U2 “Songs of Experience” Deluxe Edition – A Note from the sidelines

U2 has a new album out.

Years ago that sentence was an experience in itself.

But times marches on and “Songs of Experience”, U2’s 14th studio album, lands in a much more cynical climate. The band is not only much older but so is its audience.

Their last album “Songs of Innocence” from 2014 is a companion piece to this new set of recordings. The release of that album with it’s publicity stunt of being given free to any iTunes user whether they wanted it or not took some of the bloom away from U2’s aura as a band committed to issues and smelled of a bit too much commerce.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that album as well but I do tend to think that U2, especially Bono, worry a bit to much about their relevancy and how the arc of their career is affected by each new release.

Not that those are bad things to think about but they take care of themselves and are mostly out of ones control in my opinion. Music to me is a snapshot of the artist at any particular time.

Some snapshots make you look fat and old and some make you look young and graceful and agile – that’s life. I enjoy seeing the full picture and sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it’s not.

The theme of this new U2 album and the last one deal with life issues and the changes they bring about so I’m glad to see the group exploring new approaches in their music. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – that’s also life.

Having said all that, I must say I enjoy this album.

I have read a lot of criticism of the new album and a lot of it has some valid points. The songs are not quite as strong as U2’s best work and don’t have the same level of urgency as say their work from 1984. To me that’s okay.

Sometimes  I tend to think there is a certain kind of vitriol held out just for Bono as sort of a backlash to his humanitarian work and his somewhat precieved pompous tendencies.

However, U2’s music still resonates with me for the most part.

There is a slight weirdness listening to Bono sing about aging and carefree relationship topics. My mind automatically goes to songs like “Bad” or “New Year’s Day” when I hear his voice so it’s sometimes unsettling but why not take on carefree issues?

No, this is not the U2 of “The Unforgettable Fire” or “War” and that’s okay with me.

It’s time for U2 to explore this setting, these melodies and these lyrics.

Do they work? Not always, sometimes the new songs come across a bit bland. I’ve only listened to the album a couple of times so that may possibly change as time goes on.

Does the album suck? No, I think it’s quite enjoyable. I like the musical textures U2 conjures up even on some of the weaker tracks, the album as a whole is very enjoyable.

Is it as relevant to the times as say “The Unforgettable Fire” was in 1984? Probably not but so what? Snapshots are what they are – music is good or bad and I think U2’s music is good.

Highlights of the album for me are mainly the songs with a reflective and atmospheric feel such as  “Love is All We Have Left”, “Lights of Home (St. Peter’s String Version)”, “Summer of Love” and “13 (There is a Light)”.

The rockier songs tend to have a generic feel on first listen but for me  “American Soul” and “The Blackout” are standing out as good performances though maybe Bono is trying a bit too hard with the lyrics.

And maybe that’s the problem for me with some of the songs especially the pop oriented songs like “You’re the Best Thing about Me” and “Get Out of Your Own Way” – the lyrics.

I actually enjoy these songs but for me Bono tends to be overthinking at times or exploring issues that tend to feel awkward.

That’s the weight of their past creeping so maybe in time that will change. Taken on their own and removed from the past these new songs are quite good.

As of now I feel this is a very enjoyable album with a few great songs. Not bad for any artist really. I know Bono wants U2 to be seen, as do many fans, as the most artistically relevant group out there but to me who cares?

They are a great group. this is a good album. End of story. Let history say what the group’s impact is. Like it or don’t like it. But please spare me the angst of oh how the once great have fallen. It’s still good music.

I do hope though in the future Bono and U2 and can let go of the weight of expectation and just let the music be its own snapshot. Don’t worry so much, you’ve done good!

Until then, I want to play this album again. And that is the only criteria I tend to value.

Btw, did you hear U2 has a new album out?

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A Pile of Partridge without a Pear Tree

Well, here we are. Where are we?

This past week has brought to mind all sorts of memories that I had tucked away in the back of my mind for decades.

The death of David Cassidy has brought quite a few sweet childhood memories back to the surface and suddenly I was taken back to being five years old and discovering The Partridge Family and falling in love with their show and music.

For today’s post, I’m going to highlight some of my Partridge Family memorabilia that I’ve kept from my childhood for all these many years.

Remarkably, even though I was only four to eight years old when The Partridge Family was all the rage in pop culture, I kept most of my Partridge Family records and memorabilia in pretty good shape.

Now as the title of this blog suggests, I have a pile of Partridge I’d like to share here. First up – paper dolls and lunchboxes.

Yes, I said paper dolls!

Seriously, I don’t know why my mother bought them but I did enjoy them and remember setting them up to play pretend concerts!

Jeesh sounds funny now but it is a fond memory and in this time of raw politics and ugliness I Cherish (slight pun intended for those who get it) those sweet memories even more.

I have lots more memorabilia I will highlight in future posts – once I can dig it out  – but here are some photos of my paper dolls and my trusty Partridge Family lunch box (1973 version) that I remember taking to school for many a lunch back in the day!

I thought I’d include photos from all sides of the lunchbox since you rarely see what it looks like except for the front.

Enjoy and keep getting happy if you can. Until next time!

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Last Train for Colgems 45’s – Later Day Original Labels

Good evening!

Tonight I’m going to turn the way back switch to the mid-1970s – say 1975, 1976 or so.

My memory is a little bit fuzzy to the exact timeline but the one thing  I do remember clearly is the record store where all this took place – Smoky’s Record store.

You see back in those days there was this little hole in the wall record store in the city where I lived called Smoky’s Records. It was full of hundreds of 45’s of practically every hit song from the 1950s to the present day and its musty floor was filled to the brim with records of all shapes and types stacked everywhere.

The store must have been there since the 1950’s and every corner of it seemed to reek of the distant past. The walls were also lined with various odd instruments and advertising that was carefully overseen by the burly Southern owner – Smoky Montgomery.

Now Smoky had the personality of an car salesman and would have been right at home on the streets of Tijuana, Mexico.

He loved to bargain and follow you around the store to see if you wanted to buy anything. His slow drawl and thick southern accent where always touting something you needed to buy.

My oldest brother loved to go to Smoky’s Records and buy 45’s and sometimes my mother would take the both of us and I would manage to grab some of those old groovy 45’s myself.

Now let me also say that this was back in the time that Monkees records were out of print and hard to find. And of course I had abused most of my Monkees records by playing them to death and was always on the hunt for new copies and most of the time came up short.

The original Colgems pressings of Monkees albums and 45’s went out of print around 1971 so by this time it was pretty hard to find anything but the Flashback 45’s which were in print at that time I believe and available at say Musicland. (Of course we had a Musicland in our local mall but it was sorely lacking the cool atmosphere of Smoky’s and his fun record treasure hunts!)

As usual it was Smoky to the rescue as he had a huge inventory of 45’s and had a lot of old store stock that still lined the bins of his 45 inventory.

I clearly remember one shopping trip stumbling upon three Monkees 45’s on the Colgems label – “Last Train to Clarksville”(with picture sleeve), “I’m a Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

Now I remember being really excited to see these 45’s and equally perplexed by the look of the Colgems label.

I was used to my oldest brothers beat up 45 of “I’m a Believer” with the classic Colgems label but these Colgems 45’s had the later day Colgems logo with the red and white label but no Columbia and Screen Gems logos only the newer Colgems logo in their place.

I managed to talk my mother into buying them for me but for years I was sort of disappointed as they didn’t look like originals and I wanted to find ones with the original Colgems label.

Well I’ve come to find out that these 45’s were the last Colgems versions of these 45’s and are much rarer than the original copies. Now I’m really glad that I have them and in such great shape to boot.

These later day 45’s must have come out in 1970 or 71 (some say 1969) and corresponded to the later reissues of the first two Monkees albums with the newer Colgems logo on the rear of their jackets (more on those in a future post).

Anyway, I thought I’d spotlight those three 45’s that I bought that long ago day and post a few pictures of the labels and the Clarksville picture sleeve.

And since old Smoky has long since passed away it’s with a great fondness that I think of him and his boisterous character whenever I take these 45’s out and give them a spin on the turntable.

Take a look above and below at these most groovy later day Colgems 45 pressings.

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Paul McCartney Archive Collection on Capitol Vinyl – I See Colors!

Well, it looks like Christmas came early – at least for me!

Today I received eight Paul McCartney colored vinyl albums that are being re-released as part of McCartney’s esteemed Archive Collection: McCartney (red), Ram (yellow), Band on the Run (white) Venus and Mars (red and yellow), Wings At the Speed of Sound (orange), McCartney II (clear), Tug of War (blue) and Pipes of Peace (silver).

All of McCartney’s solo work new and old is back on Capitol Records after several years on the Concord record label thus the return of these albums to the Capitol fold and to my turntable.

Now, in the past I’ve not usually been a huge fan of colored vinyl but in my advancing years I’ve acquired an appreciation for all things vinyl and if it comes in purty colors all the better.

Earlier this week I did a blog post on a couple of the CD issues from this same series but  these new colored beauties are the main attraction for me of McCartney’s latest reissues so I thought I’d share a few thoughts and photos of them here so folks can see them.

As you can see from the photos, these new reissues have restored full album artwork without the distracting Archive Collection banner on the left hand side of the covers which is a welcomed treat.

The new covers look spectacular with sharp, clear artwork and all the goodies from the original issues of these albums plus a few new bonus treats.

The “Venus and Mars”album for example has all the posters and stickers that came with the album originally and the “McCartney”, “Ram” and “Wings At the Speed of Sound” albums have lyrics sheets added to these new issues which is a nice surprise.

These reissues have the same mastering as the Concord versions of this material (though no bonus tracks) and since I only had a couple of those issues on vinyl I’m excited to give these new pressings a spin and soak in some of McCartney’s best solo music on spanking new vinyl while I’m preparing for the holiday season.

One of the highlights of these vinyl issues is 1982’s”Tug of War” album which was totally remixed in 2015 for the Archive Collection and sounds much better on vinyl as the CD issue is a tad bit too loud but has been tamed on this vinyl version.

I will have to give all the others a spin soon but wanted to post some photos of the albums here first. I’ve included close-ups of all the new hype stickers – don’t you just love fresh new vinyl in the shrink wrap!

Enjoy and if you’re a McCartney fan and get the chance grab one of these beauties and give them a spin. The Archive remasters sound terrific and these new vinyl issues look superb.

To quote McCartney himself:

“Sitting In The Stand Of The Sports Arena
Waiting For The Show To Begin
Red Lights, Green Lights, Strawberry Wine,
A Good Friend Of Mine, Follows The Stars,
Venus And Mars
Are Alright Tonight.”

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Come On, Get Happy – Celebrating the Music of David Cassidy (R.I.P.)

For anyone who grew up in the 1970s, yesterdays announcement of the death of David Cassidy was sure to bring a reaction.

Whether you liked him or not, David Cassidy was such a huge recording and television star that even if you didn’t like his work you knew who he was and knew his image.

Personally, some of the first music I ever bought and listened to was the music of The Partridge Family.

Say what you will but the music that David Cassidy recorded as a part of The Partridge Family still endures, still entertains, still brings a smile and still sounds great. It’s lasting, it’s well written and most importantly well sung by David Cassidy.

The first three Partridge Family albums especially – The Partridge Family Album, Up to Date and Sound Magazine – are loaded with one pop gem after another: “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque”. “Somebody Wants to Love You”, “I Think I Love You”, “Brand New Me”,”Only a Moment Ago”, “I’ll Meet You Halfway”, “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted”, “Morning Rider on the Road”, “I’ll Leave Myself a Little Time”, “You Are Always on My Mind”, “There’s No Doubt in My Mind”. “One Night Stand”, “I Woke Up  in Love This Morning”, “Echo Valley 2-6809”, “You Don’t Have to Tell Me”, “Rainmaker” and “I’m On My Way Back Home”.

David Cassidy’s lead vocals highlight all of The Partridge Family recordings and his impassioned delivery is really what makes these songs shine. His voice was so right for pop music and oh so right for these songs.

Above and below I’ve shared photos of all The Partridge Family and David Cassidy CDs I  own. I hope if you’ve never heard this music, you should make it a point to explore it sometime.

It took me a while to really explore Cassidy’s solo music but there are also some gems on those albums as well. They feature a bit more rock and soul which was more to his personal tastes but again they are well written and produced and sung exceptionally well.

The Razor and Tie issues of The Partridge Family albums are best (the first five Partridge family albums) but thankfully all The Partridge Family albums were released on CD and can be found pretty easily.

There are also several greatest hits the best of which is “Come On Get Happy!: The Very Best of The Partridge Family” which is the only place you can find the songs “Together (Havin’ a Ball)”, “Let the Good times In” and “Stephanie” which were all featured on The Partridge Family TV show but not released until this collection.

Whether you seek this music out on disc or online take a moment to listen and yes come on get happy.

The best tribute to anyone is not to be forgotten. And as long as people listen to music David Cassidy will not be forgotten. At least not by me or the millions who grew up listening to him.

One of my favorite Partridge Family songs “Only A Moment Ago” says what I’m feeling so beautifully:

“Why has the music stopped? 
Where did all the happy people go?
I know they were there, songs everywhere
Only a moment ago.
I only blinked my eye; and now the world that I used to know
Is changing’ on me; why can’t it be
Only a moment ago?”

R.I.P. David Cassidy

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Paul McCartney Archive Redo, Redux and “Capitol”ized

Howdy folks!

Well, it’s the week for turkeys and appropriately enough I’m a turkey for CDs. Well, at least collecting them.

As anyone who has read this blog will know, I tend to take the irrational road on occasion for my love of the physical medium and also on occasion I buy a reissue of my favorite album or albums knowing full well that:

A) I need this CD like a hole in the head

B) It’s not even a new mastering just different packaging

C) All of the above and more

(Note: This blog post tonight is mainly for the hardcore McCartneyits out there who might enjoy seeing how these new Capitol Records version look and see inside them a bit. Trust me I know it’s a bit much but then that’s collecting!)

Below are two of new reissues of Paul McCartney albums that are a part of his Archive Collection: Venus and Mars and Tug of War

Eight titles in the Archive Collection were re-released last Friday in the following formats: regular vinyl, colored vinyl and CD.

Are you still with me?

These eight titles are being reissued because Paul McCartney just recently went back to Capitol Records his home for the majority of his career. They were previously issued on the Concord label in 2 CD versions with bonus tracks but these new issues are just the regular albums that folks know and love.

There is no difference in the mastering from the Concord releases but the albums have reverted back to the artwork that they were originally issued with when they first came out.

The Concord releases of these albums had a white bar added to the left hand side of the cover which obscured some of the artwork much to the chagrin of McCartney fans. These new issues show the entire artwork and look fantastic and sound great as well – the remastering and remixing of these two albums is really nice!

Those who have never owned the Concord versions and are just looking to have these albums without bonus tracks are in for a real treat. Anyone who does own the Concord issues will most likely punt on these unless like me you are just this side of “seriously dude?”

Anyway, soon I will spotlight the colored vinyl versions but here’s a taste of two of the new CD reissues. Since this is most likely the last versions of these albums to be released on CD I couldn’t resist adding them to my collection.

So check them out (above and below) and take it away! (I know, lame but the thought was there!)

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Beware My Love or Welcome to the World My Fine Feathered Fakes

Fakes.

Copies.

Reproductions.

These three words strike fear in the hearts of collectors everywhere. Trust me I know!

Over the years I, along with thousands of other trusting souls, have managed to find a few choice fakes of some really cool items, mostly Beatles items.

Today I’m sharing two fake finds I own that are really interesting:

  • Reproductions of early Beatles 45’s with picture sleeves
  • A set of four “Mexican” Beatles REMCO dolls

Most of my fake finds were acquired in the late 1970s and early ’80s through mail order or magazine ads. At a time I was young and naive and was desperate to find some original treasures that were cheap and looked amazingly genuine.

I had a thing for Beatles 45 picture sleeves and when I was twelve I saw a mail order ad featuring a slew of singles with their picture sleeves cheap and mint. I was hooked! Couldn’t put my order in fast enough.

For any future collectors out there, finding rare items for what seems like too good a deal usually is a red flag.

These reproductions were so nice looking that for a few years I thought they were the genuine items. It wasn’t until I bought a real sleeve of one of the singles at flea market that I realized I had been swindled.

Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I still manage to score a few dudes on ebay or from the Amazon marketplace but for the most part I am much more aware of what a real item looks like and I’m not willing to spend much money unless I’m certain an item is real.

Thankfully I’ve never been taken for large sums of money for fake items and in my younger days I thought cheaper price meant better bargain. Nowadays my first thought is cheap equals phony or abused.

Look at my photos of these fakes or reproductions (below).

Take a close look at the Beatles Swan and Capitol 45’s. From a distance the sleeves look great and so do the labels. Impressive actually.

But when you take a closer look you can see the fuzzy blur on the photos (see “We Can Work it Out” sleeve) and the font on the Capitol singles labels is slightly different from originals as well as the colors of the yellow and orange swirl.

Also if you look closely at the matrix markings in the run out grooves they are not machine stamped like originals but sloppily hand etched.

The best reproduction that I knew was most likely a fake even when I was buying it is a groovy set of Beatles REMCO dolls (see photos above and below) that I bought on ebay about 11 years ago. They were listed as “Mexican” made Beatles REMCO dolls that were supposedly quite rare and original.

Now I’ve never found any trace of REMCO Beatles dolls being produced in Mexico but this set was only $75 and since they look so funny with the super long hair I thought they would look great on display.

They do resemble the genuine REMCO dolls but lack instruments around their necks and have colored eyes and painted eyebrows (unlike originals) and the hair on these REMCO repros is about three times as long as the real dolls!

That hair!

It’s so out of control and over the top that it really makes these reproductions worth owning as long as you don’t pay too much. Side by side with original REMCO dolls I actually enjoy the freakish look of the fakes to the originals!

There are so many resources in print and online these days that it’s now much easier to spot fakes but there are some really good ones out there.

Feast your eyes on these fun reproductions and as always BUYER BEWARE!

Enjoy and until next time Happy Collecting!!!

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