Tuesday, 20 March 2018

"Sweeney's Men/The Tracks Of Sweeney + Bonus Tracks" by SWEENEY'S MEN (September 2017 Beat Goes On 2CD Reissue - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 
- Exceptional CD Remasters
As well as 1960s and 1970s Rock and Pop - It Also Focuses On
Folk, Folk Rock, Country Rock, Reggae, Punk and New Wave
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
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"...Some Pleasures To See..."

Good gawd man - was it really 50 years ago! In truth it's been nearly four and half decades since I last heard these two Transatlantic Records albums from 1968 and 1969 (picked up on them in the early Seventies) and I'd honestly forgotten how good they are – especially the huge leap forward on their second and last studio platter. Typically too - England’s Beat Goes On has once again delivered a stunning Remaster of both in 2017 - making these Irish Folk artefacts all spangly new again and very much ripe for roots rediscovery. But a little history first because these influential Irish and English boys are absolutely steeped in it...

A forerunner of Planxty, Horslips, The Bothy Band and even Moving Hearts - SWEENEY'S MEN initially consisted of three seriously talented individuals deeply enamoured with Irish, Scottish and English Traditional Folk, Americana tales of woe and murder and the occasional European waxy dargle dalliance - Johnny Moynihan, Andy Irvine and Terry Woods. Each multi-instrumentalist also had distinctive voices and tones that made for sweet three-part harmonies when they merged (check out "Dicey Riley").

Musically you’re dealing with two radically different recorded beasts here – the first album is pure Trad Folk – while album No. 2 has its Traditional moments too (instrumentals and covers) – it also has a more Incredible String Band Acid-Folk vibe and reflects the emergence of American and British singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. In fact I’ve always thought the duo should have changed the band name for LP No. 2 such is the difference in sound. With original songs from Terry Wood and some very melodic co-writes with Henry McCullough changing everything – LP 2 feels like a huge leap forward and in 2018 – a bit of an undiscovered masterpiece to my ears.

After the band imploded – they had a huge history especially in the emerging Folk-Rock genre of the Sixties and Seventies. Dubliner Moynihan later joined the ranks of Dr. Strangely Strange for their second album “Heavy Petting” on Vertigo in 1970 (Irvine played on it too as did Skid Row’s Gary Moore), joined Planxty and De Danaan in the early to mid Seventies and The Fleadh Cowboys in the Eighties. Englishman (born of Irish parents) Andy Irvine made a famous self-titled duet album with Paul Brady in 1976 on Mulligan Records (much beloved in the fair city and beyond), joined Planxty too, played with Dick Gaughan, Christy Moore, Patrick Street, Barry Moore (later Luka Bloom), Jimmy Faulkner and just about everybody else on the Irish Folk scene. Terry Woods would split off from Sweeney's Men to form the revered and hugely collectable The Woods Band and thereafter pump out four Folk-Rock albums with his wife as Gay and Terry Woods (she would also later form Auto Da Fe in the Eighties). Woods left after the first Sweeney’s Men album and was replaced by another sessioning English axeman - ex Eire Apparent and future Wings guitarist Henry McCullough who contributed two songwriting co-credits on the second SM album. The original three (Moynihan, Irvine and Woods) are all but Folk and Folk-Rock superstars now in Ireland and beyond. And on it goes.

So let us now appreciate that innocent beginning and get all Pretty Polly on this release (some pleasures to see)...

UK and USA released September 2017 - "Sweeney's Men/The Tracks Of Sweeney + Bonus Tracks" by SWEENEY'S MEN on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1298 (Barcode 5017261212986) offers 2LPs from 1968 and 1969 Remastered onto 2CDs with Four Bonus Tracks (the A&B-sides of two non-album 7" singles from 1967 and 1968) and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (40:51 minutes):
1. Rattlin' Roarin' Willy [Side 1]
2. Sullivan's John
3. Sally Brown
4. My Dearest Dear
5. The Exile's Jig
6. The Handsome Cabin Boy
7. Dicey Riley [Side 2]
8. Tom Dooley
9. Willy O' Winsbury
10. Dance To Your Daddy
11. The House Carpenter
12. Johnston
13. Reynard The Fox
Tracks 1 to 13 are their debut album "Sweeney's Men" - released 1968 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 170 (produced by BILL LEADER)

Disc 2 (45:21 minutes):
1. Dreams For Me [Side 1]
2. The Pipe On The Hob
3. Brain Jam
4. Pretty Polly
5. Standing On The Shore
6. A Mistake No Doubt [Side 2]
7. Go By Brooks
8. When you Don't Care For Me
9. Afterthoughts
10. Hiram Hubbard
11. Hall Of Mirrors
Tracks 1 to 11 are their second and last studio album "The Tracks Of Sweeney" - released 1969 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 200 (produced by BILL LEADER).

12. Old Maid In A Garret
13. The Derby Ram
Tracks 12 and 13 are the non-album A&B-sides of a UK 7" single on Pye Records 7N 17312 released 24 April 1967
14. Waxies Dargle
15. Old Woman In Cotton
Tracks 14 and 15 are the non-album A&B-sides of a UK 7" single on Pye Records 7N 17459 released 30 January 1968

The card slipcase and 24-page booklet add this Beat Goes On 2CD Reissue (BGO) a feeling of class. JOHN O'REGAN does his usual first-rate job of disseminating the tangled history of the band and especially the musical legacy of the core trio of players - Moynihan, Irvine and Woods. You get repros of the original artwork and pages of detailed history - very impressively done. But again the big news is new 2017 ANDREW THOMPSON Remasters that are wonderfully clear and warm - full of acoustic instruments and Bill Leader's complimentary production. These really are beautiful sounding discs...

Apparently recorded in one booze-laden 36-hour session - the debut album "Sweeney's Men" (the band's name is from a Flann O'Brien character in "At Swim-Two-Birds") is traditional Irish and English Folk with an Americana murder ballads twist. The three alternate solo vocals - so Moynihan leads off the first two songs accompanied by his Bouzouki on "Rattlin' Roarin' Willy" - a slip reel with words reputedly by Robbie Burns - while he reaches for the tin whistle on "Sullivan's John" - a travelling tinker song bolstered up by lovely Harmonica from Irvine. "Sally Brown" is the first with Irvine on Lead Vocals - a wey-hey tarry-sailor song where he recalls a one-legged captain in Virginia and a Liverpool liner where he met the lovely Sally (the concertina by Woods gives the air a wonderful wistful feel - similar in fact to tracks on Horslips' debut album "Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part" in 1973).

Terry Woods gets his turn with "My Dearest Dear" - a tune he'd written to lyrics given him by Peggy Seeger. "Dicey Riley" shows their combined talent - all three going at it Acapella. Speaking of that format - Kate Bush fans will know she did a truly gorgeous virtually voice-only version of "The Handsome Cabin Boy" as one of the non-album B-sides to the 12" single for "Hounds Of Love" in February 1986. Here Johnny Moynihan fills his "Handsome Cabin Boy" with harmonica and you can't help thinking that our Kate was listening to the Sweeney's Men as a child.

The second album is the real jewel here for me. Terry Woods penned four originals for the album – the gorgeous strummed Folk-Rock opener “Dreams For Me” as well as “Brain Jam”, “When You Don’t Care Me” and “Afterthoughts”. He also co-penned “A Mistake No Doubt” and “Hall Of Mirrors” with Henry McCullough and Johnny Moynihan and arranged the Traditional Song covers “Pretty Polly”, “Standing On The Shore” and “Hiram Hubbard” with Moynihan. The other Traditional on here is the instrumental “The Pipe On The Hob” – the most straight up Folk song on the LP. But the album’s singer-songwriter heart truly lies with the acoustic-Dylan vibe surrounding “Pretty Polly” – a pleasures you can see tale of American doomed love – over the mountains and the valleys they did go until he slept on her grave all night. In fact you can so hear where Natalie Merchant and Willie Watson got that back-to-basics Americana sound – songs dripping with the ghosts of the past.

Echoes of Nick Drake and his acoustic lonesomeness appear in the lovely “Standing On The Shore” – a seaman recounting faces from the past that are now gone (nothing standing clear). Tom Rush circa "Circle Game" and Joni Mitchell circa "Song For A Seagull" all collide in the gorgeous "A Mistake No Doubt" where high-stringed guitars, strummed zitars and penny whistles all combine to give a gorgeous Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance feel. Taking Leonard Cohen’s poem "Go By Brooks" – Terry Woods give it some mumbler sorrow in a very quiet Acoustic number – rivers and eels and my love walking there. Better is a double of acoustic love songs - "When You Don't Care For Me" (so Nick Drake) and "Afterthoughts" – lone gut-string notes and gently flicked finger-cymbals giving it something of an Incredible String Band and Dr. Strangely Strange feel. This great album ends of two more winners – the not guilty Traditional "Hiram Hubbard" and the second of McCullough's impressive contributions "Hall Of Mirrors" – echoed strums and a recorder once again making your hear the influence of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. The four impossible-to-find single sides are pure diddly-idle Irish Folk with a witty twist – a man wooing his lack of marriage prospects and so on.

Both original LPs are listed at £90 in the Rare Record Price Guide of 2018 – but try actually finding copies. They must have sold squat at the time because from experience I can recall only seeing either sporadically across the decades that I ran the Rarities Dept. in Reckless Records in London – a busy, busy store for stock. Transatlantic began a reissue campaign in 1977 and put out “The Tracks Of...” LP in different coloured artwork - but minus the “Afterthoughts” song on Side 2. Even that’s listed too as a rarity.

So – two hard-to-find but worth it records (one being an undiscovered gem in my books) – and four uber-rare single sides – and all of it in gorgeous audio and proper presentation kudos – I'm giving it five stars. More importantly I'd urge you to check these out and don't feel they’re just 'Folk' per say – that last studio platter is so much more than that. At Swim Two CDs...

Monday, 19 March 2018

"Blank Generation" by RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS (November 2017 Rhino '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 2CD Reissue - Greg Calbi Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 300+ Others Is Available In My
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1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 
- Exceptional CD Remasters
As well as 1960s and 1970s Rock and Pop - It Also Focuses On
Folk, Folk Rock, Country Rock, Reggae, Punk and New Wave
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 

"...Another World..."

Kentuckian Richard Lester Meyers (Rick Hell to you and I) made the front cover of the NME I remember in April 1977. But British fans of the American New Wave icon would have to wait until October of that year for his Sire Records debut album on vinyl (released the month prior in his own USA).

Despite not charting in any real way in either territory – the album has garnished a hardcore following ever since – a reputation far past four decades of influence (and rightly so methinks). It was famously recorded in March 1977 at New York’s ‘Electric Lady Studios’ – but dissatisfied with the results – the bulk of it was re-recorded three months later at Pizza Studios. To this end Rhino USA have chosen to honour the ex Television and Heartbreakers original and his superb and ballsy account-opener with a '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition'. It sports a Remaster of the released 10-track album on CD1 and 12 Rare Tracks on CD2 – some of which are those first version discards and live CBGB cuts from an audience cassette (most Previously Unreleased). It really was another world back then - here are the two takes...

UK released Friday, 24 November 2017 (reissued 16 February 2018 with a ‘Record Store Day Exclusive’ stickered sleeve) - "Blank Generation" by RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS on Rhino 081227932787 (081227932787) is a '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 2CD Reissue (Remastered album on CD1 with Twelve Bonus Tracks on CD2) that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 'ORIGINAL 1977 ALBUM REMASTERED' (33:34 minutes):
1. Love Comes In Spurts [Side 1]
2. Liars Beware
3. New Pleasure
4. Betrayal Takes All
5. Down At The Rock And Roll Club
6. Who Says? [Side 2]
7. Blank Generation
8. Walking On The Water
9. The Plan
10. Another World
Tracks 1 to 10 are his debut album "Blank Generation" - released September 1977 in the USA on Sire Records SR 6037 and October 1977 in the UK on Sire Records 9103 327. Produced by RICHARD GOTTEHRER and RICHARD HELL - it didn't chart in either country

Disc 2 'BONUS TRACKS' (35:01 minutes):
1. Love Comes In Spurts (Electric Lady Studios Alternate Version)
2. Blank Generation (Electric Lady Studios Alternate Version)
3. You Gotta Lose (Electric Lady Studios Outtake Version)
4. Who Says? (Pizza Sound Studios Alternate Version)
5. Love Comes In Spurts (Live At CBGB in New York, 19 November 1976)
6. Blank Generation (Live At CBGB in New York, 19 November 1976)
7. Liars Beware (Live At CBGB in New York, 14 April 1977)
8. New Pleasure (Live At CBGB in New York, 14 April 1977)
9. Walking On The Water (Live At CBGB in New York, 14 April 1977)
10. Another World (Ork Records Version from 1976)
11. Oh (Original 2000 Release)
12. 1977 Sire Records Radio Ad (1:03 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 12 are Previously Unreleased

RICHARD HELL - Bass and Lead Vocals
ROBERT QUINE - Guitars and Background Vocals
IVAN JULIAN - Guitars and Background Vocals

The gatefold three-way-foldout card digipak certainly looks the 'You Make Me...' part (close up that shirt pal) - the album's original inner sleeve collage of photos splashed across the inner flap. Disappointingly there are no photos beneath the see-through CD trays (missed a trick there boys) - but the 24-page booklet makes up for it with pictures of master tapes from the two key recording venues - Electric Lady and Pizza Studio - along with period snaps of Richard with Guitarists Bob Quine and Ian Julian, Richard's September 1977 diary pages (CBGB's gigs), period adverts and even a note from fans promising things to the lead singer that no young boy should be promised. The first half of it gives us a personal account of his earlier life including the four years Hell struggled with The Neon Boys and Television and then onwards to a track-by-track explanation (very illuminating). That's in turn followed by an interview with Ivan Julian (20 July 2017) where Hell is queried on Tour Dates, memories of his European and British tours, growing up in Washington and so on. There is a final page of New York reminiscences by Susanne Savage (also one of the reissue’s producers) putting the American Top 10 Singles in 1977 into context. Safe and perfect bands dominated from February to November as opposed to what was going on with New York's noisy boys giving it some angry short-sharp-shocks as they aired the frustrations of a blank generation (take it or leave it each time). You also get the lyrics, reissue credits and so on. My copy also sports a ‘Record Store Day Exclusive’ sticker because it was bought in 2018. Very nice...

While that’s pictorially pleasing – the real deal here for me is a new GREG CALBI Remaster that gives amazing power and clarity to that wall of US Punk and New Wave that keeps coming at you - track after track (he was the original mastering engineer on the 1977 LP). Quine's guitar solo in the Blues Punk Waltz of "Betrayal Takes Two" for instance is even more scuzzy than I remember - and amen to that. Calbi is more famously associated with Supertramp, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney Remasters – but he's also done Television's 1977 masterpiece "Marquee Moon" and that's a total magnet for me...

Coming over as a snottier version of Television - musically Richard Hell and his Band had that New Wave voice and stance down - making him especially instant NME hero-worship material right from the off. That 'attitude' comes screaming out of "Love Comes In Spurts" as he roars about being fourteen and a half with the innocence of "Love Me Do" and "All You Need Is Love" just not cutting it anymore. Smiling lies, pompous jerks and ridiculous creeps get short shift in "Liars Beware" - the song stretching to unforgivable Prog Rock length of 2:58 minutes. Those opening guitars in "New Pleasure" are seriously good now - the rhythm section feeling like they're in your living room - sublime poses indeed. I absolutely love that guitar sound Quine gets in "Betrayal..." (bit of a mini operatic masterpiece that song) and the sheer uh-huh scotch 'n' soda fun of "Down At The Rock And Roll Club" is still exciting. Both "Blank Generation" (dig those guitar jabs) and a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Walking On The Water" seal the album's greatness for me - making a John Fogerty song sound like it was a Voidoid tune all along. "Another World" gets all Talking Heads guitar wacky while Hell sings in his 'oh baby oh' best Stranglers-sleaze voice. I could live with you in another world, not this one. And you believe him...

What of the Bonus Material? Although its hard now to dislocate myself from album tracks I’ve known and loved for so many years - there is an amateur-hour feel to the Electric Lady recordings of "Love Comes In Spurts" and "Blank Generation" that don’t actually enhance the kick - but somehow lessen it. I can so hear why they were dropped. At least the Pizza Studios Alternate Version of "Who Says?" is a goer equal to its released version. But "You Gotta Lose" has to be surely worth the price of admission alone – an outtake where mum is a pinhead and God is away on holidays. What a find this track is!

The November 1976 CBGB live cuts are crude and rude (an audience cassette) and just a notch above bootleg quality – while the ones from a year later (April 1977) fare only a tab better. The six-minute 1976 US single of "Another World" on Ork Records 81976 (Richard Hell only credit) is another decent Bonus – but amazing that no one thought to repro its rare Picture Sleeve in the booklet. The final Voidoids recording "Oh" from 2000 comes 24-years after the event (same line-up) and yet cleverly reclaims that grungy sloppy feel of the 1977 songs. The 'no matter how you say it' radio advert for the album is cringingly awful but Hell (no pun intended) - it was American Radio in 1977...

Great remaster of the album, about half the Bonus Tracks actually worth owning and a decent presentation/price. Makes me want to...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

"Let The Electric Children Play: The Underground Story Of Transatlantic Records 1968-1976" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (August 2017 Esoteric Recordings 3CD Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 300+ Others Is Available In My
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 
- Exceptional CD Remasters
As well as 1960s and 1970s Rock and Pop - It Also Focuses On
Folk, Folk Rock, Country Rock, Reggae, Punk and New Wave
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs

"...Tear Down The Wall..."

For those of us who wouldn't know a Belgian 'Marsupilami' from a Mushrump 'Gryphon' or indeed a Marxist 'Humblebum'  - thank God there's Cherry Red Records of the UK and their Satanically loony as a Buckled-Pentangle label offshoot – Esoteric Recordings.

Men of twisty beards and impeccable taste, ladies of dangerously short skirts and Laura Ashley Saleswoman of the Year Awards and paisley-trousered accountants who really should stop doing Peruvian dancing dust in the bijou toilet area - have put together the 3CD Mini Box Set that is "Let The Electric Children Play: The Underground Story Of Transatlantic Records 1968-1976".

It's the kind of barmy musical journey that will have your partner wondering why she married you - and as she listens over Sunday's Brisket to The Deviants rabbiting on about a "Metamorphosis Explosion" or CMU waffling omnipotent about a "Song From The 4th Era" (what happened to the other three you ask) worry that maybe the mercury that's been in your teeth all these years really does need to finally come out. It's all a bit mad and very eccentric and fantastically tear-down-the-barriers adventurous stuff - if you feel my planetary drift man. Let's get to the English Underground before the Eurocrats in Brussels tell us it’s the wrong shape and colour...

UK released Friday, 25 August 2017 - "Let The Electric Children Play: The Underground Story Of Transatlantic Records 1968-1976" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32600 (Barcode 5013929470040) is a 39-Track 3CD Clamshell Box Set of Remasters that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (77:31 minutes):
1. We Can Swing Together - ALAN HULL (non-album A-side of a December 1969 UK 7" single on Big Tree Records BIG 129, B-side is Track 8)
2. 11 B.S. - CIRCUS (from their 1969 UK debut LP "Circus" on Transatlantic Records TRA 207)
3. Midsummer Nights Happening - THE SALLYANGIE [with Mike & Sally Oldfield] (from their 1968 UK debut LP "Children Of The Sun" on Transatlantic Records TRA 176)
4. Light Flight - PENTANGLE (from their 1969 third UK LP "Basket Of Light" on Transatlantic Records TRA 205)
5. Billy The Monster - THE DEVIANTS (from their 1969 UK debut LP "The Deviants" on Transatlantic Records TRA 204)
6. Paint It Black - JODY GRIND (from their 1969 UK debut LP "One Step On" on Transatlantic Records TRA 210, a Rolling Stones cover)
7. Norwegian Wood - CIRCUS (from their 1969 UK debut LP "Circus" on Transatlantic Records TRA 207, a Beatles cover)
8. Obadiah's Grave - ALAN HULL (non-album B-side of a December 1969 UK 7" single on Big Tree Records BIG 129, A-side is Track 1)
9. Lucifer's Cage - GORDON GILTRAP (from his 1969 UK LP "Portrait" on Transatlantic Records TRA 202)
10. Once I Had A Sweetheart - PENTANGLE (from their 1969 third UK LP "Basket Of Light" on Transatlantic Records TRA 205)
11. Metamorphosis Explosion - THE DEVIANTS (from their 1969 UK debut LP "The Deviants" on Transatlantic Records TRA 204)
12. Saturday Roundabout Sunday - THE HUMBLEBUMS [Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty] (non-album A-side to a 1969 UK 7" single on BIG T Records BIG 122 (B-side was "Bed Of Mossy Green")
13. Makin' Time - LITTLE FREE ROCK (from their 1969 UK debut LP "Little Free Rock" on Transatlantic Records TRA 208)
14. Mona (A Fragment) - MICK FARREN [of The Deviants] (from his 1970 UK debut solo LP "Mona - The Carnivorous Circus" on Transatlantic Records TRA 212, a Bo Diddley cover)
15. Plastic Shit - JODY GRIND (from their 1970 UK 2nd LP "Far Canal" on Transatlantic Records TRA 221)

Disc 2 (78:34 minutes):
1. All In Your Mind - STRAY (from their 1970 UK debut LP "Stray" on Transatlantic Records TRA 216)
2. Born To Be Free - MARSUPILAMI (from their 1970 UK debut LP "Marsupilami" on Transatlantic Records TRA 213)
3. We've Had It - JODY GRIND (from their 1970 UK album "Far Canal" on Transatlantic Records TRA 221)
4. Mice And Rats In The Loft - JAN DUKES DE GREY (from their 1971 UK album "Mice And Rats In The Loft" on Transatlantic Records TRA 234)
5. Homage To The God Of Light - PETER BARDENS (from his 1970 UK album "The Answer" on Transatlantic Records TRA 222)
6. Around The World In 80 Days - STRAY (from their 1970 UK debut album "Stray" on Transatlantic Records TRA 216)
7. Mendle - MR. FOX (from their 1971 UK album "The Gypsy" on Transatlantic Records TRA 236)
8. Prelude To The Arena - MARSUPiLAMI (from their 1971 UK album "Arena" on Transatlantic Records TRA 230)
9. Don't Ever Give Up Trying - UNICORN (from their 1971 debut album "Uphill All The Way" on Transatlantic Records TRA 238)
10. Reflection - PENTANGLE (from their 1971 UK album "Reflection" on Transatlantic Records TRA 240)
11. Skin Valley Serenade - SKIN ALLEY (from their 1972 UK album "Two Quid Deal" on Transatlantic Records TRA 260)

Disc 3 (73:33 minutes):
1. Tear Down The Wall - PETER BARDENS (from his 1971 UK debut LP "Peter Bardens" on Transatlantic Records TRA 243)
2. Son Of The Father - STRAY (from their 1971 UK LP "Suicide" on Transatlantic Records TRA 233)
3. Don't Count Me Out - GERRY RAFFERTY (from his 1971 UK debut solo LP "Can I Have My Money Back" on Transatlantic Records TRA 241)
4. Rick's Seven - SKIN ALLEY (from their 1972 UK LP "Two Quid Deal" on Transatlantic Records TRA 260)
5. Song From The 4th Era - CMU
6. A Distant Thought, A Point Of Light - CMU (tracks 15 and 16 from their 1973 UK LP "Space Cabaret" on Transatlantic Records TRA 259)
7. The Ungodly - DECAMERON (from their 1975 UK LP "Third Light" on Transatlantic Records TRA 304)
8. Fair Fortune's Star - CAROLANNE PEGG [of Mr. Fox] (from her 1973 UK debut LP "Carolanne Pegg" on Transatlantic Records TRA 266)
9. Move It - STRAY (non-album version on the A-side of a 1973 UK 7" single on Transatlantic/Big T BIG 516 - B-side was "Crazy People")
10. Shelter - RENIA (from the 1973 UK LP "First Offenders" on Transatlantic Records TRA 261)
11. Opening Move - GRYPHON (from their 1974 3rd UK LP "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" on Transatlantic Records TRA 287)
12. Journey's End - DECAMERON (from their 1975 UK LP "Third Light" on Transatlantic Records TRA 304)
13. Criminal World - METRO [featuring Duncan Browne] (from their 1976 UK LP "Metro" on Transatlantic Records TRA 340)

The Mini LP Sized Clamshell Box contains a jam-packed 48-page booklet where compiler, co-ordinator and researcher MARK POWELL deals with each artist and band in alphabetical order (taking a leaf from the booklets within the Decca. Deram and Vertigo box sets from Universal). Paragraph after paragraph provides deep insider detail and all of it sided by stacks of repro'd memorabilia- album covers, UK, US and European Trade Adverts, concert tickets and even hand-written bills on headed Transatlantic Records paper. It's beautifully done and must have involved serious amounts of research hours (well done to all involved). Long-time label associate and Audio Engineer BEN WISEMAN has done the transfers - each Remaster full of air and muscle. The sources as you can imagine vary, but little of it feels underwhelming - stuff like the Hard Rock of Stray vs. the delicacy of Unicorn by way of the full-on Prog of Peter Bardens - it's all strong and most times belies the labels limited Production budgets. To the mixed-up confusion...

Disc 1 opens with Lindisfarne's Alan Hull issuing a solo 45 in 1969 on Transatlantic's 'Big T Records' - "We Can Swing Together" (the B-side is Track 8 on Disc 1 "Obadiah's Grave"). The lyrics are angry - the law breaking down doors, county judge sending the boys to jail, laughing as they walk towards the cell - all of it acting as a defiant-attitude opener. Just as you were about to get comfortable with all that witty Newcastle swinging from the rafters in natty pubs - in creeps Circus with six and a half minutes of the challenging "11 B.S." - a very Prog-Jazz instrumental featuring Mel Collins on Saxophone (he would shortly after depart for King Crimson). English countryside prettiness come sin the shape of the dreadfully twee yet sweet "Midsummer Right's Happening" by The Sallyangie - famous for housing Sally and Mike Oldfield - one of them dreaming of bells and ridges etc. Far better is the sexy swing of "Light Flight" from Pentangle followed neatly by two wild covers - Jody Grind going hell for leather at the Stones' "Paint It Black" - a version mad enough that surely Jagger would approve of it - and then Circus giving us seven minutes of Rubber Soul's "Norwegian Wood" like you've never heard it (fuzzed-up guitars ala Crimson saxophone) - nice. Other Disc 1 goodies include Gordon Giltrap's wonderful acoustic slasher "Lucifer's Cage" where he lays into what sounds like a twelve-string - virtuosity and Bert Jansch flourishes coming at you from every angle. Tim Hinkley of Jody Grind guests on "Makin' Time" by Little Free Rock - easily one of the weakest cuts here. Better is Mick Farren of The Deviants going at Bo Diddley's "Mona" in a suitable grungy shimmering guitar manner accompanied by clever Cello slashes ("hey Mona, let me run away and lie with you..."). It ends on the very Punky "Plastic Sh**" from Jody Grind where our boy goes all Stooges-angry on environmental destruction (wicked raw guitar). 

Disc 2 is the longest playing time of all three so Stray's "All In Your Mind" may run to over eight minutes - but don't let that fool you into thinking its some Prog-tastic minuet - it's a straight-up rawk tune with more than a few elements of Stooges Punk in its effected guitar solos - very impressive stuff. Things return to trippy on the excellent "Born To Be Free" by Marsupilami - great musical ideas abounding. Acoustic Guitars and English madrigal melody greet us on "We've Had It" - Holland's melodious instrumental beginning then becoming a sort of early Gryphon meets Genesis Prog Rock moment. "...Moonbeams danced on the night..." we're informed in a high-pitched voice during "Mice And Rats In The Loft" - Jan Dukes De Grey giving it some nine-minute guitar-and-drums wig out. Camel's Peter Bardens gets to show his inner doom on "Homage To The God Of Light" - another fast-paced Prog number where guitars vs. keyboards battle it out for thirteen and half minutes (Van Der Graaf Generator fans will eat this up). Things calm with Stray's mellow "Around The World In 80 Days" - together on our magic carpet ride. Other highlights include the melodic acoustic Folk-Rock of "Don’t You Ever Give Up Trying" by Unicorn – a proper-tunes band (like say Badfinger) admired by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour who would go on to produce Unicorn’s next three albums - "Blue Pine Trees" in 1974 on Charisma and two on Harvest - 1976's "Too Many Crooks" and 1977's "One More Tomorrow". And don’t get me started on the genius of "Reflection" – the title track to their fifth and last album for Transatlantic Records where Pentangle use violins and Danny Thompson’s Double Bass in what could be described as a Prog Rock ethereal drifter (all eleven minutes-plus of it). Skin Alley tidy up Disc 2 with the very Jethro Tull flute-driven "Skin Valley Serenade".

Disc 3 brings us from 1973 onwards and the production values increase even though Peter Barden's opener "Tear Down The Walls" flanges your speakers to a point where it grates the listen. Better is Stray's "Son Of The Father" which starts out like an anti-war chant but soon becomes enveloped in Mellotron and Guitars (yeah baby). Stepping out of his Humblebums duo - Gerry Rafferty shows an early sign of melody-writing brilliance in his "Don't Count Me Out" - a cut off his debut LP. Skin Alley gives us "Rick's Seven" sounding not unlike early Rush with a restrained Steve Marriott at the microphone. Contemporary Music Unit (CMU to you and I) are probably the most 'out there' melodic Prog outfit on here (which is saying something) and their brilliant and imaginative twofer "Song From The 4th Area" and "A Distant Thought, A Point Of Light" are full of bodies changing, astral travelling through the Universe and generally becoming one with galactic consciousness (as you do at the cosmetics counter in Boots on a Saturday). Folkies Decameron follow with "The Ungodly" – questioning authority types and ‘may God forgive them’ unholy decision-making. Carolanne Pegg of Mr. Fox gives us ten minutes of "Fair Fortune’s Star" – a master in the woods tale of woe and warning that feels like Fairport Convention giving it some "Tam Lyn". Another ten-minute extravaganza of playing virtuosity screams of out your speakers in gorgeous remastered form in the shape of Gryphon and one part of their four-piece Chess Suite "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" – very Greenslade meets Genesis meets – well Gryphon. It all ends on the odd Folk-Pop of Metro – a Duncan Browne band that is held in affection to this day – their Brian Protheroe Eighties sounding music defying its 1976 recording date.

What a ride – even though I'm fairly sure some will say of bands on here - what a pile of indulgent tut. But isn't that the point. "Let The Electric Children Play: The Underground Story Of Transatlantic Records 1968-1976" is aimed at those who want to explore – remember days when music like this could be recorded – when we actually did tear down the walls - when we reached for it and sometimes got 'there'.

"...Flowers...coming into bloom again...as lovers and as friends...there’s no reason now to be afraid..." – Decameron sing on the lovely "Journey's End". This stuff should be remembered and I for one will welcome Electric Play 2...

"Neil Young" by NEIL YOUNG (August 2009 Reprise/Neil Young Archives/Original Release Series (NYA - ORS) HDCD Reissue - John Nowland and Tim Mulligan Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...The Loner..."

Over the last two decades in particular - Neil Young fans have had their reissue patience sorely tested by their moody overlord. Canada’s finest has famously resisted the remastered reissue of his huge catalogue on CD because of what he feels is the format's less than stellar representation of analogue tapes' 'original sound'. But you have to say right from the audio start of these August 2009 CD reissues/remasters - the wait for these first quartet of solo albums - "Neil Young", "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", "After The Gold Rush" and "Harvest" - has absolutely been worth the endless delays and press hissy fits.

What a magnificent job his transfer teams have done here. JOHN NOWLAND carried out the Audio Tape Restoration and Analog-To-HDCD Digital Transfer of the Original Master Tapes (24-Bit 176 KHZ) with TIM MULLIGAN taking care of the Editing and Mastering. These remasters are not bombastically loud - trebled up to the nines for the sake of it - they're subtle - the music is just there in your speakers to a point where everything seems new and up for grabs again. Fans will love it and feel like they're revisited long cherished old friends - while newcomers will now understand what all the 5-star fuss is about.

Released August 2009 – "Neil Young" by NEIL YOUNG on Reprise 9362-49790-3 (Barcode 093624979050) is a straightforward transfer of his 10-track debut solo LP (36:25 minutes):

1. The Emperor Of Wyoming [Side 1]
2. The Loner
3. If I Could Have Her Tonight
4. I've Been Waiting For You
5. The Old Laughing Lady
6. String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill [Side 2]
7. Here We Are In The Years
8. What Did You Do To My Life?
9. I've Loved Her So Long
10. The Last Trip To Tulsa
Tracks 1 to 10 are his debut LP “Neil Young” – released January 1969 in the USA and UK on Reprise RSLP 6317 (reissued in 1971 in the UK on K 44059).

A nice touch on the outer jewel case is the sticker that came with original issues of the American LP that bore the logo “The Buffalo Springfield’s Neil Young” as well as the “A Classic Neil Young Album Remastered From The Original Analogue Master Tapes – Because Sound Matters” gold sticker that is generic with all four of these first reissues. The 12-page booklet reproduces the hand-written lyrics that came with original LPs and not much else unfortunately. This is Disc 1 of 4 and carries the HDCD code on the label and rear inlay (High Density Compact Disc). NYA ORS is the Neil Young Archives - Original Release Series. As these are the first four albums in a long reissue campaign - to identify them from older non-remastered CDs - the upper part of the outer spine has his new NYA OSR logo at the top and an 'issue' number beneath - D1, D2, D3, D4...on upwards of course.

His self-titled debut LP (written at the tender age of 23) has of course been eclipsed over the years by the more illustrious albums "After The Gold Rush" and "Harvest" from 1970 and 1971 - but real fans will want to start here. While I can live without the countrified "The Emperor Of Wyoming" - I still find "The Loner" astonishing in the way that the first Zeppelin album is - powerful, punchy and still rocking today. It's kind of shocking that even though Reprise coupled it with "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" as it's B-side - it failed as a UK 7" single on Reprise RS 23045 in September 1969.

I love the Jack Nitzsche arrangements on the magical "The Old Laughing Lady" with Ry Cooder on Guitar and the wonderful singer Merry Clayton on Backing Vocals. The channel separation is harsh (the way it was recorded) but the clarity is fabulous. "What Did You Do To My Life" sounds like a top Buffalo Springfield outtake from their patchy 3rd album while the acoustic guitars on the epic "The Last Trip To Tulsa" are so clear - as is his warbling treated vocals - frail and aching.

What I love about this remaster is that it’s somehow brought the album alive - and now begs rediscovery. And things only got better with the next three – “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”, “After The Gold Rush” and the mighty “Harvest” (which I’ve also reviewed along with the 2012 4-disc bundle “Official Release Series Discs 1-4”)...

PS: have also reviewed the 3LP set "Decade" from October 1977 on Reprise Records. It covered 1966 to 1976 and included five Previously Unreleased tracks as well as single-side rarities from CSNY and a Buffalo Springfield cut featuring Dr. John. See other review... 

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