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Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman

Before there was a Merge or a Matador there was Elektra Records. The great American label recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and its founder Jac Holzman is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Jim and Greg talk to Jac about launching Elektra as an independent folk label out of his dorm room in 1950. Eventually the roster grew to include every genre of music – blues, rock, funk, world and pop. It became the home to The Stooges, the MC5, Love and Queen, and, Jim adds, some notoriously difficult personalities. But Jac insists no artist was too hard to handle. He did use caution when out drinking with Jim Morrison, however.

Go to episode 275
Christmas In the HeartChristmas in the Heart available on iTunes

Bob Dylan Christmas in the Heart

After thirty-four studio albums over a career spanning decades, Jim and Greg didn't think that Bob Dylan could still surprise them. This week, he did. Dylan has released an album of Christmas classics called Christmas in the Heart. Both Jim and Greg preface their review with praise for the American folk icon. Greg calls him“the most important artist of the past fifty years.”For Jim, Dylan is a“living American treasure.”But, at the risk of sounding like Grinches, both critics agree Christmas in the Heart is abysmal. The arrangements are awful, the delivery bizarre, and nothing sounds like anything you‘d want to play for the family. It’s a double Trash It.

Go to episode 203


“Dream in Blue”Los Lobos

For his DIJ, Greg wants to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Los Lobos's Kiko. In 1992, grunge acts like Nirvana were shaking up the mainstream, and veteran acts like Los Lobos had to either reinvent or face irrelevance. Kiko, Greg says, was Los Lobos's answer to grunge's challenge. The group started out in the seventies playing a fusion of American roots rock and Mexican folk. Kiko saw main songwriters David Hidalgo and Louie Perez moving in a more trippy psychedelic direction, writing lyrics that were so concise, they were almost haiku-like. The band's new sound only really began to gel however when their label put them in the studio with producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake. Froom and Blake pumped up the distortion and keyboard effects, and suddenly Los Lobos were walking into a new sonic world. Greg says the album's opening track, "Dream in Blue," represents the door opening onto that new world. Hidalgo and Perez's lyrics describe a sleeping child who, as she begins to dream, finds herself entering a realm of unprecedented freedom.

Go to episode 355

Music News

Since the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer, debate over the use of the Confederate flag in American popular culture has become even more heated. The flag has been featured in rock lyrics and performances for decades, most notably by the Texas heavy metal band Pantera in the '90s and also in performances by Tom Petty, Blake Shelton, and Zach Wild. Musicians such as Kid Rock and Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers have joined the debate surrounding the flag, with Rock dismissing the issue and Hood criticizing the flag's continued presence in modern music and culture.

Apple Music, the new music streaming service from Apple, launched on June 30th, making it yet another competitor in the global streaming market. In order to attract new users, Apple has offered a three month free trial to any iOS user interested in testing out the service for no cost before committing $10 a month for a subscription. While early reviews of the service have been mixed, two general complaints about Apple's latest innovation have emerged, including criticisms of its somewhat jumbled presentation and its lack of the social networking features that have made Spotify such an attractive streaming option. Jim thinks we'll have to wait and see how many trial users decide to commit to the paid subscription to really get a sense of how Apple Music stacks up against its many fierce competitors.

Go to episode 503

Music News

This week American and European regulators gave their official blessing to the merger of Universal Music Group and EMI. The big four major labels are now down to three. So what could go wrong with one company controlling more than forty percent of the music market? According to Greg, a lot. Take a streaming service like Spotify: for Spotify to launch, the company had to obtain licensing deals for its music from the majors. With so much of the world's music now in UMG's hands, Greg predicts it's going to be a lot tougher for tomorrow's Spotifys and Pandoras to get into business. He sums it up: big tech and big labels 1, the little guy, 0.

Are you one of the three remaining people on earth who haven't seen Psy's "Gangnam Style" video? Better get hip fast. The South Korean rapper just broke the Guinness Book of World Records' entry for most YouTube likes (2.2 million). Back in June Sound Opinions prophesied that K-pop - Korean pop music - was poised to make a big splash in the States. But even Jim admits he never thought the genre's breakout star would be a rotund rapper singing about a posh Seoul neighborhood.

Go to episode 357