Maybe We’re Amazed (49 Years and Counting) … “McCartney” April 1970

Forty-nine years ago yesterday, April 17, 1970 to be exact, a monumental thing happened in Beatles history – Paul McCartney released his first solo album entitled simply “McCartney”.

On the surface that sounds pretty ordinary but stepping back into the era the “McCartney” album heralded The Beatles break-up as press copies of the album featured an interview with McCartney in which he categorically stated he had left The Beatles and had no plans to return.

In truth John Lennon had left The Beatles first that previous fall but McCartney was the first to announce to the press the group was over thus the “McCartney” album signals the true beginning of the solo Beatles era.

At the time of the album’s release it was pretty much slagged as inferior work compared to McCartney’s Beatle days. Other than the truly superb song “Maybe I’m Amazed” which was universally praised the album was met with a critical ho-hum and seen as a step down.

Looking through the lenses of time it’s easy to see why expectations were high for this album. It had come out on the heels of The Beatles last recorded work together, the slickly produced “Abbey Road”.

“Abbey Road” contained the Side 2 long medley which was a McCartney brainchild and seen by many as the group’s high water mark as a recording act.

The “McCartney” album on the other hand was practically a homemade affair with McCartney indeed recording most of the record at home on a 4-track recorder and playing all the instruments himself with only bit of vocal assistance from Linda as the only other contribution from anyone other than McCartney himself.

The album was a low-key celebration of home and family and feels like a warm blanket on a cold night as it’s very soothing and mellow for the most part – something that I think is it’s strong point.

While certainly not on a production level with The Beatles last few albums hindsight reveals that the “McCartney” album is actually one dame fine record and one of my all-time favorite works by McCartney.

I came to the album long after all the furor of The Beatles break-up had settled and to me the basic nature of the “McCartney” album has always appealed to me.

I love the raw sound of the record and some of the songs have remained favorites especially “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Every Night”, “Junk” (a Beatles cast-off), “Teddy Boy” (another Beatles cast-off) and “Oo You”.

The album is melodic, acoustic, atmospheric and filled with nice rock guitar licks throughout. There’s just something about the basic raw nature of the album that’s appeals to me and I’ve never grown tired of the album since I first discovered in 1978.

Today I thought I’d post some of my favorite vinyl and CD copies of the album that  I’ve acquired over the years.

The cream of the crop sound wise I have to say is the original UK first vinyl pressing of the album (see above) as it just has a presence to the bass as well as the vocals that other copies seem to lack.

Having said that I don’t actually think the other vinyl copies are that far behind mind you. In fact all of my vinyl copies of “McCartney” sound quite good but the first UK is the best.

I just recently found a well-loved Canadian first vinyl issue (pressed in the States it seems) and even though its a bit crackly in spots it sounds just great.

I’d also have to say that the Columbia pressed copy I own also sounds damn fine and is actually just a step below the UK original – it sounds that good.

I also have the original UK and Japanese CD pressings which also sound terrific but I think my favorite CD pressing is the recently released SHM-CD of the McCartney Archive version which has a really nice oomph to the bass and has more muscle to the sound compared to the first CD issues.

As usual feast your eyes on some slabs of the great “McCartney” album above.

Until next time Happy 49th to the “McCartney” album and if you’ve never heard it – you must! It will sound good no matter what sound medium you try but of course there’s nothing like placing the needle down on a vintage vinyl copy!

Cheers and Happy “McCartney“ing!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The True Fifth Beatle Speaks – “Produced by George Martin” (6-CD Set)

Over the years the press as well as various music insiders have bandied about the phrase “The Fifth Beatle” in reference to any number of people associated with The Beatles legendary career.

It makes a nice lead for an article and while there is a case for people such as their manager Brian Epstein and actual ex-Beatle Pete Best to be fifth Beatles, I would make an argument that the only true “fifth” Beatle if there ever was one was their producer George Martin.

I say that because no other person had such a marked impact on The Beatles music than the four group members themselves and Martin.

Not only did George Martin produce and arrange most all of The Beatles recordings he also played piano on several Beatles records as well.

Since his death in March of 2016 Martin seems to be, well I wouldn’t say forgotten, relegated to the mists of time as most younger people who are now just getting into The Beatles’ music aren’t aware of his critical role in shaping those treasured recordings.

Today I thought it might be fun to take a look at a 6-CD box set that came out in 2001 that highlights not only some of Martin’s Beatles productions but also features a fine selection of his production work in all areas of music from comedy music, orchestration and his numerous other British Invasion/Mersey Beat productions from the 1960’s.

Compiled and annotated by noted Beatles historian Mark Lewishon, the 6-CD “Produced By George Martin” is a treasure trove of wonderful music and the most fitting tribute to one of the great record producers of all time.

Beatles fans of course will find plenty to love including four actual Beatles recordings (“Please Please Me”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Yesterday” and “In My Life”) as well as Martin’s work on Paul McCartney’s first solo music from the film “The Family Way” in 1966 (“Love in the Open Air”) and some of Martin’s contributions to the soundtracks of The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” (“Ringo’s Theme (This Boy)”) and “Yellow Submarine” (“The Pepperland Suite”).

There’s also a nice smattering of his production work from Paul McCartney’s solo career (“Live and Let Die”, “Ebony and Ivory“, “Say Say Say” and “No More Lonely Nights”) as well as Martin’s work with noted hit makers like America, Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers and Celine Dion among others.

The booklet inside the set is also well-done with detailed liner notes and page after page of lovely black and white and color photos from the era these recordings were made.

It’s such a well done set beautifully put together with nice sound, great song selection and even the smallest detail such as the lovely reproductions on the actual CDs of various Parlophone labels throughout the years makes this set the perfect celebration of George Martin’s impact on some of the best recorded music of the Twentieth Century.

Disc Three is worth finding this set alone as it’s so nice to have hits by The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and Shirley Bassey all on one disc together. The Beatles songs are rarely on compilations so this set is notable just for that alone.

I’m not sure how easy this set is to find today as it was a pretty low key, limited edition release when it came out in 2001 but for any Beatles fans or fans of popular music this set is a must own item and one of the best looking box sets I’ve ever seen.

As usual you can see photos of the set above.

Until next time, be well and TTFN!

 

 

 

 

Record Store Day 2019 – A Tale of Two Johns (The Ballad of Elton John and John Lennon)

 

Well, well Record Store Day is once again upon us.

I just got back this morning from a quick trip to my local record store to report on a couple of fun finds I bought today that I think are really nice.

The only two Lps I had any interest in buying were still in the bins so I thought I’d share a few thoughts and pictures; one is by John Lennon and the other is by Elton John.

First up John Lennon:

“Imagine: Raw Studio Mixes” features the complete Lennon album “Imagine” from 1971 in raw mixes of the album takes that don’t contain sweetening or post production and are just as the title says with Lennon and his band raw in the studio.

I did a review a few months ago of the CD box in which these were taken from (“Imagine: The Ultimate Collection”) but I will say it again here, I love these raw takes and love the feeling of being live in the studio with Lennon while he’s making this classic record.

If you bought the CD set than this Lp is probably not going to be of huge interest but the pressing is superb and sounds great. I like the album standing as a complete alternate look at the “Imagine” album in raw form and is well-worth owning.

I think the blu-ray disc with these same raw mixes (in the CD box mentioned above) may sound the best but this new vinyl issue sounds very, very good and is this is a great pressing with virtually no pops or clicks at least on my copy.

If you didn’t spring for the box and love Lennon or the “Imagine” album than this new RSD release will be a pleasant treat.

(Note: For the collectors out there there is a nice poster in the Lp as well though I must admit they could have chosen a better album cover – oh well overall very nicely done.)

Second up is the superb “Elton John Live From Moscow” 2 Lp set.

This live album from 1979 features just John and percussionist Ray Cooper playing  a great set with stripped down versions of Elton classics such as “Daniel” and “Rocket Man” as well as groovy deep cuts like “Better Off Dead” and “Tonight” – two of my favorite Elton John songs.

I saw Elton John live a few years ago locally in a concert with just him on the piano with no backing band and like this 1979 performance this is the type of show John excels at and this recording proves it.

The pressing is again nice and quiet and the concert sounds lovely. It was mastered by Bob Ludwig and will get many repeat plays as the few tracks  I’ve sampled so far are fantastic. Well worth the releasing and hopefully this will get a wider release on CD though these days one never knows.

Plus the Elton disc is pressed on cool looking clear vinyl which is another added attraction for collectors.

Both of these albums are limited pressings for independent record stores for Record Store Day and both are really well done. All you vinyl hounds out there will probably be happy with these releases though I’m sure your wallet won’t – that’s nothing new for Record Store day though.

I will say the single Lp Lennon disc which was the same price as the 2 Lp Elton John disc was a bit overpriced but still well done and sounds lovely.

I’m glad that record stores are being highlighted so as long as it’s easy to get in like it was today at my store and the stock is good than Record Store Day is a fun experience.

Well that’s all for now. Just a quick Record Store Day update.

Be well and go home play some vinyl records today!!!

 

 

 

I Think I Love Them – Partridges at 45 r.p.m.

Memory is a funny thing.

I remember a lot of things about the early to mid 1970’s for example.

For one thing, I had quite a lot of 45’s. And I remember playing those 45’s over and over – to death on occasion in fact.

I also remember owning many vinyl 45’s by The Partridge Family. I’m not sure why as I owned their albums as well but I had most of them that were released except the last couple or so that came out toward the end of the series run.

In fact, until recently I thought the 45 versions of The Partridge Family singles were just the common stereo versions that were also found on the albums which were released at the same time – not true it seems.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon my stash of old 45’s and lo and behold among them were my pile of Partridge 45’s – all in pretty decent shape all things considered.

One of the things that motivated me to find them was the discovery of a YouTube video of someone playing their 45 of “I Think I Love You” and it sounded nice and punchy. I was surprised to find that that single, as well as most of The Partridge Family 45’s, actually played in mono!

I knew there were mono promo copies, see above, but didn’t think the regular stock copies were mono – thus the hunt was on for my old 45’s.

Well I managed to clean up my stack of Partridge vinyl and really most of them sounded pretty good. The odd thing is that the ones that looked pristine sounded a bit dodgy and the ones that looked well worn and crappy sounded pretty darn good!

Bell Records, The Partridge Family’s label, didn’t press high quality 45’s it seems as most of them had some sort of slight distortion in places even though they looked okay. Of course I could have damaged the 45’s all those years ago but I was surprised to find that the Bell 45’s were very hit or miss in quality.

With a little work cleaning both physically and through Audacity software the 45’s actually turned into a nice CD I called “The Partridge Family 45 Collection”.

Why you may ask? Well, lol why not?

Even though I doubt these mono 45 mixes are truly unique mono mixes, they’re most likely mono mix downs from the stereo versions, they do sound different to the Lps versions and have more pop and sizzle, more bass and clearer vocals from David Cassidy.

There are some slight differences like “It’s One of Those Nights (Yes Love)” seems to have more echo than it’s stereo cousin but that could just be the effect of the mix down from stereo.

Nonetheless these 45’s sound pretty good and there’s even a bonus David Cassidy B-Side I forgot about called “All I Wanna Do (Is Touch You)” which you could really call a Partridge Family out-take as it’s the same writers, producers and sound as the group.

In fact Cassidy’s first solo album “Cherish” might as well just be called a Partridge Family album as it’s so similar to the Partridge albums. It wasn’t until Cassidy’s solo work from 1972 onward where he adopted a harder sound that his music changed from the lusher pop of the Family records.

Anyway, here’s the the list of 45’s that I used to make my collection.

(All stock copies unless noted):

The Partridge Family:

“I Think I Love You” b/w “Somebody Wants to Love You”

“Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” b/w “You Are Always on My Mind”

“I’ll Meet You Halfway” b/w “Morning Rider on the Road”

“I Woke Up in Love This Morning” b/w “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

“It’s One of Those Nights (Yes Love)” b/w “One Night Stand”

“Am I Losing You” b/w “If You Ever Go”

“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” b/w “I’m Here, You’re Here” (I own it but unfortunately both sides sounded horrible so I didn’t record it!)

 “I Think I Love You” b/w “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” – Flashback Label 45 (best source for both of these songs and both in mono)

*”Looking Through the Eyes of Love” – Promo DJ copy, stereo on one side mono on the other

David Cassidy:

“Cherish” b/w “All I Wanna Do (Is Touch You)”

“Could It Be Forever” b/w “Blind Hope”

“How Can I Be Sure” b/w “Ricky’s Tune”

As you can see from the photos above I also have a Japanese 45 of “I Think I Love You” that while it says mono on the label actually plays in stereo and a Flashback reissue of “I Think I Love You” b/w “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” that sounded much better than the original Bell 45’s and was still mono so I used that one instead for those songs.

I’m glad I found these 45’s and really love the sound of the CD I made. too bad there’s not a snowball’s chance in **** these will ever see the light of day on legitimate release but at least the Partridge Family singles are fairly easy to track down. Playable? That’s another story.

If you were around in the 1970’s and have some of these 45’s dig them out. They sound great (if they’re in good shape!) and there’s just something about the genuine 45 sound of these songs that feels right when you play them.

Until next time, be well and Come On, Get Happy!

 

 

 

 

Longboxes, Promos and Imports – Oh My!/The Beatles Anthology on CD

 

Today my friends is where the rubber meets the road as far as collecting goes.

You may see this blog post and think, seriously? Boxes? Cardboard?

I see fun variations and cool differences.

It’s hard to see through a collector’s eyes unless you have this same affliction.

You see in my younger days I had a desire to collect all sorts of variations of the music I loved – be it different boxes or imported version or what have you. I still have that affliction to a degree but it has been tamed somewhat over the years.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some cool variations of The Beatles “Anthology” CDs that came out in the mid-1990’s.

The Beatles “Anthology”, for those who don’t know, was a series of TV programs and CDs and vinyl that was basically telling The Beatles story through their own words and music.

Instead of picking the well-known and loved hit studio versions of their work, for “Anthology” The Beatles chose to tell there story through rare and unreleased versions of their music including demos, live versions and studio out-takes both in audio and video form.

Plus there was the added addition of two brand new Beatles reunion songs “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” that were created from unreleased demos by John Lennon in the late 1970’s which was a major selling point for the CDs.

For Beatles fans the “Anthology” sets and videos were a major treat and a rare peek behind the curtain of The Beatles and gave a great glimpse into their creative process and was the perfect way to stroll through their career.

For the average fan I’m sure it was somewhat of a puzzle as to why The Beatles felt the need to release all these out-takes instead of the well-known versions but I’m sure another reason they chose this route was to counteract all the terrific sounding unofficial studio out-take collections that were flooding the market since the late 1980’s.

So that brings me to the fun “Anthology” variations (see above) in this post today.

The three 2 CD “Anthology” sets came out in different formats for different retailers. Though the CD longbox was pretty much a thing of the past The Beatles “Anthology” CDs came out in not one but two different sizes of longbox for different retailers.

I’m guessing since there was such a buzz and huge sales for these CDs it must have made it easier for stores like Target to have these sets packaged in these attractive boxes which could be displayed easier and more prominently than just shrink wrapped CDs.

The cassettes were also packed this way but even I had a limit and didn’t buy the cassette longbox versions. Since I was firmly a CD guy at that point I stuck with the CD format boxes.

As you can see this was also around the time that dreaded stores exclusives came into vogue. Best Buy had a fun 4 CD boxset of Beatles interviews free with purchase if you bought “Anthology” from them (see above) and Target was offering a free keychain inside the longbox if you bought “Anthology 3” at their store.

(Note: I have never opened the “Anthology 3” box above so I have no idea what the keychain even looks like!)

I’ve also included above photos of two promotional copies of “Anthology 1 & 2” as well as a recent Japanese CD reissue of “Anthology 2” plus a promotional cardboard slipcase that holds the three regular CD issues of all three “Anthology” CDs that I absolutely can’t remember where it came from but it’s one of my favorite promo pieces from the whole project.

I know some fans don’t look as favorably at the “Anthology” sets or reunion songs as when they came out but for me I still really enjoy them and I especially still find the reunion songs very enjoyable and a quite fitting and poignant endnote to The Beatles career.

(Note 2: Recently all three “Anthology” sets were remastered but for download or streaming only. I really hope someday these upgrades will come out on CD and the Anthology series gets upgraded for Blu-Ray as well. I have my doubts it will happen but with The Beatles and Apple one never knows!)

So take a look at Collector Mania in action above and until next time be well and have a good week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Years of a “London Speed Egg” – First Issue U.S. CD’s of Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Wings at the Speed of Sound”, “London Town” and “Back to the Egg”

 

It’s been almost thirty years … unbelievable!

And we’re talking thirty years since a reissue not an original release.

What am I babbling on about (sometimes I wish I knew lol) you say?

Well, for all you MacHeads out there it’s been nearly thirty years since the first U.S. CD release of Paul McCartney and Wings’ albums “Wings at the Speed of Sound”, “London Town” and “Back to the Egg”.

How could it possibly be that long since these were re-issued? Whatever the case, time marches on and so today I’m taking a look at these three wonderful CD releases!

I have to say that these are three of my favorite Wings albums. Of course being the Beatle Geek that I am I ran out and bought them the first day they were issued which I believe was sometime in June of 1989.

I remember being quite excited as “London Town” especially has always been in the Top 5 of McCartney’s solo work for me. Not sure why but ever since I spotted this album on the shelves of a local Kmart store way back in 1978 I’ve been entranced by its music.

Now when I purchased these three CDs I was pretty happy with the sound but the booklets – that’s another story.

The weird thing about these first U.S. issues of these albums was that while the artwork looked glorious on the covers, the booklet inserts only folded open to two blank pages. Blank pages? Oops, where were the liner notes and credits?

Capitol soon realized their error and took these three CDs out of the shops and then reissued them with the proper booklets.

Another weird thing about these U.S. CDs is the fact that the artwork is much sharper and cleaner looking with much brighter colors than the corresponding UK CD issues. I also own the first issue UK versions of these CDs and the “Wings at the Speed of Sound” CD in particular looks washed out and bland compared to the colors on the U.S. issue.

There is also a difference in sound quality between the first issue U.S. vs UK CDs. The U.S. CDs have been treated with NoNoise which removes hiss while the UK versions were not. Thus the UK CDs are the better sounding but the U.S. versions were the better looking!

At the time I thought the U.S. CDs sounded okay but after getting the first issue UK versions I noticed an improvement in sound, the music seemed to breath and have more dynamics than the U.S. versions.

Here’s the other strange thing, the later reissues of these CDs also on Capitol are different to the first issues.

A couple of years ago I managed to track down later U.S. CD issues of these three albums and was surprised to find that not only was the artwork different on the booklets but the face of the CDs themselves was very different from the first U.S. issues. The later U.S. Capitol CD issues of these albums seem to be clones of the UK releases in every way.

I was surprised to find that they sounded much better than I remember the first U.S. CD issues sounding so it seems as if the later Capitol issues were complete clones of the UK CDs artwork and all but I’m not sure why they would do that unless they felt the UK were indeed better.

Anyway, as usual you can look at both issues in the photos above. The first U.S. issues come first then are followed by photos of the later Capitol CD issues.

To me the later U.S. CD issues sound really nice and not as flat as the first U.S. issue CDs. I may be wrong, it has happened once or twice before, but they sound pretty good to me.

There’s also some photos of the groovy longboxes the first U.S. issues came in which were only released in the U.S. as the UK didn’t do longboxes for their CDs.

Feast your eyes on some vintage Macca CDs and until next time be well and listen to some music on a purple afternoon on an imaginary street!

 

 

 

 

Bubblegum Cereal – Kellogg’s ‘Josie and the Pussycats’ 45’s

Good evening and Happy April!!!

Yes the sun is finally out and while it’s not summer it’s finally, actually Spring!

To celebrate, I want to share some results of an early Spring cleaning I did this week. Of course most normal people don’t find old records hidden in the closet while doing Spring cleaning but as is the norm for me I did!

Tucked at the back of a dusty basement closet I found an old, long forgotten box that held a ton of old 45’s that I hadn’t thought about in almost 40 years.

Among the pile of old superhero storybooks, old Scholastic books with records and a odd Booby Sherman record or two, I found four particular 45’s that REALLY took me back in time to some early memories.

You see in 1970 at the tender age of four my mother ordered these four records for me from a box of Kellogg’s cereal. Yes, you heard right a box of cereal.

The four records in question come from the Saturday morning cartoon that’s probably also almost long forgotten – “Josie and the Pussycats”.

Not that I remember every detail of the show clearly of course – it was 49 years ago after all – but I do remember watching “Josie and the Pussycats” on Saturday mornings along side the then new cartoon “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!”.

Both of these shows featured pop music and both shows also had records of those songs for sale which were offered on various Kellogg’s cereal boxes.

I don’t know why I never got the Scooby-Doo discs but I do remember getting these four “Josie and the Pussycats” records and playing them to death – or so I thought. I actually cleaned all four of these records and they still are surprisingly very playable. They actually sound pretty darn good in fact.

I hadn’t heard these tunes in well over 35 years but I was taken back by A) the fact that I remembered most of them and B) they weren’t half bad actually. Tuneful bubblegum pop with a hint of soul and sung and produced very well.

Now of course these aren’t tunes that evoke anything really “heavy”, to quote the times, but they are fun and tuneful and much like The Archies, another cartoon that spawned massively successful pop records, these songs are a lot of fun and do what good pop records do – they stick in your head like glue!

Trivia time-  did you know that one of the voices on these records belongs to none other than future “Charlie’s Angel” Cheryl Ladd then known as Cherie Moor?

There must be a cult following for these songs and the show because Rhino Records released a limited CD in 2001 called “Josie and the Pussycats – Stop, Look and Listen: The Capitol Recordings” that featured these songs and more through their Rhino Handmade Website.

Trivia bit number two – did you know that Bobby Hart (Monkees songwriter and producer) wrote some of these songs along with Danny Janssen? The pair also wrote some songs for The Partridge Family around that time as well.

Whatever the case, these 45’s were a blast to find again and fun to give a listen to after all these years. I’m truly surprised that they sounded as good as they did but I guess at even four years old I never totally trashed my records.

As usual take a peek at these records above and maybe it will jog some long lost Saturday morning memories  for you too.

Until next time, be well and stay groovy!