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Musical Influences

My interest in music began as a child, as I learned to sing from phonograph records. We also had a piano, and my grandparents had an electric organ. Most of the music that influenced my style came later:

The 70's

image.jpegblind faithThe early '70s was the peak of the revolution going on in music. My very first purchased album was Blind Faith (1969) with Eric Clapton. Later, I discovered Layla by Derek and the Dominos (1970) when it was still considered underground music that was only aired after midnight on KQRS radio.

ImageImageAnother member of the Dominos, Bobby Whitlock, released Bobby Whitlock (1970), featuring beautiful acoustic and electric guitar, along with soothing to raspy vocals. I found Peter Frampton in Humble Pie's Rock On. Later, I absolutely loved the song "Lines on My Face" from Frampton's Camel, so much so, that I drove to a music store near midnight to get the album. Some of the best music is born from painful experiences.

ImageImageIn addition to the Beatles, my sister introduced me to the music of Spider John Koerner and Willie Murphy on Running Jumping Standing Still (1969), which is a timeless, folksy classic. She also introduced me to Jimi Hendrix with Are You Experienced, but I was not quite into him until the album Band of Gypsys (1970) came out. I think a lot of people who never paid attention to Hendrix started with that album. Just as I was getting into him, he died in 1970. I visited his Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village, NY in 1972.

Imagemachine headThe Allman Brothers Live at Filmore East (1970) is still a great album. Guitarist Duane Allman also died soon after I was getting into his guitar playing. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the era of dying rock stars. I also liked Deep Purple with Richie Blackmore's electric guitar playing, along with their classic, distorted Hammond organ! Deep Purple in Rock and Machine Head albums, with the song "Smoke on the Water" being among very memorable influences.

ImageImageOne native Minneapolis band I really liked was called Gypsy, and they had several national albums. I loved the song "Hocus Pocus" by Focus! I liked Jethro Tull and some of Martin Barr's lead guitar. I used to jam to the guitar solo by Joe Walsh in the song "Stop" by the James Gang. I later loved the intense phase-shifted guitar in their song Alexis, the kind of emotional solo that sends a shiver down your spine!

ImageImageAndy Powell, the guitarist in Wishbone Ash, was a major influence. I used to jam to their dual guitar leads on the song "Persephone", among other songs. And one cannot forget the massive presence of Fleetwood Mac with Bare Trees and multiple albums that defined the era. The Doobie Brothers with their album The Captain and Me was an endearing, indelible memory! In fact, it seemed like every week I was buying a new album.

ImageImageGenesis got me going with their album Selling England by the Pound (1973), especially the song "The Cinema Show" with Tony Banks' synthesizer, and the amazing song "Firth of Fith" which is considered by many to be one of the best songs ever! The band created a new genre: "storyteller rock". In 1974, I learned to play Steve Hackett's beautiful and fluid guitar solo in the song "Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist". Except for learning all of the song "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, I rarely spent the effort learning other people's music – I wanted to create my own music. Thus, I was never a candidate to be in a band because, back then, you had to play "covers". However, I would frequently jam and entertain at parties.

trip-to-tomorrow-smGood music was frequently bursting at the seams back then. In comparison, it's hard to describe the music scene today, other than there's a lot more of it. In fact, my own music would not be on Apple Music, Spotify, etc., if it weren't for the alternative, garage band, and independent music revolution, the so-called democratization of music. We're seeing similar changes in video media now on the web. The lines between television and the internet are blurring, and it's only going to get better! Look how iTunes / Apple Music changed the way we manage and listen to our music collections. The same thing is about to happen to video and DVD, as we move those assets onto storage and management devices, controlled by computers. It's all starting to culminate into a giant multimedia melting pot.

The 80's

bill-nelsonPerhaps my greatest musical influence is Bill Nelson from the United Kingdom. Bill was the lead guitarist and founder of Be Bop Deluxe. My first album of theirs was Live! In the Air Age. In the '80s, he pursued an interesting solo career that utilized synthesizers. In my opinion, his greatest work was his album The Love That Whirls: Diary of a Thinking Heart (1982). Bill is a fantastic guitar player and a master at playing guitar with an Ebow.

blade-runnerThat same year, the movie Blade Runner came out, and I loved the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis. At the time, Vangelis would not release the music, so it became the first videotape I ever bought. As a mixing and mastering exercise, I recreated the soundtrack song "Memories of Green" by importing the MIDI file into Reason and assigning strings, horns, and even the flying police car sirens. Check out my remix of the song "Memories of Green" as produced in Reason digital audio workstation (DAW). I still think the Blade Runner soundtrack is a masterpiece.

The 90's

new-orderThe mid-'80s and early '90s seemed to mark the end of rock music as we used to know it, replaced by new wave, alternative, progressive rock, punk, (forget disco – I hated it), etc. During this period, I saw a lot of bands at First Avenue such as U2, The Psychedelic Furs, and New Order. I hated The Psychedelic Furs at first – too radical – but later, I liked them and saw them at First Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. I really liked New Order's Power, Corruption, and Lies album, with my all-time favorite song being "Your Silent Face"! But gone were the staples of Rock (or so it would seem) who kicked off the music revolution in the '70s. Rock and Roll were not forever... apparently.

When CDs debuted in the '90s, I correctly predicted that they would replace albums within 3 years, not the 5 or 10 years experts predicted. I traded in my large vinyl record collection believing that all those clicks and pops would be remastered as clean CDs. I was right, but many of the classics took up to a decade to be re-released. After I traded in my entire album collection for a dollar per album, tops, I saw on TV that some of them had ended up at the Rare Records store. Duh! If I'd known the internet would eventually take off or that eBay would one day emerge as the eternal garage sale, I would have hung on to them! C'est la vie.😃

Years later, as I began to fully understand the technical details of digital recording, such as different sample rates (44.1 kHz, 96 kHz, etc.), bit rates (16-bit, 24-bit, 32-bit (float), etc.), anti-aliasing filters, dithering algorithms, sample rate conversion, etc., it became clear that in the race to go digital, may older recordings originally mastered for vinyl records were simply transferred to digital without remastering. This resulted in CDs that were less than optimal sounding. Many years later, some of those CDs begin to reappear as "Digitally Remastered". Discerning ears and audiophiles can tell the difference, but perhaps a lot of people might not notice, especially since many consume music in lossy formats like MP3, etc. I think that is one of the great tragedies of the digital music era – the loss of pristine, high-quality audio due to lossy, compressed, streaming music formats.

With all that in mind, there is still a debate as to whether or not people can tell the difference between 44.1 kHz recordings and 96 kHz or higher recordings. One of the best methods I've found to aid in answering the question myself is to start with a 96 kHz master recording and use the best possible sample rate converter (SRC) to down-sample to 44.1 kHz, then compare the audio files using A/B switching as both files play. It's very important to use a professional sample rate converter with premium noise floor dithering, and an anti-aliasing filter to generate the 44.1 kHz file. Otherwise, "aliasing" (inaudible frequencies shifted into an audible range, causing distortion and noise) can occur, which will alter your perception of the sound and skew your comparison result. Using iZotope's RX5 Sample Rate Convertor, I generated 44.1 kHz files from 96 kHz masters and could not tell the difference after repeated A/B listening tests, even comparing back and forth as the files played in sync. As I can only hear up to about 14 kHz to 15 kHz, I also checked the results on RX5's spectrum analyzer, comparing everything below 20 kHz using snapshots, and then flipping back and forth. The spectra looked identical.

There is one additional factor: bit-rate. 44.1 kHz is often recorded with 16 bits, and 96 kHz is recorded at 24 bits. Extra bits mean an even more dynamic range (the difference between loud and quiet parts) can be represented. You will often notice this wider dynamic range utilized on movie soundtracks. The human ear always seems to associate louder with sounding better, so that is also a factor in our perception. However, regarding the frequency range, I cannot hear a difference between 44.1 kHz and 96 kHz recordings. Still, there is an advantage to using something higher like 96 kHz in studio master recordings. Processing higher sample rate digital audio through various equalizers, compressors, and other digital audio effects often results in a better master recording with fewer numerical artifacts, even as it is eventually down-sampled to 44.1 kHz for general consumption. Foe this reason, I record and process all my studio sessions at 96 kHz, then use the best sample rate converter, dithering algorithm, and anti-alias filter to downsample to 44.1 kHz for distribution.

To be continued...

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