specials 2015

The First 500 Episodes of Sound Opinions

Who knows how we did it, but Sound Opinions has made it through more than 500 episodes on public radio. Since debuting in December 2005, Jim and Greg have had the pleasure of interviewing many heroes, reviewing countless records, dissecting their favorite classic albums, and welcoming live performances by great artists. They reflect on the prehistory of the show, tracing its origins to previous incarnations on commercial radio. Then they highlight some of their favorite moments from the first 500 episodes, and look ahead to what they'd like to see in the next 500.

Go to episode 526

Holiday Spectacular

There's a whole word of holiday music out in the universe besides the tired recordings you hear endlessly year after year. Nobody knows that better than holiday music collector and expert Andy Cirzan. Each year, Andy joins Jim and Greg for our Holiday Spectacular, sharing an hour of incredible unknown Christmas records he's picked up over years of scouring bargain bins throughout the country. This year, Andy leads us into the deep woods of the South to present rare country, bluegrass, and hillbilly Christmas songs from a bygone era.

As a special bonus, listeners are invited to download Andy Cirzan's accompanying holiday compilation for FREE at christmas.soundopinions.org. The mix will only be up until the end of 2015, so get it while the yule log is hot! And happy holidays from Sound Opinions!

Go to episode 525

The Moog

The Moog company of Asheville, North Carolina recently announced it would end production on its flagship synthesizer, the Minimoog Voyager. That got Jim and Greg to thinking about the incredible influence the Moog synthesizer has had on rock and pop music since it debuted in 1964. Robert Moog's invention has seen a renaissance in the past decade, as acts ranging from M83 to Future Islands to Taylor Swift have taken inspiration from the synthpop sound.

To get some perspective on the Moog's history and legacy, Jim and Greg turn to Brian Kehew, the former official historian for the Bob Moog Foundation. Kehew also co-founded an all-analog band called Moog Cookbook in the '90s and has worked in the studio with Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and Moog superstars Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In addition to ELP, Kehew points to the following as great synthesizer musicians:

Go to episode 522

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead celebrated its 50th anniversary in July with a series of farewell shows at Soldier Field in Chicago. We're using that as an opportunity to reexamine the legacy of the controversial band. The Dead formed in the Bay Area in the 1960s and featured a core membership of guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, keyboardist Ron“Pigpen”McKernan, bassist Phil Lesh, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, with important contributions from lyricist Robert Hunter. Though it was the prototypical "jam band," The Dead's sound was much more eclectic and harder to pin down than that sometimes derisive term indicates, incorporating free jazz, psychedelia, bluegrass, blues, early rock ‘n’ roll, and more.

The Dead built a community of devoted fans who would travel with the band from town to town, some of whom would tape the performances and share the recordings, which the band encouraged. Though Deadheads contend the true essence of the band was experienced in its experimental live shows, Jim has little patience for the erratic performances and instead prefers the band's early studio recordings. Greg argues that The Dead was a consistently great live band during its peak in the '70s, before drugs took their toll and the surprise 1987 chart hit "Touch of Grey" altered the fanbase. Garcia, who died in 1995, was an irreplaceable musical genius, and the band leaves behind a legacy of experimentation, eclecticism, and an unparalleled musical community.

Go to episode 505

Episode 500!

Who knows how we did it, but Sound Opinions has made it to its 500th episode on public radio. Since debuting in December 2005, Jim and Greg have had the pleasure of interviewing many heroes, reviewing countless records, dissecting their favorite classic albums, and welcoming live performances by great artists. They reflect on the prehistory of the show, tracing its origins to previous incarnations on commercial radio. Then they highlight some of their favorite moments from the first 500 episodes, and look ahead to what they'd like to see in the next 500.

Go to episode 500

Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus If you've had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there's an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That's why we've enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is“fuddy-duddy”music from a bygone era. Instead, it's an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.

Go to episode 491

SXSW 2015

For years now Jim and Greg have been making an annual exodus to the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, TX. And while they often have to battle crowds and overblown corporate promotions in order to see new, up-and-coming bands, this year was, thankfully, a little more subdued. But star power was still the draw at the 2015 keynote featuring rapper Snoop Dogg being interviewed by…his manager. Greg preferred the candor of industry veteran and panelist Henry Rollins, while Jim was fascinated to hear a conversation on the new music economy with Win and Will Butler of Arcade Fire and New York Times columnist, Nobel laureate and former Sound Opinions Rock Doctors patient Paul Krugman.

Go to episode 487

2014 In Memoriam

Jim and Greg remember some great musical figures who died in 2014. Here are just some of the people we'll miss.

Go to episode 475