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Buyer beware.

The Rockologist: Confessions Of A Music Burnaholic

I can't help myself. I love burning music off of the Internet. However, it does get me into trouble sometimes.

A couple of years back for example, I loaded my computer up with so much spyware downloading stuff off of peer to peer sites like Limewire and Bearshare (remember them?) that I managed to fry my hard drive and had to buy myself a brand new computer.

So you'd think I would have learned my lesson, right? Au contraire, grasshopper.

Since that unfortunate incident, I've tried to be more careful. I've limited my downloading to things that friends send me, and to mostly trustworthy sources like Megaupload and Rapidshare.

I also want to set something straight right from the get-go here. I don't "steal" commercially available music. In fact, I actually prefer CDs to MP3 files and the like. A perfect case in point was Radiohead's In Rainbows. Like everybody else, I took advantage of the download option when it was offered (I paid five dollars for it).

But this was only because it wasn't being offered on CD at the time. When the album finally was released on CD, I bought it the day it came out. And you know what? It sounded so much better than the MP3 version, it was almost like hearing it for the very first time.

This is why I prefer CDs to MP3s. I do know that the so-called "lossless" formats like FLAC and MP5 can equal CD quality. But when you are downloading music the standard for now is MP3, and until that changes I doubt very much that I'll be changing my mind.

But anyway, I digress…

The type of music I like to download is that which is commercially unavailable, or what we used to refer to back in the day as bootlegs. If, like me, you are a hardcore Springsteen fan for example, you know that his best live stuff has never been officially released and that there are numerous great radio broadcasts and soundboard recordings from his legendary tours in the seventies and eighties out there that are ripe for the picking.

Winterland '78 or Nassau 1980, anyone? Hey, I can't help it if Springsteen's management or the record company refuses to put these out — even though they are amazing shows, and there are great recordings of them available out there with the click of a mouse.

So last week, a buddy of mine tipped me off about a site called Quality Boots.

I'm not gonna reveal the URL here, and trust me, you don't want to know anyway. On his recommendation, I went there to download a Pink Floyd show I'd been seeking for awhile, where the songs that would eventually show up on the albums Wish You Were Here and Animals were still being worked out in concert under titles like "Raving And Drooling" and "You Gotta Be Crazy."

Anyway, long story short, it happened again.

My attempt to download the precious cargo instead gave me the gift that keeps on giving in the form of some particularly vicious malware. You know, the type that replicates itself all over your screen, and won't let you access anything else. It's kind of like the cyber version of waking up with an STD after that drunken night with the ugly girl you met when it was last call at the bar. You'd think you'd learn your lesson, but of course you never do.

Fortunately, I caught it soon enough this time around that I was able to save my computer — but it did require a trip to the shop, and a $400 bill at exactly the time I could least afford it. Just color me another victim of the recession and we'll leave it at that, okay?

I was also without my computer for a week, which is not a good thing — particularly if you are a Blogcritics editor or are looking for a more gainful full-time job. Your friendly neighborhood Rockologist presently falls into both of these categories.

So last night, I got the computer back and I'm happy to report that it's as good as new. But I also couldn't resist getting a new CD burner, and I'll give you just one guess as to the first thing I did once I got everything hooked back up.

Don't blame me. Blame Patti Smith.

After relaxing by kicking back with a few brews and watching a concert DVD of a 1978 Patti Smith concert in Europe, I just couldn't resist surfing the net to see just what was out there in the way of live Patti Smith. Sure enough, I found a great show from the same tour and burned myself a disc of it.

Patti Smith was just an amazing performer back then with her mix of punk rock attitude and stream of consciousness poetry. I'll never forget when I saw her at Seattle's Paramount Theatre in 1978, or the way she knocked me clean on my ass from the opening notes of "Rock And Roll Nigger." She delivered it with all the fire and brimstone of a Baptist preacher preaching a rock and roll apocalypse.

To this day it amazes me how Patti Smith can on the one hand deliver a great rock and roll song like that one, and is on the other hand the woman behind the beautifully abstract poetry of something like "Birdland" from her landmark album Horses. I'd marry her were it only possible.

Anyway, that's how it usually starts and this night was no exception.

From there it was on to Springsteen. Since I've got most of the live stuff, my latest mission has been to find the studio outtakes. And damned if I didn't locate the motherlode tonight in the form of Lost Masters, a multiple disc collection that puts the officially released Tracks collection to shame.

Seriously, this thing is a history lesson. There's really cool stuff like "Summer On Signal Hill," an undiscovered E Street Band instrumental gem circa The River, as well as songs in their embryonic stage like "Candy's Boy" that later would become — well, you know.

Then there is a guy like Steven Wilson, who releases so much music with his bands No-Man, Blackfield, Bass Communion, and his main group Porcupine Tree that it's hard to keep track of it all. Wilson is a guy who I am absolutely amazed is not a much bigger star than he is. The guy is not only multi-talented and prolific as all hell, but he does his thing across multiple genres, from the ambient drone of Bass Communion, to the avant-pop of No-Man, to the prog-metal of Porcupine Tree.

Anyway, in this case, the only thing I found was a great concert I'd not heard yet recorded on the tour behind the last PT album Fear Of A Blank Planet. I'm just finishing that one up right now.

So, like I said, I just can't help myself.

I love burning music off the Internet. Hopefully this time around it wont get me into any more trouble. Live and learn, I guess.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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