quaint little rutted bucket

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Fine, fine music

Impulse struck me yesterday and got me two new wonderful albums: and
U Turn's "By Request" and Hale's self-titled debut album. The first one is a splendid mush-mode affair CD, while the latter is a cool alternative rock stint, spoiled only by the ineptitude of EMI's policy on its album releases.

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U Turn's newest alongside Hale's self-titled debut.

U Turn's back
On U Turn's first CD, we were showered with much-loved cuts like "It's You", "Pangako", "Suddenly" and their rendition of "Ikaw". While the first album did not gather cult-status popularity, its strengths brought the band a legion of devoted fans who admired and supported the band in its every gig and endeavor.

Fast foward to this month, when U Turn, after finally having completed its transition to a new management (Lou Pacia of Acoustic Gold, the same guy behind Paolo Santos and Pido Lalimarmo) launched its revivals album, dubbed "By Request".

Some might argue that U Turn just followed a general trend happening in OPM today, with a lot of artists doing all sorts of revivals, and as such, not really that different from the pop-fluff coming from the lot of them. From the downright bad to the solidly good, its true that a good number of releases during the past few months contained a revival or two. U Turn may not be bucking that trend, but they're certainly breaking new ground by doing acoustic renditions of favorites in their own unique style.

Take "Make It Real"--Teri Sambajon does a splendid job of turning this song into a lover's sincere request for genuine requited love. The emotion just flows in the way she sings. The guitar ensemble is, as in the usual U Turn fashion, really lovely.

My favorites thus far are "So Much in Love", "For You", "Spend My Life", "Is There Something", "I'd Still Yes" (waaah! senti mode gone mushy-awry. heheh.), "To Love Again" (strike two! Richard really did something wonderful here.)
, and "Penny For Your Thoughts" (with matching piso effect pa!).

Well worth the PhP 260 spent in support of our artists and music industry workers.

Rating: 5/5 - a definite 'buy!'

The strange beauty of Hale's music (and why EMI sucks)
To be honest, I never really liked EMI since they started putting crappy copy protection on their album releases. Even Philips, the Dutch company largely responsible for the Compact Disc, doesn't want EMI putting any marks that says its albums are CDs, saying that EMI's copy protection schemes is already in violation with the Red Book standard, the definition of what should constitute a digital audio compact disc. Thus, this Hale album, along with all of EMI's foreign and local releases of late, do not have any traces of Compact Disc logos on them and should not legally or technically be called CDs. For me, I still call 'em CDs--crapped CDs. EMI's backward decision to employ copy protection that deliberately breaks the audio stream and ruins the listening experience is simply, plainly stupid and unacceptable. Blind listening tests that have been done to compare protection audio from unprotected ones also reveals that some schemes even affect the quality of playback. It is, my friends, *that* crazy and bad.

A lot of good CDs have been damaged this way: Bamboo's debut album, both of Joss Stone's albums, Kyla's most recent album, to name a few... to illustrate, Bamboo's CD uses an earlier copy protection mechanism that still plays in my Sony MP3 Discman, while the Hale disc doesn't. It also doesn't play on the Pajero's Pioneer car CD player. Or on a Philips DVD player. (So, EMI, do you think I still think you guys sux0rs?)

That's too bad, since EMI has some really good artists. (IMHO, they should just pack up and leave for other labels, or better yet, directly sell to the people instead of going through costly middlemen.) That includes Hale.

Hale's story of discovery is nothing short of impressive. After having sent its demo to all the major record labels in the country, only one gave attention to them: EMI. Little did the EMI guys know how successful and influential this band is going to be.

Their first single, "Broken Sonnet", is part poetic, part prose. It was such a hit with the 'not-bakya' alternative-rock listening crowd that for those who just heard Hale over the airwaves, they thought the band was foreign. The warm welcome of music fans was more than the band anticipated. This even grew greater after Hale recently released their second single, "The Day You Said Goodnight". Almost all songs in Hale's self-titled debut are equally good alternative cuts, with distinctive guitar riffs and drum-bass combos.

Personally, listening to Hale's English songs does give an impression of foreign-ness. Really, I am not sure even sure if this qualifies for what most of us call OPM nowadays. (And no, it definitely doesn't even fall under the much older definition of OPM. :)

Choice English tracks include the first six tracks, "Underneath the Waves" and "Runaway". The two Filipino tracks are also equally well worth listening to.

If you could stomach EMI's sick copy protection, then this album is a lovely buy.

Rating: 4.5/5 (-0.5 for the bad, bad copy protection.)

PS. If you already got your authentic copy of this one and would want a clean, unprotected version, just contact me. I'd be more than willing and happy to help you get a pristine copy you can play on virtually any CD player! (And folks, remember, we don't have the DMCA here, so what I'm offering is perfectly legal under our fair use rights.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Whew. A lot has happened since I last posted: my University is taking quite a controversial stand on the issue of GMA's resignation, the CBCP has taken a politically-neutral hands-off approach, and the opposition continues trying to convince Madam President to step down. The CPP-NPA is planning a summer-end offensive, perhaps in an effort to try to take advantage of the situation. More than half of GMA's cabinet (and cabinet-level) officials, once admired for their loyalty, have already flown the coop. The Armed Forces (AFP) is also taking a neutral stand, with Chief of Staff Efren Abu issuing a stern warning against soldiers who would be participating in any unconstitutional effort to remove the President from office. Even Former President Corazon Aquino has repeatedly asked for GMA's ultimate sacrifice to avert a likely disaster of more divisions and rifts across Filipino society.

What does this all of these tell us?

That despite the overwhelming clamor for her resignation (at least in Metro Manila), that despite her steely resolve to stay in office, that despite the continuous bickering over politics...
we are actually arguing over issues we should've had argued over in the election campaign periods. The thing is, never before there has been as much talk over constitutional change, a federal-parliamentary form of government, electoral reforms and other pressing issues. Personally, I think we Pinoys have this nagging bad habit of only tackling problems when they finally come to haunt us.

Debate is healthy; arguing is healthy. (To some degree, that is.) But we must not forget that at the end of the day, the most important thing is not only to see macro-level economic and social improvements, but also to ensure that these improvements trickle down to the micro-, individual levels. Issues such as population and family planning will certainly take the spotlight here, as these need to be taken in consideration alongside the current capability of our government to provide social services to a population that ranks amongst the twenty nations of the world that have the highest population growth rates.

I could only hope with crossed fingers that all this talk will, in the end, translate into action.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

My take on the matter

I'm still standing by my independent fact-finding commission option for my recommendation to Gloria, with her taking an indefinite leave until the commission releases its findings. It just makes everything so much easier: no more partylines investigations, no more trials by publicity, and best of all, no more wrangling over legal issues. At the very least, it will satisfy most, save for a few who will still vehemently oppose it and argue about the recordings bearing the burden of proof of Gloria's cheating (in short, narrow minded). It will also give the Administration a fair chance to get the facts out and for the opposition to air its side of the matter.

this is a view that is also echoed by another economics luminary from the University of the Philippines, Mareng Winnie Monsod of Debate (dĕbătā) fame.

In her op-ed piece, "The 'Truth Commission' option", she highlights several important points that make the case for the need to establish such a commission. It may be a commission composed of representatives from different sectors of society, legal experts and representatives of both the Administration and the opposition. It will take into consideration important facts, and possibly, an initiative to invite another independent, non-biased organization to look into the authenticity and other technical aspects of the recordings being heralded in the public. It should also be given authority to create an independent law enforcement task force composed of police investigators and NBI agents to find the people who are behind the alleged wiretaps. These people will be reporting directly to the commission, and will be taken out of the PNP/NBI hierarchies to ensure a degree of impartiality and avoid having conflicting interests.

I really dunno much about other specifics or even the legality of granting an independent commission powers usually falling under the judicial department of government (DOJ) but hey, its a start.

In the end, I just wish this entire thing ends up well. If Gloria ends up convicted of anything that is illegal, then so be it. I just don't want to see shooting ourselves in the foot just because we decided on an action haphazardly and without much prior thought.