Monday, September 15, 2003

More on the Man in Black. Jimmy Guterman's tribute to Johnny Cash in today's Globe is one of the better ones that I saw over the weekend. He writes:

Cash transcended limits cultural and political, not just music. Cash wrote a novel based on the Gospel of Paul and shared racy jokes with death-row prisoners; Cash had both Bob Dylan's and Richard Nixon's home phone numbers. His ability to get on the same level with different groups seemed infinite.

CNN last night rebroadcast Larry's King's last interview with Cash, from last November, to mark the release of his final album, American IV: The Man Comes Around. Larry is his usual disconnected self. After reading an intro about Cash's new album, he engages his guest about his health problems, then asks:

KING: Can you sing?

CASH: Well, as well as I ever could I guess.

Earth to Larry: how do you suppose he made the album?

A better choice would be Terry Gross's interview on Fresh Air, which was rebroadcast on Friday, the day that Cash died. Not only is Gross a considerably more perceptive and sympathetic interviewer than King, but the show was taped in 1997, when Cash was in better health. I caught the last 15 minutes, and look forward to hearing the whole thing.

Finally, you can watch the entire video of Cash's "Hurt" by clicking here.

Legal limits. I love the Apple Music Store, but until this weekend I had only bought a few individual songs here and there. On Saturday, I bought Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around. It was simple and painless, but far from perfect.

Mainly it comes down to a matter of value for price. I paid $9.99, which isn't bad. But by the time I had burned it to a CD and stuck it in a jewel case, I was up to $11. today advertises American IV for $13.49. So what did I give up?

  • Art. The songs downloaded as though I had purchased them individually, with none of the packaging that I would have gotten if I'd bought the actual CD. I've seen bootlegs on the Internet where you get a chance to download art, cut it out, and stick it in the jewel case just as though you'd bought it in a store. Yet all Apple gives you is a low-res image of the cover that shows up in iTunes.
  • Credits. At the moment, the Apple Music Store is a Mac-only phenomenon, and the only way you can access your music (before transferring it to a CD or an iPod) is through iTunes. Yet Apple doesn't even take advantage of iTunes' database capabilities by filling in songwriting and production credits. Maybe 12-year-olds don't care, but 47-year-olds do.
  • Sound quality. Okay, my ears can't tell the difference, but the AAC format that Apple uses, though supposedly better than MP3, is still compressed, and thus doesn't carry as much musical information as a regular CD.

Innovative though the Apple Music Store is, when it comes to buying a full album, you're paying almost as much as you would in a store -- and giving up quite a bit.

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