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Let the opinions fly. (12/12a)
Decking the halls with hip-hop. (12/12a)
Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten start a label. (12/12a)
The Max factor. (12/10a)
Ron Perry makes another major hire. (12/12a)
Wow, they really are nerds, huh?
What does it all mean? What did it cost? Answer the second question first.
It's fine, really. We'd just like to feel our extremities again.
A sweet and creamy vehicle for the intoxicating liquor that blocks out the agony of the holidays.
Critics' Choice

By Phil Gallo

The explosion of boxed sets and expanded editions of classic albums that we expect every fourth quarter gets a bit of a jolt this year. Not just because of the superstar names among the releases—The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix—but in the ambition of the sets to go beyond alternate takes and live tracks.

The box sets related to Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, The Beatles’ “White Album” and The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland are no ordinary packages. They have a mission—a goal to tell a story of how an album was made from the sketches forward to the experiments in the studios to how these decades-old tapes would sound with the aid of modern technology.

In each set, the listener is treated to a bit of myth-busting in the original album's story. The Apple/Capitol/UMe five-CD plus one Blu-ray version of The Beatles strips away the notion that John, Paul, George and, on occasion, Ringo, were working in isolation, a group album in name only. Instead this set, released today, reveals a quartet forging a new way to work that begins with fully structured demos and time in a studio to toy with textures, non-rock influences and instrumentation. It was their first album without manager Brian Epstein and, ultimately, their first to stretch beyond the regimented system of producer George Martin.

“We were striding out in new directions with a map,” Paul McCartney writes in the expansive book that houses the discs. Best evidence to his point: The included version of George Harrison’s glorious “Not Guilty” is Take 102.

The 27 songs that constitute the Esher demos, named for the town Harrison was living in at the time, reveal the sharpness of their songwriting skills; the three CDs of session outtakes display how far they were willing to try new ideas, everything from playing “Revolution” at different speeds, intensifying the grit in “Cry Baby Cry” and “Helter Skelter” or seeing how to properly capture the poignancy of “Good Night.” The original release is presented in a new mix from Giles Martin and, much like his work on Sgt. Pepper, the instruments sound cleaner and the voices are moved closer to the center and away from the edges of the sound field.

The six-CD Columbia/Sony Legacy Dylan box, which came out last week, reveals how prepared he was to make an acoustic album when he entered a New York studio in 1974 armed with songs such as “Idiot Wind,” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Buckets of Rain.” The original recordings, raw and often emotional in a way that was camouflaged by added echo in the official Blood on the Tracks, sound rehearsed and ready to go. The decisions that lay ahead were mostly about phrasing, lyric editing and accompaniment.

Of all of Dylan’s Bootleg Series, this is Vol. 14, this one reveals the greatest sense of purpose at the starting point: There are no dramatic tempo changes or reshaping of songs, just the fine-tuning of 10 of the best songs in his oeuvre. It allows the listener to imagine how different the album might have been were it issued at the speed of the recording—tapes were sped up about 3%—minus the echo engineer Phil Ramone added and with just Tony Brown’s bass behind Dylan’s voice and guitar. The only flaw in this vital collection is the lack of unused Minneapolis recordings, seemingly gone forever.

The Hendrix set, too, provides us with a new starting point for the best album of his short career. Electric Ladyland, the fable goes, owed to Hendrix inviting musician friends into the studio for jams, shunning bandmates Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell and tirelessly reaching for “perfection” before giving the OK to press the vinyl.

On the three-CD/one Blu-ray Experience Hendrix/Legacy release, also out today, his demos recorded solo at New York’s Drake Hotel and, with a band, at Sound Center Studios and the then-brand new Record Plant reveal the solid foundation he laid before exploring the new directions he would take with the trio. Jimi’s voice is so extraordinarily relaxed on the demos; the guitar playing is never less than stellar.

The set includes two intense “Rainy Day, Dream Away” jams, a 10-minute effect-free “…And the Gods Made Love” and a sensuous solo “Gypsy Eyes” plus a live recording from the Hollywood Bowl that provides a contrast between the Experience as a live act and a studio band.

With so many classic albums hitting their 50th anniversary in the next few years, one has to wonder how many albums could stand up to this scrutiny. How many albums were the result of magical moments in the studio and how many were the result of hours of experimentation, rewrites and, as we see in Dylan’s use of studios in New York and Minnesota, a change of scenery?

It’s probably an anomaly that three boxed sets offering this type of insight show up at one time. They had stories hidden in the vaults and fortunately the overseers—Jeff Rosen and Steve Berkowitz for Dylan; Jonathan Clyde and Guy Hayden for The Beatles; Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott for Hendrix—were able to tell each one beautifully.


 Interview by Michelle Santosuosso

Who is Mr. Sherbinski, and why are so many music artists singing his praises?

He’s a bit of a legend in the cannabis world, known for his cultivation expertise and for having founded the premium cannabis brand SHERBINSKIS out of San Francisco. The brand produced one of the most celebrated buds in modern-day marijuana history: the Gelato strain.  It’s been a cult favorite among musicians for the last decade, memorialized in the lyrics, beats and vibes of John Mayer, Migos, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign and Lil Uzi Vert, just to name a few.  Now, with a Fairfax Blvd. storefront coming in 2019 and a full new product line launching 11/15, he wanted to chat about being among the first cannabis brands to showcase at hip-hop lifestyle showcase Complex Con. But his wires must have gotten crossed when he reached out to HITS’ Michelle S instead… stoner!

You were one of the first cannabis brands ever to exhibit at Complex Con. How did that come about, and what was your goal with the exposure?
I feel that we’ve been pushing the envelope and I think that everybody on my team has the same vision. The way streetwear is so popular, like Supreme—we’re all fans of Supreme—it seems they’ve been able to build by keeping things exclusive and hype. That’s really what this is. With Complex Con it’s about letting people know, “We’re here; this is what we’re about.”

We’re a lifestyle brand. But we’re a licensed company in the California cannabis business and there are guidelines we have to abide by. In the Complex event, we told them there would be no sales and no on-site consumption. We want to follow the rules and make sure we represent our brand, and also Complex Con, the right way. I want every smart entrepreneur who uses and smokes cannabis but doesn’t want to be associated with these old-school kind of dirty bong, dirty room kind of feel that many people associate with it. I want them to realize that cannabis is high-class. Some of the smartest, most creative people in the world are cannabis users, and I want to represent those people. When they come and see my brand, I want them to feel like, “Yes. This is tasteful; it resonates with me.” I think that’s the lane we’re on right now.

So many artists namecheck your custom strains. John Mayer wrote an entire album about it. Famous Dex, Migos and Travis Scott have all given notable shout-outs. How did you get the music community so involved?
Early on, when I started, I was working with Cookie Fam in the Bay Area, you had artists like E-40, B Legit and other old-school Bay Area artists rapping about cookies. You’re hearing it in the songs because the connection was, when they go in the studio, they want to be able to smoke something that we call “tapping in.” That universal energy the dopest music comes from. When I told you I smoked that and it touched a part of my soul I’ve never felt touched before—that’s real talk. 

When we show up, Sherbinskis World White Glove, we don’t bring pounds of weed to the studio. We’ll come by and give an ounce—this is a me-to-you gift. People respect it. You see a lot of these companies giving away loads. To me, that was never my approach because I wanted that genuine connection with the artist. Going back years, rappers and even going back to jazz music, these artists would smoke a joint back in the '30s and '40s. That was an association with cannabis before it was legal. Cannabis has always been part of creating that experience.

Some of the smartest, most creative people in the world are cannabis users, and I want to represent those people.

We were growing at this dope vibe after [1996’s passage of medical marijuana legalization initiative] Prop 215; people were working together collectively and legally. We started posting our pictures on Instagram and no one really saw weed that looked like that. It was the way we were taking the pictures, the quality of them. We started pushing every time we posted: #CookieFam. #Berner415, #Sherbinksi415. Berner went up to 600k followers within the first year of Instagram.

We never marketed it; we never even had a logo. Our whole brand was really our bag. We called it the “turkey bag swag” because we’d come through and you’d be in the studio. It could be Chris Brown in the studio. He’d pull up in a Lamborghini... women... he’s just fly. He’s the guy. He’d pull out his bag, then we’d pull up and we’d pull out our bag and it was just like, “Holy shit.” They don’t give a shit about the cars; they don’t give a shit about the girls; they want the best weed. If you have the best weed, you have that turkey bag swag. Through that, rappers are freestyling about their life, culture, what’s around them. What are they talking about? The strain of Gelato. Because it’s one of the coolest things in their life.

We fast-forward to people like Migos and Young Dolph, who actually named his entire mixtape Gelato. It’s integrated into our culture in a way that, to me, is spiritual. It humbles me because it’s why I dedicated my life to this plant, because truly it transcends our understanding. We have receptors in our body that are only there for cannabinoids. We have a connection with cannabis that is integrated into our DNA. That’s the facts.



By Phil Gallo

After a night of looking at pictures of Lou Reed, John Cale and their co-horts from the 1960s, one can surmise The Velvet Underground never took a bad picture.

Those black turtlenecks and the slim shades—the epitome of mid-60s lower Manhattan cool—was their uniform of choice, obviously, and with Andy Warhol as a guide, they tuned into the power of image as readily as the power of the drone.

Perhaps you already had the VU at the top of your list of cool, but a new multi-media art and music exhibition in New York drives home the central role of photographic iconography that defined the act as much as its experimental twist on rock & roll. Short on memorabilia, artifacts and rare recordings, The Velvet Underground Experience is a banquet of photos that starts with each member’s childhood and moves through the band’s eventual breakup in 1970. Visited during the opening night party, with “I’m Waiting for the Man” seemingly on an endless loop, the exhibit is rich in detailed information; a second visit is needed to fully take in the voluminous amount of material.

It’s very much the Lou and John show, and A film on the lives of Reed and Cale prior to their forming the VU is one of the exhibit’s must see stations. Still, ample space is allotted to Maureen Tucker, Sterling Morrison, Nico and Doug Yule along with the visual artists associated with the VU.

The exhibit, set up at 718 Broadway through 12/30, starts with historic photos of Greenwich Village, Allen Ginsberg, folk musicians and protests, suggesting that these events and individuals were key to the VU’s origins. What we don’t see is much of are the places where the band made its name, chiefly Warhol’s Factory, the Chelsea neighborhood and the Lower East Side where Cale worked with La Monte Young and others in the modern classical world.

Opening week events include a Q&A with Cale tonight in the new Bandsintown Studio in the building, and a concert by The Feelies on Saturday at White Eagle Hall in Newark, N.J.