On Wednesday August 23, 1995 at 9:00 PM, WVIA-FM (89.9) marked another milestone in the station's history with the 1000th weekly album review written and presented by George Graham, one of the station's founders and host of Mixed Bag.
Since the station first signed on in the spring of 1973, Graham has been reviewing a new contemporary music album each week and producing a 10-minute feature providing information and biographical data on the artists, observations on how the music fits into to current trends, and plenty of opinion on the music as well as on factors such as sound quality and level of performance. These radio productions go beyond print music reviews in that they provide musical excerpts to illustrate the commentary.
Graham began the series as a short feature on an morning magazine program that was part of the station's early schedule. Since May of 1974, shortly after Mixed Bag became a daily program on WVIA, the album reviews have been a constant Wednesday night fixture, offering information and opinion of albums in the remarkably wide variety of styles that are part of Mixed Bag, from straight rock to blues, folk, world music, Celtic, Cajun/Zydeco and New Age. Following the broadcast of the review, most or all of the reviewed album is played allowing listeners to form their own opinions. Graham says he hopes that after listening to the review, the radio audience might be able to get more from listening to the record.
The first review, in April of 1973 was of Joni Mitchell's For the Roses. Shortly thereafter Graham reviewed Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon when it was first released. (The album became the longest-running LP on the Billboard album charts.) Graham gave it a lukewarm review, "which I still stand by," he adds. While most of the albums singled out for praise have remained the kind of memorable but obscure recordings that are the Mixed Bag staple, many of the reviewed albums gave gone on to hit status, often months or years after they were featured on the series. Examples of artists featured long before their commercial success include Rickie Lee Jones, U2, Suzanne Vega, Bobby McFerrin, Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt and the currently-popular Rembrandts (reviewed in 1990). Over the years, several of the artists whose albums were reviewed have contacted Graham with notes of appreciation, and a few up-and-coming performers have gone on to appear live on the WVIA's Homegrown Music concert series.
Graham began his radio career in 1968 at WDBS at Duke University in Durham, NC, where he served as program and music director. After graduation in 1972, he returned to his native Northeastern Pennsylvania to join WVIA, then in the process of planning WVIA-FM, which took to the air the following April. Graham, with his engineering degree, had originally been brought in to design and build the station's studio facilities, but his music background also was quickly put to use by the station. He presented the station's early folk, jazz and contemporary music programs. The album reviews grew out of the morning "magazine" a program with numerous short, informational features intersperced between music. The reviews moved to their Wednesday night tileslot when Mixed Bag became a daily feature in May of 1974.
Over the years, Graham's reviews have been published by regional magazines, and are currently available over the Internet.
Recent reviews have covered new albums by Little Feat, Fairport Convention, rock & roll piano great Johnny Johnson, singer-songwriter Patty Larkin, and the highly original French vocalist Marc Beacco. Each review is selected from the very newest album releases, so listeners are invited to tune in Wednesday to hear the CD Graham will feature for the 1000th review.
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