The Friday Morning Listen: Grateful Dead – Blues For Allah (1975)

Yesterday I was sitting in my office when a co-worker rounded the corner and tapped me on the shoulder. As I pulled my earbuds out of their receptacles he said, “Iron Maiden?!!” He knew I was listening to them (The Number of the Beast in particular), not because I had a CD jewel box sitting next to my computer but because I had a Chrome tab opened to Google’s Music Play All Access (Or is that “Play Music All Access”? Seriously terrible name. Might as well have gone with “Steve Jobs Posthumous Nutsack Punch.” At least it would have been kinda funny).

Anyway, yeah…I’d succumbed to the emails and my own curiosity about Google’s new streaming service. What the heck, it’s free for the first month so I thought it’d be interesting to try and check out the latest competitor against Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and the other streaming services that will remain unnamed because I don’t actually know what they are.

First, why was I listening to Iron Maiden? Because I’d been having a Facebook conversation about prayer in schools with a friend of mine who is a huge Iron Maiden fan. She’s also a fan of prayer in schools. Yes, that makes sense. No…really!

OK, so due to work meetings and other annoyances, I didn’t get much of a chance to listen. Later in the day I pulled up The Clash’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope. That was about it. But I did have time to do some searching. I wanted to see what was missing. More important, what was missing compared to Spotify (of which I am a premium user. Or maybe I’m an “unlimited” user. I can never remember because while the difference in service is obvious, the actual name of the product seems like a coin-toss).

A lot of the things missing from Spotify are also missing from Google, and that’s due to the usual contractual issues: no Beatles, no Led Zeppelin, no King Crimson. There was tons of McCartney though. In fact, Google won out there. On the album Run Devil Run Google had all of the songs while Spotify had only two. Pat Metheny’s catalog was similarly hit-or-miss, though I’m tempted to give Spotify the edge just because they didn’t list so many false positives. There were a bunch of items on Google that had little or no relation to Metheny. Very sloppy. And again, though it’s probably the ECM record label’s fault, the album entry of Works actually had only a single playable song. Embarrassing.

I’m actually not here to write a proper review of this service. The most interesting thing about this whole experience was a comment made by my co-worker. When I told him that the Iron Maiden track was being played through this new Google service, we got to talking about streaming services in general. He was taken aback that it would cost a whole $7.99 per month. This isn’t the first time I’ve hear that sentiment and every time it has shocked me a little. Eight bucks is too much to pay to have access to a huge collection of music? Eight bucks?!! Does that mean it should be free? I guess that’s what people have become used to. Can we extrapolate that to books? Should all books be free, now that they’re available digitally?

Personally, I’m kind of excited for these new services. Despite all of their flaws, they’re contributing in their own way to the spread of music, increasing its reach. Music’s coming from everywhere. It’ll never stop.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.