“We All Stand Together” – The 100th Anniversary of Rupert the Bear and a Theme Song for 2020

Well, it certainly has been an interesting few weeks since I’ve last posted here.  The pandemic has reared its ugly head again, unfortunately, but fear not there has been a bit of musical light in the darkness so to speak to keep ones spirits up.

With the news of a brand new studio album by Paul McCartney entitled “McCartney III” due in December and upcoming box set reissues of Lennon’s classic “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album as well as George Harrison’s epic solo masterpiece “All Things Must Pass” on the horizon there is at least something to look forward to in the midst of all this uncertainty.

There have also been a few newer and exciting music releases that have snuck out recently which I have decided to share on this blog. In fact just a few days a go I received a package in the mail that I thought I would be perfect to share here with you all.

Direct from paulmccartney.com came a lovely picture disc reissue of McCartney’s charming children’s song “We All Stand Together” from 1984 which was featured in an award-winning short cartoon film McCartney made called “Rupert and the Frog Song”.

The short but enchanting “Rupert and the Frog Song” was originally going to be part of a complete animated feature film but for unknown reasons McCartney only produced this lovely small film which made its debut as a trailer for his full-length movie “Give My Regards to Broad Street” in which he starred which likewise made its debut in 1984.

Ahhhh 1984. It was a strange year for so many reasons.

For Paul McCartney the critical drubbing of his self-written “Give My Regards to Broad Street” film sent his career into a tailspin that didn’t really recover until near the end of the decade with the release of his “Flowers in the Dirt” album and its accompanying tour.

For me I had graduated from high school in the spring of 1984 and I too felt a bit adrift as I tried to decide where my life was going. I took a few classes from a local trade school that Fall not really knowing where my future was headed.

I remember finally seeing “Give My Regards to Broad Street” in a near empty movie theater a few weeks after it was released and completely falling in love with the “Rupert and the Frog Song” short and absolutely loving “We All Stand Together”.

“We All Stand Together”, which was produced by famed Beatles producer George Martin, was the perfect antidote to my Fall of uncertainty.

While the song wasn’t even released in the U.S. at the time I remember locating an import copy on 45 as well as a groovy little picture disc and playing it to death on those last cold and wet winter evenings of November and December of 1984.

McCartney decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rupert the Bear cartoon character – which has been a staple of British life all these many years while remaining relatively unknown in the States – by reissuing the 1984 picture disc of “We All Stand Together” .

I’m so glad he did as my original copy, see above, which came in a plastic PVC type cover has badly yellowed due to chemicals from the plastic cover seeping into the vinyl disc and discoloring it.

The new reissue is quite lovely and practically a spot-on copy of the original from 1984 but this time comes in a terrific cardboard cover and sleeve and also contains a small poster with images from the photo session for the original 45 sleeve and picture disc.

To top it off both “We All Stand Together” and it’s b-side “We All Stand Together (Humming Version)” have been lovingly remastered and sound great despite being pressed on a picture disc.

(Note: Picture discs tend to sound lousy as they usually add a lot of noise while playing but this disc sounded lovely without a hint of added hum or hiss.)

To me this song has become a part of the holiday season and I am so glad to have a reissue of the picture disc as to me “We All Stand Together” is the perfect way to close out the horrid year of 2020 and the song’s sentiment certainly stands as a great theme for this year of challenge, uncertainty and heartache.

As usual you can take a gander above at some photos of the new disc release as well as my much yellowed original 1984 picture disc minus the PVC type sleeve which fell apart a few years ago.

Well that’s all for now.

There are more new releases to come including a report on the fantastic new “Jewel Box” eight CD set by Elton John which I am currently wading through at the moment.

Until next time be well and safe and I hope the holiday season treats you well wherever you are!

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme Some … Bass? – John Lennon “Gimme Some Truth” Deluxe Box Set

This past Friday, October 9th, John Lennon would have turned eighty years old. Let that sink in a minute.  For anyone of a certain age that is really a remarkable statement.

How on earth have forty years passed since Lennon was brutally shot and killed outside his home in New York City?  It’s hard to comprehend but that’s the cold hard truth.

In celebration of what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday a new collection of Lennon’s work was also released this past Friday entitled “John Lennon/Gimme Some Truth – The Ultimate Remixes”

As usual these days there are several ways of buying this new collection:

  • A single CD version containing 19 tracks and a 20 page booklet
  • A 2 CD set with 36 songs in a slipcase with a 20 page booklet as well as a double-sided fold out poster
  • A deluxe edition containing 2 CDs and 36 songs as well as a bonus blu-ray disc featuring hi-res stereo 96/24 PCM versions of the same 36 songs as well as new 5.1 surround mixes and Dolby Atmos plus a lovely 124 page hardback book and 2 postcards, a bumper sticker and a double-sided fold out poster
  • A 2 Lp set containing 19 songs, an 8 page booklet as well as the bumper sticker and double-sided fold out poster
  • A 4 Lp set containing 36 songs in a lift-off lid box with an 8 page booklet, 2 post cards, bumper sticker and a double-sided fold out poster

Got all that? Whew!

All of the above sets are touted as containing the ultimate remixes of most of Lennon’s solo hits as well as a smattering of deep album cuts from the various albums he recorded and released after leaving The Beatles.

I have to admit from the start that I am pretty much hit or miss with the idea of remixes.

Sometimes I enjoy these new remixes, as in the case of many of the recent Beatles albums that have been re-released and remixed, but many times I’m less than thrilled with the results of trying to modernize older recordings.

Lennon’s youngest son Sean is listed as the producer and creative director on this new set and I’ve read that his aim was to make Lennon’s music appeal to a new generation of streaming listeners by remixing all these songs from scratch with an emphasis on bringing John Lennon’s vocals to the fore.

Sean Lennon said he was afraid that younger audiences were not as familiar with his dad’s solo work and he wanted to make his father’s music sound like other more modern music, i.e. louder, they would hear on the various steaming platforms. 

First off I have no problem with Sean Lennon wanting his father’s solo career to be remembered. If it takes these remix projects to keep John Lennon’s work from fading into oblivion then great, I’m all for it.

But as a long-time fan of Lennon’s solo career, and one who listens to music the old-fashioned way on a two speaker stereo system, making these older recordings more appealing to younger listeners tends to dampen some of the magic these songs had in their original form.

So after getting this set on Friday and spending the weekend with it did Sean really make the remixes of the songs in this new collection the ultimate remixes?

Well, not really but that’s not to say this set isn’t enjoyable.

When I finally sat down and scanned through the first disc in this set at the normal settings on my receiver the thing that jumped out most to me was the bass. There is a lot of bass on these new remixes. I mean A LOT.

By the fifth song I was already getting fatigued.

There were some good things going on with these new remixes especially with the nice stereo separation and Lennon’s vocals which were now indeed more up front but the overpowering bass tended to make everything sound muddy and cramped which was a disappointment.

I stopped listening after the five songs from disc one on Friday night and then picked up listening again on Saturday. I was afraid I should have left well enough alone and skipped this set as my first impression was depressing.

For my second listening attempt I set the bass way down on my receiver and turned the overall volume a bit lower and voila much, much better. This time I could focus on the new remixes without being overwhelmed by the bass.

I have to say that for the most part after making these small adjustments I enjoyed this set. Not every new remix on this set works but there were a few that I truly did enjoy.

I have to say that of these new remixes “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”, “Isolation”, “Angela”, “Come Together (Live)”, “I Know (I Know)”, “Bless You”, “Steel and Glass” all stood out to me the most as being really enjoyable and fresh sounding.

“Angela” for one is a song I rarely paid attention to on the “Some Time in New York City” album but this new remix really makes this song stand out to me in way it never did before. It’s much better than I remember it being.

I’d also say that the “Imagine” and “Double Fantasy” Lp material also sounded really nice as well though as for being the ultimate remixes I’d say that would be stretching it. Different yes, interesting yes, but ultimate – no.

There are several instances throughout the set where John Lennon’s vocals were really different from the original mixes – single-tracked vs. double-tracked, less echo, etc. Sometimes these changes were really nice and other times they seemed to change the song too much for my tastes.

I think that some of the songs, “Mind Games” especially, tend to sound like rough mixes with Lennon’s voice overemphasized which push the music to the background too much making the song sound disjointed to me.

I’d say the first disc tended to be more hit and miss for me though that’s not to say I hated it by any means – it’s just different. The second disc was much more pleasing for me and one that I’d probably play a bit more often than the first disc.

The blu-ray disc actually was a bit more of pleasure to listen to as I played it through my television system which has much smaller speakers and not as much bass ability.

This actually tamed the music a bit and made the mixes sound a bit fresher and less jarring. I’m guessing listening online through streaming improves these mixes as well as I think that’s what this project was aimed at versus any sort of audiophile experience. So be it. 

Overall this set was enjoyable but if I had to pick I’d still reach for the original mixes if I was to really get into a Lennon mood.

I will say what really pushed this set up in my opinion is the terrific hardback book.

This book details each song in the set in Lennon’s own words and makes a really nice read with or without the 2 CDs. There’s also some really nice home photos I’ve never seen which makes this book a really nice way to celebrate Lennon’s life and 80th birthday.

To sum it up I’d give the deluxe set a solid B+ and would recommend it to any true Lennon fan. As to whether you need it or not I’d have to say no. Is it enjoyable, sure. The remixes are fun but I would definitely say not necessary by any means.

Whether or not the vinyl versions sound any better than the CD set I don’t know but I think this new deluxe version is enough for me. Famous last words probably but for now I’ll just stick to this set.

I’m guessing there will be another new John Lennon set on the horizon as the book lists a new deluxe set coming for Lennon’s most critically acclaimed album “John Lennon/Plastic One Band”

That’s certainly something to look forward to and hopefully it will be released in the near future.

As usual I have posted several photos of this set above and below.

Until next time take care and be well and see you soon!

“McCartney” vs. “McCartney” – A 50th Anniversary Celebration of Paul McCartney’s first solo album

Has it really been fifty years? Yikes these anniversaries are rapidly making me feel old.

As any fan of Paul McCartney’s solo career can tell you in April of 1970 McCartney did indeed release his first full-fledged solo album, aptly called what else “McCartney”. 

Not only did the “McCartney” album herald a new era of music for Paul McCartney it also generated a fare bit of controversy as press copies of the album included an interview in which McCartney stated that The Beatles had broken up and had no intention of ever recording together again.

Of course that little tidbit of information caused a major stir in the press leading to on the one hand great publicity for the “McCartney” album but on the other a massive amount of animosity toward McCartney as it seemed to portray him as the cause of The Beatles’ break-up.

As a result, at the time of the “McCartney” album’s release, critics took their venom out on McCartney’s more or less homemade and low-key solo debut despite the universally acclaimed track  “Maybe I’m Amazed”.

Coming so soon after the superbly crafted “Abbey Road”, The Beatles’ last recorded album together, I’m sure the almost folky and relaxed “McCartney” album must have seemed like a major left turn.

All these years later though this first Paul McCartney solo album simply reeks of charm and melody and of course pure McCartney pop music especially the exquisite “Every Night”, “Junk” and the previously mentioned stone cold classic “Maybe I’m Amazed”.

In celebration of this lovely and warm album this past week a new pressing of the “McCartney” album was released exclusively to independent record stores around the world as part of the second Record Store Day drop of exclusive releases.

Limited to 7,000 copies, this new version of “McCartney” is said to be cut at half-speed from the original master tapes at Abbey Road Studios in November of 2019.

Since I can’t resist anything McCartney, I acquired a copy of this nifty new pressing and decided to stack it up against an early British copy of the album that has a -2U on side one and a -3U on side two.

So how does this new pressing stack up against the lovely sounding early UK version? Pretty well actually. Very well if I do say so myself.

The first thing that this new pressing has going for it is that it’s dead quiet. My early UK pressing has some pops and clicks throughout which makes it a less engaging listen.

What I did notice about the new pressing is that on certain songs like “Every Night” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” there was an almost holographic feel to the sound; much smoother and fuller bass as well as nice full and clean vocals.

Don’t get me wrong the early UK pressing has nice bass too but this new pressing seemed to have a bit more detail and smoothness especially on the tracks McCartney did in EMI Studios as opposed to the other songs he recorded strictly at home.

I’d say the original UK pressing has more of a raw feel to the whole album and this new pressing kind of smooths out the rawness and makes the album seem a little more polished.

It’s not like a night and day thing but I was impressed at how lovely this new pressing sounds and while not every track seemed better there were quite a few that did sound very nice and on the whole this new pressing is well worth tracking down if you’re a fan of this album or Paul McCartney in general.

I also own the colored vinyl pressing of this album that was released a couple of years ago which sounds very much like this new pressing. I would actually give the nod to this new pressing as it sounds a bit more detailed.

Really playing this new pressing side by side against the early UK pressing I’d be surprised if anyone would be disappointed  as it stacks up very well and in some ways betters the UK pressing.

Well, that’s all for now. As usual above and below you’ll find photos of both pressings  I’ve talked about in this post.

Until next time be safe and well and Happy 50th “McCartney”!

A Tale of Two UK First Pressing Monos – The Beatles “Revolver” (XEX 606-1) and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Welcome back! As we creep back into that wonderful Fall time of year my mind, as per usual, is turning toward listening to some old vinyl. 

Not just any old vinyl mind you, lately I’ve been taking a look at all the original UK Beatles vinyl I own and making needledrops (vinyl transfers to digital) of all the first pressing mono and stereo copies that reside in my collection.

Today I wanted to feature two of my absolute favorite pressings – two of the best mono albums in the entire Beatles catalog (in my humble opinion): “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

As fate would have it I acquired both of these lovely pressings in 1999. Back then I was just getting into Ebay and at that time one could find really good deals on Beatle vinyl especially if you looked for playable copies that weren’t in Near Mint condition.

Nowadays original Beatles UK pressings will set you back quite a bit but then you could find them much cheaper and usually in decent shape without spending a fortune.

Funny enough I remember that I won both of these albums together in one auction from someone who lived in Atlanta, Georgia. Why do I remember that you say? Well I remember thinking how funny it was to find two first pressing Beatles UK monos in Atlanta of all places. I don’t know why but that struck me as odd.

Anyway, I could tell from the photos in the auction that both were well  loved and played but the description said they both sounded great so after not many other bids I won the pair for $30 including shipping which I thought was fair.

When I got them in the mail I was very pleased as the covers were really in decent shape and though I could tell the vinyl was well-played both albums looked pretty good.

Now at the time of this auction I don’t remember if I knew that there was a rare first pressing of the “Revolver” album that was only pressed for one day which contained an alternate mix (Mono Mix 11) of “Tomorrow Never Knows”

As the story goes The Beatles producer George Martin called the pressing plant on the first day of the pressing of the album and requested that this version of the mono record be stopped so the mix could be switched with a more preferred version of the mono mix of  “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

Most likely John Lennon asked Martin to switch the mix at the last minute and though most other artists would not have the ability to do such a late minute change thus was the power and clout of The Beatles that EMI allowed the substitution.

Even though EMI granted the change they insisted that the copies they already pressed would go out for sale and not destroyed thus this lovely collectible was born.

(Note: I don’t think I learned about that rare pressing until several years later reading one of Bruce Spizer’s terrific Beatles books on the UK Beatle albums called “Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records”).

As luck would have it the pressing of “Revolver” from that Ebay purchase was indeed the rare version of the album that contains the alternate mix of “Tomorrow Never Knows”

I just remember thinking at the time how great both albums sounded though I was a little frustrated there’s was a slight skip on one track on side one of “Revolver”. I remember not contacting the seller because I thought it was a good price and that “Pepper” played nearly perfect so what the heck why not keep them.

It’s a good thing I did as years later when I realized that my copy of “Revolver” had the matrix number XEX 606-1 that it was indeed the rare album with the alternate mix.

(Note 2: I’ve just recently read that even though this rare mix version was only pressed for one day EMI who released the album was capable of pressing up to 120,000 copies of an album in a day so accounting for the smaller stereo pressings there may actually be upwards of 80,000 or more copies of this mono pressing floating around the UK somewhere.)

As for the mono mix 11 of “Tomorrow Never Knows” it’s actually not drastically different to the familiar mono mix but it does have differences in John Lennon’s vocals and the volume of the tape loops that run throughout the song. 

The telltale sign that’s it is the rare mix is that it fades out much longer than the normal mono mix and features more of the tack piano in the fade than the regular mix.

It wasn’t until I read about the rare mix and discovered I owned it on my pressing. I’m guessing I just thought it was the difference between mono and stereo and didn’t really pay much attention to this mix.

It wasn’t until I bought another UK mono pressing of  “Revolver” that contained the regular mono mix of “Tomorrow Never Knows” that I could clearly tell the difference and now I really love listening to this alternate mix.

I’m so glad side two of my copy of “Revolver” with the rare mix plays perfectly and sounds great. I actually dubbed side one from my other UK mono copy of “Revolver” (both of these copies have XEX 605-2 on side one) so that I have a pristine digital audio representation of the first UK mono pressing of this album.

As I said the mono pressing of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” plays fantastic with very little noise and though it looks like it was well loved sounds like a fairly unplayed copy. 

By the way the matrixes on my copy of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” are side one XEX 637-1 and side two XEX 638-1 for those who want to know.

Well there you have it. As usual you can see photos of these two beauties above and below. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is missing its original red inner sleeve but is otherwise complete.

That’s all for now so until next time be well and safe and play some music!

Nothing More Than Wishes – A Dream 50th Anniversary Partridge Family CD Box Set

Who would have believed that’s it’s been nearly fifty years since the television show The Partridge Family made it’s network premiere!

On September 25, 1970 that famous multicolored egg cracked open and unleashed one of pop cultures most beloved music and television acts that still has millions of fans around the world.

Speaking only for me I have no idea what I was doing on that particular Friday night of September 25th 1970 (I was only four years old) but I do have a vivid memory of having the single “I Think I Love You“, in its picture sleeve no less, bought for me.

As memory serves I was shopping in an L.S. Ayers store with my mother and one of my older brothers probably around October when my brother asked my mom if he could have the single.  Well my mother knew that even at that age I was a music nut so she bought me a copy as well.

(Note: I still have that single to this day but the 45 and the picture sleeve look like they’ve survived a tornado and I wouldn’t dare to try and play the single as it has been worn to bits)

The other fleeting memory I have from the early 1970’s and The Partridge Family is around 1971 when I attended nursery school I insisted that they take a children’s record off the record player (probably some song like “Old MacDonald”) and play my copy of “The Partridge Family Album” which I had duly brought with me.

I know I know I was a weird child but it worked and I also remember one of the younger teachers smiling and waving her head to the music as my Partridge album played.

I also remember having the picture of The Partridge Family that came inside the first album (the same photo that’s on the “I Think I Love You” picture sleeve) tacked onto a bulletin board for years as a child.

Needless to say that The Partridge Family and I go way back so in honor of that it might be fun to share something that would be the perfect way to celebrate this 50th anniversary – a 4 CD Partridge Family box set!

Now before anyone thinks that a CD set is coming out I have to say there are no plans that I know of for any such box set. And I seriously doubt in today’s streaming culture anything like it ever will BUT I did manage to get an unofficial set a few years ago that fits the bill nicely.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine found a four CD set called “The Partridge Family Anthology” online somewhere and since it looks real they bought it for me as a gift.

As you can see from the photos above and below this set looks completely genuine and I can see how someone not familiar with the group could be fooled into thinking it was an official product.

I was flabbergasted when I first saw the CDs as every little detail looks nice – the Arista logo, the artwork inside and out, the Made in West Germany text on the rear of the CDs (a nod to CD collector’s obsession with early CDs made in West Germany) and best of all the track selection.

You see each volume of this CD set corresponds with a season of The Partridge Family TV show and features all the songs from that particular season – containing both released and unreleased songs!

While it’s obvious the unreleased songs came from a dub from the DVDs of the show I must say this set sounds pretty darn good and as several of these lost tracks that were broadcast on the show but never released on vinyl have a slim chance of ever being released officially I’ll take what I can get.

It’s a pity too as a real 4 CD set mastered from the genuine master tapes and including alternate mixes from the TV show would be a Partridge Family fans dreams come true.

But to quote the late David Cassidy himself “Dreams are nuthin’ more than wishes” as clearly Arista Records/Sony have no interest in releasing such a thing. Its a shame as the the few songs that didn’t make it onto vinyl but were broadcast on the TV show are quite good and worthy of release.

Well anyway, here’s my 50th anniversary salute to The Partridge Family! A bit early and a bit fantasy but every bit heartfelt and happy. Yes I said happy as in “Come on, get happy”!

Take a gander at the photos of this unofficial set and if you were around when the series premiered reply to this blog and share your remembrances.

As for me I shall take one of thee CDs out and give it a spin.

Until next time be well and safe and remember … “Come on now and meet everybody …”

They Both Shine On – John Lennon CD Boxed Sets (from the Past)

It looks like this upcoming October will be bringing a surprise for John Lennon fans. In celebration of what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday a new box set with a book and a blu-ray disc (also available in a 2 CD set without the book/blu-ray) called “John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth/The Ultimate Mixes” will hit store shelves around the world.

This new set will be a sort of greatest hits plus deep album cuts and will feature all the songs newly remixed as well as remixed in 5.1 and Dolby Atmos or in hi-res stereo 96/24 PCM for those who buy the box set with the blu-ray. Whew!

BUT that’s jumping the gun a bit. Since this new box set isn’t due for a few weeks I thought I’d take a look at two earlier box sets of Lennon’s music that are certainly more comprehensive as they are both 4 discs each and booth contain nice overviews of Lennon’s solo career.

Below are two of my favorite John Lennon box sets: “Lennon” a 4 CD set from 1990 and “Gimme Some Truth” (the first box set with this title from 2010):

“Lennon” (4 CD set):

This is the first CD box set that was released by the Lennon estate and was compiled by ace Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn. And I have to say that Lewisohn did a first rate job with the track selection on this set.

I’ve always felt that song wise this box set stands up as one of the best one stop shopping documents of John Lennon’s music in the CD era.

Not only are the hits represented but really all of the best album/deep cuts from throughout Lennon’s solo career are here plus the original mixes of the “Live Peace in Toronto 1969” are here as well as the original mixes of the live songs with Elton John from 1974.

It’s a super nice set that gets a star marked off as the sound is a bit muddied at times from what was called the “no-noise” process. Truth be told it’s really a bad listen as I think the sound is decent yet could be improved.

The box I have shown above is the first issue of this box with discs printed in West Germany that’s missing the song title for “Imagine” on the rear of the box. I always thought it was quite funny as in imagine this song title there but I’m sure it was a printing error. Later boxes corrected it.

The box itself is a simple affair as well as the flimsy book inside but the discs themselves are a nice listen. I especially still pull out Disc 4 as it’s the best way to hear all of Lennon’s 1980 material in one place without having to flip around Yoko’s material.

(Note: actually I’ve grown to like some of Yoko’s material but still prefer to hear Lennon’s songs by themselves)

“Gimme Some Truth” (4 CD set):

Now this set is a real treat as it takes Lennon’s solo material out of context which actually helps make some songs stand out that didn’t really grab me on their original albums.

Take for instance the song “You Are Here” from the “Mind Games” album. I never really took notice of the song but upon hearing it on Disc 2 of this set I fell in love with it. I love the dreamy Hawaiian/tropical feel of the song and it took me hearing it outside of the “Mind Games” album to really appreciate it.

This box set also contains quite a nice selection of all of Lennon’s solo material which makes it a great purchase for fans of Lennon who want more than a greatest hits CD. Plus this set was priced right and can still be found pretty cheaply.

The other thing about this set and really the main draw for it is the sound quality. This set was part of the 2010 remastering of Lennon’s solo work that used his original mixes that he oversaw but with much, much better sound and remastering than the 1990 set above.

I guess if I had to choose between the two sets this one would win out as the sound is really nice and it’s a great way to hear Lennon’s solo material especially in a fresh new context.

Plus this set has a better booklet than the 1990 “Lennon” CD set though in all honesty even though it sounds muddier I still play the “Lennon” set every now and then especially Disc 4.

Take a look at track selections above and compare how each set stands in terms of Lennon’s solo music (see photos above and below).

As usual take care and be well and safe!

Until next time, see you soon.

 

Meet the Monkees … Again and Again – and Again


Well here we are on a beautiful late summer Saturday. You can feel the Fall weather creeping in with milder temperatures, the air is a little less muggy and Halloween, my favorite time of year, is just around the corner.

And for me this fallish time of year brings back so many memories from the past. Most of them include music naturally, so I thought what better way to begin the Fall season than to take a quite peek at three versions of one of the first albums I ever owned – “The Monkees”.

Ahhhh, The Monkees. It was a television show and a group. I won’t go into the history of the so-called pre-fab four as I have many times in the past but needless to say I’ve acquired many a pressing of this first Monkees album over the years but today I’m just focusing on three.

  • The first pressing mono album with the incorrect spelling of “Papa Jean’s Blues”
  • A 1980’s copy of the album on Arista Records
  • An F.y.e. exclusive blue vinyl copy of the record that came out in 2016

I’d say that all three of these versions of this album are really not that common. The original mono copy can be found but usually not in as nice of condition as the one I own and found a couple of years ago.

I’d say the Arista pressing from the 1980’s is also pretty darn rare and I’ve only come across it once – thus the copy pictured here.

The F.y.e exclusive disc probably isn’t as rare as the first two but fun to have nonetheless so I thought I’d put it here as well in case folks have never seen it.

Here are some quick thoughts after a playing session with each:

The Original Mono pressing

What can I say, this beauty is one great sounding record. I was lucky enough to find a truly wonderful copy of this pressing a couple of years ago and man I must say it sounds fantastic! Both sides have a 2S in the martix in the run-out groove so it’s obviously an early pressing.

Every song on this pressing just pops out of the speakers with a nice punch and clarity and with not a hint of sibilance that I’ve often found on old Colgems pressings.

Luckily the record hasn’t been played to death and just smokes any other mono version of the album I own on either vinyl or CD.

I must say this album sounds great in either mono or stereo but this early pressing is really nice sounding if you can find one in decent shape.

The Arista Pressing

I wasn’t too sure how I’d like the sound of this pressing when I finally stumbled on a copy recently in my travels – pre-Covid travels I might add.

The cover looks absolutely terrible and looks as if Arista photocopied a Rhino copy and just tried to clean it up a bit making it look even worse in the process.

Now the reason this album is on the Arista label is that Rhino Records had licensed The Monkees entire catalog from Arista in 1985 through 1987 and of course when The Monkees made a spectacular comeback into the public  eye Rhino Records sold a ton of Monkees albums to new and old fans alike.

Well Arista decided to start issuing their own versions of The Monkees catalog beginning with the first four Monkees albums on CD as well as the first two on vinyl.

These Arista versions of these albums contained a weird mixture of mono and stereo mixes as well as some new remixes of songs as at the time quite a few of The Monkees original masters were still MIA.

The Arista vinyl version “The Monkees” matches it CD cousin and contains the same collection of mixes and I was pleasantly surprised at just how darn good this record sounded when I plopped in my turntable.

I’d say it sounds even better than it’s CD twin with a nice full sound and lovely bass and the remixed tracks really shine on this pressing as well.

The vinyl is dead quiet and I’d say this may be the best sounding vinyl version of the stereo album I own – it’s that good.

I believe the Arista CD versions of the albums sold okay but apparently their vinyl versions of the first two Monkees albums sold poorly and were quickly destined for the cut-out bins (see photos above for a cut-out slice in the cover).

The F.y.e pressing

The F.y.e blue vinyl exclusive pressing of “The Monkees” came out in 2016 as part of all the 50th Anniversary Monkees celebrations and is the same mastering as the colored vinyl copy that came out as part of the Classic Album Collection on Rhino Records.

I have to say that while not quite as good sounding as the Arista pressing it’s not bad actually. Side 2 sounds better to me than Side 1 but overall it’s a nice pressing – very quiet with good dynamics  – but nice quite a smooth and lively as the Arista pressing.

Well, there you have it. Just a little bit of Monkees nostalgia to get your three-day weekend going. (It’s the Labor Day holiday here in the States on Monday).

As usual you can take a gander above and below at these three unique pressings of The Monkees first platter. And vinyl is really the way to go with this album as that’s how I listened to this music for years and that’s what always feels right when I listen to this music to this day.

I hope all is well and safe in your world and until next time go out and enjoy the sunshine if you have it and sneak in some music if you can as well.

“Instant” Remix – John Lennon RSD 45 Previews Upcoming Ultimate Mixes Box Set

Well I’m a bit late to the party but better late than never I say. Today I thought I’d share one of the cool 2020 Record Store Day items that just happened to come my way.

You see last Saturday was the first of three Saturdays that Record Store Day items will be made available to indie record stores across the globe.

Normally Record Store Day is held on one particular Saturday usually in April but like everything else Covid has reared its ugly head and messed things up thus the three separate Record Store Days instead of one.

This year August 29th, September 26th, and October 2nd are being designated as RSD Drops and each of these Saturdays will have exclusive items available to purchase from your local indie record store.

Anyway, while I didn’t happen to make it out to an actual record store this past Saturday, I was able to purchase the one thing that I was looking for online – a brand new 45 reissue by John Lennon featuring one of his all-time classic solo tunes “Instant Karma! (We All Shine One)”.

I did manage to hear this new remix last week online but I am happy to say that playing this lovely new 45 was a much better experience. This new single plays dead quiet and features nice full, smooth bass, tight crisp drums and a now distortion-free lead vocal from Lennon.

The background vocals also leap forward in a clarity that’s missing on not only the original mix but also on all the previous attempts to remix this song.

As a bonus the b-side by Yoko Ono is actually a really nice baroque sounding song called “Who Has Seen the Wind?” which I rather enjoyed. The music is wonderful and Ono’s singing while an acquired taste isn’t too bad and really fits the song.

I’m actually really excited now to hear all the remixes that will be part of the upcoming “John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth – The Ultimate Mixes” which will feature either a 4 CD set of Lennon’s hits and album cuts that includes a Blu-Ray with high definition 24-96 stereo, immersive 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos mixes and 124 page book or a 2 CD version minus the Blu-Ray and book.

Lennon’s entire catalog was remixed in 2000 and while I enjoy some of those remixes I generally found them to be too “hot” sounding, too compressed.

After hearing this new remix of “Instant Karma! (We All Shine One)” I have high hopes that this new set will be worth buying as this new remix has punch but sounds easier on the ears.

I’ll admit when I first heard of this new set I was skeptical but now I think it could be something really nice and potentially great.

Well, there you have it. Just a quick look at this new Lennon 45. By the way the cardboard cover that reproduces the original 45 sleeve artwork is very well done and the pressing of this 45 is terrific too – flat and dead quiet.

As usual you can gander at a few photos of this groovy 45 above.

Until next time be well and see you soon!

Band on the SHM – A ” Pure/Pie” Paul McCartney SHM-CD Roundup

Well all I can say today is TGIF! Maybe that’s your sentiment as well and if so happy pre-weekend.

At any rate today I thought I’d share a mini-roundup of some Paul McCartney SHM-CDs I just received recently.

As you may know if you read this blog I have a thing for SHM-CDs so whenever I get some new ones I like to post them here as many times they go undetected out in the collector universe.

Today I’m sharing some thoughts on two SHM-CDs:

“Pure McCartney” – A two-CD set from 2016

“Flaming Pie” – A two-CD set that just came out this month

So here we go:

“Pure McCartney”

Having previously reviewed the lovely 4 CD SHM-CD version of this set even I am kind of surprised to be talking about the 2 CD set as I thought I would never buy one.

Well, lol, that’s something I should never say as I found this 2 CD version on sale online at a very cut price so I thought why not? I love the sound of the 4 CD version and this version would be perfect for the car (yes, I do still have a CD player in my car).

First off, as an overview of McCartney’s solo career, this 2 CD set is really a great way to have most of his solo hits as well as a choice selection of interesting deep cuts. Songs like “Dear Boy” (from “Ram”), “Jenny Wren” (from “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”), “Arrow Through Me” (from “Back to the Egg”), “Wanderlust” (from “Tug of War”) and “Only Mama Knows” (from “Memory Almost Full”) sit so comfortably next to the hits and really shine out of context from their main albums.

To me this 2 CD set is a really nice distillation of McCartney’s solo work and provides proof positive that his songwriting career did not end with The Beatles as many naysayers would snidely insist.

What I enjoy about this set, and most of the SHM-CDs I own, is that there seems to be a tad bit more richness to the bass and the stereo separation on this songs as compared to the regular issue CD. I know many don’t hear it but I do and these SHM-CDs are now my go-to versions of these albums.

“Flaming Pie”

What can I say, I’ve been on a “Flaming Pie” binge lately – and loving it! I’ve recently reviewed both the standard U.S. CD issue of this album as well as the Deluxe 5CD/2 DVD set. So really a 2 SHM-CD version as well? Yes, of course says the man behind the collector’s curtain.

I’m not going to say that this new SHM-CD version of the album sounds dramatically better than the regular version – it doesn’t.  What I will say is that this SHM-CD version does really shine on the remastered album from the first disc. Of course it’s not a day or night difference mind you but as I’ve said above the bass is smoother to my ears and everything seems a little bit more defined.

I will add that when the “Flaming Pie” reissue was first announced a few months ago I was kind of let down as I was really looking forward to Archive editions of the two remaining 1970’s Wings albums “London Town” and “Back to the Egg”. It’s not that I didn’t like the “Flaming Pie” album, I love it,  but in my mind I didn’t see the need for a new issue.

After living with the new McCartney Archive editions of “Flaming Pie” for a few weeks I have to admit I forgot how truly great most of the songs on this album are and how many of them are among McCartney’s career best.

Any McCartney album that includes “Somedays”, “Calico Skies”, “Beautiful Night” and “Little Willow” is well worth celebrating and remastering. I must say I would add the “Flaming Pie” album to my all-time McCartney solo Top Ten. Even the lesser tracks like “Used to be Bad” and “If You Wanna” have really grown on me.

There you  have it. This blog post may only appeal to the Maccaheads out there but for those who enjoy these things I thought it might be fun to get a glimpse of the SHM-CD versions of these two discs.

As usual see photos above and also be well and safe.

Until next time, enjoy the weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

“They Long to Be” … 50 – The Carpenters “Close to You” Golden Anniversary

 

Another anniversary? Well, I guess so, yes.

I’ve been trying to stop the urge to post anniversary blogs as most of my favorite albums are getting quite old but since an album by one of my most cherished groups hits 50 years old today, what the heck why not?

Exactly 50 years ago an album called “Close to You” was first issued by the pop/rock brother and sister duo The Carpenters. In celebration of this occasion I thought I’d post a couple of versions of this album I happen to own on compact disc. I also own it on vinyl but that’s another story for another day.

Before we take a look at the different CD versions I own let me say a little bit about The Carpenters.

Let’s turn back the time machine to oh say 1970/71.

As a child, and I mean a child, four and five years old in fact, my mother for some reason ended up buying me two 45’s which I own to this day – “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “Hurting Each Other” – both by The Carpenters.

Who knows why I liked them so much at that age. I’ve always been attracted to melancholy in songs so maybe even at that young age they appealed to me but whatever the case I owned and played these two songs to death.

In fact I still own the tattered picture sleeve for “Hurting Each Other” in which I proceeded to color in each of tiny photos of The Carpenters in one side of the sleeve. My five-year-old version of  liner notes I guess lol.

Anyway, since that tender age many years later I graduated from 45’s to albums of  The Carpenters greatest hits. It’s really only been in the last fifteen years or so that I actively bought their full albums and the “Close to You” album is now one of my favorites.

Besides the title song the album contains a slew of terrific songs – the classic No. 1 hit “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Maybe it’s You”, a really lovely slowed down version of The Beatles’ “Help”, “Baby It’s You” and one of my all-time favorites “Crescent Noon”.

Not everything on the album is great but this album is mostly a terrific listen and along with two other early Carpenters albums (“Carpenters” and “A Song for You”) it’s a slice of pure sweet ’70’s pop filled with the achingly tender and smooth vocals by the late Karen Carpenter.

It’s so odd to think that here the Carpenters music has lasted over 50 years while Karen Carpenter herself only lived to be 32 years old.

BUT since this a celebration of music I don’t want to go down a road of sadness. I’m just glad this music has managed to survive all these years and in my opinion it’s also managed to grow even more appealing and wistful with each passing year.

Above you can see the first CD issue of the album on A&M Records as well as a later issue of the album that came in a box set along with “Carpenters” and “A Song for You”. This later box set features the true original album mixes and were released in the late 1990s as part of The Carpenters Remastered Classics series.

The reason that the 1990’s CD’s are special is that most of the original Carpenters CD feature newly remixed tracks for some of the songs by Richard Carpenter, the lone surviving Carpenter who not only played piano but did most of the production and arranging for the duo.

For me the 1990’s Remastered CD’s are a blessing as even though I do enjoy many of Richard Carpenter’s remixes I also want the original album mixes available as well as that’s the sound I remember from the the 1970’s.

(Note: Actually the first CD issue of “Close to You” may not even have any remixes on it – I’m not sure. Later albums are filled with remixes especially of the hit singles but I think for the most part the first issue of this album contains the original mixes.)

Whatever the case may be, whichever version of the “Close to You” album you get your hands on is worth it. Karen Carpenter’s silky voice should be remembered and celebrated and hopefully will be for many years to come by future generations.

And for those of you out there who don’t like or get The Carpenters or think they’re uncool or whatever … I don’t care. I’ve always loved them and I always will.

Above you can see my mini pile of Carpenters CDs. Each and every one a gem.

That’s all for now. Just a quick hello and shout out to a 50-year-old friend.

Be well and stay safe … until next time.