Norman C. Pickering, Who Refined the Record Player, Dies at 99


(via the New York Times)

by Bruce Weber

…In 1945, Mr. Pickering, who enjoyed listening to records and was frustrated by the sound quality of recordings, developed an improved pickup — that is, the mechanism that includes the phonograph needle, or stylus, and translates the information in the groove of a record into an electrical signal that can be reproduced as sound.

Previous pickups were heavier and more unwieldy; styluses were made of steel, they needed to be replaced frequently, and the weight of the mechanism wore out records after a limited number of plays.

The so-called Pickering pickup (and later, its even more compact iteration, the Pickering cartridge) was introduced just as the favored material for records was shifting from shellac to vinyl, which had a lower playback noise level.

Originally designed for use in broadcast and recording studios, it was a fraction of the size of earlier models, and it replaced the steel of the stylus with a significantly lighter and harder material — sapphire or diamond — which lasted much longer and traced a more feathery path along the record. Because of it, records lasted longer and original sounds were reproduced with less distortion…

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Recommended Albums #67


Von Hertzen Brothers: New Day Rising (2015)

As prog albums go, this is one “from the heart”.

Finland’s Von Hertzen Brothers are at their melodic best on New Day Rising, an ebullient, heartfelt pop prog collection that displays a diversity of musical influence from AC/DC to Pink Floyd.


The band are big fish in little Finland, where they’ve topped album charts and won that country’s Grammy equivalent (2006 Best Rock Album). Neighboring Denmark has embraced them as well. But in this country they are mainly known to fans of progressive rock, some of whom have given this latest effort a tepid reception on the basis of it not being “prog enough” and containing too many songs with love as the theme.

That’s their problem.

The job of this site, I’m happy to say, is simply to identify recommendation-worthy music regardless of genre. So whether the VHB’s have lived up to their “prog” credentials or merely created a very good pop rock album, it’s music worth a vetting if you’re a fan of well-made rock music, which is becoming more of a niche genre every year that rap and bad electronic dance music dominate the stateside charts.

Check out the video for the uplifting and anthemic “Hold Me Up”. While many of the best prog bands can leave you spellbound with great musicianship or epic songs, the Von Hertzens (also known as an impressive live band) clearly demonstrate a charismatic knack that seems to come from not taking it all–or themselves–too seriously.

As drummer Mikko states, “Von Hertzen is German and means ‘from the heart’. That’s what we try to always keep in mind when writing or performing. We feel the music is pretty much useless, if it doesn’t come from our hearts. The point of music, any kind of music, is to create wonderful experiences that are somehow elevating and encouraging. That’s our mission. The music is our instrument”.

Mission accomplished.

Listen to: “Hold Me Up”

Listen to: “Dreams”

Listen to: “The Destitute”

Video of the Week: Adele Goes Undercover as Adele Impersonator


Adele auditions as Jenny, an Adele impersonator, with the help of BBC’s Graham Norton, lots of makeup and a prosthetic chin.

The dialogue between her and the other contestants is priceless…

Impersonator: “Can’t wait for the new album”

Adele: “She’s taking her time”

Another contestant: “Try saying that to her face”

Video of the Week: Nickelblock

Video of the Week: Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ from the BBC, 1971

Neil Young performs “Old Man” on February 23rd, 1971 at the BBC Television Theater on London, prior to its release on 1972’s Harvest album.

The song was written for the caretaker of Broken Arrow Ranch in northern California, which Young purchased in 1970.

Video of the Week: ‘Uptown Funk’ Mashed Up with 66 Old Movies

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and the like are matched up perfectly with Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” in a montage created by Nerdfest UK to promote film preservation charities.

The video was inspired by another which pairs the same song with 100 more contemporary movies:

10 Artists Who Hated Their Biggest Hit


(via Mental Floss)

by Eric van Rheenen

Sinead O’Connor announced earlier this year that she’ll no longer sing “Nothing Compares 2 U” because she doesn’t emotionally identify with the song. O’Connor was hardly the first artist to grow tired of a signature hit.

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