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Accelerate Your Mac!
Bring in the Noise
by Thad Brown

All the Way to Memphis

Well, folks, I'm moving this weekend, I drove to Memphis Tennessee over last weekend, and I haven't slept in what seems to be months. My Macs are packed in boxes, and my CD burner is loaned out to a friend, and I have one guitar left out of its case so I can still noodle a bit, even though my amps, mixers and stereo are in boxes. So, needless to say I have no great insights into Mac audio this week, so what's a columnist to do? Write about something else I guess. So, for those of you who only care about the bits and pieces and processors of audio read only the first section, everyone else, here's the big Memphis trip audio column.

Powerforce G3 Cards and Cubase

I just received the new copy of Club Cubase magazine (for which I occasionally write) and found the following.

"We received more than one report the Power Macs upgraded to G3's using Powerlogix 220/110 cards to not run Cubase at all. Cubase crashes constantly and may not even load."

I know one person who could not run Cubase at all with a PF card, and have heard of other similar reports. At the same time I have a UMAX with a 221/110 running over 300 Mhz and I use Cubase VST/24 more than any other app I own. Some people have emailed with dark conspiracy theories about me not even using Cubase and being a pawn of Powerlogix, and if I get another one of those, I'll start making Mike post phone line clogging screen shots of my hot rod UMAX with a slew of effects turned on while running 24 tracks of audio. Makes no sense to me, either, but it looks like the Newer cards are a better choice if you plan to use Cubase. Is anybody else out there able to run Cubase like me?

The same issue of the Club Cubase included the following

"However, due to the fact that most Mac clones are no longer manufactured, we would not recommend them as a first choice, since there may be no way to solve technical problems with these machines should they arise."

That's a ringing endorsement for my UMAX now isn't it?

What In God's Name Happened to Country Music

The first part of my big trip was driving a U-Haul from New Haven to Memphis. Said U-Haul was equipped with an FM radio with one blown speaker and an intermittent ring at about 14k for no real good reason I could find. The good news from that was that I can still actually HEAR things at 14k, not something all geeetar players can say. The bad news was the country radio stations. I don't know how many of you have hit the highway recently sans cassette, CD or Mini Disc, but there are a LOT of country radio stations out there. Especially in West Virginia.

Now I like Country, don't get me wrong, I even like maudlin, silly country. George Jones, Tanya Tucker, and Merle Haggard get their share of spins in my CD player, if you can't enjoy "If Drinkin Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)" or "Okie from Muskogee" I think you need some help. As much as I like a lot of country, some really awful things are going on in "New Country" otherwise known as "Rock in Funny Hats." After hearing the tenth tune in a row using same kick-snare boom-bap boom-boom-bap beat that made up 90% of the output of, say, Husker Du, I thought to myself, wait a minute, this sounds a lot like rock to me.

The records have impeccable production, of course, Rupert Neve should have a statue in the Grand Ole Opry, but the songwriting is generally not overwhelming and on occasion downright embarrassing. I won't name names 'cause I'm a nice guy, but some of this stuff is so corny I was looking for salt and butter. This is particularly depressing since country music has long been (and to a certain extent still is) a shelter for truly exceptional songwriting. In the midst of a run of about ten miserable formulaic tunes one of the Nashville stations played the Willie Nelson version of "Pancho and Lefty," written by the incomparable Townes Van Zandt. That song is one of the best songs by one of the best songwriters of the last 30 years, so pretty much anything would sound a little shaky next to it. But sandwiched in between this stuff, it was like someone slipped a glass of Chateau Petrus in a tasting of the last 15 years of Paul Masson vintages.

Long Distance Information, Give Me Memphis Tennessee

You might imagine that a town that provided the world with Elvis, Otis Redding, Steve Cropper, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rockabilly, Aretha Franklin, and Isaac Hayes would be pretty heady territory for a musician like myself. You would be quite right. Think of this, Memphis is a town where Rev. Al Green actually has a church and a flock. The place breathes music like precious few I have ever been.

Memphis is also hallowed ground for independent or guerilla recording types. Stax Records, Sun Studios, and a ton of other less successful labels wrote the books on rockabilly, soul, and some blues. All of these studios were run by independent proprietor/engineer/producer types with a vision and some cajones. Sounds a bit like a project studio, doesn't it? Of course I don't think that anyone is likely to reinvent the wheel in the way Stax did, those kind of events don't happen all that often. But it certainly wasn't RCA or someone like that who put out "Green Onions" or signed Otis Reading. At least we can hope.

One of the sad things about Memphis is that a lot of those rooms are gone or not really being used anymore. The theater where Stax lived (and which was a critical part of the sound of those great records, just listen to the ambience on some of those tunes) was torn down and replaced with . . . nothing. A number of other famous rooms and studios are long gone, and some of the most famous musicians (B.B. King for example) live elsewhere, but it's still quite a town. If you want to see REAL DEAL blues, it's there as well.

Next time you make it down there, take my advice. After you go and shed a tear at the vacant lot where Americas greatest soul music was cut (Stax) drive around the corner and go to Ellen's Soul Food and get the fried chicken special with mac and cheese, you'll be glad you did.

Coming Attractions

I'm finally getting settled, so a bit of a look ahead. I'll do something readers have been asking for quite a bit of late, a "getting started with audio on your mac" report. I'll split it into sections for different kinds of puposes, music production, CD burning, audio for video, that kind of stuff. Then the SonicWORX review goes up, and then you will get a special surprise in the review department. But in any case, we should be back to one article a week (I have no idea how Mike does it). Until then, keep the email coming.

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