Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Red Taylor Swift's Latest Album Release

Taylor Swift's latest Album, Red dropped October 22, 2012

One of the things that I respect Taylor for is that she is one of the few truly creative young singer-songwriters on the scene today.  Like Justin Bieber, Taylor got her start on YouTube as THAT is one of the social media places up and coming artists hang out to exchange ideas and music.

Taylor using AT Mics
Her latest endeavor, Red, is her latest full length album under Big Machine Records recorded in Nashville, TN (Blackbird Studios, Pain in the Art Studios).  This is Swift's fourth studio album since her last commercially successful release in 2010 of  Speak Now.

Taylored Style
I'd have to say that Taylor's pure vocals and effervescent style merge country and pop seamlessly so that neither emerges as dominant. She writes and sings about what she knows which she revealed on the Ellen Degeneres Show includes horrible intuition in picking the right guy!
Women can relate to those love lost themes and men wish they could have a chance on Taylor's arm.  

The first track, State of Grace right out of the blocks reminds me of an updated version of the iconic Bruce Springsteen E-Street Band anthem, Born to Run.

The album title Red, is one of my favorites. "Loving him was burning red..." I think most can relate to someone who made us feel that way especially if they were the one we didn't end up with.  Both Treacherous and I Knew You Were Trouble are honed from the same theme.  Taylor's propensity to lead with her heart instead of her mind.  The album has its share of slower ballads, which I am not terribly enamoured with but they are done with tenderness and virtuosity.   I really like Track number 6, 22 (Keep dancing like we're 22) as it has a great beat and reflects my feelings when I'm skating.  Actually I feel like I'm 15 when skating but you get the idea!  Likewise I really enjoyed Track #9, Stay, Stay, Stay.

Taylor has time for the old slow stuff.  Dollie Pardon is the queen of country ballads and while Taylor has nothing to be ashamed of vocal-wise, her youth and exuberance are better showcased with more upbeat and even quirky offerings.  A great example is the music video featured below.  Check out the cool Autoharp cameo!

We're Never Getting Back Together Again

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Singing Machine Pedestal Karaoke System

The latest pedestal Singing Machine delivered to my studio in time for the holidays!
As soon as fall hits, I look forward to spending more time in the studio, working on my vocal tracks and doing some recording.  Last month was my birthday so my wish was to get a new Karaoke System.  I reviewed my first Singing Machine in 2009.  That was the iSM 1010 which was purchased at Sam's Club. I loved that thing and we did use it for lots of studio sessions and holiday parties.  The only problem is that after a while, (about 2 years) the CDG player stopped working properly.  The music and mic would cut out. Maybe it was due to the fact that I didn't have it plugged into a power surge strip like my other musical electronics.  Whatever the case, it no longer worked properly and there is only a 90 warranty on it.  Customer service was of no real help and I've seen similar complaints about this company's karaoke products/service online.

Surge Protection
So before plugging this new unit in, I purchased a surge protector and so far so good but I will keep you posted on what happens. Even with a surge protector, I unplug all of my electronics during a lightening storm.  Since I owned the previous model, I can tell you a bit about the differences & similarities between the two.  First the similarities:

Both have very good sounding twin tower speakers with tweeters 
Both have both a plug in and a remote mic
Both have random play, program, repeat track features
Both allow you to dock your iPhone, iPod, etc. to stream music
Both have a 7 inch full color screen, (it will also play videos from your iPhone, iPod like a television screen)
Both have a FM Radio and AUX settings
Both are built somewhat thin plastic parts

The new iSM1028XI Singing Machine
The unit is made in China and suitable for home use, not professional KJ work although we had many parties with it.  The Singing Machine is made of lightweight plastic and simply not sturdy enough for heavy use or taking on the road.

The Differences:
The newer model Singing Machine, iSM 1028XI does not have a built in video camera as did the previous model. It was poor quality anyway so unless you really enjoy seeing yourself singing on the 7 inch screen, you could do with out it.
I will say that the quality of the microphones has improved but the only vocal effect is still echo which can be turned up to +4.  There is a key control allowing you to raise or lower the pitch of the song by four increments. You have to open the CD player door manually, (the previous model had a button) and there are a few more controls to adjust the brightness and color quality of the screen.

The Take Away
I prefer sending lead vocals through a studio mic
The Singing Machine is what it is.  You can read other reviews on the web telling how these machines broke right after the 90 warranty was up.  I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt however as I have had other electronics that weren't surge protected get fried after the terrible lightening storms we so often have in the north east.

I like having the graphics and lyrics right there for studio practice but prefer to use the Singing Machine for the music and back up vocals while using Audio-Technica studio mics for the lead.  The lead vocals are sent through my Voice Tone Create and Roland Stage Amp stack.  If I am playing guitar, I plug into my guitar amp (Tech21 NYC) so the result is a full surround sound with the different parts beings picked up by the various mics and coming through multiple amps.

I also like to just sit on a stool and sing through the Singing Machine with the headphones on. This really gives you an intense vocal workout and with the iPod docking feature, I'm able to access many more Karaoke songs via YouTube.  I've gotten so much enjoyment from this karaoke system that I took a chance and replaced it but as mentioned before, took extra precautions and invested in surge protection.  Take it out for home birthday, Christmas and New Year's Eve parties and you have an instant ice breaker.  Karaoke is VERY popular and having two microphones included with this unit allow for duets and harmonizing.  Think about getting a Karaoke machine for your home for the upcoming holiday season. 

Fall is studio-time!