May 17, 2008

The only disadvantage I have seen in replacing my DISH Network satellite setup with DirecTV is in the music channels. Working from home, I prefer music to the TV as background noise, and our second, non-HD TV in the gues bedroom is pretty much only used for playing music on the DirecTV channels.

Side note: It’s not just me who prefers music to the TV, our rabbit Cosmo does as well – in fact, when given the run of the house during the day, if there’s no music playing he will gravitate to the front dining room; if there is music on, you’ll find him in the guest bedroom. Kinda funny, I think.

But I digress.

Unlike most people, I’m supposing, I find the Sirius music channels offered on DirecTV to be somewhat lacking compared to what was offered on DISH Network. On DISH, I especially enjoyed the “Tropical Breezes” channel (which mixed Caribbean steel music with Jimmy Buffett songs), the Hawaiian music channel, and the New Orleans channel, which mixed traditional blues with some ragtime and stride piano. All were great.

The one channel I have found myself enjoying on DirecTV, however, is called Escape. The best way to describe what the Escape channel plays is “muzak” – you now, the old fashioned kind music you used to find in the early FM radio days before the rather (to my ears, anyways) dull and formula-heavy stations offering “New Age” and “Smooth Jazz” (listen to any Kenny G song and you’ll know what I mean) became the new background music of the 21st century.

Second side note: actually, there’s no such thing as true background music anymore. Go into any supermarket and you’re likely to find anything from Alanis Morisette to Led Zeppelin to Bobby Darin or Bob Dylan playing – something I find incredibly annoying, as if there’s a song you absolutely hate there’s no escaping if you have a shopping cart full of groceries and you’re third in line at the checkout counter.

But I digress.

The kind of music featured on Escape is the old-style kind of muzak one used to find in elevators and supermarkets played by “beautiful music” FM stations (in Boston it was the old WJIB) – you know, orchestra and soft-vocal arrangements of songs anywhere from the ’40s to the early ’70s. On these kind of stations you’d find string-heavy arrangements of anything from movie music to popular music to instrumental hits, and, unlike most teens at the time, it was my chosen station to set my clock radio to.

And I found the music great – Bert Kaempfert’s “Wonderland By Night”, Pete Fountain’s “Stranger On The Shore”, “Flamingo” played by anyone; that kind of stuff. Oh sure, you’d get the occasional annoying Anne Murray song, but you’d also get Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, the Ray Conniff Singers, Mitch Miller, or Frank Sinatra tossed in among string arrangements of every Beatles tune imaginable. Hokey, I suppose, but I really liked it.

And that’s what the DirecTV Escape music channel is all about. A little heavier on the soft hits of the 1970s than the old WJIB might have been, but the same kind of stuff. Relaxing, nothing to make you think much (which is good because it allows me to focus on work), but good background noise. And Cosmo likes it a lot.

Oh there are quibbles – after all, how can you play the original version of, say, John Denver’s “Calypso” and play an instrumental version of Olivia Newton-John’s marvelous “I Honestly Love You” (a GREAT tune and one of her very best, BTW)? But I do get to hear the occasional Heb Alpert tune (which is always great) and some fine standards thrown in.

Call The Great White Shank’s taste in this kind of music sappy if you will, but it recalls the music of my youth and happy times – family cookouts in the back yard, Saturdays when my parents would clean the house, and times far less stressful, hectic, edgy, and complicated than they are now.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:50 | Comments Off on The (Sometimes) Great Escape
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