You Say It’s Your Birthday – “Wings Greatest” McCartney Birthday Salute!

 

You say it’s your birthday indeed!

Today Paul McCartney turns 76 years old (unbelievable!) and with the imminent news/release of McCartney’s latest album hopefully dropping this week I thought it might be fun to look back at one of my all-time favorite solo McCartney albums “Wings Greatest”.

Even though “Wings Greatest” is a compilation album I think it contains some of McCartney’s most choice solo recordings and is one of the first McCartney solo albums I owned.

I had dabbled in a few of McCartney’s solo singles – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, “My Love” and “Listen to What the Man Said” – but up until 1978 when “Wings Greatest” was released the only other McCartney solo albums I owned were “Ram” and “London Town”.

I was strictly hits oriented at the tender age of 12 and I remember receiving the “Wings Greatest” album for Christmas that year and playing it to death. I must have played that vinyl copy a dozen times in the first week I owned it!

So, above are photos of four different CD pressings of the album from my collection – the first Japanese CD issue, the first UK CD issue, the McCartney Collection issue also from the UK and the latest (and greatest I might add) CD issue, the SHM-CD Mini-Lp Japanese issue which just came out last month.

All four of them sound different as they all have different masterings.

The first Japanese CD issue of the album which was released at the end of the 1980s sounds pretty good but has a noticeable treble boost and is a bit hissy sounding. Not great but not bad either. Some of the songs sound superb while others are hit or miss.

While a bit hard to find these days at one time this Japanese issue was my preferred version of this album and was for awhile the coveted issue on compact disc.

The first UK issue of “Wings Greatest” also from the late 1980s actually sounds really nice and is one of the best sounding versions of this album on CD. I’d give the nod to the latest SHM-CD as it has a bit more fluid low end but this CD is no slouch in the sound department.

The McCartney Collection issue from the 1990s is okay but suffers from noise reduction which was prevalent at the time and while it’s not horrible sounding it’s a bit dead or flat sounding compared to the two best CD versions.

The creme of the crop version of “Wings Greatest” on compact disc by far is the superb SHM-CD which just came out this year.

Not only does it sound great – it’s part of the McCartney Archive Collection releases – but the packaging is terrific as well with the lovely reproduced mini-lp sleeve, poster and inner sleeve that mimic the original Japanese vinyl.

So sit back today and if you own a copy of “Wings Greatest” throw it on in celebration of its creator on his 76th birthday.

Happy Birthday Paul and I look forward to your latest album soon!!!

Cheers until next time!

 

 

 

Sound of the Sunset – “The Monkees Present The Mike & Micky Show” at Rose Music Center, Huber Heights, OH 06-15-2018 (A Review)

 

 

 

Sometimes life surprises you in unexpected ways.

Last night I saw “The Monkees Present The Mike (Nesmith) and Micky (Dolenz) Show” in Huber Heights, OH at the Rose Music Center and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages.

Now I must confess I’m a huge Monkees fan (no surprise to readers of this blog!). I’ve seen various lineups of the group over the years stretching from 1986 to 2016 and this show my friends sits comfortably not only in my top three Monkees shows but in my top three live shows ever.

When it was announced earlier in the year that Mike and Micky would be doing a joint tour together I was excited. When they said they were going to perform some never played live Monkees deep cuts I was overjoyed.

I was expecting a good show but was surprised at how awesome the backing band was, one of the best I’ve ever heard at a Monkees show, and how well the music flowed and sounded.

You see this is the fourth time I’ve seen Mike Nesmith perform in a Monkees show and what I really enjoy about his participation is that he seems to steer The Monkees train (as Dolenz often describes the Monkees phenomena) toward more of a celebration of the musical side of The Monkees.

That may seem like a weird statement but when Davy Jones was at the helm (and don’t get me wrong, I loved his shows as well) there was more of an emphasis on the madcap TV Monkees with the music along for the ride.

Nesmith’s presence seems to tame the antics and bring more focus toward The Monkees catalog of great songs and last night’s show was just that; it was all about the music – no videos, no shtick and frankly very little talking or story telling at all from either Dolenz or Nesmith.

For the past ten years or so Monkees live performances have featured large video screens with ample clips from their TV show as well as their movie “HEAD” along with a heavy nod to the TV personas they created all those years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a looseness and humor to the show last night  – Nesmith was his usual dry-humored self – but it was very subtle. The humor sprung from Dolenz’ and Nesmith’s own personas not that of the Micky or Mike characters from The Monkees TV show.

Nesmith in particular riffed humorously in various ways about the heat (it was pretty muggy last night) most notably joking several times that it was nice to be back in Australia.

At one point Nesmith also took out a pair of sunglasses (see above) and proceeded to wear them for a few songs because of the strong sunlight that was hitting the stage which quickly brought to mind the the lyric “sound of the sunset” from “Auntie’s Municipal Court.”

Dolenz, in great voice as usual, was surprisingly quiet with very little to say other than to sing his guts out, which he did admirably.

I must say both Dolenz and Nesmith sounded great but you could certainly see that Nesmith was a bit rusty at times (he sang the lyrics as he read them from his Ipad) and wasn’t the well-oiled stage performer that Dolenz has become over the years.

Nevertheless Nesmith sang more passionately then I’ve ever heard him in the four shows I’ve seen him perform and was dead on for the majority his vocal work throughout the show.

It was nice to see his son Christian, who plays guitar in the band, help his dad adjust his Ipad when it got stuck during one point in the performance and watch him just generally support his father throughout the night by giving cues to the band for the elder Nesmith or smile as his he nailed a particularly good vocal.

It was also fun to see Mike Nesmith make fun of himself and just be so loose and relaxed and come across as genuinely happy to be there and touched by the love and affection from the audience which nearly filled the place which was great to see as well.

The standout performances for me last night included “Good Clean Fun” (a track from the “Present” album from 1969), “Me and Magdalena” (a superb performance!) and “Birth of An Accidental Hipster” both from The Monkees 2016 album “Good Times”, “The Door into Summer”, “St. Matthew” (an obscure but lovely choice), “Take a Giant Step” (in the original 45 arrangement) and “I’ll Spend My Life with You” (from my favorite Monkees album Headquarters”).

But the true highlight of last night, and frankly of all The Monkees shows I’ve ever seen, was the stellar performance of “Auntie’s Municipal Court”, a psychedelic deep cut from The Monkees fifth album “The  Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” that I’ve longed to hear in concert for over thirty years and finally got to hear and boy did it not disappoint!

So there you have it, a great show, a great venue (there was a free barbecue included in the ticket price which was a nice and tasty touch) and great weather despite the sometimes muggy heat.

Above I’ve posted a few photos from last night’s show as well as a groovy signed vinyl copy of Mike Nesmith’s album “Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs The Music” and a button set both from the merchandise table.

I couldn’t resist the signed album as I’d actually use it vs my normal shirt or clothing purchase which would probably just sit in a drawer. I would have bought a program but they had sold out by the time I made my way through the long line for merchandise!

All in all, a great night of music and if this is the last time I see a Monkees performance (hopefully not but you never know) it was truly a spectacular way to celebrate their legacy and end on a major high note.

Anyway, enjoy the photos and until next time be well and hey, hey … it’s summer!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Beatles in Uruguay – “Revolver”, “A Collection of Beatles Oldies” and “Let it Be”

Friday!!! Who doesn’t love Friday? Best day of the week. Major TGIF and since the weather’s great even more so!

In honor of the end of another long work week I thought it might be fun to take a journey overseas, to a more tropical climate. Not to troll a beach or gaze at the surroundings mind you, in this corner of the Web we’re looking at records. (Shocker I know).

Today I’m going to feature three of my favorite foreign Beatles pressings – a mono copy of “Revolver” and stereo copies of “A Collection of Beatles Oldies” and “Let it Be” – all from Uruguay which are fairly obscure at least in the United States.

I acquired these three beauties somewhere in the late 1970s at of all places my local shopping mall!

There was a store there which is now long gone and of course I forget the name but they used to stock quite a few import Beatles lps – UK, Japanese and these three pressings (see above) from Uruguay.

While these Uruguay Beatle records come with flimsy covers consisting of thin paper stock covered in plastic and look cheaply made they sound surprisingly good!

They seem to have been made from UK pressing plates as they have the same matrix numbers as UK pressings and fairly early numbers as well – see below:

“Revolver” – XEX 605-2 and XEX 606-2

“A Collection of Beatles Oldies” – YEX 619 and YEX 620

“Let it Be” – YEX 773-3U and YEX 774-3U

 

Because of using the British parts these really sounded much better than I remember as I hadn’t touched them in over 20 years.

I just played through all three pressings this week and while I would say the vinyl quality is a tad below a standard UK pressing (the Uruguay pressings have an occasional pop and crackle) they really do sound wonderful and are almost as good sounding as first pressing UK copies.

This mono copy of “Revolver” was the first mono copy I had ever heard and as soon as the cowbell popped up loud and clear in “Taxman” as it does in the mono mix I knew this pressing was something different and exciting.

“Got to Get You into My Life” is another song from the mono “Revolver” that really stood out as Paul’s vamping near the fade is just great, one of the reasons I prefer the mono version of this (and truthfully most) Beatles albums as the mix seems to just pop with an energy and vitality that’s missing from some of the stereo mixes.

I don’t have many other Uruguay pressings to compare (I do own an album by the group America but haven’t played it) but if all pressings from Uruguay sound this good it might be worth tracking some down if you can find them.

I would imagine these were’t pressed in great numbers but who knows, they did find their way to a Midwest shopping which seems amazing to me.

Anyway, feast your eyes on these unique pressings and until we meet again on the World Wide Web enjoy the sunshine – if you have it!!!

 

 

 

 

 

That Was Then/Remixes and Rarities – Monkees Arista CDs from Japan

Okay, since I’m still in a Monkees mood I thought I’d once again take a trip back in time and take a look at some Monkees music on compact disc.

Rhino Records/Warner Brothers, who currently own The Monkees back catalog, have done a magnificent job of not only reissuing all of The Monkees albums on vinyl as well as CD but expanding them to include practically every aural morsel of music that resides in the Rhino vaults.

Nowadays fans are used to deluxe CD box sets featuring outtakes, rare mixes, TV mixes as well as nice booklets stuffed with great information/details about Monkees recording sessions (courtesy of Monkees historian Andrew Sandoval) so these older CDs may seem quaint by comparison.

BUT there was a time in the early 1990s right before The Monkees catalog was purchased by Rhino Records in 1994 when it was hit or miss if the entire Monkees catalog would even come out on CD let alone have all these terrific sets with bonus material.

You see, several of The Monkees master tapes have been MIA for decades and even to this day some of the mono and stereo master tapes for certain albums have yet to surface.

That was even more so the case in the late 1980s and early 90s when a large majority of Monkees masters where unable to be located for CD reissues.

This led Arista Records, then owners of The Monkees catalog, to end up releasing several Monkees albums featuring remixes of certain tracks mixed with the then currently available Monkees masters.

(Note: Luckily several of the Monkees multi-tracks (which are used to mix down to a stereo or mono master) survive thus enabling several songs to be remixed)

The first five Monkees albums plus their seventh were in fact released by Arista in Japan (only the first four were issued in the U.S. by Arista) and are a real treat for Monkees fans as the remixes are really fun to hear and have subtle but interesting differences from the original mixes.

Plus the Japanese Arista CDs feature artwork that in several cases is drastically different to their U.S. counterparts which also makes them quite desirable to collectors.

I was fortunate at the time these came out to be able to acquire them through mail order and to this day I love to listen to the mix variations available on these CDs.

The first two Monkees albums “The Monkees” and “More of the Monkees” as well as their fourth album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd.” feature a mixture of mono, stereo and remixed tracks while their third album “Headquarters” was remixed entirely from scratch with all songs getting a new sonic makeover.

The fifth Monkees album “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” and the seventh  “Instant Replay” didn’t feature any remixes on the Arista CDs that I remember but were the first time these albums were released in their entirety on compact disc.

These last two CDs sound very similar to the Rhino CDs that were released later but I have an affinity for these as they have such groovy cover artwork and they were the first CD versions I owned of these albums.

There was also a really nice 3 CD set released on Arista Japan called “By Request” that features a really nice overview of The Monkees career up to the early 1990s and includes several of the remixed tracks from the other Arista CDs.

I also happened to acquire a nifty Japanese Arista CD of “Then and Now – The Best of the Monkees” that features only the tracks that were released on the original vinyl album not the 25 tracks that were later released on the U.S. CD version of this album.

As for the remixes on these CDs, I think they’re all well worth checking out if you’re a Monkees fan.

Some of my favorites include the longer mix of “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day”, the different sounding mix of “Mary, Mary” which features Micky’s growled vocal more clearly, the lovely mix of “She Hangs Out” which features the horns with a nice sustain that lasts longer than any other version of this song and the entire CD of “Headquarters” which is really nice to hear as the whole album has a slightly different feel in the remixed version.

The first four Monkees Arista CDs are probably much cheaper to find if you track down the U.S. versions but they’re missing the really nifty Japanese artwork.

In fact the rear of the “More of the Monkees” CD matches the Japanese Arista vinyl pressing of that album which I got in the late 1970s so that’s a real treat for me.

So as usual, take a gander above at the CDs mentioned in this post. They’re fun to see of you’ve never had a chance to see them in person.

(Okay, okay I have a lot of Japanese CDs but if they didn’t make them so enticing I wouldn’t lol!)

Until next time, be well and only eight days until my Monkees show!!!

(Ps. I will post a review here with photos a day or two after the show next week so stay tuned)

Bye bye bye bye … (“Star Collector” anyone?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at Me – “Monkees Forever” SHM and “Davy Jones” Blu-Spec Japanese CDs

As I gear myself up for seeing The Monkees Present Mike and Micky concert next week, I thought I’d take out some Monkees CDs and give them a spin.

I happened to stumble across a nice little CD called “The Monkees Forever” which has a good selection of hits and also includes 2016’s “She Makes Me Laugh” from the terrific “Good Times” album so out it popped into my CD player.

This CD came out in 2016 for the Monkees 50th anniversary but at the time I really didn’t have much interest in it and I passed it up in favor of all the other groovy new Monkees releases that were being released that year.

Just a couple of months ago I happened upon the Japanese SHM-CD version of this album which includes the song “Star Collector” as a bonus track on sale no less so of course I finally took the bait and added this CD to my collection – and I’m certainly glad I did!

As I’ve posted before, I think the Japanese SHM-CDs (Super High Material) actually do have improved sound (at least on my CD player) and this CD is no exception. I can’t speak to the Rhino US version of this CD as I don’t own it but the SHM-CD of “Forever” sounds really wonderful!

I was expecting to be underwhelmed with the sound for some reason but was pleasantly surprised that this is now one of my favorite sounding Monkees discs. In fact it’s now my go-to disc for a quick Monkees fix and for that it fit the bill tonight just perfectly.

And since I was talking about Japanese Monkees CDs I thought I’d also include a really nice mini-Lp Blu-Spec CD of the “Davy Jones” album that came out in 2013.

This CD has the same track selection as the U.S. Friday Music disc called “Davy Jones: The Bell Recordings” but comes in a wonderful reproduction of the original Japanese Lp sleeve and also includes a small two-sided poster and booklet with the lyrics to the songs printed in Japanese.

Blu-Spec CDs are also supposed to be made with the same materials as a Blu-Ray disc which is said to enhance the sound quality as compared to regular CDs.

In my experience the Blu-Spec CDs don’t have as much of a sound difference as the SHM-CDs but this disc does indeed sound sweet and you just can’t beat the lovely packaging.

I used to play the “Davy Jones” album quite often as a kid so it’s really wonderful to rediscover this album again in the digital age.

Not every track works but songs like “Road to Love”, “Rainy Jane”, “Girl” (from the Brady Bunch episode but presented here in its 45 mix) and especially “Look at Me” are really good songs and Davy Jones was at the height of his vocal powers for these 1971 sessions.

I think there’s enough solid songs on this album to highly recommend it and if you’re a Davy Jones fan then it’s a must buy either in the regular U.S. version or this terrific Japanese mini-lp version.

So in honor of the current Monkees concert tour here’s a look at these two wonderful Japanese CDs with pictures (as usual) for those who’ve never had a chance to see them.

If you’ve never owned these CDs the Japanese versions aren’t hard to find and in my opinion are certainly worth the hunt.

Until next time be well and  … Here they come …

 

My Sweet 8-Track (and CP28)

They say politics makes strange bedfellows (which is true) but I also think that phrase may apply to music collecting.

Let me explain.

Today I’m taking a look at two disparate versions of one of my all-time favorite recordings “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison (see photos above).

One of the versions shown above sounds pretty average (if you can still play it!) and would be considered one of the worst sounding ways to listen to this album and the other is considered by many to be the best sounding CD version of the album ever released.

You see today I found a really groovy near mint 8-Track version of “All Things Must Pass” in its original box WITH the shrink wrap still on it which got me to thinking about featuring it along with my favorite CD pressing as my latest blog post.

Now I do have access to a functioning 8-Track player but I didn’t buy this version for its sound quality. I bought it for its complete and glorious sentimental value and lovely box.

(Note: THAT my dear friends it what’s called being a collector, I’m sure others can fit in another word but I’m sticking with collector!)

This 8-Track version just transports me back to the first time I stumbled upon this epic album in a record store around 1978.

The store was called Karma Records and I distinctly remember eyeing the 8-Track version in its tiny box yet impressive looking box and then going back and forth between it and the vinyl version until I finally caved and purchased the vinyl 3-Lp set.

At that time my family had an old Magnavox console stereo (canary yellow I might add) with an 8-Track player in which I played several Beatles and solo Beatles 8-Tracks that I bought for cheap in marked down 8-Track bins at the Musicland music store in my local mall.

For some reason I decided that an 8-Track of this album wouldn’t do and went with the vinyl version. (I’m sure the mention of a poster on the hype sticker on the shrink wrap of the album played a factor in that decision as well.)

Anyway, this first vinyl version I owned of “All Things Must Pass” was on the orange Capitol label and I must say the album took a hold of me from the first time I placed the needle on side 1 and heard the lilting, mellow guitar of “I’d Have You Anytime” waft out of my old Magnavox console speakers.

I LOVE the murkiness of Phil Spector’s (who co-produced of the album) Wall of Sound production which lends a such mysterious and otherworldly feel to the songs on the album making them sound like the musical equivalent of George Harrison’s Gothic mansion Friar Park which is featured on the cover and poster that came inside the album.

So discovering a near mint version of this album on 8-Track (cheaply I might add) just sent me on a major nostalgic trip and made me feel like I could reach back in time and touch the counter of that long-ago incense smelling Karma Records.

Since the 8-Track isn’t by far my best sounding version of “All Things Must Pass” I  thought it might be nice to feature some photos of my favorite sounding CD version of the album as well – just for grins.

The first Japanese CD issue of “All Things Must Pass” from 1987 (with the catalog number of CP-28 -5459.60) is considered by many to be the best sounding compact disc version of the album with nice full bass and lovely sound especially on the acoustic numbers.

This CD’s sound isn’t flawless as the title song “All Things Must Pass” suffers from being mastered too low but overall this version sounds much better most CD versions of this album and is near the equal of the recent CD reissue from 2014 which sounds pretty darn good as well.

So there you have it. Two nice – and different – versions of the seminal album from George Harrison and truth be told one of the best solo albums released by any of the four ex-Beatles.

Take a gander at some of the photos and if you were around when 8-Tracks were all the rage then you too might have a fun trip back in time.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing “All Things Must Pass” in any version then you must run out to a record store or to your computer and rectify that situation right now!

I will share some of my favorite vinyl versions in later posts but for now I’m going to try and dig up some moldy old headphones from the 1970s and see if I can take this groovy new 8-Track set out for a test spin.

Until next time, as they say “Have a Nice Day”!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Venus and Mars … Are All Over Tonight

Ahhh it’s unofficially summer!

As we speak it’s a clear, sunny early June day, a slight breeze is blowing through the air bringing the first smells of summer wafting through the windows.

And of course with the advent of spring and summer and good weather that means flea markets and garage sales! And that my dear friends means more records!!!

Today I’m going to take a look at three later day pressings of Paul McCartney and Wings 1975 album “Venus and Mars” which I recently found while out and about in the sunshine.

No other Paul McCartney album reminds me of summer more that “Venus and Mars”.

You see, I was nine years old when this album came out in the summer of 1975 and I remember that you couldn’t turn on the radio and go five minutes without hearing “Listen to What the Man Said” which was the number 1 hit from this album.

It was ALL OVER the radio on those hot summer days from long ago (yikes, forty three years ago- ahhhh, it can’t be!)

And weirdly enough a long lost memory just popped into my head this morning as I was getting this post ready. I was taking a diving/swimming class (my mother couldn’t swim so we were ALWAYS taking swimming classes) at Tri-State college in Angola, IN and remember hearing “Listen to What the Man Said” while waiting my turn to dive.

Funny the memories that get jogged loose but needless to say you couldn’t escape “Listen to What the Man Said” it was a radio mainstay in the summer of 1975.

So, long story short, “Venus and Mars” means summer to me and as I usher in another summer I present three pressings of that album that I found in the last few weeks.

All three pressings are later pressings than the 1975 original and all three are lovely.

The first pressing I found was a 1989 UK pressing of “Venus and Mars” on EMI’s budget Fame label. At least I’m guessing this pressing is from 1989 as it has 5/89 printed on the white inner sleeve of the album (see above).

Anyway, this is the first Fame pressing of a Paul McCartney album I’ve found and it sounds superb! The cover is a bit worn but the vinyl is in terrific shape.

This later pressing does not contain the two posters and two stickers that came with the original pressing nor the colorful inner sleeve but sound wise it’s great!

The next copy I stumbled upon was a 1984 pressing on Columbia Records.

McCartney was signed to the Columbia Records (CBS) label in the United States from 1979 to 1984 and quite a few of his earlier Capitol/EMI albums were reissued on Columbia Records for a short period of time including “Venus and Mars”.

This copy of “Venus and Mars” (with the catalog number of PC 36801) comes with the colorful inner sleeve which is printed on glossy paper but no stickers or posters.

Again, the vinyl in this pressing is in great shape and sounds wonderful as well. I would give the edge to the Fame UK pressing but this one is no slouch, it sounds nice and warm with nice bass.

My latest “Venus and Mars” discovery came this past weekend as I found ANOTHER CBS pressing of “Venus and Mars” this time from 1980.

This 1980 CBS version contains all the stickers and posters as well as the colorful inner sleeve which is made of a thicker card stock like the original Capitol US pressing from 1975.

The bonus for this pressing is that it’s practically new, still in the shrink wrap with the hype sticker still attached (as readers of this blog know I LOVE hype stickers lol!)

The only odd thing is that while the posters inside are mint the stickers have begun to have some sort of bleed through as they are unused but slightly discoloring.

At least the vinyl is mint and is the same sound quality as the later 1984 CBS pressing.

Funny enough, I’ve rarely seen Columbia vinyl pressings of McCartney’s Capitol albums and in the space of a few weeks found two of the same album!

With the exception of not including the stickers and posters, this 1980 CBS pressing has the exact same cover as the 1984 issue only with a different catalog number – JC 36801.

For those Wings fans out there looking for a later pressing of “Venus and Mars” you can’t go wrong with any of the above issues. I’m sure they’re probably in better shape than 1975 Capitol pressings so it may be worth the hunt.

I must confess I have a weakness for albums still in the shrink wrap so I’m very happy to have found the 1980 pressing in such good shape!

Until next time Happy Early Summer and remember – Listen to what the man said, he said …