Classical Gas
How deep does the mire of public taste and commercial interest suppurate? Sounding the very lightless estuarine bottom may well be Sony Classical's latest release, Diamond Music, by Karl Jenkins (of Soft Machine "fame"), as performed by the London Philharmonic and the Smith Quartet. TV viewers will recognize the track titled "Palladio" from those De Beers "Shadows" Diamond commercials -- if not upon hearing, then by the shameless CD packaging, which actually brags about the advertising affiliation. Sony Classical allegedly received numerous requests as to the source of the music, and unfortunately we have no reason to doubt them. Yuppies breathed stale life back into the career of Celtic kitsch warbler Enya after her track "Caribbean Blue" was heard on Northern Exposure. While Diamond Music isn't vile (or particularly good), and the unfortunate lack of broad public access to "art music" through any medium save television commercials is unsurprising, discovering that a classical label, like any other, panders for bucks is like being told there's no Santa Claus. Oh -- you did know that, didn't you?

Dubious Honors
Belated congratulations to San Jose band Sunfur for winning the KSJO/Guitar Center "Best Unsigned Band" Competition and the accompanying $2,500 worth of recording time at JK Studios. Guitar Center is, of course, a junk resource chain where, be it the outlet in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, or Los Angeles, you can walk in off the street and hear 35 simultaneous bad attempts at Van Halen's "Eruption" as performed by sallow, long-haired young men who have memorized every gauge and brand of electric guitar string but who couldn't count past 20 without dropping trou. Another Guitar Center hallmark: oleaginous commission-driven sales tactics. A friend of mine in the market for a new Stratocaster, having refused to go above a certain bid, was asked by the smartly dressed, casually ponytailed sales clerk whether he wanted to take out a loan to make up the difference. In other words, winning this particular sort of endorsement from Guitar Center is a bit like snatching top honors for luxury sedan at a monster-truck pull. Oh, well -- caveat emptor. I mean, carpe diem.

Wet Suits
The Aqua Velvets played a Giorgio Armani-sponsored Surfrider benefit on Oct. 25 at the South Coast Plaza Emporio Armani outlet in Orange County. Press releases originally claimed that the Velvets would perform in Armani suits, but for reasons unknown, the band was consigned to wearing "Armani T-shirts" instead. What's the markup on those?

By Michael Batty

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