WBEZ | Music http://www.wbez.org/news/music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en My favorite summer music festival http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-07/my-favorite-summer-music-festival-112311 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Homaroo.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">My <em>Sound Opinions </em>colleague Greg Kot and I discuss the summer music festivals tonight at 7 p.m. on <a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/">WTTW-Ch. 11&#39;s </a><em><a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/">Chicago Tonight</a>. </em>(And be sure to tune in to <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org"><em>Sound Opinions</em></a> next weekend for our second installment of the best summer songs ever.)</div><div class="image-insert-image "><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-07/my-favorite-summer-music-festival-112311 The legacy of Willie Dixon on his 100th birthday http://www.wbez.org/news/legacy-willie-dixon-his-100th-birthday-112292 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Blues1-Dixon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This summer outdoor blues concerts are taking place on a site considered hallowed ground by blues fans.</p><p>Next to the legendary Chess Records building on South Michigan Ave. sits Willie Dixon&#39;s Blues Heaven Foundation. Dixon was a prolific songwriter and this is where his songs, like Little Red Rooster, Wang Dang Doodle and Hoochie Coochie Man were recorded by blues stars Howlin&rsquo; Wolf, Koko Taylor and Muddy Waters.</p><p>Dixon would have turned 100 this year, and to celebrate the foundation is making this <a href="http://wdbhf.org/the-week-of-willie">The Week of Willie</a>, with concerts around Chicago.</p><p>Fellow musicians and fans remember Dixon as a man who was generous with his time and talents.</p><p>&ldquo;He had a good reputation. People loved him,&rdquo; said his grandson Alex Dixon. &ldquo;The way he treated his musicians. He was happy the English guys were recording his music.&rdquo;</p><p>Dixon is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this year was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He became one of the first blues artists to successfully sue to get music royalties owed to him. Early in their careers, he and other blues artists had agreements with record companies that paid them a fraction of what they were owed.​</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s got an ugly intersection with race that African American musicians often found themselves taken advantage of,&rdquo; said Peter DiCola, a professor specializing in copyright law at Northwestern University.</p><p>Chicago bluesman Billy Boy Arnold knows this story. He wrote the song &ldquo;I Wish You Would,&rdquo; later recorded by Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds.</p><p>&ldquo;The publishing company got 50 percent and we got 50 percent. But they didn&rsquo;t tell us the significance of the publishing. That&rsquo;s where the real money was,&rdquo; said Arnold. &ldquo; I never did get the money I was due.&rdquo;</p><p>Stories like Arnold&rsquo;s inspired Dixon to start the Blues Heaven Foundation. The nonprofit is dedicated to taking care of blues artists and their heirs &mdash; the goal is to make sure they&rsquo;re getting music royalties they&rsquo;re owed.</p><p>Alex Dixon says in many ways, his grandfather was a preservationist. A person who saw the future and worked tirelessly to protect the past of a musical genre.</p><p>&ldquo;He always knew that blues was going to be around,&rdquo; said Dixon. &ldquo;He knew we&rsquo;d have to work extra hard to keep it up.&rdquo;</p><p>And that may be the most important part of Dixon&rsquo;s legacy, helping keep the blues alive for future generations.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews"><em>@yolandanews</em></a></p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/legacy-willie-dixon-his-100th-birthday-112292 R.I.P. Chris Squire of Yes http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/rip-chris-squire-yes-112268 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chris-squire_0.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Chris Squire, the co-founder of progressive-rock giants Yes, an innovative virtuoso on the bass guitar, a key songwriter for the group, and the one constant member throughout its nearly half-century history, <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/chris-squire-yes-bassist-and-co-founder-dead-at-67-20150628">has died of leukemia</a>. He was 67 years old.</p><p>Yes has never have gotten much respect from rock critics, and it still isn&rsquo;t in that wretched and phony Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. But to those of us who loved the group in its prime on record&mdash;and I&rsquo;d put that from the start in 1969 through <em>Tormato </em>in 1978 (with 1971&rsquo;s <em>Fragile, </em>1972&rsquo;s <em>Close to the Edge, </em>and 1977&rsquo;s <em>Going for the One </em>standing as my choices for unqualified masterpieces)&mdash;and into the present onstage, the loss is tremendous. And Yes wasn&rsquo;t even Squire&rsquo;s first important band.</p><p>Like many of the best British progressive-rockers, Squire first made his mark in the psychedelic-rock scene of 1966 and 1967. His bass was every bit as distinctive in the Syn as it would be in Yes, and he co-wrote that group&rsquo;s 1967 hit &ldquo;Grounded,&rdquo; which skillfully cribbed from the Beatles&rsquo; &ldquo;Rain&rdquo; while adding lyrics about a truly awful trip (&ldquo;I&rsquo;m high and I&rsquo;m dry and I&rsquo;m grounded&rdquo;). For Squire, psychedelic drugs and psychedelic rock were inextricably linked: &ldquo;There was a lot of LSD around,&rdquo; he said of those years. &ldquo;Of course, the Beatles were leading the charge in the recording studio from <em>Sgt. Pepper,</em> really&mdash;everyone wanted to be part of that experience. But I think the drugs were just as much a part of it; I doubt there were very many people who didn&rsquo;t take drugs who were involved in that movement.&rdquo;</p><p>I also interviewed Squire in 2002 for <em>The Chicago Sun-Times </em>on the occasion of a new Yes box set. As might be expected, he was a sharp intellect; as many who knew him attest (but surprising those who did not), he also was wonderfully warm and witty. I&rsquo;ll tack that chat on below, along with these videos of the Syn and Squire leading the charge on one of Yes&rsquo; greatest songs, &ldquo;Starship Trooper.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/e0yYhajX9mQ" width="420"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-Jhk5MEugJY" width="420"></iframe></p><blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Yes Man</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>Chicago Sun-Times, July 26, 2002</em></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC </strong></p><p style="text-align: center;">To hear the ultra-faithful tell it, the enduring charm of progressive-rock pioneers Yes is that they envision a world better than the one we inhabit.</p><p style="text-align: center;">&quot;Thirty-five years into the journey, [Yes] still takes its fundamental impulse from utopia,&quot; DePaul University philosophy professor and Yesographer Bill Martin writes in an essay included with the new box set, &quot;In A Word: Yes&quot; (Rhino).</p><p style="text-align: center;">For the Yes fan, the five-disc set will indeed be paradise--though more skeptical listeners may be tempted to discard the last disc of more recent recordings. The band never fails to deliver onstage, however, and this summer, it&#39;s touring with one of its most celebrated lineups: vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. (The band plays a sold-out show at the Chicago Theatre tonight.)</p><p style="text-align: center;">I spoke with Squire by phone from Seattle the day the five reunited Yes men gathered there for their first rehearsal.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>As evidenced by this new box set, Yes has an incredible catalog of material to choose from. When you get together to rehearse, where do you even start? </em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A. </strong>Well, we&#39;ve already had preliminary phone calls about a possible set list, which will probably change. But we&#39;re quite fortunate that there&#39;s a fair amount of agreement about which songs we should try. There&#39;s some disagreement, but that&#39;s what we&#39;ll work out, I guess.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>The fan sites on the Web are constantly discussing what you </em>should<em> play. Does any of that register?</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> To take the temperature of the fanatics is not always the best thing to do, because these are people who want to hear some track that most people have never heard in their lives.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>Like, &quot;How come you don&#39;t play all of &#39;Tales from Topographic Oceans&#39;?&quot;</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> I don&#39;t know, you might want to bring a pillow! [Laughs] Last time, we were out with an orchestra, and that was kind of different in its own right. We felt that we had more liberty to do some of the longer, more musically complex pieces because of the fact that we were working in that orchestral environment. This year, I would prefer the set to be a little bit lighter and bouncier.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>Rick Wakeman is back in the fold on keyboards. What is it like when someone returns to the group after a long absence?</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A</strong>. Well, we&#39;ll find out. Let&#39;s face it, Rick has been--he sort of split in &#39;79, and he wasn&#39;t around for the &#39;80s, but then we did do that Union tour in &#39;91 that had all eight people onstage. Then we did do the two shows in 1996 and recorded &quot;The Keys to Ascension&quot; live album. But it&#39;s six years later, so today should be interesting. [Laughs]</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>It seems to me that many rock critics missed the point of progressive rock by focusing on the technical prowess while overlooking the fact that the music was attempting to create these elaborate movies of the mind.</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> Yes, that&#39;s it really--cinematic rock is a good title for it in a way. It wasn&#39;t just the ability to play a lot of notes in a given time period. There was a lot of that, and even for my tastes, not to put him down, but John McLaughlin and some of those things--I think some of the spirit got lost and it just became a technicians&#39; world for a while. Some of the music became a little bit uninteresting because of the search for technical excellence. But you know, everyone was going through a lot of changes then, which I suspect we probably still are, and it was definitely the birth of that movement.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>At its best, Yes </em>rocked<em>, where some of the other prog bands did not.</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> Yeah! A lot of people became very infected by the punk-rock movement and believed that that was their generation speaking for them, even though I don&#39;t think it really spoke for as many people as you think. Obviously, our true fans know that. I think generally the peripheral press and the peripheral audience have tagged us a long time ago for being a little too altruistic for their taste. Yes never went too far that we aren&#39;t still able to rock convincingly. I do feel a little sorry for the Billy Idols of this world who are standing there with the raised fist. How can you do that when you&#39;re approaching 50?</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>Yes was never about celebrating youth and rebellion. You were never onstage saying, &quot;We&#39;re 22, we&#39;re young and we&#39;re sexy!&quot;</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> [Laughs] We created a sort of fantasy image concept of our shows, which we were part of in dressing in fairly flamboyant fashions and that, but we weren&#39;t selling sex. And hopefully men age better, so ... [Laughs]</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>Do you think it&#39;s embarrassing for the Rolling Stones to be onstage singing &quot;Honky Tonk Woman&quot; and pretending that they&#39;re 22?</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> Their music has a certain voice. Personally, I saw them in Madison Square Garden I guess three or four years ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was a great show. I didn&#39;t get that feeling, even though Mick lies about his age. They&#39;re much older than they always say in their press announcements; he&#39;s well into his 60s by now. He&#39;s been 59 for god knows how long! But you know, on the other hand, I give him credit for being out there in those years and still being able to run around like that.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q. </strong><em>But when the Stones write new material, they lack ambition. Yes doesn&#39;t; you&#39;re still trying things. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they fall flat. But at least you&#39;re taking chances.</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> [Laughs] The Stones never had any pretense to do anything really complicated, but I mean, a lot of their music has stood the test of time, and I guess really when they go out on the road it&#39;s pretty much just to peddle what people know and go out and have a rockin&#39; Saturday night. Let&#39;s face it, it&#39;s difficult for Yes to be noticed that much outside of our fan base because of the current status of radio. Thankfully, we&#39;ve just been kind of relieved with the birth of XM [satellite radio], which is a good thing to promote our music, but it was getting a little thin in the airplay area. Our classic stuff is still played a lot, because people like that, but you try coming out with a new Yes product and try and find a way of getting it played, apart from XM, and there isn&#39;t really anything. It&#39;s tricky to even get an outlet for any new music, whether it be good, average or indifferent.</p><p style="text-align: center;">The competition is obviously greater and the current condition of the major labels, apart from the fact that they&#39;re totally worried about the whole Internet thing affecting their businesses, is that they&#39;re grasping at straws and promoting the hell out of five good-looking guys for two years and then finding five more. It&#39;s a sad reflection, really, and not enough people are coming out of the grass roots kind of thing, but it still exists. I hear bands that have built themselves up playing on the rock &#39;n&#39; roll circuit and have big followings. Phish is a good example.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q.</strong> <em>Do you hear any other groups that share the spirit of early Yes?</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> There&#39;s a band on DreamWorks called the K.G.B. that I really like. I think there&#39;s a lot of the Yes spirit in what they do. It&#39;s not lyrically really that close to Yes, but I hear a lot of the attention taken in the care of the recording of the music that I like a lot. So, it isn&#39;t dead. We all know that trends do go in cycles, and there may be a return to a bit more of a grass-roots movement soon. How many &#39;N Syncs can you listen to after a while? You hit the saturation point, even though they make great-sounding records and the voices sound beautiful and every note&#39;s corrected, every syllable.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Q. </strong><em>But it&#39;s distressing to see them or Britney Spears allegedly &quot;singing&quot; when they&#39;re not even moving their lips!</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A.</strong> I don&#39;t think the point is to listen to Britney! [Laughs] These are multipurpose acts where the dancing&#39;s as much a part of it as whatever is coming out of their mouths. Now maybe if we can get Rick to dance a bit on this tour...</p></blockquote><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 19:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/rip-chris-squire-yes-112268 U2's Innocence + Experience tour reminds you why you used to love this band http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/u2s-innocence-experience-tour-reminds-you-why-you-used-love-band-112245 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/u2wide2014.jpg" style="height: 389px; width: 640px;" title="" /></div><p>U2 has got its mojo back.</p><p>Now there&rsquo;s a sentence I never thought I&rsquo;d write. As readers of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/u2s-songs-innocence-yawn-110785">this blog</a> and listeners of <em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/461/#u2">Sound Opinion</a>s </em>know, I was not a fan of the long-running Irish rockers&rsquo; 13<sup>th</sup> studio album <em>Songs of Innocence, </em>to say nothing of being highly dubious of its business transactions in recent years, from <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/music/2009/03/bono_on_the_ticketmasterlive_n.html">the partnership with monopolistic concert giant Live Nation</a> to cramming its new music into all of our iTunes accounts.</p><p>I liked <em><a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/music/2009/02/u2_no_line_on_the_horizon_univ.html">No Line on the Horizon</a> </em>(2009) quite a bit, but was <a href="http://www.jimdero.com/News%202009/U2SoldierField.htm">left so cold by that stadium tour</a> with its ridiculous &ldquo;claw&rdquo; stage set and many bouts of pompous preaching that I figured I was done for good with the band as a live entity&mdash;and this from a fan who&rsquo;d caught every tour since <em>War </em>(1983) and who&rsquo;d rank the <em>Achtung Baby </em>and <em>Zooropa</em>-era shows among the best concerts he&rsquo;s ever seen.</p><p>Nevertheless, there I was for the opening of a five-night stand at the United Center on Wednesday. And damned if the four-song opening salvo &mdash; &ldquo;The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone&rdquo;), &ldquo;The Electric Co.,&rdquo; &ldquo;Vertigo,&rdquo; and &ldquo;I Will Follow&rdquo; &mdash; didn&rsquo;t convince me that U2 is as ferocious, focused, and no-nonsense committed as it&rsquo;s ever been, while the four-song closing of the set proper &mdash; &ldquo;Bullet the Blue Sky,&rdquo; &ldquo;Pride (In the Name of Love),&rdquo; &ldquo;Beautiful Day,&rdquo; and &ldquo;With or Without You&rdquo; &mdash; was enough to negate any accusation of bombast and make the hardest-hearted skeptic once again surrender to the majestic rattle and hum of yore.</p><p>&ldquo;Bono dedicates &lsquo;Elevation&rsquo; to the Blackhawks,&rdquo; <em>The Chicago Tribune</em>&rsquo;s <a href="https://twitter.com/pang">wiseass cheeseburger bureau chief</a> tweeted midway through the show. &ldquo;<a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</a> sitting next to me rolls his eyes so hard his head tipped backwards.&rdquo;</p><p>True enough. But as I responded, that was because it was the only clichéd and pandering arena-rock moment of an otherwise stripped-down, gimmick-free 23-song set that didn&rsquo;t need a shout-out to the local sports champs to prompt an easy cheer.</p><p>Talk about rolling my eyes: I did a lot more than that when I first started reading that the current show was planned with an eye toward theatrical storytelling, and that the high-tech video screens spanning the arena were inspired by some of what Bono and the Edge learned during their foray onto Broadway with <em>Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.</em></p><p>But the thematic arc of &ldquo;Iris (Hold Me Close),&rdquo; &ldquo;Cedarwood Road,&rdquo; &ldquo;Sunday Bloody Sunday,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Raised by Wolves&rdquo; worked without pretensions, especially since the new songs were much harder-hitting and far more emotional than in the bland, over-produced versions on record. And while the snapshots on the big screens of the Dublin streets where the musicians grew up weren&rsquo;t really necessary, they weren&rsquo;t obnoxious distractions, either.</p><p>Add to this the enduring groove of &ldquo;Mysterious Ways,&rdquo; always a reminder of why Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton are one of the best rhythm sections in rock; the several eruptions of pure-noise Edge guitar; powerfully minimalist acoustic readings of &ldquo;Ordinary Love&rdquo; and &ldquo;Every Breaking Wave,&rdquo; and Bono&rsquo;s poignant evocation of the ongoing battles for the soul of America represented by Ferguson, Staten Island, and Charleston, and&hellip; well&hellip; this band has got its mojo back, and I can&rsquo;t really say it any better than that.</p><p><strong>(U2 performs at the United Center again tonight, Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, and some tickets remain for several of these shows.)</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 23:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/u2s-innocence-experience-tour-reminds-you-why-you-used-love-band-112245 A (relatively) concise history of 'Sound Opinions' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/relatively-concise-history-sound-opinions-112228 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/images_3.jpg" title="" /></div><p>As <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org"><em>Sound Opinions</em></a> prepares to air its 500<sup>th</sup> episode originating from WBEZ on Friday, it struck me that some listeners might be interested to learn how it got where it is today, airing on more than 100 public radio stations across the country, and with an average podcast listenership of 50,000 per episode. Or maybe you just want to know, &ldquo;Who ever thought it was a good idea to let these shmucks on the air?&rdquo; Either way, you&rsquo;ll hopefully excuse my self-indulgence in taking a break from the usual fare on this blog to tell the story.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Sound-Opinions-John-Cale-Nico%20copy.jpg" title="Group pics of the Sound Ops crew together are surprisingly hard to come by, but here we are with John Cale and chefs Paul Kahan and Matthias Merges at our last Eat to the Beat dinner." /></div></div><p>To be certain, pretty much everything good about <em>Sound Opinions </em>today is the result of more than a decade of hard work by four people: It&rsquo;s been the best experience of my professional life to work with my co-host Greg Kot and the show&rsquo;s ridiculously dedicated and absurdly talented producers Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha. Yet it was a long and winding road that led us to hone this endeavor over 500 hours on public radio, with plenty of help from a lot of other people along the way. The show existed for nearly a decade before it moved to WBEZ, and its roots go back even further than that.</p><p>Although there were many inspirations over the years, if pressed to pinpoint the one moment that prompted <em>Sound Opinions</em>&mdash;which we&rsquo;ve always called &ldquo;the world&rsquo;s only rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll talk show,&rdquo; not because it literally is (especially not in these days of everybody has a podcast), but in the cheeky spirit of the Rolling Stones claiming they were &ldquo;the world&rsquo;s only rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll band&rdquo; and the phenomenal <em>Creem </em>magazine of the &rsquo;70s bragging that it was &ldquo;the world&rsquo;s only rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll magazine&rdquo;&mdash;it came during the long afternoon I spent with the greatest writer <em>Creem </em>produced, the late Lester Bangs, on April 14, 1982, when I interviewed my rock-critic hero for a senior high-school journalism project.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lester%20and%20Jim_0.jpg" title="With Lester Bangs, April 14, 1982." /></div></div><p>&ldquo;When I look back on it, it was obvious that I was gonna end up doing this,&rdquo; Lester said when I asked him why he&rsquo;d become a rock critic, &ldquo;because my two big obsessions were always music and writing. It&rsquo;s an outgrowth of being a fanatical record collector and a fanatical listener: You have fanatical opinions that you want to inflict on people.&rdquo;</p><p>What that quote does not convey is the fact that, ultra-opinionated though he was, Lester, like every critic worth his or her salt, understood and embraced the fact that criticism is at its best when it is a passionate conversation between people who love the art and think long and hard about it. Regardless of their field, good critics never want to be the last or only word on anything; they just want to get the conversation started. Lester was as interested in my opinions that day 33 years ago as I was in his: &ldquo;Who are <em>you</em> reading? What do <em>you</em> listen to? What do <em>you </em>think?&rdquo; he asked me in turn after every question I tossed his way.</p><p>Conversations with my other great critical hero Roger Ebert, whom I was honored to call a colleague at <em>The Chicago Sun-Times </em>for 15 years, were very much the same. Unlike Lester, Roger was lucky or driven enough to find another media outlet besides print to have these discussions. (Maybe Lester would have, too, if he lived long enough; unfortunately, he died at the age of 33, two weeks after that day we spent together, which not only led me to become a critic, but eventually to write <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Let-Blurt-Lester-Americas-Greatest/dp/0767905091/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1434716171&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=let+it+blurt">his biography</a>.) In any event, the elevator pitch for <em>Sound Opinions </em>always was: &ldquo;Siskel and Ebert talk about music, but on radio instead of television.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kot%20Ebert%20Me_0.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="With Roger Ebert, one of our first guests at WBEZ." /></div></div><p>Mind you, it took a while to find my Siskel, even though it should have been obvious. Greg had worked with and admired Gene for years just as I did with Roger. <em>Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Tribune; </em>one tall, skinny guy, one short, fat guy&mdash;a no-brainer, right? So why didn&rsquo;t we team up from the start? I think we both took that <em>Sun-Times</em>/<em>Tribune </em>rivalry way too seriously in the early &rsquo;90s. Greg will deny it now, but I recall us sitting side by side shielding our reporters&rsquo; notebooks in the balcony of Metro at half a dozen shows before we ever talked, and for a long time after that, it was just &ldquo;hello.&rdquo;</p><p>Anyway, I had two other epiphanies that convinced me that two or more opinions always are better than one. In the &rsquo;80s, I&rsquo;d written for a Chicago-based fanzine called <em>Matter. </em>Medill-trained editor Liz Phillip had a brilliant approach to the record reviews column, wherein Liz or one of her volunteer critics would write a lead review of 500 words for an important record like <em>Zen Arcade</em>, <em>Let It Be</em>, or <em>Bad Moon Rising</em>, and four or five others (say, Steve Albini, Gerard Cosloy, Jim Testa, and me) would each weigh in with their 250-word responses and a letter grade, offering a wide range of views and a virtual roundtable debate. Why every arts publication doesn&rsquo;t follow this model, I will never know.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Matter-Superimpose_0.jpg" title="" /></div></div><p>Later, in 1990, I became assistant editor at <em>Request </em>magazine in Minneapolis&mdash;my first paying job as a music journalist and critic after a decade of writing for free in fanzines. There, I did something similar with a goofy front-of-the-book column called &ldquo;Them&rsquo;s Fightin&rsquo; Words,&rdquo; wherein my editor Keith Moerer and I would debate the merits of, say, Elvis Costello or Alex Chilton, one pro and the other con. But the one thing a writer cannot do in print is play the music he or she is expounding upon. Taking this idea to radio seemed like a natural.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Fightin_0.jpg" style="height: 289px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div></div><p>After I arrived in Chicago in the summer of 1992 to become the pop music critic at the<em> Sun-Times, </em>I started to become a regular guest on the late-night talk show Eddie Schwartz hosted on WLUP-FM, mainly because his producer at the time Mitch Rosen thought that WGN refugee &ldquo;Chicago Ed&rdquo; needed to freshen up his take on the music scene so it no longer ended with the Buckinghams. After the second or third time I spent a few hours trying to make Eddie a little hipper in his studio at the Hancock Tower when no one was listening but cabbies, truck drivers, and nurses on the late shift, I told him and Mitch that these chats might be more fun if it was me and another critic. Enter Bill Wyman.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GOOD%20eddie_schwartz.jpg" style="height: 281px; width: 450px;" title="Eddie Schwartz, a.k.a. Chicago Ed." /></div></div><p>Wyman, then the rock columnist at <em>The Chicago Reader</em>, was the first real friend I made in town, and he was as verbose as I was. So Eddie and Mitch let the Jim and Bill show run on for hours in the middle of the night any Friday when we were game to stay up until dawn. The best thing about Bill was that he was so easily riled. I could say something stupid about a roots-rock treasure like Lucinda Williams or Steve Earle&mdash;&ldquo;That&rsquo;s just 40-year-old white-guy music!&rdquo;&mdash;and he would never fail to take the bait and start sputtering in fury. It made for entertaining arguments, if not necessarily solid criticism.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Wyman.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 450px;" title="Bill Wyman during his stint at The Chicago Reader." /></div><p>Eventually, I told Bill we should ask WLUP&rsquo;s program director if he&rsquo;d give us a regular slot. Bill was dubious: The station had begun to shift from classic rock to &ldquo;adult talk&rdquo; (this was the heyday of Kevin Matthews, Jonathan Brandmeier, and Steve Dahl and Garry Meir), but the Loop still had an enduring love for REO Speedwagon, Styx, and a lot of hair metal that we children of the indie-rock underground despised. Plus, beyond a few summer fill-in slots at WPRB, the college-radio station at Princeton University (where I didn&rsquo;t even go to school) and sitting in on my friend Frank O&rsquo;Toole&rsquo;s show on New Jersey&rsquo;s legendary free-form WFMU (when it was still in East Orange, long before it moved to my native Jersey City), I had no real radio experience, and Bill had even less.</p><p>Nevertheless, because he was experimenting with a Sunday-morning lineup that also featured a guy playing comedy records and someone who talked about astrology, Dave Logan gave us a shot starting in June &rsquo;93. Now we needed a name. I was fond of <em>Bill and Jim&rsquo;s Excellent Radio Show, </em>a bad joke spinning off an even worse movie, but that would have gotten old fast. So we became <em>Sound Opinions</em>, which Bill says was my second suggestion, though I really don&rsquo;t remember.</p><p>We had a considerable amount of fun on the Loop until June &rsquo;94, thanks in large part to Geli Corbett, the spirited young producer/overseer whom Logan had assigned to keep us in line. But the station was not our ideal home, and there were tensions. Logan once railed at us for spending half an hour discussing &ldquo;a band nobody cares about&rdquo;&mdash;Pearl Jam&mdash;while giving a mere 10 minutes to viciously panning Meat Loaf&rsquo;s <em>Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell. </em>In time, we thought we&rsquo;d try our luck again and see if anybody else in Chicago radio would be silly enough to give an hour or two a week to two rock critics who didn&rsquo;t know anything about radio.</p><p><strong>Highlights from the Loop: </strong>Cramming the Flaming Lips into a tiny studio for an interview and performance circa <em>Transmissions from the Satellite Heart; </em>presiding over an outpouring of grief from callers shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain; chatting about Led Zeppelin with Cameron Crowe, and spending two hours playing doo-wop as snow fell outside the Hancock. <strong>And what became of our allies?</strong> Geli eventually left radio&mdash;she&rsquo;s now a teaching assistant working with high school kids struggling with their writing skills&mdash;while Mitch now is the programming chief at WSCR. Eddie died in 2009, but I can still hear that weird, wheezing, high-pitched helium trill if I close my eyes. He was a true original.</p><p>As I recall, Bill and I met with three stations when we wanted to leave the Loop, but only one showed interest: Q101, then riding high post-Nirvana as Chicago&rsquo;s &ldquo;new rock alternative.&rdquo; This was a station that actually played some of the music we cared about, plus, as Bill said, &ldquo;They sponsor a float in the gay pride parade,&rdquo; instead of trotting out half-naked &ldquo;Loop Girls&rdquo; at bonehead sports bars. Bill Gamble assigned us a whip-smart producer and overseer we always called &ldquo;Young James&rdquo;&mdash;a.k.a. James Van Osdol&mdash;and we had a blast on Sunday nights from 10 to midnight from June &rsquo;94 until October &rsquo;95.</p><p>As at the Loop, we took calls live on air at Q101, and it was the first time the station ever did that. Again, there were occasional tensions with the boss when the two of us gave a negative review to an artist he was playing once an hour&mdash;say, Bush or Soundgarden&mdash;but we always pointed out that we tried to balance that by talking to listeners who strongly disagreed and were eager to call us idiots.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/James-vanOsdol.jpg" style="height: 223px; width: 350px;" title="James Van Osdol." /></div><p><strong>Highlights from Q101: </strong>Live performances and interviews with Blur circa <em>Parklife;</em> Red Red Meat, John Cale, and Robyn Hitchcock, who vamped a program ID for us (&ldquo;You&rsquo;re listeningggg... to <em>Sound</em> <em>Opinionnnnnssss..</em>.&rdquo;); regular reports from &ldquo;the Record Store Guy,&rdquo; Joe Kvidera, then the manager of the late, lamented Tower Records on Clark Street, and a freewheeling, two-hour, live conversation with the ultimate heroine/villainess of the moment, Courtney Love. (Only the fleet finger of our engineer on the dump button that night&mdash;James and I can&rsquo;t recall whether it was Greg Easterling or Robert Chase&mdash;saved us from a mountain of FCC fines.)</p><p><strong>And what became of our Q101 allies? </strong>Gamble now is director of digital media and radio operations at WSBT TV and radio in South Bend, Ind., while Young James, no longer quite so young, wrote <a href="http://www.amazon.com/We-Appreciate-Your-Enthusiasm-History/dp/0983994382/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1354799528&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=we+appreciate+your+enthusiasm">an oral history of Q101&rsquo;s alternative years</a> for which I penned the introduction. He seems to enjoy <a href="https://jamesvanosdol.wordpress.com/">blogging</a> and <a href="https://carconcarne.wordpress.com/">podcasting</a> much more than he did commercial radio as it increasingly lost its soul to corporatization and consolidation in the late &rsquo;90s and early 2000s. As for Bill Wyman, he is living in Phoenix and freelancing for outlets including <em>The New York Times, The New Yorker</em>, and<em> The Wall Street Journal, </em>as well as doing commentary on media and arts news for Al Jazeera. On the way there, he worked at an alt weekly in San Francisco, served as arts editor of Salon during its heyday, and then became an assistant managing editor at NPR, overseeing the arts, entertainment, media, and digitial coverage (so he actually got to public radio before I did). I still very much miss pushing his buttons; Greg just doesn&#39;t take the bait like that.</p><p>So, if we were having so much fun at Q101, why did <em>Sound Opinions</em> Mach I and the Jim/Bill partnership come to an end? In the fall of 1995, I unwisely accepted a job as deputy music editor at <em>Rolling Stone </em>and moved to New York. (Bill continued on Q101 for a while, co-hosting with Chicago fanzine veteran Pat Daley and none other than Billy Corgan, but soon enough he moved to San Francisco). <em>Rolling Stone</em> did not turn out well for me, <a href="http://observer.com/2015/04/how-to-get-fired-from-rolling-stone/">but that&rsquo;s a whole other story</a>. Suffice it to say that in the summer of &rsquo;96, I fled the East Coast again and moved back to Minneapolis.</p><p>Living in the Twin Cities for the second time, I freelanced for a lot of magazines and alternative weeklies, wrote that book about Lester, and revived <em>Sound Opinions </em>on KSTP-AM, then a talk and news station, but now all sports. This time, I drew on a number of local rock critics to fill the role of &ldquo;the other guy,&rdquo; including my editor at <em>Request </em>and <em>Rolling Stone, </em>Keith Moerer of the aforementioned &ldquo;Them&rsquo;s Fightin&rsquo; Words,&rdquo; and freelancer James Diers. Eventually, after corporatization and consolidation killed Minneapolis&rsquo; legendary REV 105 &ldquo;Revolution Radio,&rdquo; I was lucky to recruit Shawn Stewart as permanent co-host.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Shawn Stewart.jpg" style="width: 199px; height: 300px;" title="Shawn Stewart." /></div></div><p>Shawn was the first real radio pro I ever co-hosted with, and we had a great time, especially because our show was followed by and often bled into another hosted by fellow REV veteran Mary Lucia. At one point, our version of <em>Sound Opinions </em>also abutted a talk show hosted by former wrestler Jesse Ventura, who would soon become the governor of Minnesota&mdash;and boy, was that weird.</p><p><strong>Highlights from KSTP: </strong>Regular in-progress reports from the Flaming Lips as they were in the studio recording <em>The Soft Bulletin</em>; a sparring match with <em>Minneapolis Star Tribune </em>rock critic Jon Bream as we were broadcasting live from the Minnesota State Fair, and an interview with veteran rock critic Greil Marcus that left me speechless for the only time on air that I can recall. (I asked what song he&rsquo;d recommend that a young Green Day fan play as an introduction to appreciating Bob Dylan, about whom he&rsquo;d just written a long book, and he said, &ldquo;Oh, I really don&rsquo;t care if they listen to the music.&rdquo;) <strong>And what became of my allies? </strong><a href="http://www.shawn-stewart.com/">Shawn</a> is now a producer at Xbox Entertainment, <a href="http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/01/apples-ibookstore-growing-one-million-users-per-month/">Keith</a> is a very big deal at Apple, and James Diers is &ldquo;<a href="http://www.jamesdiers.com/">a professional maker and doer of creative things</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>Why did <em>Sound Opinions </em>come to an end at KSTP? In the Fall of &rsquo;97, I got a call from a former editor at <em>The Sun-Times </em>wondering if I&rsquo;d like to return as rock critic. The troublesome managers who&rsquo;d been part of the reason I left in &rsquo;94 were gone, replaced by some new managers who worked for Conrad Black; in time, Lord Conrad would be even more trouble for the paper, but I liked most of the editors he put in place while he was secretly pillaging the Bright One. I returned to Chicago vowing I&rsquo;d never leave again, and the first call I made this time was to Greg: &ldquo;Hey, I&rsquo;m back. Whaddya say we do <em>Sound Opinions </em>right?&rdquo;</p><p>I neglected to mention earlier that when Wyman and I left the Loop, they didn&rsquo;t take it so well: They&rsquo;d sort of come to like this dueling rock-critic idea, so they turned to Greg and Michael Harris, then the editor of <em>The Illinois Entertainer</em>, to replace Bill and me. (Unbelievable, but true: Chicago for a time had <em>two </em>weekly dueling rock-critic radio shows!) You&rsquo;d have to ask Greg why their show sputtered out, but he wound up catching the radio bug as bad as I had it, so when I rang him in &rsquo;97, he said, &ldquo;Sure!&rdquo; And a few weeks later we were meeting with Norm Winer, a legend in AAA radio and the boss for life at WXRT.</p><p>Norm was, and perhaps rightfully so, super-protective of XRT&rsquo;s ethos, and he never really was sold on two opinionated contrarians dissing some of the music he played and loved, to say nothing of veering far from his playlists to air hip-hop or death metal. Wary of the damage we could inflict, even though we aired from 10 to midnight on Tuesdays when only slightly more people were listening than back on Eddie&rsquo;s show, he at first posted the great <a href="http://wxrt.cbslocal.com/personality/marty-lennartz/">Marty Lennartz</a> as our overseer, guardian, and wrangler. Though Marty is amazing (the Regular Guy!), the third wheel thing never really worked, and I think Greg and I made him miserable. Eventually, Norm let us fly unfettered as a duo under a brilliant producer, Matt Spiegel, who did more to shape the show than anyone besides the Fab Four mentioned earlier.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Us-with-Spiegs-by-Marty_0.jpg" title="With Matt Spiegel. (Photo by Marty Perez)" /></div></div></div></div><p>Spiegs sat behind the console and ran the board while Greg and I yakked, and we came to love the way he&rsquo;d laugh at many of the inanities we spouted. Fans of the show in this era still miss that laugh. Once again, we took calls live on air&mdash;this was a first for XRT, too&mdash;and for a long time, Shawn Campbell worked the phones for us. Somewhere along the way, we also attracted two ridiculously talented and hardworking volunteers, Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha, who both wasted several hours with us every Tuesday for years with minimal or no recompense.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Robin-Cheap-Trick.jpg" style="height: 424px; width: 450px;" title="Unduly modest, Robin doesn't pose for many Sound Ops pictures, but here she is with Rick Nielsen's guitar." /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jason_0.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="Jason flies even lower under the radar, and on XRT, he called himself Dr. X. Sound Ops pics of him are rarer than good songs by Bruce Springsteen. But here he is, looking mighty spiffy." /></div></div></div></div><p>Jason was the guy who first said, &ldquo;Hey, you should have a website,&rdquo; when we barely knew what one was, while Robin did more from the start than anyone else to impress upon us a level of professionalism we&rsquo;d never had before. (She&rsquo;d interned at NPR in D.C., doncha know.) Slowly but surely, all of us working together learned about things like &ldquo;the clock&rdquo; (timing our segments so we hit the breaks), following a bona fide show outline instead of flying by the seat of our pants, and solidifying a magazine format of news up top, a feature segment in the middle, and record reviews at the end.</p><p>This is not to say we became pros at XRT, just that we at long last got a little more professional.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Us-with-JPJ.jpg" title="With John Paul Jones." /></div><p>Throughout our time with him, Norm never hesitated to tell Greg and me we both were jackasses because of some review, comment, or take on rock history with which he disagreed. But the primary reasons we began looking for another home were that we were severely limited by the live performances and interviews we could host in XRT&rsquo;s tiny old studio on Belmont west of Cicero, during a fixed time slot late on Tuesday night. XRT was against us distributing the show on the Web (oh, to reclaim that archive!). And we had long believed that <em>Sound Opinions </em>had the potential to be national, like the best music publications, even though we&rsquo;d had zero success in finding national distribution to that point.</p><p>Huge admirers of what Ira Glass and Torey Malatia had created with <em>This American Life </em>on Chicago Public Radio, we pestered Torey for three years to let us bring <em>Sound Opinions</em> to WBEZ, pressuring him at meetings every few months and ambushing him in the halls whenever one or both of us visited Navy Pier to be a guest on Chicago Public Radio. (We were especially fond of appearing on Gretchen Helfrich&rsquo;s <em>Odyssey, </em>because her laugh was almost as great as Spiegs&rsquo;.) Eventually, encouraged by Kelly Leonard of Second City (just because he was a fan and he loves bringing ambitious people together), we linked up with WBEZ&rsquo;s Todd Bachmann, who worked on <em>This American Life, </em>and Mike Danforth, now the big cheese at <em>Wait Wait&hellip; Don&rsquo;t Tell Me!</em>, and we worked with them, Spiegs, Robin, and Jason to craft the &ldquo;perfect&rdquo; one-hour demo of what <em>Sound Opinions </em>could sound like on Public Radio. Finally, Torey was sold.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Us-With-Pumpkins.jpg" title="With two Smashing Pumpkins." /></div><p>Ultimately, we did 354 shows over seven years on WXRT, and once again, we had a tremendous amount of fun. <strong>Some highlights: </strong>Sitting with Tom Petty as he talked about sitting with George Harrison, driving around his farm on Hawaii atop a bulldozer; live conversations on the phones the night of the Columbine massacre, when the mainstream press was rushing to blame &ldquo;goth-rocker Marilyn Manson&rdquo;; a performance and interview with Wilco just days after 9/11, when many of the songs on <em>Yankee Hotel Foxtrot </em>suddenly took on new meaning; Grandaddy appearing on the show high on mushrooms, then climbing the XRT transmitter tower; <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoTUXBbaFjE">the Ryan Adams voice mail</a>; a tough interview with then-head of the Grammy organization Michael Greene, soon to be deposed in scandal (he hung up on us); squeezing Bloque, a Columbian octet, into a studio space that was maybe six by six feet square, and a live event at Millennium Park with the great Mavis Staples. <strong>And what became of our allies?</strong> Shawn Campbell now runs <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CHIRPradio?fref=nf">CHIRP, the Chicago Independent Radio Project</a>, and godspeed to her! Marty is of course still Marty, and Norm still is Norm. Everybody else came with us to WBEZ, but before we get there (er, <em>here</em>), we need to take a brief detour from radio into another medium.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Us-with-Mavis.jpg" title="With the immortal Mavis Staples." /></div><p>Frustrated by our attempts to take the show to the next level at WXRT, Greg and I approached then-new program director Randy King at WTTW television, which of course is where Gene and Roger started out. Randy took a leap of faith with two guys whose faces were made for radio (and who hated makeup and having to think about what clothes to wear) and we made 17 half-hour episodes of <em>Sound Opinions </em>for Chicago Public Television in 2004, with Spiegel producing, the super-sharp Scott Taradesh directing and editing, and of course Jason and Robin once again helping out.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Power-Couple.jpg" title="I have no photos of the WTTW show, but here we are with Phil Ponce. You can see how much we enjoy wearing makeup." /></div><p>While television offered one advantage&mdash;adding the visual element to our discussions that radio could not provide&mdash;there were many, many down sides, chief among them the fact that with a mere half-hour, the music necessarily got short shrift. Then, too, if commercial radio could often be a slime pit of rabid vipers and soulless weasels, television was a thousand times worse. We made those 510 minutes of TV with almost no money, just a lot of spit and some duct tape, in true D.I.Y. fashion. But the model for Public Television held that we had to find an underwriter before WTTW would bring the show national and anyone got paid.</p><p>That search went nowhere fast, more or less ending when a national concert promotion entity said, &ldquo;Sure, we&rsquo;ll back the show, if only you change the name to <em>[National Concert Promotion Entity&rsquo;s] Sound Opinions, </em>tape only at our venues and, hey, it would be great if you talked mostly about the acts that we&rsquo;re booking.&rdquo;</p><p>Um, no thanks.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Greg-Gets-Loose.jpg" style="height: 301px; width: 450px;" title="Ain't no party like a Sound Opinions party and a Sound Opinions party don't stop! At the really good ones, Greg might even tickle the ivories." /></div></div><p>Not quite ready to give up on TV&mdash;we were nothing if not eternally optimistic and endlessly naïve&mdash;Greg and I connected with television consultant <a href="http://www.towertheatre.org/about/staff/ray_solley">Ray Solley</a>, who had played a role in the success of <em>South Park </em>with Trey Parker and Matt Stone after years at WTTW, where he&rsquo;d been part of the team behind Gene and Roger. (Obviously, he knew how to work with challenging duos.) The man we called Uncle Ray set up a series of meetings in New York and L.A., and in the Fall of 2004, the three of us spent several days on the coasts pitching <em>Sound Opinions</em> to cable and broadcast networks, television distributors, and production companies&mdash;pretty much everybody you&rsquo;d think might have been interested in a show reviewing popular music at that time.</p><p>Greg and I still talk about those meetings once in a while, and every time we do, we say that no one would believe us if we told some of the stories, since our experience played into every show-biz cliché you can imagine, and many you cannot. One tale that sort of sums things up was the female programming executive at a top cable network who loved, loved, <em>loved</em> the show but told us that two middle-aged white guys wouldn&rsquo;t do as hosts and what we really needed was (to paraphrase) &ldquo;an African-American woman with an ample chest.&rdquo;</p><p>And so we gave up on the boob tube.</p><p>Back to WBEZ: What took so long to wind up where we clearly always belonged&mdash;the media equivalent of independent music, where you can be as smart and challenging as you want, and the audience rewards you by creating a supportive community unlike any other that exists in media today?</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Malatia-DeRogatis.jpg" title="South Side Torey Malatia only looks bored here, honest." /></div><p>To be certain, Torey believed in the show from the beginning, and in fact, it only still exists today because of his faith in it. But things sometimes move very, very slowly at Public Radio; resources always are stretched thin (hence those pledge drives!***), and there can be institutional resistance to change at stations less adventurous than our home base. Torey was and is a visionary, though, and far beyond his faith in <em>Sound Opinions, </em>I respect his views on journalism and cultural criticism more than any other programmer or editor I&rsquo;ve worked with. Cheers, now and forever, South Side!</p><p>Spiegs stayed with us for a while after our move to WBEZ&mdash;some of the segment and show opens we use to this day he crafted&mdash;until he went on to bigger and better things. (He now is co-host of <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/category/the-spiegel-and-goff-show/"><em>The Spiegel &amp; Goff Show</em></a> on the Score, as well as writing about baseball for <em>The Daily Herald</em>, fronting Tributosaurus in its 13th year, and raising a son he says gets all the music and sports he can handle.) Todd worked with us a little longer, until moving to the Pacific Northwest. And then there were four. Jason and Robin were there for Show No. 1 on Public Radio&mdash;<a href="http://old.soundopinions.org/Sound%20Ops%20final%20press%20release.pdf">Dec. 3, 2005</a>&mdash;and they&rsquo;re still here now. And Greg and I never can thank them enough.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jim%20%26%20Greg%20in%20studio.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Actually, our core team now numbers five, with the recent addition of a third full-time producer, Evan Chung, thanks to a generous grant from the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation. We also had invaluable help from three part-time producers over the years, <a href="http://www.pri.org/people/annie-minoff">Annie Minoff</a> (now with <em>Science Friday </em>in New York), <a href="https://twitter.com/amartinez1208">Anthony Martinez</a> (still working hard at WBEZ), and Alex Claiborne (who&#39;s with us now), as well as many, many other people at Chicago Public Media, from enthusiastic interns to studio pros Mary Gaffney and Adam Yoffe; from our video guru Andrew Gill to underwriting reps Geary Yonker and David Raphael; the major donors, events, and pledge folks; Alison Scholly, our current bosses Goli Sheikholeslami and Ben Calhoun&hellip; well, everybody on Navy Pier, really, past and present.</p><p>In addition to the accusation of self-indulgence in writing a piece like this, the biggest danger is all the people who&rsquo;ve played a role in the show&rsquo;s success who haven&rsquo;t been mentioned. Even if memory cooperated, including everyone would quintuple the length of this already exorbitant memoir, but a few more must be noted: our friend and attorney Dino Armiros; always reliable advisors Kate Darling and Rob Feder; our speaking agent Michael Nejman, and of course Deb Kot and Carmél Carrillo-DeRogatis. Then there are the folks who worked with us at our first distributor American Public Media, especially Jim Russell, Chris Coates, and Steve Nelson; John Barth and Jake Shapiro at our current distributor PRX; all of the program directors who air and champion the show, among them Hawk Mendenhall, Jim McGuinn, Chuck Singleton, Rita Houston, Christine Dempsey, Bruce Warren, Lynne Clendenin, Dale Spear, Matt Martin, and Jeff Hansen; the music industry publicists who&rsquo;ve brought us some of our hardest-won guests, including Jim Merlis and Ken Weinstein, Steve Martin and Laura Eldeiry, and Jessica Linker and Jacob Daneman; our underwriters past and especially present (that&rsquo;s you, Goose Island and Dark Matter!)&hellip; the list goes on and on and on, but it must by necessity end now, with YOU, the listener and public radio supporter. Thank you, one and all.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jim%20%26%20Greg%20at%20Festival.jpg" title="The thing to understand about Greg and me is that we start doing Sound Opinions whenever we're in the same place at the same time. Here we are backstage at some festival, arguing, as always. (Photo by Andrew Gill)" /></div><p><strong>Oh, yeah: What about the highlights from <em>Sound Opinions </em>on Public Radio over the last 499 episodes?</strong></p><p>Sorry, but for that, you&rsquo;re just going to have to tune in to Show No. 500 this weekend. And just wait until you hear what we have in store for the <em>next</em> 500!</p><p>(*** Speaking of pledge drives, WBEZ is having one now. Support the station and <em>Sound Opinions</em>: <a class="twitter-timeline-link" data-expanded-url="http://soundopinions.org/support" dir="ltr" href="http://t.co/S3e4vVHoto" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="http://soundopinions.org/support"><span class="js-display-url">soundopinions.org/support</span></a>. And thanks!)</p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/relatively-concise-history-sound-opinions-112228 Mumford and Sons' concert displaces homeless http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/mumford-and-sons-concert-displaces-homeless-112222 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/row-of-orange-.jpg" style="float: right; height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Advocates say a delayed outdoor rock concert in Chicago&rsquo;s Uptown neighborhood has created uncertainty about if and when a homeless encampment can return to the area.</p><p dir="ltr">For months now, a line of nearly 20 tents in orange and blue have lined both sides of Wilson Avenue under the Lake Shore Drive bridge. That&rsquo;s where about 40 homeless people have been living and had formed a makeshift community. There was a similar encampment under the Lawrence Avenue viaduct. Each person or family had an unofficial space, surrounding their tents with belongings including wheeled carts, camping chairs and even a full-sized grill that some of the men took turns cooking on.</p><p dir="ltr">But all of that changed earlier this week in advance of a Mumford and Sons concert that is expected to draw thousands to nearby Montrose Beach. Originally scheduled for Wednesday, the concert was postponed until Friday.</p><p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, city workers ordered the homeless people to leave so they could clean the area. The workers also threw away many of the people&rsquo;s belongings, including blankets and clothing, in what advocates call a violation of city policy.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You know, it&rsquo;s like we&rsquo;re not people, like our stuff doesn&rsquo;t matter,&rdquo; said a homeless woman named Susan, who declined to give her last name. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got nowhere to go. We&rsquo;re just trying to live.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/G-truck-and-red-sign_0.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/G-truck-and-red-sign_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 377px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></a></div></div><p dir="ltr">Susan said she was devastated about losing her blankets: &ldquo;They&rsquo;re even expensive at the secondhand store when they&rsquo;re half-off. It gets cold out here &mdash; we were freezing in May.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Clearing out a viaduct under a bridge isn&rsquo;t unusual: The city routinely asks people who are homeless to leave for short periods of time so they can clean the area.</p><p dir="ltr">But advocates say it was different this time. They charge the city violated its own policy for handling the personal property of the homeless.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s an <a href="http://www.chicagohomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/City-Policy-and-Procedures-Governing-Off-Street-Cleaning.pdf">agreement</a> that before property&rsquo;s thrown out, people should get notice if there&rsquo;s a problem with the property and have time to do something with the property,&rdquo;said Patricia Nix-Hodes, an attorney for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. &ldquo;That didn&rsquo;t happen.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Workers put up a sign saying the cleanup would start at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Instead, a team of ten city workers arrived in a van around 9. They said they were following city orders to clean the area and were instructed to throw out anything in their way. Some bags, carts, and boxes were still under the viaduct.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marcus-Cart-CU.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Rene Heybach, another attorney for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said she told the workers they were early for the cleanup and to stop what they were doing. They reportedly refused.</p><p dir="ltr">She said she told them they were in violation of the city agreement. But Heybach said that none of the workers she spoke to Tuesday had been properly trained in that protocol, and none of them, including the supervisor, had even heard of it.</p><p dir="ltr">The supervisor on the ground did order her staff to weed whack and cut the lawn first to give people more time to remove their things.</p><p dir="ltr">But Heybach said the city&rsquo;s approach to clearing the area this week was disorganized and confusing. She said they created an emergency situation and added undue stress while not offering any help for the situation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Everyone is saying different things, they are not coordinating,&rdquo; said Heybach, &ldquo;Everyone&rsquo;s been confused and remains confused.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Susan, the homeless woman who lost her blankets in the cleaning, said workers put up signs with Tuesday&rsquo;s date for the street cleaning. But she said they told her a day earlier that she had to leave, and that she&rsquo;d only have to leave for a day.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They changed their story, they are trying to get us messed up so we lose all our stuff,&rdquo; Susan said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like we&rsquo;re not people, like we don&rsquo;t exist.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Susan, who said she struggles with anxiety, PTSD, neuropathy and other medical conditions, was a single parent and ran a daycare before becoming homeless.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s embarrassing that life can get this low,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not bad people, we&rsquo;re just homeless.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/from-hill-USE.jpg" style="float: left; height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Attorney Rene Heybach said the Department of Family and Support Services was supposed to help transport some of the homeless people and their items to a nearby safe location. The city agreement says the DFSS &ldquo;will lead the City&rsquo;s contact with homeless persons during the cleanings.&rdquo; &nbsp;But she said DFSS didn&rsquo;t arrive until after the other city crews were already there and clearing the area.</p><p dir="ltr">DFSS spokesman Matt Smith said the department&rsquo;s team is trained in the procedure for handling homeless people&rsquo;s belongings, which includes notification so there&rsquo;s &ldquo;ample time to prepare and remove their possessions from the area being cleaned.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">He said this cleaning was different than routine monthly ones because multiple other city services were involved. The size of the concert also made it necessary for people living under the bridge to leave the area for a longer time period. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Smith said the show is expected to draw thousands and will bring a lot of foot traffic there. He said having tents and people blocking the sidewalks would present a health and public safety issue.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What I believe we are going to be doing is taking tents or possessions or anything that shouldn&rsquo;t be here &hellip; and taking them to a shelter and inventorying them,&rdquo; Smith said. &ldquo;If they want to reclaim those items later, they can make arrangements with our staff to do so.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But by the time DFSS arrived, workers from other departments had cleaned out all but a few items remaining beneath the viaduct.</p><p dir="ltr">DFSS encouraged people to sign up for a system that determines eligibility for supportive housing. The Salvation Army showed up to offer their services too. But Smith said even though people were offered shelter, the city can&rsquo;t force them to take it.</p><p dir="ltr">Susan says she was abused in a local homeless shelter, and doesn&rsquo;t want to go back.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Latia-Sleeping-2.jpg" style="float: right; height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">People who&rsquo;d been living under the bridge spent Tuesday spreading their remaining belongings on the grass and over benches at a nearby park to dry out from a rainstorm. Some did go to shelters, while others found temporary housing with family.</p><p dir="ltr">But several of them have spent the week sleeping in the open on blankets and mats. They said DFSS had found them temporary storage for their stuff at a nearby CVS.</p><p dir="ltr">Susan had planned to join them in the park, but said she was afraid to sleep out in the open like that. She found temporary shelter across town instead.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to just lay on the ground on top of blankets, I&rsquo;m a woman, I need privacy,&rdquo; Susan said. &ldquo;Every other woman (who lives) down there has a man, or husband or someone to protect them. I don&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But like many of the others, Susan plans to return to her spot under the bridge as soon as she can.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear when, or if, that will happen. Thursday, a representative from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said she had not heard back from the city on whether the homeless people could return after the concert.</p><p><em>Melissa Muto is a WBEZ Pritzker Journalism Fellow.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 13:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/mumford-and-sons-concert-displaces-homeless-112222 Catching up on some of the best Spring releases, pt. 2 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/catching-some-best-spring-releases-pt-2-112184 <p><div><p><em>Did you miss part 1 of the best spring releases? <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/catching-some-best-spring-releases-pt-1-112183">Find them right here</a>.</em></p><p>As we hit the midway point of 2015, it&rsquo;s high time to catch up on this blog with some of the finest albums of the year so far&mdash;the topic of&nbsp;<a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/498">this week&rsquo;s episode of Sound Opinions</a>&mdash;which I&rsquo;ve yet to mention here, including two startlingly powerful visionaries, Alicia Bognanno of Bully and Torres, who are mining difficult upbringings to produce cathartic and brilliant music.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bully.jpg" style="height: 447px; width: 450px;" title="" /></p></div><p><strong>Bully, Feels Like (Columbia)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p><p>One of my favorite acts at <a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/487/#bully">SXSW 2015</a>, Bully has in part been unjustly pigeonholed as &rsquo;90s revivalists, despite the fact that frontwoman Bognanno only recently has become aware of many of the alternative-era heroes and heroines people keep citing in comparison. If she has anything in common with the prime era of Nirvana and Hole, it&rsquo;s an ability to craft a relentlessly hard-hitting sound that is also intensely melodic; she&rsquo;s a rare talent as both a top-notch songwriter and a skilled producer and audio engineer, who spent some time interning with Steve Albini at Chicago&rsquo;s Electrical Audio. The perspective of many of the tunes on her band&rsquo;s debut album is staunchly feminist, but it&rsquo;s never preachy; in a song like &ldquo;I Remember,&rdquo; it&rsquo;s hard to tell if she&rsquo;s depicting a harrowing date rape or a sexual encounter she remembers fondly, but it&rsquo;s riveting nonetheless. <em><strong>Listen for a performance and interview with Bully on</strong></em><strong> Sound Opinions</strong><em><strong> soon.</strong></em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ULYTqO2YDuU" width="560"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Torres.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></p><p><strong>Torres, Sprinter (PTKF)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p>Born and raised as Mackenzie Scott in Macon, Georgia, Torres has won some impressive fans since relocating to Nashville and entering the world of indie-rock, including her primary collaborators on her second album, Rob Ellis of PJ Harvey fame and Adrian Utley of Portishead. Torres is at odds with both her upbringing and the judgmental vision of God that dominated it, and these themes run throughout the album, but in a way that all of us can relate to, regardless of our own beliefs and upbringings. Her voice is an incredibly powerful instrument, she&rsquo;s a hall of an inventive guitarist, and the spare but extremely dramatic soundscapes are nothing short of mind-blowing. <em><strong>Listen for a performance and interview with Torres on </strong></em><strong>Sound Opinions </strong><em><strong>soon.</strong></em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ol61WOSzLF8" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><s>@</s>JimDeRogatis</a>, join me on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340">Facebook</a>, and podcast or stream <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/">Sound Opinions</a>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/catching-some-best-spring-releases-pt-2-112184 Catching up on some of the best Spring releases, pt. 1 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/catching-some-best-spring-releases-pt-1-112183 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><p>As we hit the midway point of 2015, it&rsquo;s high time to catch up on this blog with some of the finest albums of the year so far&mdash;the topic of&nbsp;<a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/498">this week&rsquo;s episode of&nbsp;<i>Sound Opinions</i></a>&mdash;which I&rsquo;ve yet to mention here, starting with the bounty of riches in the worlds of hip-hop, R&amp;B, and neo-soul from Kendrick Lamar, Shamir, and Van Hunt.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kendrick.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></p><p><strong>Kendrick Lamar</strong><strong>, <em>To Pimp a Butterfly </em>(Aftermath)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5.</strong></p><p><span style="text-indent: 0.5in;">Though Lamar&rsquo;s first two albums were by any measure huge critical and commercial successes, they left me cold, with too many of the violent and misogynistic stereotypes that plague mainstream hip-hop. (His defenders argued he was just playing different characters, but none of these characters struck me as particularly deep or portraying anything we had not heard many times before.) But the Compton native&rsquo;s third release finally justifies his boosters&rsquo; enthusiasm as the rapper shows us a much deeper political consciousness, arriving at a tense point in racial relations where such a voice is very much needed. The characters here are much more deeply drawn, and they are coupled with a wide-ranging musical vision that encompasses free jazz, funk, electronica, and indie-rock. </span><strong style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><em><a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/487/#kendricklamar">Listen to our review on Sound Opinions here.</a></em></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="text-indent: 0.5in; text-align: center;"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hRK7PVJFbS8" width="560"></iframe></b></p><div class="image-insert-image "><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Shamir.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></p><p><strong>Shamir</strong><strong>, <em>Ratchet </em>(XL)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p><p><span style="text-indent: 0.5in;">Like Lamar, 20-year-old Shamir Bailey offers valuable insights on racial and class divisions&mdash;the dark underbelly of the American dream&mdash;by looking around his &rsquo;hood, which happens to be Northtown, the side of Vegas that nobody sees or celebrates. He adds yet another dimension thanks to what he calls his fluid sexuality; you&rsquo;d be hard-pressed to tell his gender as his voice caresses the sometimes seductive, sometimes celebratory Brooklyn hipster update of old-school Chicago house grooves; think LCD Soundsystem meets Green Velvet as produced by Frankie Knuckles. </span><strong style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><em><a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/495/#shamir">Listen to our review on Sound Opinions here.</a></em></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left: 0in; text-indent: 0.5in; text-align: center;"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0XoGrh9eL9Y" width="560"></iframe></b></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/VanHunt.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Van Hunt</strong><strong>, <em>The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets </em>(Godless Hotspot)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><span style="mso-bidi-font-family:Garamond;color:#353535">Finally, while the Dayton-bred, Atlanta-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt has much less buzz than both of the artists mentioned earlier, given years of uneasy relations with his record labels and an ardent refusal to be genre-stereotyped, his fifth studio album is the most impressive of a strong career that I&rsquo;d place second only to D&rsquo;Angelo&rsquo;s in stretching the boundaries of what modern R&amp;B can be (and Van Hunt has been much more productive than D&rsquo;Angelo). Boastfully seductive but full of self-deprecating humor, a rich listening experience that rewards close study but which also compels you to lose your crap on the dance floor, <i>The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets </i></span>is a stellar accomplishment. <a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/496/#vanhunt"><strong><em>Listen to our review on </em>Sound Opinions <em>here.</em></strong></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/f7zco0FXKs8" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b>Follow me on Twitter </b></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis" style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b><i><s>@</s>JimDeRogatis</i></b></a><em style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b>, join me on </b></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340" style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b><i>Facebook</i></b></a><em style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b>, and podcast or stream </b></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/" style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b>Sound Opinions</b></a><em style="text-indent: 0.5in;"><b><span style="font-style:normal">.</span></b></em></p></p> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 09:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/catching-some-best-spring-releases-pt-1-112183 Chance the Rapper goes surfing (with trumpet) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/chance-rapper-goes-surfing-trumpet-112161 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/maxresdefault.jpg" style="height: 360px; width: 640px;" title="" /></div></div></div><p>Like Kanye West and every other Chicago hip-hop superstar, Chancelor Bennett didn&rsquo;t hone his craft in a vacuum before breaking nationwide. But the dedicated individualist and diehard independent has been much quicker&mdash;and a lot more generous&mdash;in turning his spotlight on his musical compadres and the scene that produced him.</p><p>And so, before he&rsquo;s even dropped his first proper album (that is, if you consider 2013&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/chance-rapper-paints-giddy-yet-profound-picture-south-side-life-107164"><em>Acid Rap </em></a>his second mixtape instead of a proper album, and I&rsquo;m not sure I do), we&rsquo;ve gotten the gift of <em>Surf </em>from Donnie Trumpet &amp; the Social Experiment, released for free via iTunes on May 28, and already closing in on a million downloads.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chance.jpg" style="height: 425px; width: 620px;" title="Chance the Rapper performs at The Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Friday, May 23, 2014, in George, Washington. (AP/John Davisson)" /></div><p>Make no mistake: Chance shines here, and very brightly indeed, especially on &ldquo;Familiar,&rdquo; a harsh critique on (some women&rsquo;s) superficiality and materialism; &ldquo;Sunday Candy,&rdquo; a love song to grandma, &ldquo;Wanna Be Cool,&rdquo; a bold statement of pride in being a nerd. But like every one of these 15 tracks, he&rsquo;s just one of a number of voices that take the microphone, ranging from much-buzzed local up-and-comers Saba, King Louie, Joey Purp, and Noname Gypsy, to established national stars such as Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Big Sean, and Busta Rhymes.</p><p>And the band led by Chance&rsquo;s childhood pal Nico Segal, a.k.a. Donnie Trumpet, the Jon Hassell of hip-hop, and featuring drummer Greg Landfair Jr., Peter Cottontale, and Nate Fox, proves itself as deep and deft as the mighty Roots, swinging effortlessly from Cuban grooves to minimalist electronica, and from Beach Boys-like harmonies and orchestrations to show tunes, gospel, and funk.</p><p><em>Surf </em>lacks the dark shadow of the violence of Chiraq that hangs over much of <em>Acid Rap</em>, but the defiant optimism is the same, as is the core message of individualism, nicely summed up in &ldquo;Wanna Be Cool&rdquo; by Chance&rsquo;s lines, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t wanna be cool/I don&rsquo;t want you to be me/You should just be you.&rdquo; Chicago&rsquo;s South and West side communities are incredibly rich and vibrant places not easily stereotyped or pigeonholed; to be sure, the politicians protesting the title of Spike Lee&rsquo;s new film are the folks who are doing that, not the director, who says he&rsquo;s making a musical comedy.</p><p>If that sounds jarring to you, you&rsquo;re not from those neighborhoods. The Social Experiment is, and they capture the diverse and complicated tapestries in all of their glory.</p><p>This is to say that comparison to the Roots earlier on is not made lightly. Just as Questlove and his collaborators created an ideal and inspiring community in the midst of Illadelphia in the &rsquo;90s, drawing some of their best work out of collaborators such as Badu, Jill Scott, D&rsquo;Angelo, and wayward Chicagoan Common, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment stand poised to do the same, with Chance starring as Michael Jordan, but a bench every bit as deep as the championship Bulls.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i4ooH8frBWg" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Donnie Trumpet &amp; the Social Experiment,</strong> <strong><em>Surf </em></strong><strong>(self-released)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 09:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-06/chance-rapper-goes-surfing-trumpet-112161 Apple announces music streaming service http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/apple-announces-music-streaming-service-112157 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/gettyimages-476367236_wide-ad4e6bbbc061aabde5a879a9a4ff10b88af5303e-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Apple has announced the launch of Apple Music, an app that adds a subscription streaming service to iTunes, the largest music retailer in the world.</p><p>The announcement, made at Apple&#39;s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, comes more than a year after Apple acquired Beats Music, the streaming service founded by Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor. Iovine and Reznor both appeared in the presentation to explain and introduce elements of the service, which will include a live, &quot;24/7 global radio&quot; station and a social media-like feature called &quot;Connect&quot; where musicians can directly upload content like lyrics, videos and photos.<br />Does the world of streaming music change us, as listeners?</p><p>Apple Music will be available on June 30. The service, which will have no free option, will cost $9.99 a month for a single subscription or $14.99 a month for a &quot;family&quot; subscription that allows up to six people to share an account. In an indication of the company&#39;s hopes for its reach, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the service would be available on Android phones in the fall. Until now, iTunes has only been available on Apple devices.</p><p>From the stage, Iovine, a longtime music executive employed by Apple since the acquisition of Beats, recalled the moment he first saw the iTunes store. It was a &quot;simple, elegant way to buy music online&quot; in an era when the recording industry had been decimated by file sharing, he said. But Apple Music is entering a playing field already crowded by other streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Tidal.</p><p>As NPR&#39;s Laura Sydell, who was in the audience at the event, tweeted, Iovine characterized the current streaming ecosystem as confusing and overwhelming, and he positioned Apple Music as &quot;a complete thought around music,&quot; a slightly awkward catchphrase later echoed in a video presentation by musician Trent Reznor. (That phrase might have been an oblique reference to the Beats Music feature The Sentence, in which users could create a playlist by describing their listening scenario. Get it? The Sentence ... a &quot;complete thought.&quot; Oh well.)</p><p>Announced after nearly two hours of presentations on how Apple&#39;s various operating systems will be updated in the coming year (promised developments: a new news app, open source programming language, Siri will be better, Maps will be better, Apple Pay continues to expand to more retailers), the introduction of the music service featured the participation of many well-known musicians including The Alabama Shakes, Pharrell Williams and The Weeknd, who performed a radio-ready new song.</p><p>Apple Music&#39;s global 24/7 radio station will be staffed by notable DJs hired from terrestrial and Web radio stations: former BBC host Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden of New York&#39;s Hot 97 and Julie Adenuga of Rinse FM.</p><p>Also part of the service, but relegated to a single mention at the end of the presentation, was the iTunes store itself, which Cook called &quot;the best place to buy music.&quot; If you&#39;re still into that kind of thing.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/08/412908070/apple-announces-music-streaming-service">via NPR&#39;s The Two-Way</a></em></p></p> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 17:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/apple-announces-music-streaming-service-112157