Monday, 24 April 2017

"The Albums" by GEORDIE [feat Brian Johnson, later with AC/DC from 1980 onwards] (May 2016 Cherry Red/7T's 5CD Mini Box Set Of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Keep On Rockin'..."

With Brian Johnson's downer-departure from AC/DC in 2016 for health reasons uppermost in fans minds - it's probably a good time to revisit his humble Newcastle beginnings with the rockin' British band GEORDIE. And this is the place to do it...

2016's "The Albums" on Cherry Red's '7T's' label offshoot offers you five CDs in 5" Card Repro Sleeves housed in a natty clamshell Mini Box Set with a beautifully annotated 16-page booklet. You get Geordie's three British studio albums on EMI – the debut "Hope You Like It" from March 1973, the second "Don't Let The Name Fool You" from April 1974 and finally (with the original line-up) "Save The World" from August 1976. The other two are an after-the-band-had-split compilation LP called "No Good Woman" issued by EMI Sweden in 1978 with outtakes, re-recordings and stragglers - and finally a fifth disc called "Brian Johnson and Geordie Revisited" that features later re-records.

The first, third and fourth albums all come with Bonus Tracks (see details below) - while the fifth compilation is eleven 1973 tracks re-visited by Brian Johnson and Vic Malcolm in early 1980 just before Johnson joined AC/DC as their new lead singer (replacing the horrible loss of Bon Scott). A version of those re-recordings was issued on Red Bus Records in many territories after Johnson's global success with the Australian rockers and their mega "Back In Black" album of July 1980 – CD5 even containing what appears to be Previously Unreleased Versions - songs only available here.

There is a ton of detail to get through so let's have at it leggies...

UK released 20 May 2016 (27 May 2016 in the USA) - "The Albums" by GEORDIE on Cherry Red/7T's GLAMBOX160 (Barcode 5013929056008) is a 5CD Mini Box Set of Remasters in 5" Repro Card Artwork that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - "Hope You Like It" - 59:00 minutes:
1. Keep On Rockin' [Side 1]
2. Give You Till Monday
3. Hope You Like It
4. Don't Do That
5. All Because Of You
6. Old Time Rocker
7. Oh Lord [Side 2]
8. Natural Born Loser
9. Strange Man
10. Ain't It Just Like A Woman
11. Geordie's Lost His Liggie
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut album "Hope You Like It" - released March 1973 in the UK on EMI Records EMC 3001 and June 1973 in the USA on MGM Records SE-4903 (with different cover art). Produced by ELLIS ELIAS and ROBERTO DANOVA - it didn't chart in either country. All songs written by Vic Malcolm except Track 11 which is a UK Traditional song arranged by the band.

12. Francis Was A Rocker - non-album UK 7" single B-side to "Don't Do It" released 27 September 1972 on Regal Zonophone RZ 3067
13. Can You Do It
14. Red Eyed Lady - tracks 13 and 14 are the non-album A&B-sides of a UK 7" single released 1 June 1973 on EMI Records EMI 2031
15. Electric Lady
16. Geordie Stomp - tracks 15 and 16 are the non-album A&B-sides of a UK 7" single released 10 August 1973 on EMI Records EMI 2048
17. Black Cat Woman - non-album A-side to a UK 7" single released 23 November 1973 on EMI Records EMI 2100 (B-side is the LP track "Geordie's Lost His Liggie")

Disc 2 - "Don't Be Fooled By The Name" - 38:57 minutes:
1. Goin' Down [Side 1]
2. House Of The Rising Sun
3. So What
4. Mercenary Man
5. Ten Feet Tall [Side 2]
6. Got To Know
7. Little Boy
8. Look At Me
Tracks 1 to 8 are their second studio album "Don't Be Fooled By The Name" - released April 1974 in the UK on EMI Records EMA 7764 (no US release). Produced by ELLIS ELIAS and ROBERTO DANOVA - it didn't chart in either country. All songs written by Vic Malcolm except "Goin' Down" which was co-written with Brian Johnson and "House Of The Rising Sun" which is a Traditional made famous in Pop by The Animals

Disc 3 - "Save The World" - 51:12 minutes:
1. Mama's Gonna Take You Home [Side 1]
2. She's A Teaser
3. Goodbye Love
4. I Cried Today
5. You Do This To Me
6. Save The World
7. Rocking Horse [Side 2]
8. Fire Queen
9. She's A Lady
10. Light In My Window
11. Ride On Baby
12. We're All Right Now
Tracks 1 to 12 are their third studio album "Save The World" - released August 1976 in the UK on EMI Records/Red Bus EMC 3134 (no US release). Produced by ELLIS ELIAS, ROBERTO DANOVA and PIP WILLIAMS - it didn't chart in either country.

13. I Can't Forget You Now
14. I Can't Give It Up - tracks 13 and 14 are the non-album A&B-sides of a Brian Johnson solo UK 7" single released January 1976 on EMI Records EMI 2373
15. Rockin' With The Boys Tonight
16. Treat Her Like A Lady - tracks 16 and 15 (note order) are the non-album A&B-sides of a Brian Johnson with Geordie German 7" single released 1980 on Red Bus Records PB 5769 (its picture sleeve is shown on Page 14 of the booklet)

Disc 4 - "No Good Woman" - 52:08 minutes:
1. No Good Woman [Side 1]
2. Going To The City
3. Wonder Song
4. Rock N Roll Fever
5. Ain't It A Shame
6. Give It All You Got [Side 2]
7. Show Business
8. You've Got It
9. Sweet Little Rock N Roller
10. Victoria
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "No Good Woman" - released 1978 in France on EMI 2S 068 60773 and in Sweden on EMI Records 7C 062-60793.  Produced by GEORDIE, PETER YELLOWSTONE and JEFF CALVER - it features five unreleased songs by the original line-up with the other five by a new version of the band led by original guitarist Vic Malcolm (he sings vocals on the title track).

11. Dollars Deutsche Marks Silver & Gold
12. I Remember - tracks 11 and 12 first appeared 2000 in Sweden as Previously Unreleased songs on the CD Remaster of "Good Woman" on Landmark Records LMK-15014-2
13. Don't Do That (Remix)
14. Keep On Rockin' (Remix) - credited to Geordie (featuring Brian Johnson) - tracks 13 and 14 are 1973 recordings newly remixed as the A&B-sides of a UK 7" single released 13 February 1981 on Red Bus Records RBUS 58

Disc 5 - "Brian Johnson And Geordie" - 40:33 minutes:
1. Ten Feet Tall
2. Can You Do It
3. Keep On Rockin'
4. Fire Queen
5. Hope You Like It
6. Goin' Down
7. Strange Man
8. Natural Born Loser
9. Give You Till Monday
10. Ain't That Just Like A Woman
11. Black Cat Woman
The original issue of the vinyl LP "Brian Johnson And Geordie" was issued 1981 in several territories around the world - Germany on Red Bus ZL 28431, France on Barclay 960 031 (same artwork as presented on the card sleeve) and in the USA with different artwork on MCA Records MCA-5234. In all areas it was a 10-track album that was sequenced as follows:
Side 1:
1. Natural Born Loser [Track 8, Disc 5]
2. Mercenary Man [Track 4, Disc 2]
3. Goin' Down [Track 6, Disc 5]
4. Treat Her Like A Lady [Track 16, Disc 3]
5. Hope You Like It [Track 5, Disc 5]
Side 2:
1. Keep On Rockin' [Track 3, Disc 5]
2. Ten Feet Tall [Track 1, Disc 5]
3. Rockin' With The Boys [Track 15, Disc 3]
4. Don't Do That [Track 13, Disc 4]
5. Fire Queen [Track 4, Disc 5]
As you can see from the LP above - the 11-track CD reissue "Brian Johnson And Geordie Revisited" presented here bears little resemblance to the original 10-track 1981 vinyl and there's no explanation in the booklet or on the card sleeve as to why - only to say that all the tracks on Disc 5 are re-recordings done by Brian Johnson in 1980 before he departed for AC/DC. As there appears to have never been a CD reissue of the 1981 album until now – the re-recordings of "Can You Do It", "Strange Man", "Give You Till Monday", "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" and "Black Cat Woman" can therefore be considered Previously Unreleased on this 2016 version (unless someone advises otherwise).

The glossy clamshell box is pretty and the card repro sleeves cool - but it's the 16-page booklet that wows. Almost all of the inner pages are festooned to the right with blocks of eight rare 7" single picture sleeves from around the world - that's eight per page - a serious collection of rarities indeed! MIKE GENT offers up great liner notes on the frustrating history of the band who charted four UK singles (many more in Europe) - acknowledging that none of the three LPs did any real business which eventually saw a disillusioned Brian Johnson quit to become a car-repair man (thinking his shot at Rock 'n' Roll fame was over - how wrong was he). Centering the text are those UK EMI labels for 45s like "All Because Of You" (peaked at No. 13), "Can You Do It" (peaked at No. 9), "Electric Lady" (peaked at No. 6) and "Black Cat Woman" (didn't chart). As well as pictures of the band (Brian Johnson on Vocals, Vic Malcolm on Guitar, Tom Hill on Bass and Brian Gibson on Drums) - there's a very tasty two-page centre spread of original sheet music, a cardboard cut-out of the London Routemaster Red Bus would send their bands out on tour in and more picture sleeves not seen in the principal text. Although the inner gatefold for "Don't Be Fooled By The Name" isn't reproduced on the card sleeve (a minor blip) - each CD is a picture disc of the cover art and with the fab colour booklet - you'd have to say that some real effort was put in here.

JAMES BRAGG did the mastering (no sources or venue given) and the audio rocks on all of them. I’m fairly sure (even though it doesn’t say so) that the first three studio albums are the 7T’s CD reissues done by TIM TURAN at Turan Mastering in 2007 and 2008 - nice and punchy without being over trebled. Let's get to the music...

In hindsight the weedy title “Hope You Like It” complete with its sappy ribbon and bow artwork was hardly the toughest of statements for a debut Rock album. But having said that the March 1973 LP opens well with a namecheck for the then undiscovered John Miles in the lyrics of the restless Nazareth-sounding boogie of "Keep On Rockin’". You hear the range of Johnson’s great voice in "Give You Till Monday" and there’s more than a hint of Suzi Quatro and her RAK recordings with Chinn and Chapman on the hooky guitar-rock of "Hope You Like It".

As far back at late September 1972 "Don't Do That" became Geordie’s debut 45 issued on the EMI subsidiary Regal Zonophone. RZ 3067 had the non-album "Francis Was A Rocker" as its B-side (Track 12 on Disc 1) and after a two-month crawl finally charted in November 1972, peaking at No. 32 (a good start). The irritatingly Glam Rock "All Because Of You" (complete with cod Beatles aahs) became their second UK 7” single on EMI 2008 in February 1973 with the album cut "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" on the flip-side. Catchy as a cold – it broke the Top Ten in the UK settling at No. 6. There’s even traces of Prog and Sabbath in the relentless "Strange Man" where some dude in a dress terrorises the dancefloor and the streets of Newcastle. Far better is the rocking "Ain't It Just Like A Woman". And I genuinely wasn’t expecting much of the stand-alone 45s - but all three singles "Can You Do It", "Electric Lady" and "Black Cat Woman" have guitar-driven boogies that would have done proud by any 7” on Polydor Records by their nearest comparison Slade.

For me the second album "Don't Be Fooled By The Name" is the best of the bunch - a definite Nazareth "Razamanaz" vibe creeping into the St. James Infirmary of "Goin' Down" and "Ten Feet Tall" (better production values too) while there's a great Juicy Lucy guitar boogie to "So What". The band suddenly sound ‘huge’ on "Mercenary Man" and Johnson contributes an early writing credit to the Pop-Rock of "Got To Know". Not even the decidedly saucy sleeve art for "Save The World" get the LP into the charts - but that doesn't stop tunes like the rocking "Mama's Gonna Take You Home" and the brassy "She's A Teaser" being good. But terrible tracks like the cod reggae of "I Cried Today" and the half-hearted Arrows pop of "You Do This To Me" are terrible. The double-dose of crappy pop in "I Can't Forget You Now" and "I Can't Give It Up" (a stand-alone single) is embarrassing compared to the Rock on LP No. 2. The "No Good Woman" album tries to go back to basics with The Knack-like boogie of "Going To The City" where Brian sounds like Bob Seger. Brought in to replace Johnson - Dave Ditchburn has a half decent Rush type set of pipes for the decidedly Proggy "Wonder Song" where Geordie sound at times like Uriah Heep. There's bad hiss on "Ain't It A Shame" and "Show Business" sounds like bad Queen. Better is the guitar-chug of "You Got It". The remix of "Don't Do It" is awful and just sounds wrong while the re-do of "Keep On Rockin'" isn't a whole lot better. The posthumous "Brian Johnson and Geordie" sees all the best Geordie tracks with huge echoed drums added into the Eighties mix while a floating synth tries to make them topical sounding. At times it feels like Van Halen rejects from the 1984 album with stuff like "Fire Queen" reaching for its inner Bon Jovi – and not in a good way.

In truth there's a lot of very dated cack on album numbers 3 and 4 with 5 being unlistenable in places - too much of it doing a massive disservice to the first two flushes of Geordie vinyl magic from 1973 and 1974. 

But there's also no doubt that 7T's and Cherry Red are to be praised for making this hard to find music available again to fans and newcomers alike - and in such a top class presentation too...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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