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John Montagna: Blog

Being a Sting fan hasn't always been easy.  Haters love to tell you how pretentious and self-indulgent they think he is, and how his solo work lacks the fire and passion of The Police.  But I disagree: I love the guy, and I love pretty much everything he's ever done.  To me he's a Rock God: tall, handsome, supreme intellect, writes some of the best songs heard by human ears.  (He's also one of rock's most under-appreciated bassists, by the way.) 
But despite my man-crush, even my faith in Sting has been challenged over the last decade or so.  His last two albums of original music - 1999's "Brand New Day" and 2003's "Sacred Love" - were heavy on production polish but lacked focus and cohesion.  Arabic percussion here, muted trumpet over hip-hop beats there, gospel choir in 7/8, some guy rapping in French…I want Sting to show me his true feelings, not his passport stamps.  (But I will say that the 5.1 mix of "Brand New Day" is a sonic treat.) 
The [...]
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1988 Beatles Box: Not To Be Taken Away

Posted on February 19, 2014 with 2 comments
My brother-in law Mark Bernstein had a voracious appetite for music.  When he passed away suddenly in 2006 at the age of 48, he left behind a massive collection of CDs and tapes that covered the entire spectrum of recorded music from the 20th century.  
His main love was classic rock; specifically, The Who.  (Or as he authoritatively referred to them, "the Norse Gods of rock n roll, The 'Oo.")  If I'm a Beat-ard, Mark was a Who-tard.  But he knew that his 'Oo ran thru the door blasted open during the British Invasion, led by my Beatles.  So there was no shortage of Fab Four in Mark's collection.  
Fortunately, Mark was also a fairly indiscriminate shopper: he didn't obsess over details such as which mixes were used, bonus tracks, etc.  And he almost never looked at the price before clicking "Proceed to Checkout."  He'd rather have something in the collection than not, and if he didn't care for something he'd gift it to someone close (like me).  [...]
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"A John Montagna Salute To The Beatles"

Posted on February 16, 2014 with 1 comment
I think it's time to go into "John Montagna Beatles Fantasy Land."  
As soon as I heard about the "Grammy Salute to The Beatles" TV special, and saw the list of who was going to be on it, I started grumbling: "You know what they SHOULD have done…?" and so on.  But then I decided not to even go down that rabbit hole, and instead simply wrote down the plans for my own "fantasy Beatles TV show" the way I would have done it.
I'm not stupid; I understand how these things work.  It's the Grammys, it's Sunday night on CBS.  They're going to play it safe with Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Katy Perry, etc.  They're not going to put together a show that will appeal to the unbalanced, fanatic sensibilities of obsessive fans like myself.  No, devising that show would be MY job.  
I started with a different model: rather than an "all-star salute" punctuated by cutaway shots of Paul and Ringo in the audience watching "all-stars" singing Beatles songs, my show follows [...]
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Music's Biggest Night?

Posted on January 27, 2014 with 3 comments
Another year, another Grammy Awards telecast.  As the pixie dust settles and I'm able to view the event objectively, I'm left with the impression that it was alright.  There was actually a nice display of superb talent throughout the night, and hardly any moments that made me shake my 41-year-old head and say "I don't get what these kids are doing." 
The fact is, most of us who complain about the performances and how much better music was "back in the day" have never performed in an awards telecast on live TV, and have never performed in a room as big as the Staples Center.  There are pressures and demands on that gig that we don't even know about, so if the performers seem shaky, imperfect, or disconnected, maybe cut 'em some slack and say "Get a load of you, making it this far and giving it your best!  Good on ya."  
Not enough jazz and classical?  Blame it on the telecast's time slot: CBS prime time Sunday.  It's the same old story: they gotta [...]
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Back In The US.....

Posted on January 13, 2014 with 5 comments
You know those times when you get stuck on a topic and you can't let go of it?  And everyone says "You're still going on about THAT?  We stopped talking about that DAYS ago!"  Well, this is one of those times. 
Four days ago I wrote a blog about the backlash toward the upcoming Beatles "US Albums" box set.  In short: the source audio for these CDs will be the 2009 remasters done in the UK at Abbey Road, and not the original tapes mastered by Capitol Records in the US back in the 60s.  
The Capitol mixes were done with the average 1960s turntable in mind, and under tight production deadlines.  As a result, American Beatles fans heard the music with extra compression, EQ, reverb, and in some cases "duophonic" (or "fake stereo") mixes.  And that's how we remember Beatles music sounding, for better or worse!
So when Capitol announced that the 2009 UK remasters would be used for the "US Albums" box, many fans were outraged at what they perceived as [...]
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