on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 21 Nov

The Butterfly Effect

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags:  8 Comments

I figured out what happened. As many of you know, quantum physics asserts that there is a kind of dividing line every time an event or choice is made and all other decisions, possibilities etc are lived out in alternate realities. Somewhere perhaps there is a Brian Whistler who won that $56 million lottery. Somewhere there’s a Brian Whistler who didn’t make it out of a life and death situation in the wilderness two summers ago. Somewhere there’s a Brian Whistler who decided to give up chocolate. And somewhere a certain election had a different outcome.

I figure what has happened is we have fallen into an alternate reality in which we are now living out an extremely improbable time track in which an arrogant, narcissistic monster ascends to the American throne. In countless other alternative universes Brian Whistlers, friends and countrymen and women are enjoying the relief of dodging a bullet. Just not here. So that explains a lot …

My other theory is borrowed from that Ray Bradbury story in which big game hunters can travel back in time in order to shoot a dinosaur at the precise moment it was going to die of natural causes, thus not upsetting the timeline. In present time, there is a similar election to the one we just had, in which a smart, experienced candidate is running against a total buffoon. The smart one is favored to win by a landslide. The protagonist goes back in time and bags his dinosaur but in doing so, accidentally steps off the floating path he’s supposed to stay on. He gets back and notices the writing on the office door is all screwed up, phonetically written as though by an 8 year old. Then he sees the newspaper with the bold headline splashed across the top, declaring the idiot had won the race. Puzzled how everything could’ve changed so drastically, he looks at the bottom of his shoe, where he discovers a squashed butterfly.

So alternatively, I figure someone must have stepped on a butterfly.

So, I’m listening to a lot of music to raise my spirits these days. I’m also prone to escapism in fantasy books and movies. Sci fi, horror, anything to escape the real world horrors that undoubtedly await us.

I’ve rediscovered one of my favorite Weather Report albums, Tale Spinnin‘, newly reissued on SACD by the wonderful folks at Audio Fidelity. I had thought I already had the ultimate version on the Japanese 2007 remaster, but this one surpasses it. This album has always represented an affirmation of life, the old Man in the Green Shirt dancing in sweet wise elderjoy, the mystery and exotic magic of Badia, the urban loneliness of Five Short Stories, the icy heat of Freezing Fire.

Originally, when I bought this album back in 1975, I thought it a bit of a letdown after the cosmic ecstasy that is Mysterious Traveler. I picked it up a year later and recognized it for the masterpiece it is. It’s the perfect balance of freedom and compositional discipline. Unfettered and yet well organized, there isn’t a dull moment or misstep on the entire album. Ever since, it’s has been my go-to album whenever I feel like a dodged a bullet, survived an illness, avoided dying in a sticky predicament in the wilderness etc. I light candles and dance to it in the dark. I find it very redemptive.

This new Tale Spinnin‘ is understated in the high end when compared to the 2007 remaster – consequently is doesn’t grab your attention with exaggerated sizzle in the cymbals, nor does it pump up Alphonso’s Johnson’s bass. So at first I was unimpressed. But repeated listenings gradually revealed what’s actually there, a crisp and balanced mix without cheap tricks such as overuse of compression or pumped highs and a big bottom. Something magical happens when you don’t exaggerate the high or low end: you begin to discover the creamy mids. This SACD edition reveals so much of what’s really going on on this recording, that once I loaded the CD player onto my portable listening device, I was blown away by the separation of instruments and detail I heard on my headphones. And the SACD layer is even better.

My only dismay is that since this album was only one of two WR albums released in glorious quad, the quad layer is not included in this release. I inquired with Audio Fidelity and their response was, they just „couldn’t get it.“ (From what I’m hearing in the quad blogosphere, that means they just didn’t want to pay for it.)

Luckily, a wonderful man is practically giving away (for a $3 donation) incredibly well decoded DVD audio transfers of quad albums on I have found so many wonderful treasures there in the pop, jazz and classical realms- it’s really the subject for another post. It’s a good site for anyone who enjoys multichannel recordings. Anyway, he has a wonderful decode of this album up there. It’s well worth checking out. And incidentally, if you ever have the opportunity to pick up the officially released quad Sacd of Mysterious Traveler, go for it. The original quad mix by Ron Malo is clear and ungimmicky, and offers tremendous insights into the individual parts that make up the many layers of that mix. This is what quad is all about.

While we’re on the subject of uplifting albums to help me forget He Will Shall Not be Named, I’ve really been enjoying the Pat Metheny Group release, Imaginary Day in 5.1 Dvd audio. This one according to Metheny, was meant to be heard in surround sound, and really benefits from the spatial magic that only surround can impart to a mix. It’s a very dense mix, in a way the Pet Sounds of jazz albums. It was hard to come by a copy as it’s out of print, but well worth picking up. It sounds so freaking good. And the album is so expansive and spirited in the first place, at times I almost feel I’m in an alternate time line!

This entry was posted on Montag, 21. November 2016 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ha, it’s so seductive to speak of TAIL SPINNIN‘ that I hesitated to make the small correction, Brian. Now the parallel universes and time travel aspects of your text lead to the gist of MANAFONISTAS, kind of.

    And it’s nothin‘ elitist and exclusive speaking about the magic of a lot of quad and 5:1-remixes – keeping in mind that music still can transport its magic via midwave radio hiss and cheap ghettoblasters and mono vinyl.

    Now, I followed the ways of Weather Report from the start and always regarded MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER as their peak. I loved, too, I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC, BLACK MARKET and SWEETNIGHTER. And, like it happened to you for a short span of time, TALE SPINNIN‘ dissolved in the back of my mind, forever and a day, in my case.

    So I’m hesitating to give it a second chance. Loving great surround mixes (if the mixing lives up to my love for the record in question) from Jethro Tull to King Crimson, I’m still doubting the extra value of the Stereo SACD, because the record didn’t catch my attention when it had been released. The tales were not spinnin‘, so to speak. But then, they never got a chance to grow :)

    Mhm … – how much I would love to hear an authentic surround version of MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER.

    Let’s speak of guilty pleasures: I do own a surround version of one of the easiest easy listening albums in jazz history, and I simply bought it for fun, and because it was, at its time (and that may sound like a paradox) quite adventurous in its simplicity and its uninhbited will to please. Yes, it was the one of Grover Washington Jr. with the studio version of THE TWO OF US on it. Jazz for candles and red wine in a red wine world.

    And, surprise, I liked it for its unsurpassable softness and decent percussion. Fair enough: to enjoy it full scale, you have to be a little bit drunk in a room with two or three candles. Its testosterone level is so low that sex seems to be the perfect counterpoint.

  2. Jochen:

    It´s absolutely comprehensible that Weather Report works as an antidote to the „He Will Shall Not be Named“. Same with PM – Imaginary Day is an album I always appreciated.

  3. Brian Whistler:

    Well, I am a complete Weather Report freak. There’s probably not a Weather Report album on vinyl, CD or for that matter, a performance on DVD that I don’t own. (That goes for Shorter or Zawinul.) So I don’t speak rapturously about Tale Spinnin‘ lightly.

    Although it is hard to top the freedom of the first album, I Sing the Body Electric, Sweet Nighter or the majesty of Mysterious Traveler, Tail Spinnin‘, although somewhat tighter compositionally than its predecessors, still possesses the spontaneity and freedom of early Weather albums, while adding the funkier rhythm section to ground it to the earth.

    I don’t know what it would be like to approach this music without having absorbed it for the last 40 years as I have, but I would think it would be a marvelous rediscovery. And there is no better way to hear it than on this new sacd. I also highly recommend the quad version Richard Ford is practically giving away on his site,

    It may not be what it could’ve been, it’s still quite impressive – blessings on the nerds of the earth!

  4. Brian Whistler:

    And I don’t mean to shamelessly promote my own project, but I would like to share my latest tune with my fellow Manafonistas. No need to purchase – you can stream it. With this release I’m halfway to finishing my album. This is the title track as it captures the essence of the whole album. Onwards. / natural-compass …

  5. Lorenz:

    Hello Brian,
    thank you for sharing your fine music here. I enjoyed listening to it very much!

    No surprise, ´cause I admire the work of the percussionist/multi-instrumentalist STEVE SHEHAN for a long time. From his record „arrows“ (nearly 30 years ago but for me still a timeless, vivid masterpiece) up to his latest release, focussing on the „hang“ or his various collaborations with the „hadouk trio“, baly othmani and many other musicians all over the world. He played percussion for Jon Hassell, Paul Simon and many others – even the „other Brian“ mentioned time and again on this side.

    Perhaps you already know him. If not – I´d like to recommend also the documentary film about him „Assikel – from bali to baly“ which can be seen full lenght here

    P.S. My favourite Weather Report Disc is „8.30“. The version of „Black Market“, when the Saxophone appears the first time and the song nearly explodes – that´s my dearest WR-moment.

  6. Rosato:

    Weather Report reloaded today!

    Listening to my favorites Tale Spinnin and Mysterious Traveller which seem like brother and sister (especially Badia & Jungle Book and the energizing Man in the Green Shirt & Cucumber Slumber)

  7. Brian Whistler:

    Hi Lorenz,

    Thanks for listening I to my tunes. don’t know Steve’s music, but I intend to check it out. Always on the lookout for new things. Especially if they are tuned percussion related, which is my obsession. I wish I had hang. Those were very good samples on that tune, but played on a Malletkat, which is like an electronic marimba. I play piano, vibes, all sorts of hand percussion and all sorts of kalimbas.

    I do have a rare instrument called the Array Mbira, made by a couple of friends down in San Diego. It’s a monster with 128 notes. The tone is gorgeous. So far, I haven’t incorporated it into any of my tunes. But Im about to. Maybe the next piece, which is far more electronic than the others so far in this collection.

  8. Brian Whistler:

    … and yes, I think of Tale Spinnin‘ and Mysterious Traveler as close to one another, although Tale Spinnin seems more of the earth, while Mysterious Traveler always seemed to be of the sky. That painting on the cover was of comet Kehoutek, which many of us thought was a seed that was going change consciousness of the whole planet, like a sperm fertilizing an egg!

Manafonistas | Impressum | Kontakt | Datenschutz