Friday, May 1, 2015


Copyright extension continues to be a hot topic in music circles, with Canada recently announcing it would introduce legislation to allow a further extension of sound recording rights soon.  That will allow record companies to continue to own the sole reproduction rights to classic albums, instead of seeing them in the public domain where anyone could have pressed and sold them.  Some argues this serves to protect big multinational corporations who jack up prices to consumers.  Others say it keeps crappy reproductions of, say, Rolling Stones and Beatles albums off the shelves, and bad audio dubs off the internet.  It's fraught with legal loopholes and complications.

Much of the problem comes from the fact there are no set standards from country to country.  So you get music going back and forth borders, and it's a nightmare to police.  In Europe for instance, you're starting to see fifty year old material joining the public domain, and some hit '60's acts are getting pressed on vinyl again, for that hipster audience.  The albums are imported into Canada, and sit in the bins beside non-imported versions of albums.  It's buyer beware on that stuff.

Another loophole has been discovered in broadcast material.  Some European countries have laws that allow radio and TV broadcasts to move into public domain much more quickly than North America.  So more and more well-recorded live concerts are now available through the import system, and we're talking the big names.  I have walked out of Future Shop with Bruce Springsteen concerts, Neil Young, you name it, from quite decent source tapes, usually FM broadcasts.  I'm sure the artists hate it, although supposedly the royalties are being paid by these labels.  But they don't have any control over what is now for sale.  Let's say you were an artist all messed up on drugs in 1975 (not an uncommon thing), but were on some small FM station and did a lousy set.  There's nothing stopping that from coming out legally in Italy, and then being imported into Canada by a secondary distributor, then sold in bulk to Wal-Mart.

I'm sure the highly-picky Steely Dan would not give a green light to the release of this show.  Not that it's bad, in any way.  I love it.  It's one of my favourite bands, who rarely toured back in the 1970's.  There's never been a legitimate release of live material from this time sanctioned by the band, and for fans its a godsend.  This is a set broadcast from The Record Plant in L.A. in 1974, featuring their big, sizzling touring band.  In addition to mainstays Becker and Fagen, you had the twin guitar heroics of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Denny Dias, double-drums from Jeff Porcaro and Jim Hodder, keys and backing vocals from future Doobie Michael McDonald and the relatively obscure singer/percussionist Royce Jones, who sings lead on the cut Any Major Dude Will Tell You.

Unlike most bands, the Dan stretched out live, embellishing and re-working songs from their first four albums.  Your Gold Teeth II is unrecognizable, a huge instrumental workout for all the players.  McDonald sings Pretzel Logic, making it a soul belter.  New leads and flourishes are found in almost every song, and even the hits are messed with a bit.  All three of the group's Top Ten numbers are here:  Reelin' In The Years, Do It Again and Rikki Don't Lose That Number.  Plus, numbers that are still fan favourites to this day make the set, including Bodhisattva and King Of The World.  Best of all, for collectors, there's a tune that has never been made available, called This All Too Mobile Home.  It's pretty typical of the material of the group's material of the time, maybe not a stand-out but it certainly could have been worked up into an appreciated album track.

The next year, Becker and Fagen broke up the band, and Steely Dan didn't tour again until they reformed in the 90's, and are still at it.  I've always wondered what these shows would be like, and to my delight, it's as good as I'd hoped.  Now, I'm off to deal with the moral implications.  This is kind of a guilty pleasure, I guess.

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