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Greetings from the Dog Days of August
Riding out the summer with some podcast and Substack recommendations, and an upcoming release I am excited about.
Those who know me know I am not the biggest fan of summer. Oh sure, the opportunities to slow down a bit, hit the beach for the day or have a family barbeque are nice but soon, the heat and humidity has drained the excitement and left in its wake, a longing for the crisp air of autumn. And that’s exactly where we are in the calendar year: smack dab in the dog days of August. As I continue to write a longer-form essay on the musical artist closest to my heart (I discuss him a bit at the end of this post), I thought I would share some music podcast and Substack recommendations for the remaining days and nights of summer. I hope you enjoy.
As always, my deepest thanks to those who subscribe to my newsletter. I am so glad to have you along. If you know any friends or family who love music and would enjoy some or all of what I have written, I would be so grateful if you would pass along to them the link to ‘Listening Sessions’ just below.
Five music podcasts worth your attention
Hosted by Oliver Wong and Morgan Rhodes, each episode of Heat Rocks features a guest from the world of music discussing an album that is special to him or her. With an emphasis on soul, r&b, hip-hop and seventies pop, what I like most about this podcast is the insightful conversation, the opportunity to re-discover and newly discover great music, and the thoughtful way Wong and Rhodes guide each discussion.
Producing the Beatles
Created by Jason Krupa, a scholar on the work and legacy of George Martin, Producing the Beatles is a detailed look into how Martin collaborated with the Beatles to create their many musical masterpieces. Taking individual songs (When I’m Sixty-Four, for example) or techniques (overdubbing, variable tape speed, tape loops, just to name a few), this podcast offers something new to say about why their music is so important and enduring. That is an achievement in and of itself.
Mixology: The Mono/Stereo Mix Differences Podcast
Hosted by Frederick French-Pounce, this very literally named podcast goes track-by-track through LPs such as Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends and the Mamas and the Papas’ If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears and points out the many ways—some significant, some slight—the mono and stereo versions of these albums differ. French-Pounce’s ability to pick out even the slightest difference is a marvel and makes this deeply addictive listening for the ardent music geek.
Cocaine and Rhinestones
Hosted by Tyler Mahan Coe, this is a podcast unlike any other. The depth of Coe’s research, his unwillingness to merely scratch the surface and fearlessness to pierce the myths of country music make this a gold standard of music podcasting. Season two is currently underway, an examination of the life, music and world of George Jones, with new episodes dropping every two weeks until the end of the year. The next episode, coming on August 24, will delve into Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man,’ a era-defining song by one of the most important people to cross Jones’ path.
Embrace Everything - The World of Gustav Mahler
There’s something about Mahler and his music that continually excites me. Perhaps it’s the sheer size and scope of his nine symphonies or the challenge of trying to take in everything that Mahler tried to accomplish as a composer. This podcast, hosted by Aaron Cohen, is in the process of deconstructing each of Mahler’s symphonies, movement by movement, using the words of Mahler himself as well as through interviews with many figures in the classical world, including conductors Kent Nagano and Michael Tilson-Thomas. This is podcasting for both the classical-music lover and novice. Bravo!
Shout-outs to two wonderful music-related Substacks
Nelson George is, among other things, one of the foremost writers on Black music who has been chronicling it for over 40 years. His Substack is a mix of memoir, business advice and vivid portrait of the gritty New York of the seventies and eighties. It’s a must-read for me. His recent post on Whitney Houston is particularly outstanding. (Full disclosure: I am a paid subscriber of the Nelson George Mixtape.)
Ted Gioia’s breadth and depth of knowledge on music and all matters of culture is staggering. If I could be one-tenth the Renaissance Man he is! His Substack is a constant delight probing everything from parenting to James Joyce’s almost-career as a singer. His thoughts this spring on Rickie Lee Jones give a good taste of Gioia’s newsletter. (Full disclosure: I am a free subscriber of the Honest Broker.)
Another new release I am excited about: Last year’s box set of Elvis Presley’s 1970 Nashville sessions, From Elvis in Nashville, was an expert repackaging of music that has been reissued a few times over. Stripping away the overdubs that producer Felton Jarvis added to sweeten the tracks that appeared on the albums That’s The Way It Is (Elvis’ foray into the world of adult-contemporary music), Elvis Country (justifiably celebrated as Elvis’ finest full-length album of the seventies) and Love Letters from Elvis (an album of the remaining studio leftovers that sounds exactly like that) as well as a few that only appeared on singles, the set provided an intimate and immediate portrait of Elvis in the studio as well as an opportunity to hear familiar music in a brand new light.
In 1971, Elvis returned to Nashville for another set of sessions and Back in Nashville, a new four-CD box set to be released on November 12 (a condensed two-LP version will also come out the same day), will chronicle the variety of folk, gospel, Christmas, pop and solo piano recordings that took place in March, May and June of that year. While the music is not as consistent as what Elvis made in 1970—an unavoidable fact is that Elvis’ voice begins to decline in strength and power and become increasingly thin in 1971—the opportunity to hear these recordings straight off the studio floor, shorn of overdubs and newly remixed will hopefully provide a chance to reconsider where they stand in the Elvis canon.
The first preview track, an early take of ‘I’m Leavin’,’ among the most obscure Elvis recordings’ that for many years was only available as a single, dropped yesterday.