among one of the most cherished, prized, and continuously played in my collection.  I’ve turned more friends on them by just randomly putting them on; most say “Jesus, who is that?” and I politely reply “oh, it’s just Strunz and Farah, I’m sure you’ve heard of them”, usually the reply is  no, but “can you burn that for me?”. 

As live albums go, this is the probably the most precise, entertaining, and well-rounded album I have ever heard.  There are zero dull spots in this album and often the listener has to wonder if these guys are really that good live.  The album is so well recorded and produced, you have to think there is some studio magic in there, I mean, can these guys really play that fast and clean?  The answser is yes! I’ve seen them do it.

Strunz and Farah have recently wrapped up a U.S. tour and already have a date set for June 11, 2010 at the One World Theatre in Austin, TX; if you live in the Austin area do yourself a favor and grab a seat.  I would suggest that if you are a fan of Al Dimeola, Strunz and Farah are among the same caliber of talent.  Granted that DiMeola might be a bit more well-rounded since he plays all different types of guitar styles, Strunz and Farah offer their own corner on the guitar market and will not dissapoint even the most critical of guitar fans.

I saw these guys in 2002 at The Regatta Bar in Boston and it was a show I will never forget.  Check them out and a sample of their music (and latest album Fantaseo) by clicking here.

Tell us what you think!


Metal-heads Unite! In…Europe?

Pretty big news for heavy metal fans!  The interesting story will be how Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and James, Lars and Kirk from Metallica agreed to tour together.  Now let’s just pray they don’t restrict their tour dates to Europe!

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