Wednesday, 29 March 2017

"Tarkus: Deluxe Edition" by EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER (2016 Mastered BMG 2CD Set Reissue - With 2012 Steve Wilson/Andy Pearce & Matt Wortham Remixes/Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...A Time And A Place..."

Some fans have noticed that this reissue malarkey has gone a bit Donald Trump on ELP - spend, spend, spend – then blame someone else.

'Deluxe Edition' 2CD sets of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Island Records catalogue appeared in 2012 with Steve Wilson and Andy Pearce Remasters and Remixes galore. Those supposed 'definitive' issues were going to put out to pasture numerous reissues on Sanctuary that went before in the 80s through to the 00's.

Yet here we are again in July 2016 (itself reissued March 2017 too). But there's a subtle difference that I feel should be pointed out - the 2016 mastering fro both discs is new and just that bit sweeter in my less than humble opinion. These reissues sound utterly amazing – but let's get to the gun-totting armadillo details first...

UK released 27 July 2016 (reissued 1 March 2017) - "Tarkus: Deluxe Edition" by EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER on BMG/Leadclass BMGCAT2CD2 (Barcode 4050538179996) is a 2CD Reissue containing both 2012 Versions by Steve Wilson and Andy Pearce with new 2016 Andy Pearce mastering and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - "The Original 1971 Album (2012 Remaster)" - 38:42 minutes:
1. Tarkus [Side 1]
(i) Eruption
(ii) Stones Of Years
(iii) Iconoclast
(iv) Mass
(v) Manticore
(vi) Battlefield
(vii) Aquatarkus
2. Jeremy Bender [Side 2]
3. Bitches Crystal
4. The Only Way (Hymn)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion)
6. A Time And A Place
7. Are You Ready Eddy?
Tracks 1 to 7 are their second studio album "Tarkus" - released June 1971 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9155 and June 1971 in the USA on Cotillion SD 9900. Produced by Greg Lake and Engineered by Eddy Offord - it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 9 in the USA. 

Disc 2 - "The Alternate Album (2012 Steven Wilson Stereo Mixes)" - 50:47 minutes:
1. Tarkus [Side 1]
(i) Eruption
(ii) Stones Of Years
(iii) Iconoclast
(iv) Mass
(v) Manticore
(vi) Battlefield
(vii) Aquatarkus
2. Jeremy Bender [Side 2]
3. Bitches Crystal
4. The Only Way (Hymn)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion)
6. A Time And A Place
7. Are You Ready Eddy?
8. Oh, My Father
9. Unknown Ballad
10. Mass (Alternate Take)

The 16-page booklet includes new 2016 interviews with all three musical prodigies – and just before Keith Emerson passed in March 2016 and then tragically – Greg Lake in December 2016. Well-known writer and musicologist CHRIS WELCH fills in the rest of the details – William Neal's amazing drawings of flying pterodactyls with guns, missile-bearing lizards and a scorpion-tailed Manticore (they'd adopt their record-label name from this track) - all of which are complimented by the Armadillo Tank with Propulsion Tracks out front. With the album's title 'Tarkus' spelt out in parched animal bones – the three musician names didn't even appear on original album covers. There's witty anecdotes about the no English Greek sandwich lady who kept interrupting sessions no matter what – so much so that her cries of 'am or cheese' to the band was left on the record ("Are You Ready Eddy?"). There's discussion on the organ at St. Mark's Church in Finchley that's featured on "The Only Way (Hymn)", the influence of Jazz Musicians Lenny Tristano and Dave Brubeck on Keith's playing and style - Greg coming up with the name (a possibly more vengeful Tarka The Otter). The inner gatefold artwork of the 1971 album is reproduced in the centre pages - but it's sloppily a Manticore reissue version and not the 1971 Island Records original.

The audio was done by Andy Pearce fro Disc 1 and Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson for the Alternate Album on Disc 2 - but hey key here is that both have been mastered in 2016 by ANDY PEARCE for this reissue and I'd swear that his tweaking has made the transfers more substantial, clearer and given them less of a clinical sheen. I've never heard this Progressive Rock LP sound so good. Let's get to the music...

Side 1's 21-minute 7-part "Tarkus" Suite opens with a real dawn-of-man lead in - before exploding into wild keyboard stabs in 5/4 time. It soon settles into a prolonged solo - and when those staccato Moog and Drum jabs kick in at about eleven minutes - the remaster is huge. Lake gets his guitar parts towards the end and his 'let there be no no pain' lyrics. "Jeremy Bender" is a fictional London Spiv brought to life my Keith's barrelhouse piano and Greg's witty lyrics. Inspired by Dave Brubeck's "Count Down" - "Bitches Crystal" races along in 6/4 time - Lake singing of tortured spirits and ghostly images while Keith lashes into more alehouse piano. Bach's "Toccata In F Major" provides the inspiration for the churchy "The Only Way (Hymn)" which in itself segues into the funky Prog swing of "Infinite Space" - a piece of Piano Jazz inspired by Lennie Tristano. ELP get King Crimson heavy with the buttermilk cream of "A Time And A Place" before they bring it all to a finish with the rather silly and out-of-place cod Rock 'n' Roll of "Are You Ready Eddie?" (turn those faders down).

I wasn't expecting the "Oh, My Father" Bonus Track to be so good - four minutes of Greg Lake examining his relationship with his Dad - the words never spoken - no more time left to speak them. It's an Acoustic/Electric Guitar ballad - sad and beautiful and moving. Both it and the equally melodic "Maybe It's Just A Dream" simply don't fit in with the Pure Prog of the LP - but that doesn't step from being alarmingly pretty given the harsh iconoclast music that's preceded them. The harmony vocals and pretty piano playing will thrill ELP fans. There's a count-in to the Alternate of "Mass"  - section four of the seven-part "Tarkus" suite. It's really good - especially Keith's virtuoso playing and Palmer's skin-tight drumming - but you can also hear why the more lively finished version was chosen. 

"Tarkus" will not be everyone's favourite ELP album for damn sure (I prefer the first and "Trilogy") - and there are those who will dismiss it as very much of its 1971 Progressive Rock time. But it was a Number 1 for a reason. And fans are going to need this superb sounding version of it on CD. Another reissue I know – but this is the one worth buying...

"X In Search Of Space" [aka "In Search Of Space'] by HAWKWIND (August 2001 Parlophone 'Expanded Edition' CD with a 1996 Peter Mew Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...The Immaculate Void..." 

Mind-expanding riffage - altered states of consciousness – temptress dancing ample bosom overload (you go Stacia)... 

Oh yes folks - it can only be Hawkwind's second album "X In Search Of Space" - or as Pete Townshend and I know it nowadays - "In Search Of My Eardrums".

It's March 2017 - and as the sun beats down on the beardy environs of my aspirational address (I live in Walthamstow - cue smug grin and unwarranted touching of private parts) - I can still remember the visual and aural impact of this LP in the autumn of 1971 – closing on an astonishing 46 years back (where has the time gone Bob).

Hawkwind's most famous platter featuring the classic Dave Brock, Nik Turner and Bob Calvert line up arrived early October 1971 and sat rather uncomfortably beside John Lennon's "Imagine" - released that same week in the UK. Talk about musical differences. The only thing that connected them was perhaps all that clever worked...I bought both. But before I did - an earful first...

I remember folding out the beautiful interlocking cover of "X In Search Of Space" in Pat Egan's Sound Cellar (in Dublin) with its United Artists LP inside and a strange looking mini comic book sat on top. I remember wondering at all the squared colour photos of six very hairy men (one or two with painted faces) and the intergalactic lyrics and the dancing blurred woman on the back with quite possible not a lot on (so hard now to find a vinyl original with the doors sleeve still intact nowadays). I also remember looking at 'The Hawkwind Log' Book - trying to make sense of its cosmic gobbledygook and strange black and white images of cartoon rockets to Andromeda, a Summer Solstice Stonehenge in silhouette, elliptical galaxies in Leo, third-eye hippies dancing around fields and sitting on tree trunks with a flute in their hands and a suspicious smile on their faces.

And what was all this karmic-knob about 'stellar worlds and microcosms of the absolute'. But then I remember something else - the needle hitting the groove for the sixteen-minute "You Shouldn't Do That" – the build up followed by that wall of guitars – that sound – that fantastic drone – almost a new variant of Kraut Rock. It was undeniably hooky and mesmerising. Space Rock (British style) had arrived in everyone’s lives.

Which brings us via Nebula Minor, Zodiac Major and Druggy Loads to this rather brill little CD reissue. Here are the Masters of the Universe...

UK released August 2001 - "X In Search Of Space" [aka "In Search Of Space"] by HAWKWIND on Parlophone 530 0302 (Barcode 724353003029) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD with Three Bonus Tracks (using a 1996 Remaster) that breaks down as follows (57:42 minutes):

1. You Shouldn't Do That [Side 1]
2. You Know You're Only Dreaming
3. Master Of The Universe [Side 2]
4. We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago
5. Adjust Me
6. Children Of The Sun
Tracks 1 to 6 are their second studio album "X In Search Of Space" - released October 1971 in the UK on United Artists UAG 29202 and April 1972 in the USA on United Artists UAS 5567. Produced by Hawkwind and George Chkiantz - it peaked at No 18 in the UK (didn't chart USA).

7. Seven By Seven (Original Single Version)
8. Silver Machine (Original Single Version)
9. Born To Go (Live Single version Edit)
Tracks 8 and 7 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released June 1972 on United Artists UP 35381. The A-side "Silver Machine" was recorded live 13 February 1972 at The Roundhouse in London - the studio track B-side "Seven By Seven" was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales. Track 9 "Born To Go" (Live) is from the Various Artists 2LP set "The Greasy Truckers Party" on United Artists that featured Hawkwind. This 7" single B-side was issued 1973 in Germany on United Artists UA 35 492 - the A-side being "Lord Of Light" from the "Doremi Fasol Latido" LP in 1972.

NIK TURNER – Alto Saxophone, Flute, Audio Generator and Lead Vocals
DAVE BROCK – Vocals, Electric, Acoustic 6 and 12-string Guitars and Audio Generator
DAVE ANDERSON Bass, Electric and Acoustic 6-String Guitars
DEL DETTMAR – Synthesiser
TERRY OLLIS – Drums and Percussion
DIK MIK – Audio Generator

The substantial 24-page booklet is actually both fab and a frustrating thing. Good stuff - it offers brill period photos of the five-piece, Fanzine addresses for this most cultish of bands, the rare picture sleeve to the June 1972 breakthrough 7" single "Silver Machine", flyers from 60p benefit gigs in Margate, posters of Hawkwind supporting Polydor's Arthur Brown and Kingdom Come, Blue Horizon's Duster Bennett, Harvest's Tea & Symphony, RCA's Brewer's Droop, Neon's Indian Summer and a band as yet unsigned to EMI - Queen. There are beautiful and incredibly rare gig posters from Dunstable Civic Hall, Aldermaston Peace Festival in colour and the whole of the rare logbook that came with British original copies in all its mad glory (black and white) even if the print is tiny and just about readable in places (mostly not). If it looks so great - why moan? Apart from reissue credits - there are no new liner notes and the lyrics aren't here. If ever an album deserved an essay and its words - it's this one. When you think of the huge influence "X In Search Of Space" has had on Stoner rock and even the Kraut sound of say Neu! – bit of a damn shame someone didn't throw a few lines of appreciation and context together. Discussion on the album title – is it "X In Search Of Space" as it says on the cover art - or "In Search Of Space" as it says on the label and is more commonly known? I go by the cover art...

The picture CD uses the black and silver Hawkwind image on the 1978 and 1982 reissues of "Silver Machine" - a nice touch – and there’s a suitably beautiful Universe photo beneath the see-through CD tray. But the big news is a PETER MEW and PAUL COBBOLD Remaster with Tape assistance from Nigel Reeves done at Abbey Road. This sucker rocks and of course if ever an album cried out for a bit of Audio muscle - then it's this one - a nice job done.

Side 1 is dominated by the sixteen-minute drone of "You Shouldn't Do That" which spends about one and half minutes launching - building and building until it hammers you with that Bass and Guitar wall of sound - Space Rock - all Alto Sax and 'Ssssh' chanting about hair and getting nowhere. Even now it gives me a kick in the unmentionables and I'm transported back to my bedroom with Rory Gallagher, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple on the wall and my trusty Garrard SP25 worrying my poor parents and their fragile post 60ts nerves. Side 1's other interplanetary occupant is the near seven-minute "You Know You're Only Dreaming" – no real tune – just more of the same endless guitar solos as spacey flute noises float in and out over random Bass plucking - wonderful.

A huge fan fave – the grungy riffage of "Masters Of The Universe" that opens Side 2 with an aural wallop may indeed define the band more so than "Silver Machine" – Brock singing about being the centre of the Universe and the world is just a figment of his mind (know what you mean man). But then - just as you think you have the Hawk Lords nailed – know their sound and they can’t surprise you – Dave & Co. clobber you with the beautiful and even moving ballad "We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago". Like an acoustic moment on a Zeppelin LP - the song sails it amidst gull cries, acoustic guitars and an aching lyric about warnings and scriptures in the sand that need heeding, Nature is trying to warn us of impending ecological doom (isn't it always) - but will we listen?

"Adjust Me" returns us to travels outside our solar system - electric guitars and treated saxophone notes fronted by a singer's voice that increases in speed and madness. "X In Search Of Space" ends on the suitably doom-laden "Children Of The Sun" which talks about our inheritance amidst cymbal crashes and building guitars - acoustic first then electric. Like "We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago" - I think it's one of the album's strongest tracks and one that's forgotten these days.

"Silver Machine" was recorded live in February 1972 at The Roundhouse in London and launched on the world in June with the non-album studio cut "Seven By Seven" on the flipside. Amazingly its droning wall of sound caught the public's imagination and was rewarded with a No. 3 placing on the British singles charts. In fact "Silver Machine" has had extraordinary legs ever since - reissued no less than three more times (1976, 1978 and 1982) where it charted again in both 1978 (No. 34) and in 1982 (no. 67). Actually I prefer the more musical "Seven By Seven" song - maybe not such an obvious hit - but a riff that would have fitted nicely onto the end of Side 1.

"X in Search Of Space" is very much of its 1971 time and some in 2017 will raise an eyebrow and check your pulse should you declare it a masterpiece. But despite all the Space Mystic mumbo-jumbo - I look at Hawkwind's seminal monster with huge affection. 

An album from a time when all things seemed possible and we were just that bit genuinely out there without being lost or damaged. All this and drifting two-dimensional spaceships on a CD for under a sky-diver (nice one boys)...

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

"Born To Run: 30th Anniversary Edition" by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN feat Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg, Miami Steve Van Zandt, David Sancious and Nils Lofgren (November 2005 Columbia CD+DVD Reissue - Bob Ludwig Remaster)

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"…An Opera Out On The Turnpike…"

Fancy hearing "Born To Run" with strings and a girly backing accompaniment - or Take 16 the album finisher "Jungleland" with a Springsteen guitar solo instead of Clarence Clemons' famous saxophone break? Well on this wonderful yet frustrating release - you can and you can't. Why is this?

It doesn't take a particular genius to work out from the track list on Disc 3 below (the actual album) that 'zero' amounts of outtakes or alternate versions have been made available to listen to as a 'separate audio track'. This is because the decision has been made to 'integrate' them into the footage of the 90-minute "Wings For Wheels" documentary - and I'd argue that in some ways this 30th Anniversary Edition is a better fan experience for it (others may disagree). But before we get into fisticuffs - let's get to the big-rimmed hats, sneakers hanging out of guitars and a 24-year old New Jersey boy's stab at romance...

Released November 2005 - "Born To Run 30th Anniversary Edition" by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E-STREET BAND on Columbia 82876 75589 2 (Euro Version) breaks down as follows:

Disc 1, DVD, "Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band - Hammersmith Odeon, London 1975":
Never before seen - over two-hours of live footage from the legendary concert in the UK recorded at the height of the Times and Newsweek covers hype ("London is finally ready for Bruce Springsteen" the posters boomed). Digitally restored from the original negatives and remixed in both Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound...

1. Thunder Road
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
3. Spirit In The Night
4. Lost In The Flood
5. She's The One
6. Born To Run
7. The E-Street Shuffle
8. It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
9. Backstreets
10. Jungleland
11. Rosalita  (Come Out Tonight)
12. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
13. Detroit Medley: For You / Quarter To Three

Disc 2, DVD, "Wings For Wheels: The Making Of Born To Run":
A 90-minute documentary film by THOM ZINNY on Thrill Hill Productions - includes indepth interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons (Saxophone), David Sancious (original keyboard player - on the "Born To Run" track), Ernest "Boom" Carter (original Drummer with the band - on the "Born To Run" track), Miami Steve Van Zandt (Guitarist), Roy Bittan (Piano, Fender Rhodes, Glockenspiel), Garry Tallent (Bass), Danny Federici (Organ), Max Weinberg (Drummer) Nils Lofgren (present Guitarist with The E-Street Band), Mike Appel and Jon Landau (Managers) and Jimmy Iovine (Producer of the album).

Bonus Features include:
Live at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles 1973 - Spirit In The Night, Wild Billy's Circus Story and Thundercrack

Disc 3, CD, 39:29 minutes:
1. Thunder Road
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
3. Night
4. Backstreets
5. Born To Run [Side 2]
6. She's the One
7. Meeting Across The River
8. Jungleland
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "Born To Run" - released August 1975 in the USA on Columbia PC 33795 and CBS Records S 69170 in the UK

The long box set has 3 gatefold card sleeves inside (hollows) and a 48-page booklet with previously unreleased photos and a short set of lead notes from Bruce about the recording and how it changed his life and career and the lives of those around him. It's all very tastefully done - but there are real fireworks in the audio transfer and remaster of the material...

Digitally Remastered to stunning effect by BOB LUDWIG - the moment the beautiful opening piano of "Thunder Road" hits your speakers accompanied shortly after by his lead vocals - the warmth and clarity is fabulous. This disc leaves all those Eighties crap issues in the dust. Even better is "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" with the brilliant and street-funky Brecker Brothers Saxophones simply flooring you. To this day Bruce admits he doesn't know what the titles means and the documentary also reveals that after months of in-studio deliberation the key parts were arranged by cheeky Miami Steve on a whim. When it continues with "Night" and "Backstreets" you also begin to notice more ROY BITTAN whose musical flourishes on the keyboards contributed so much to every song. Bruce now says that "Born To Run" the album was 'all' written on the piano and not the guitar - and that's why most songs have big intros - setting the scene - sort of mini operas. There is hiss on "She's The One" and "Backstreets" but its not too much to distract. The density of "Born To Run" now seems opened up somehow, the sparseness of "Meeting Across The River" is eerie and the "Jungleland" finisher is massively improved. A superb job done by everyone involved.

The documentary is a masterclass in editing - old photographs, concert footage from the time, actual in the studio black and white film with Bruce and Iovine going at it over sound and mixes and not getting what he wants. It's interspersed with Bruce in 2005 on the piano (great versions of the songs), driving around in his car, in discussion with Jon Landau at mixing desks, shots of the actual master tapes, Columbia promo material, outtakes from the album’s really deep and brilliantly laid out. The concert is incredible too - tearing into lesser-heard stuff like "Lost In The Flood" and the Gary US Bonds covers that bring the set to a storming Rock 'n' Roll close.

Will we one day get those audio outtakes on a CD - another Anniversary issue probably. But for the moment - in 2014 - this 3-disc set is surprising cheap and a fitting tribute to the past and future of Rock 'n' Roll... 

"Boz Scaggs [1969 Version + 1977 Remix Version]" by BOZ SCAGGS feat Duane Allman, Eddie Hinton and Barry Beckett (2015 Edsel/Rhino 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Loan Me A Dime..."

After two albums with The Steve Miller Band in the late Sixties – it was time for the smooth Texan William Royce Scaggs to go solo. He signed to the prestigious Atlantic Records - gathering around him the cream of Muscle Shoals sessionmen (including the Memphis Horns) and set about recording his Bluesy/slightly Country debut album in 1969. Not that the world sat up and noticed. They didn’t.

His debut “Boz Scaggs” was released in the USA in August of 1969 but despite some favourable responses in the press - few in the public eye bought it. After four more albums with a patient Columbia Records between 1971 and 1974 that slowly built interest and chart presence – the Bozter finally found his inner Rock-Funk self and hit global paydirt with his March 1976 LP “Silk Degrees” which spanned massive worldwide radio-friendly hits like “Lido Shuffle”, “What Can I Say”, “Harbour Lights” and “Lowdown”. The album had legs past 1976 too into 1977.

So what with his debut containing rising luminaries like Eddie Hinton, Barry Beckett and especially the established cult guitar-hero Duane Allman in blistering form - Atlantic Records decided to call in Tom Perry to remix and re-launch the debut yet again for a modern day market (it didn’t take 2nd time round either). And that’s where this UK 2CD reissue on Edsel/Rhino comes in – it brings together to the two versions of that debut album for the first time – and in remastered form with superb presentation and new 2015 interviews. Here are the slow starter details...

UK released May 2015 – "Boz Scaggs [1969 Version + 1977 Remix Version]" by BOZ SCAGGS on Edsel/Rhino EDSK 7093 (Barcode 740155709334) is a 2CD set in an outer card wrap and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (Original 1969 Version – see NOTES) (43:35 minutes)
1. I’m Easy [3:04 minutes]
2. I’ll Be Long Gone [4:11 minutes]
3. Another Day (Another Letter) [2:53 minutes]
4. Now You’re Gone [3:46 minutes]
5. Finding her [3:54 minutes]
6. Look What I Got [4:08 minutes]
7. Waiting For A Train [2:38 minutes]
8. Loan Me A Dime [12:29 minutes]
9. Sweet Release [6:13 minutes]

Disc 2 (1977 Remixed Version – see NOTES) (44:48 minutes):
1. I’m Easy [3:01 minutes]
2. I’ll Be Long Gone [4:02 minutes]
3. Another Day (Another Letter) [3:12 minutes]
4. Now You’re Gone [3:50 minutes]
5. Finding her [4:10 minutes]
6. Look What I Got [4:13 minutes]
7. Waiting For A Train [2:40 minutes]
8. Loan Me A Dime [13:02 minutes]
9. Sweet Release [6:20 minutes]

NOTES: Despite what the CDs say – someone has mistakenly placed the versions on the wrong discs – Disc 1 is in fact the 1977 REMIX and Disc 2 the 1969 ORIGINAL. What’s noticeable too from the timings provided above is that Perry slightly edited some of the tracks on the 1977 remix but elongated others by a tiny amount. The most pronounced is the indulgent thirteen-minutes of “Loan Me A Dime” lopped by a half-a-minute (and rightly so in my book). Most of the others have smaller changes – but it’s worth pointing out.

BOZ SCAGGS – Guitar and Lead Vocals
DUANE "Skydog" ALLMAN – Guitars and Dobro
AL LESTER – Fiddle

Muscle Shoals Horn Section:
Joe Arnold – Tenor Saxophone
Charles Chalmers – Tenor Saxophone
Floyd Newman – Baritone Saxophone
James Mitchell – Baritone Saxophone on “I’m Easy”
Ben Cauley – Trumpet
Gene “Bowlegs” Miller – Trumpet & Trombone

Backing Singers:
Jeannie Greene, Donna Thatcher and Mary Holiday (on all selections)
Tracy Nelson, Irma Routen and Joyce Dunn on “Now You’re Gone” exclusively and additionally to Green, Thatcher and Holiday on “I’ll Be Long Gone”

There’s a tasty card wrap that lends the whole reissue a classy feel while the 20-page booklet features December 2014 liner notes by noted writer PAUL DYERS and a new interview with original LP producer JANN WENNER which throws light on how rushed the recordings were (Wenner, Scaggs and Marlin Greene produced the LP). There are label repros of the original LP on SD 8239 and lyrics (for the first time I believe) and tremendous photos of the fabulous band – David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, the backing lady singers, the Producer, Eddie Hinton and a naked Duane Allman standing in the woods with a hat on and his hands over his modesties. It’s beautifully done.

The howler mistake of wrong-mix/wrong-CD notwithstanding – all that anyone-can-make-mistake stuff pales against what you actually get here - a superb remaster for both albums (Peter Rynston at Tall Order Mastering). You can so hear how the record feels slightly empty and rushed first time around – and you can understand why Perry paired back the indulgent time length on the bluesy but brilliant “Loan Me A Dime” when he remixed the record in 1977. I actually prefer the 1977 version because it’s tighter and more importantly you can hear the musicianship more clearly – especially Duane Allman. The Dobro on “Look What I Got” (written by Muscle Shoals Sax player Charles Chambers and singer Donna Rhodes) is clearer as are the drums and backing singers. The same applies (times two) with his cover of the Jimmie Rogers yodelling song “Waiting For A Train” – Allman is very clear as is Beckett’s honky-tony piano runs.

I don’t know (even after another listen) if the album is actually any good – there’s a dreadful failure to ignite in too many of his songs – but then you’re hit with the fabulous Blues of “Loan Me A Dime”. Written by guitarist Fenton Robinson – it leads in with stunning organ work from Beckett – so Gospel, Blues and Soul all wrapped up in one. And then we get Duane in his “Skydog” looseness - letting rip on the frets half way in. On the remix his guitar is slightly more to the fore giving it more prominence and I agree completely with shortening the track on the remix (apparently this song is the reason why Wexler told them to close down recording faster and stop goofing around). It ends on “Sweet Release” – a slow six-minute Gospel lurch co-written by Scaggs and Barry Beckett.

With the best will in the world you could hardly call the “Boz Scaggs” album brilliant (it has its moments for sure) and in hindsight it’s easy to hear why it barely registered with the public. Having said that – there’s something about the quality of the remasters on offer here – and the different mixes too – that make you want to look at this record anew.

A superb reissue from Edsel – more of the same please...

"My Time/Slow Dancer" by BOZ SCAGGS (March 2008 Beat Goes On CD Reissue - 2LPs on 1CD - Andrew Thompson Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This review and hundreds more like it can also be found in my 
SOUNDS GOOD Music Book: 1960s and 1970s MUSIC Volume 2 
- Exceptional CD Remasters 
It contains over 210 in-depth reviews (a whopping 2400+ e-Pages) 
And is available to buy/download at Amazon at the following link...

"…Sharpest Cat In Town...Must Be Hercules…"

With his 1969 Atlantic Records debut album under his perfectly coiffured belt (it didn't chart in either the UK or USA) - William Royce Scaggs singed to Columbia Records in the early Seventies and hoped for bigger things.

Beat Goes On of the UK have already reissued his 2nd and 3rd albums "Moments" and "Boz Scaggs & Band" (both from 1971) onto 1CD in this series - here you get the next in line from 1972 and 1974 lumped together onto another single CD. You can literally hear the Rock/Soulful songwriter he would become with 1976's breakthrough album "Silk Degrees" coming to the fore on these records. Here are the tuneful Seventies details...

Originally UK released March 2008 (reissued 2010 and 2015) - "My Time/Slow dancer" by BOZ SCAGGS on Beat Goes On BGOCD813 (Barcode 5017261208132) features his 4th and 5th albums remastered onto one CD and breaks down as follows (69:56 minutes):

1. Dinah Flo
2. Slowly In The West
3. Full-Lock Power Slide
4. Old Time Lovin'
5. Might Have To Cry
6. Hello My Lover [Side 2]
7. Freedom For The Stallion
8. He's A Fool For You
9. We're Gonna Roll
10. My Time
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 3rd LP "My Time" - issued September 1972 in the USA on Columbia KC 31384 and in the UK on CBS S 64975
Tracks 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 10 are Boz Scaggs originals. "Slowly In The West" is a David Brown (aka Norton Buffalo) cover, "Old Time Lovin'" is an Al Green cover and both "Hello My Lover" and "Freedom For The Stallion" are Allen Toussaint songs. EDDIE HINTON plays guitar on Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 and 10.

11. You Make It So Hard (To Say No) [Boz Scaggs]
12. Slow Dancer [Boz Scaggs/George Daly]
13. Angel Lady (Come Just In Time) [Scaggs/Johnny Bristol/Jim McDonagh]
14. There Is Someone Else [Boz Scaggs]
15. Hercules [Allen Toussaint song/Meters cover]
16. Pain Of Love [Johnny Bristol] [Side 2]
17. Sail On White Moon [Johnny Bristol]
18. Let It Happen [Boz Scaggs/Johnny Bristol]
19. I Got Your Number [Johnny Bristol/Greg Reeves]
20. Take It For Granted [Boz Scaggs/Barry Beckett]
Tracks 11 to 20 are his 4th LP "Slow Dancer" - issued March 1974 in the USA on Columbia KC 32760 and April 1974 in the UK on CBS 65963. Songwriting credits listed track-by-track above.

The 12-page inlay has affectionate and knowledgeable liner notes by noted music writer JOHN O'REGAN and features repro'd artwork and full musician/album credits. There's a nice card-wrap on the outside of the jewel case and the sound quality is beautifully clear and punchy throughout - digitally remastered in 2008 by ANDREW THOMPSON at Sound Performance in London.

That template of Soulful Rock he would adopt for much of the Seventies and Eighties kicks in with the "Dinah Flo" opener - strings and girl singers and a slightly funky edge to his Rock. Sweeter is the ballad "Slowly In The West" which is followed by the Big-Guitars Rock of "Full-Lock Power Slide" - a sort of Joe Walsh riff that boogies along very nicely. But Side One belongs to his gorgeous cover of an Al Green Hi Records classic "Old Time Lovin'" where Boz's band sound not just comfortable but positively inhabiting the Soulfulness of the tune (big organ sound and lady singers throughout). The remaster on the love song "Might Have To Cry" is gorgeous - so sweet. Things are taken up a New Orleans notch or too with the excellent Toussaint tracks - the funky "Hello My Lover" and the Gospel feel of "Freedom For The Stallion". After the guitar-poppy "We're Gonna Roll" - the "My Time" album ends of a very Soulful note - the title track - sounding so smooth. And two of my session heroes get their moments – EDDIE HINTON plays Acoustic Guitar on Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 and 10 alongside his pal BARRY BECKETT who lays down Piano on the same six tracks.

Things move a very big step towards 1976's "Silk Degrees" with the slinky "Slow Dancer album" from 1974. It opens with the very Philly strings and brass of "You Make It So Hard (To Say No)" - a hit single if ever there was one. After the smooch of "Slow Dancer" we get down to Funky business with "Angel Lady..." where Boz has clearly been listening to Stevie Wonder. After the "gotta go with someone else" pleading smooze of "There Is Someone Else" fades - we get the fantastic "Hercules" (written by Allen Toussaint and covered by The Meters) - a track that for me single-handedly elevates the whole album into something special - what a tune. This is followed by a clump of Johnny Bristol white-boy soulful jaunts like "Let It Happen" and "I Got Your Number" which are very 1974 Funk Rock.

It's not all genius for sure and his 1976 return with "Silk Degree" would finally culminate in a worldwide winner - but this is where that class started. And with the nice presentation and superb sound - a must-have for fans... 

Monday, 27 March 2017

"The Stranger: 30th Anniversary Edition" by BILLY JOEL (July 2008 Columbia/Legacy 2CD and 1DVD Long Book Set Reissue - Ted Jensen Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Mister Cacciatore's Down On Sullivan Street…" 

It’s hard now in March 2017 to imagine just how huge Billy Joel’s The Stranger was at the time of release in late September 1977 - almost 40 years after the event. 

Not since Carole King’s Tapestry album way back in March 1971 and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours in February of that same eventful year (1977) - had an album so grabbed the public by the neck – hammering them with dollops of palatable romance and pain in equal measure. And all it came wrapped up in great hooky tunes that the radio loved. Before 1977 few people knew Billy Joel’s name – by the end of 1978 there were few who didn’t.

Joel had been bubbling under since 1971 and produced four whole albums prior to his 1977 breakthrough - "Cold Spring Harbor" (1971), "Piano Man" (1973), "Streetlife Serenade" (1974) and "Turnstiles" (1976) – each featuring songwriting brilliance on an escalating scale with "The Stranger" seeing that craft and promise come to full fruition. 

Every track rocked both musically and lyrically - and this '30th Anniversary Edition' Long Box Set (there is also a smaller 2CD Legacy Edition) does that musical milestone a solid. Here are the Scenes From An Italian Restaurant (Down On Sullivan Street)…

US released July 2008 – "The Stranger: 30th Anniversary Edition" by BILLY JOEL on Columbia/Legacy 88697308012 (Barcode 886973080122) is a 2CD and 1DVD Long Book Set of Remasters and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (42:33 minutes):
1. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
2. The Stranger
3. Just The Way You Are
4. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
5. Vienna [Side 2]
6. Only The Good Die Young
7. She’s Always A Woman
8. Get It Right The First Time
9. Everybody Has A Dream
Tracks 1 to 9 are the vinyl album The Stranger – released September 1977 in the USA on Columbia JC 34987 and December 1977 in the UK on CBS Records 86108. Mastered for CD by TED JENSEN at Sterling Sound in New York. The album rose to Number 2 in the States and 25 in the UK.

Disc 2 Live At Carnegie Hall, 3 June 1977 (64:04 minutes):
1. Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
2. Prelude/Angry Young Man
3. New York State Of Mind
4. Just The Way You Are
5. She’s Got A Way
6. The Entertainer
7. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
8. Band Introductions
9. Captain Jack
10. I’ve Loved These Days
11. Say Goodbye To Hollywood
12. Souvenir
Original recordings produced by DON DeVITO, Produced for Record by PHIL RAMONE and mastered by MARK WILDER at Battery Studios in New York

DVD (90:00 minutes) Region 0 NTSC:
Live Promotional Videos (Recorded USA - No Dates Provided)
1. The Stranger
2. Just The Way You Are

Billy Joel filmed in concert for The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC1 – recorded and first transmitted 14 March 1978
3. Intro
4. Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
5. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
6. New York State Of Mind
7. The Entertainer
8. She’s Always A Woman
9. Root Beer Rag
10. Just The Way You Are
11. Only The Good Die Young
12. Souvenir [extra track to original broadcast]
13. Ain’t No Crime [extra track to original broadcast]

14. A 30-minute bonus documentary on the making of "The Stranger" featuring new interviews with Billy Joel and Phil Ramone

Before we get into the album itself and the extras – let’s talk about the gorgeous packaging. The long box gives you a 48-page glossy booklet with loads of professionally shot black and white outtake photos from the album cover session – round the world 7” single picture sleeves, the British “Now Playing” promo-only LP on CBS BJ 1, A Japanese-Only 1978 Concert Promo LP, American Tour Posters, Live Shots of his band, trade adverts, the lyrics, an essay by DAVID FRICKE and even a facsimile of a Billy Joel Valentine’s Day gift card! But better than this is a reproduction of his small notebook containing the lyrics for “The Stranger” and other thoughts. “Vienna” he notes is about ‘work and friends’ while “Scenes” is about ‘divorce and nostalgia’. There’s a list on the first page of quality bands and artists he opened for – Yes, Bill Withers, Crazy Horse, Hall & Oates, Badfinger, The Eagles and Janis Ian to name but a few. How about quality placing by his management making him open for Jazz-Fusion monsters The Mahavishnu Orchestra, pseudo Rock ‘n’ Rollers Sha Na Na and Australian Popstral Olivia Newton John – wow did this guy pay his dues! There’s also a gorgeous foldout repro poster of the 2, 3 and 4 June 1977 Carnegie Hall Concert in New York which I’ve never seen – very tasty. 

The TED JENSEN Remaster of the album sounds like the 1998 version but with more oomph and to my ears is better than that first attempt. The second the street-punk lyrics to “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” hits your speakers – you can hear the upgrade – all the instruments clear and with so much more punch. Particularly impressive is opening piano notes of the title track and the vocals on “Just The Way You Are”. It has to be said there’s noticeable hiss in the background on some portions of both - but as Joel quite rightly points out – Producer PHIL RAMONE went for ‘feel’, ‘the right take’ and you can hear why – they’re full of feeling. It still sounds magical and the rhythm section is now more to the fore. “A bottle of white, a bottle of red…” – who doesn’t love the Side 1 finisher “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” with Accordion by DOMINIC CORTESS beautifully captured. When the Saxophone of RICHARD CANNATA and the Strings kick in – it’s full of power and presence. And those fabulous lyrics about “Brenda and Eddie” who “didn’t account for the tears…” Side 2 opens with the superb “Vienna” – another double-whammy of a great melody and brutally honest lyrics. But for me the album’s true masterpiece is “She’s Always A Woman” which sounds just glorious. What a beautiful song.

I now know why fans have loved the bootlegs of the famous ‘Carnegie Hall’ concert – it’s an absolute blinder – every song rocking – his band tight and on the cusp of success – playing quality new material – mixing with the best of the old. It also features the JOE MALIN ORCHESTRA backing the band (conducted by Frank Owens) – giving a large number of the songs an epic feel. You’re wowed never mind impressed. What I wasn’t expecting however is the stunning Production Values. This thing sounds amazing and is better in some respects than the officially released live set “Songs In The Attic” from 1981. The two openers rapidly set the pace with his piano playing on “Prelude/Angry Young Man” being just brilliant – but it’s the eight and half-minute “New York State Of Mind” that slays everything in its path – the crowd eating it up (check out the Sax solo). To this day the song evokes New Yawk for me – fabulous (“taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River line…”). A clever choice for romance is “She’s Got A Way” - as gorgeous a song as he’s ever written. He gets all Phil Spector on “Say Goodbye To Hollywood”. And as the short but pretty finisher “Souvenirs” (from “Streetlife Serenade”) plays out – he says “Good Night New York...” - and you can hear they want more. In a few months Billy Joel would arrive for real everywhere else.

The DVD is yet another level – giving you visuals. First up are two American promo videos of Joel and his band before an audience (no dates, no locations) as he whistles his way through “The Stranger” and introduces a ‘new one’ called “Just The Way You Are”. They’re well-filmed and full frame. The BBC show aired the night it was recorded 14 March 1978 is introduced by a laidback BOB HARRIS in front of an invited audience at BBC Television Centre. Like the live promo videos, luckily its defaulted to full screen so there’s no bars top or bottom and the sound is excellent. It’s typical of Seventies footage – a tiny bit blurry but not enough to detract. The British crowd you suspect don’t know much of his material and the album’s only been released in the UK 3 months – but as the gig goes on – their appreciation and the band’s rather ‘fish-out-of-water’ mood lifts. This footage hasn’t been seen since it was first aired – and not seen at all apparently are the two rather great encores – a solo “Souvenir” on his Bechstein piano – an then the band is brought on for a rollicking “Ain’t No Crime” (also from “Streetlife Serenade”). He even manages a Joe Cocker impression before he starts the song. The Documentary is great fun too – the artist and Producer clearly proud of their achievement. Along with the two discs before it – the whole shebang is impressive.

If you want a cheaper option – the 2CD Legacy Edition is available for peanuts – but I’d plum the extra few quid for this thoughtfully put together celebration of a classic Seventies album.

"...Don't imagine you're too familiar…" - Billy Joel sings on the classic "Just The Way You Are". Apply the same logic with this superb reissue… 

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