“All Things Must Pass,” but Tower Records Reigns Supreme

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Image source: Tower Records Project

When it comes to singing the praises of All Things Must Passthe 2015 film detailing “The Rise and Fall of Tower Records”– I simply can’t stop! When I saw the trailer more than one year ago, I vowed to track the progress of the film until its release. Even in a short two minutes, the sneak peek captures the unique essence of Tower Records. Direct from the lips of rock legends and founding staff members alike, All Things Must Pass has a very special story to tell.

Do yourself a favor and watch the trailer here!

Source: Youtube

The mere mention of Tower Records causes me to beam with pride because Sacramento is home for me… and also the home of Tower Records! In fact, the area recently rebranded as the  Tower District is a large part of my community. This neighborhood, centered around the historic Tower Theater, is home to many popular restaurants, bars and of course movies!

Lucky me, I had an opportunity to catch the first Saturday matinee of the Tower doc with my girlfriends… in the Tower Theatre… next door to Tower’s first record store; the seedling that would eventually sprout into a global phenomenon!

The film left us with a glow of nostalgia as it lead us along the pathway of Tower’s rise from an inspired idea to a world wide explosion of culture from everywhere from Portland, Oregon to Shibuya, Japan. I was particularly enthralled with the mystique of one store in particular, however–Los Angeles. Tower on the Sunset Strip.

With legends ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Brian Wilson scouring aisle after aisle of Tower’s unrivaled inventory (it’s rumored Wilson once showed up in his bathrobe!), the film showcased Tower Sunset as the center of the musical universe.  And with Bruce Springsteen and Elton John attesting to this very fact in All Things Must Pass, who are any of us to disagree?

Watch as a camera follows Elton John on one of his many infamous shopping sprees at Tower Sunset.

Source: YouTube

…And if your heart can stand, it check out John Lennon’s amazingly dizzy commercial for Tower Sunset in which he called it “the largest record store in the known universe!”

Source: YouTube

 

Lennon was right about that! In 1974, the Guinness Book of World Records named Tower Records Sunset the world’s largest record store.

During it’s nearly 35 year reign, Tower Sunset was magic. Pure  magic. Peep a few more of the store’s remarkable highlights on the timeline I made just for you 🙂

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All Things Must Pass is now playing in theaters and is available for download on iTunes.

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Audio Through the Years

This morning, on a crowded BART train with no room to move, I was listening to Wilson Pickett’s “People Make the World“, off his 1969 album Hey Jude, when I had a realization of sorts. I was listening to the track on the Spotify mobile app, which I pay for with a monthly subscription, and began thinking about the history of audio formats.

As a kid, I was raised on albums from The Beatles, Ray Charles, The Temptations, and Sam Cooke to name a few. In fact, these were the Soul, R&B, and Pop records that my parents had purchased when they were teenagers! These were their prized possessions, and now they are valuable pieces of my own collection. The funny thing is, I value them now more than ever. As I reflected back on my childhood, I began to realize that emerging forms of audio formats made me forget about vinyl in a way…

After vinyl, were 8-track tapes, then cassettes followed by CD’s. I’m missing a lot in-between here, but basically, the trend continued toward the growing need for convenient, compact forms of music. I remember listening to K-EARTH 101 out of Los Angeles, patiently waiting for my favorite songs to play so I could record them to cassette tape. Of course, even after having your tape, you had to rewind and fast-forward to get to what you wanted to hear (and there was always the risk of recording over your mix). CD’s, however, changed everything. Not only was the sound quality far superior of cassette tapes, but you could also cue up a song in seconds, which was basically unheard of at that time.

MP3’s became available in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, which lead to downloadable content on personal computers, both legal and illegal. I’m only 29, but if my memory is correct, I remember CD burners and blank CD-R and CD-RW’s becoming available at a consumer level sometime after the MP3/digital music boom. This opened up a whole new can of worms as people were able to download their favorite albums, and copy them to blank CD’s for themselves and friends. Legal issues ensued as takedowns of Napster and other illegal P2P programs began to take place around 2002. Either way, CD’s stuck around for quite a while as the best option for keeping, storing, and distributing your favorite jams.

So where are we now in 2015? Well, listening to that Wilson Pickett track, I came to realize that music isn’t owned the way it has been traditionally. Streaming media programs like Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes radio have transformed the experience into one where you don’t need to physically own albums. Obviously, there are those audiophiles out there that crate-dig at their local record shop, but for the average listener, streaming apps get the job done.

Although streaming apps have made digital music more accessible, there is no way it will beat owning the physical copy of an album. A good example is the recent vinyl revival, which has resulted in reissues of classic albums. Which, in a way is sort of unfortunate because you really have to search for those used gems. The re-emergence of vinyl makes me wonder if the same might happen with CD’s. Only time will tell.

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Music Blogs Galore

So I have a question for you, where do you go to find new music? You have your IPod all loaded up with your favorite tracks from your favorite artists. Your spotify is filled with albums that you’ve piled up over the years. But what about when you feel like listening to something new, something different, something you’ve never heard before. Do you go to a music store? Do you ask your friends what they’ve been listening to? Do you dig through your grandparent’s record collection?

Personally, there’s nothing better than going to the local record store and just digging through crates of albums I’ve never heard of. But sometimes you can’t get out of the house, or you just want to find something new, now! Well guess what people we are in the golden age of the Internet, which means we have access to all music at all times. It’s just a matter of finding it. There are hundreds probably even thousands of blogs dedicated to music. These blogs are an infinite source of new music. But with so many sites and so much music out there, how do you know what to look through? Well that’s the beauty of some of these blogs, they are dedicated to specific types of music. You can find a blog for soul music, rap, indie, electronic, literally any genre of music, you can find a blog dedicated to it.

Now I don’t know every blog that exists, I think it’s safe to say nobody does.  But I’ll give you a few links to help shET Musiqueow the beauty of these blogs.  One of my favorite blogs is Et Musique Pour Tous.  Now this blog isn’t strictly dedicated to any type of genre.  This blog i
s dedicated to providing all kinds of new music and remixes.  This blog uses soundcloud for most of its posts because they like to post more unknown and obscure artists.  If you are looking for smoother electronic and indie music this is a great blog.  Another reason I love this blog is because they post music from around the world

imanAnother one of my favorite blogs is 2dopeboyz.com.   This blog is dedicated to new hip hop and R&B that comes out every day.  This is quite the reliable source for all new singles, albums and mixtapes and news in the hip hop world.  Another reason I love this blog is because they like to post.  This blog is a perfect source for any hip hop heads out there looking for the newest releases.

BirpThere are plenty of other blogs out there such as Birp.fm, which is a blog dedicated to indie music.  There’s Gazfunk which is dedicated to soul and funk music from the 50’s to the 80’s.  I could post many more but those are my favorites.  The point is that you should set out to find your favorites.gaz]  Because there will always be times when you just want to hear something new.  So next time you’re curious for some new tunes, don’t be afraid to search for some blogs, you might be surprised by what you find.

-James Torrescano

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Music Reads

Whenever I visit a bookstore, I always make a b-line straight for the music section. I simply can’t get enough of music biographies. I’ve always felt that books are great additions to the music you own. You can listen to your favorite Rolling Stones vinyl over and over, but wouldn’t it be cool to read about how Keith Richards worked on those famous riffs? I always thought so. The facts I read, especially when it’s an autobiography coming from the musician themselves, seem to stick with me as I replay particular albums. Books can be just as diverse as your music collection, but with the bonus of learning something personal about your favorite artist or genre.

I don’t often leave a bookstore empty handed, and my bookshelf at home proves it. I’ve got books from some of my favorite musicians all across the board – Keith Richards, Sam Cooke, Anthony Kiedis, The Beatles and Levon Helm to name a few.  Some of them I’ve actually re-read because of all of the info my brain can’t retain (I’m working on my memory). I remember reading Keith Richards autobiography, which is amazing by the way, and in it he references an absolute ton of blues music that influenced his playing. While reading about the old 45’s he used to wear out while trying to learn that Little Walter riff, I would find myself stopping and moving to my computer to listen to these songs. This opened up to an entire world of music I had no idea existed!

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Recently I picked up Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion, which chronicles the famed Stax Records label. I’ve always enjoyed the signature Stax sound from groups like The Staple Singers, Booker T. and the MGs, and Etta James. They were THE southern soul sound of the 1960s, and the albums done there were absolute classics. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve already learned that the label started out in what was originally a record shop in Memphis, Tennessee. Can’t wait to discover more music!

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Magic Sam!

t’s amazing when you discover new music. It’s even more mind-blowing when you realize what you found is over 40 years old, and still holds its sound. This past week, I discovered Magic Sam. After listening to some jams on Spotify, I moved on to Youtube to see what rare 45 recordings I could find.

Sam’s hilarious re-working of the Isley’s “It’s Your Thing” is full of lines like “If you kick my dog, I’ll beat your cat” (?) and represents a foray into funk for him and fellow blues and R&B musician Bobby Rush who wrote and produced the single. The b-side, titled “Sam’s Funk”, is an instrumental version.

Although the original vinyl was undated on print, online catalogs have assumed it was recorded around mid 1969, based on the label. Magic Sam died later that year of a heart attack at the age of only 32.

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The Sweet Sound of October

October is quite the month for me this year.  Obviously there’s the changing of the season, where we get back to the weather that calls for your comfiest sweater.  And nobody can forget the holiday of mischief that seems to involve more and more alcohol each year.  But these aren’t the reasons that my love for October is especially strong this year.   The reason is simply music.  More specifically live music.  This month has offered me a flurry of amazing shows that I know I will remember for my lifetime, or at least until my memory begins to fade, which could be sooner than later if I keep up the increased alcohol trend of Halloween.  There are a total of 4 different shows that October has to offer me.  I already experienced 2 of them, and now I am anxiously waiting for the next 2 to come around.  The first show this beautiful month offered me was the free music festival, Hardly Strictly.  If you don’t know about this festival, it is a free event that is put on in Golden Gate park.  It’s the span of 3 days and offers some of the best Bluegrass musicians around.  And if bluegrass isn’t your bag, then they still have plenty of other styles of music.  Although there were many acts that I thought were exceptional, there was only one that I truly cared about.  This performance was so enchanting, so riveting, so God-damn powerful.  The performance I am talking about was Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires.  Words cannot explain the emotions that he provoked within me.  WIth every word he belts, you can not only hear, but feel, the pain and sorrow in which he has suffered throughout his life.  For 50 minutes he gave us everything he had, with the help from his incredible band.  It wasn’t just me who was moved either.  When I took a break from my dancing, or as I like to say, my convulsions, I noticed everyone in the crowd could feel it.  That sense of letting the music take over, whether they liked it or not.  That’s how great he was, you couldn’t help yourself once he started singing.  And when he was done feeding the crowd’s soul, he went down from the stage and walked through the audience, hugging as many of his beloved fans as he could.  It was a beautiful sight and I only wish I was in his vicinity.  I’d also like to add that Mr. Bradley is one of my favorite artists.  I had been trying to see him perform for the past 2 years and I am so unbelievable happy that I can finally say I saw him.  Here’s a link for a snippet of his performance this past weekend.

The next performance I saw was this past Tuesday night.  The band was Hiatus Kaiyote, a quartet based out of Australia.  Their sound is a tough one to describe because it is so unique.  They have a very futuristic sound with elements of jazz and soul.  it was quite the fucking experience.  The band was great, each artist brought something to the table.  The bassist had moments of speedy genius, while the keyboardist and drummer brought incredible intensity, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Nai Palm, who was simply enchanting.  Not only was the band amazing, but the crowd was absolutely one of the best crowds I have been a part of.  Although I would say Charles Bradley had a bigger impact on me, Hiatus Kaiyote was one of the most refreshing performances I’ve seen in a while.  Here’s a link to their song Molasses.

After these two shows, I am now currently in pain waiting for the next two shows this month.  The next one is Thundercat who is a psychedelic bassist with great vocals.  And I think it’s safe to say that he will cause a life changing experience for me.  He is performing at 1015 Folsom this Friday.  And after that is the beautiful Treasure Island Music Festival.  I went last year to see OutKast perform and it was tons of fun.  This year artists like Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram), Run The Jewels, Deadmau5, the National, and many more are playing.  Although I am stoked for this festival, I can’t properly get excited for it until after Thundercat.  Treasure Island is being held on October 17-18, tickets are still available, so if the lineup interests you then be sure to go and have the time of your life.

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Thundercat ^^^                              Treasure Island Music Festival>>>

-James Torrescano

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“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

This popular quote on creative inspiration is attributed to Picasso. How ironic that he is often accused of stealing it and claiming it as his own! I can’t think of a better introduction to 21st century art and music as we now know it.

Sampling and borrowing of previous work and reshaping it is considered by many to be craftsmanship. I agree with the sentiment overall, but how do the artists themselves feel about their work being sampled and repackaged by their contemporaries?

Ronald Isley, guiding voice of the quintessential soul supergroup The Isley Brothers, weighed in on the legacy of his highly-sampled discography. In 2013, David Ma of music blog Ego Trip Land sat down with Mr. Biggs, as he is affectionately known, to discuss what it means to inspire artists ranging from Gwen Stefani to Kendrick Lamar:

“Sure, I’ve had some issues with our music being sampled and used by rap artists but, overall, I’m happy to lend a hand and be a part of all this great music that was made.”

Isley doesn’t provide us with the most eloquent take on his experience with artistic interpretation, but he more than makes up for it by sharing with us his 5 favorite samples from the Isley Brothers’ catalog!

Image sources: Egotripland.com

 

 

 

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My Records

It’s 5:00 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. Finally, after a very long day I was at the bust stop on my way home. All I could think about at this point is getting home, kicking off my shoes, and throwing on a nice record. My 10 hour day was finally coming to an end, and the only thing keeping me from perfect relaxation was the 30 minute bus ride. Thankfully I had my copy of Animal Farm and that made the ride go by quite swiftly. I got off the bus and made my way up the steep hill that leads to my house. I finally got in and dropped all my stuff where I stood. Ran over to my storage unit for my records, and quickly found the few that I had wanted to hear.

The first record: Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik by the legendary duo OutKast. OutKast is easily my favorite artist of all time. The way these two guys had completely different styles yet they complement each other perfectly. It actually became a priority for me to acquire all of their albums on vinyl. This specific group is easily my most valued part of my collection.Outkast albums

The second record: The Guardian of the Light by the purely outstanding George Duke. This man, with the help of a few other artists, changed the way I perceive music completely. He created some of the most insane music you will ever hear, this man was a complete fusion genius. This album in particular amazes me. It was released in 1983 and is not just an album, but also a complete fantasy experience. The music is made to help tell a story that Mr. Duke’s wonderful mind created. If you open up the cover, you will see each song listed with a description of what is going on in Duke’s wonderful fantasy. Not only is it a cool concept, but it is some of the best music you will hear. The instrumentals are absolutely mind boggling, and the vocals are equally as impactful.  guardian

The third record: Rumors by the one and only Fleetwood Mac Sex Pants. Sorry but I had to throw the Parks and Rec reference in there because I amuse myself too easily. I’m actually listening to this album as I type this right now, and all I can focus on is that extremely enticing voice of Stevie Nicks. This album really is incredible, it never seizes to satisfy me.

It’s probably clear to you by now that music is very important to me. I tend to think someone’s taste in music greatly reflects his or her personality.  I think my collection does a great job of showing the kind of person I am. Along with these 3 albums that I talked about I have 163 more in my collection. Which I think is kind of a lot, but it really doesn’t feel like enough. That’s easily the biggest problem with this hobby; no matter how many you have, it will never be enough. The rest of my collection can be seen at This site.

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Motown on Monday: Cross Country Workday Groove

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Retro Monday night dance party Motown on Monday is an inspiring example of how a small passion project can grow into something truly special. What began nearly 6 years ago in San Francisco as a “humble Monday night” of sharing music has transformed into a weekly dance party across multiple cities across the country!

From the first Monday dance party emerged the group MOM Djs and Events which boasts a network of over 60 DJs and producers sharing their groove worldwide.

“MOM DJs represent the most spirited soul parties with a unique vibration. We gather our musical inspiration from Motown, soul, funk and disco with an emphasis on new and classic remixes/edits.” -DJ Donovan Hall

In the years following its inception, this hard-working collaborative has built a strong community that continues to grow stronger with each new event site contributing to the expression of the MOM vision. With resident DJs in San Francisco, L.A., Denver, Chicago, Austin, Oakland and Honolulu, the family continues to plant seeds in new cities and nurturing the development of dance parties and events in cities ranging from Portland to Brooklyn. MOM-SF-WEB-2012-1024x1024

This summer I attended a MOM event in Sacramento at LowBrau, a bar/restaurant modeled after classic German beer halls. The verdict? The perfect cure for those Monday Blues! Funky beats and grooving bodies–perfection! Located at the epicenter of Sacramento’s ever-expanding nightlife scene, the venue is ideal. LowBrau promotes the communal feeling MOM is known for and consciously maintains.

MOM is particularly dedicated to crafting its playlists and sharing its unique edits via Soundcloud. These music enthusiasts are precisely who I admire and look to as select which jams to bring to you-the listeners.

The music we bring to you Mondays on 19th Avenue Soul pays homage to eras gone by, but more importantly look forward to what can take shape thanks to such a soulful foundation. We are following in the footsteps of artists like those a MOM who do it big and do it right!

Is it a coincidence that 19th Avenue Soul lets the groove get in on the same day of the week at MOM, or is it the magic of Monday? Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!

Learn more about Motown on Monday visit http://motownonmondays.com and tune into 19th Avenue Soul every Monday morning from 11-Noon at KSFS.net/radio!

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Daptone Records!

Don’t worry. If you haven’t heard of Daptone Records, it’s not too late.

If you love the sound of old funk and soul records, which I hope you do, then this is THE record label to check out. There is one thing to know though, and that is that the albums Daptone cranks out these days aren’t old. No sir – These are new albums by a great group of musicians engineered to sound like funky old soul records, and the result is AMAZING!

I was unknowingly introduced to the world of Daptone when I first heard Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black. In fact, I hadn’t even heard the name Amy Winehouse until I discovered that album, which I found out was actually her second, and became a huge hit in the states (and later won several Grammy awards). Produced by Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, Back to Black featured a classic Motown sound, but with a modern, punchy twist due to Amy’s stellar voice and unconventional lyrics. That album stayed on my playlist for quite a while, and after a few Google and YouTube searches, I had found the backing band I was so fond of, The Dap-Kings.

The Dap-Kings led me to discover Daptone Records, and I couldn’t get enough. The label, which was launched a little over ten years ago by musicians Gabe Roth and Neal Sugarman, records EVERYTHING on vintage analog gear. There is no digital equipment in Daptone’s “House of Soul”, which is actually a converted two-story house in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The Dap-Kings play as the funky house band of sorts, and frequently swap musicians, as well as write songs and play with the singers that are featured on the label.

You’re probably going to hear a lot of Daptone releases on our upcoming shows, because I simply cannot get over the sound. It’s so filthy and funky and perfect all at the same time. The discovery of Daptone has also led me down the rabbit hole of webs searching, article reading, and non-stop tunes while I broaden my musical horizons in the funk/soul category. And trust me, I got tons more to throw at ya so STAY tuned!

If you’d like to learn more about Daptone Records, click the link above. There’s also this mini-documentary about the label, which goes into more detail about their philosophy and how they built an amazing recording studio themselves!

Enjoy everybody!

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