Take the Last Box to Clarksville/Monkees Box Sets – “Listen to the Band”(1991) and “Music Box” (2001)

 

 

 

Still cold outside? Yep, it is here too.

Well, since it’s another day in the deep freeze why not take another giant step back in time and visit some terrific music CD box sets, Monkees music box sets in fact.

Fans of The Monkees have a LOT to be thankful for as the company that owns their music catalog and TV series (Rhino Records, now owned by Warner Brothers) has made it its mission to put out every scrap of Monkees material (be it music or video) that they have in their archives out on the market in some form or another.

Today I’m going to take a look at two, yes TWO, of Rhino Records CD box set collections of The Monkees music – “Listen to the Band” from 1991 and the more recent “Music 
Box” from 2001.

(Note: the version of “Music Box” that I’m featuring today is a 2007 European repacked version that comes in a much smaller package but still comes with the nice booklet and 4 discs.)

As you can see from the photos above both box sets are a thing of beauty and both are choke full of the best of the Monkees music and are fairly comprehensive at least up to the time they were released.

Since 2001 when “Music Box” was released The Monkees have recorded and issued two fantastic albums, 2016’s “Good Times” and 2018’s “Christmas Party”, so while these CD sets are missing tracks from these latest albums both box sets are still wonderful collections and well worth seeking out.

First up is 1991’s “Listen to the Band”.

I’d have to give the edge for design to this box set as it includes a groovy poster full of cool Monkees memorabilia as well as a terrific booklet that features detailed liner notes by Monkees historian Andrew Sandoval (who also put both box sets together) as well as photos on the cover taken from The Monkees TV series end credits which I’ve always felt are so iconic for the band and look great on the box and booklet!

Not only does “Listen to the Band” include a fairly comprehensive overview of The Monkees career but the real draw of this box set is that most of it, perhaps 75 percent of it, has been remixed from the multitracks and sounds wonderful.

In fact this box set is the only place to get most of these remixes and for any true Monkees fan it’s worth seeking it out just to have all this music in crystal clear sound. Many of these remixes have subtle and some not so subtle differences from the original mixes from the 1960’s.

The song “Auntie Municipal Court” springs to mind as one of the best new mixes. This new remix models itself after the rare mono mix from 1968 and is in my opinion THE best mix of this track ever.

This song sounds so much more psychedelic and ominous in this new mix that it makes me wish the whole “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” album, from which this song is taken, was included in remixed form as the results are so good.

With the “Listen to the Band” box set being so well done, I was quite surprised when Rhino released the “Music Box” set in 2001.

With “Music Box” Andrew Sandoval, the sets producer, went with an even more comprehensive approach to The Monkees catalog and this time featured original 1960’s mixes of most songs as by this time a lot of the master tapes of The Monkees music had been located and he felt the original mixes were more authentic than remixes.

As far as music I’d give “Music Box” the nod as it has more tracks and even more unreleased goodies than “Listen to the Band” but as far as sound  I’d give the nod to “Listen to the Band” as “Music Box” is mastered a tad too loud and while decent sounding isn’t quite in the same league sound wise as “Listen to the Band”.

“Music Box” also contains a couple of terrific rarities that aren’t included on the “Listen to the Band” set including super clean sounding longer versions of “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” and “Daddy’s Song” both sung by Davy Jones as well as a previously unissued mix of Mike Nesmith’s song “Of  You”.

If you’re wanting a nice overview of The Monkees career either set would be a great find but I believe “Music Box”, especially the 2007 reissue, may be easier to find and cheaper.

I will say though that it might be worth the effort to try and track down the “Listen to the Band” set as most of the remixes on it are unique to that set and well worth adding to your collection or if you’re just looking for some one-stop shopping for Monkees music it’s a must buy!

BUT I say get both sets as I’m a huge Monkees fan and both sets complement each other nicely and both are different enough sonic experiences that it makes it worthwhile to own each one – at least in my mind lol.

Until next time, keep safe and warm and remember …

“HERE THEY COME, WALKING DOWN THE STREET” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t It a Dark Side of the Scarecrow? – Early CD releases – “All Things Must Pass” (UK), “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Scarecrow”

 

Hello from the frozen tundras of the Midwest!

Hopefully anyone reading this is safe and warm and nor out in the nasty, nasty cold that’ gripping most of the county.

Today I decided as a distraction I’d take a dip back in time to some early CD releases of three of my favorite albums – “All  Things Must Pass” by George Harrison, “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and “Scarecrow” by John Cougar Mellencamp.

(Note: This is the first of several blog posts where I’ll take a look at early CD issues of some of my favorite albums and highlight the sound and what to look for if you want to find these discs.)

All three of these CDs were issued between 1984 and 1987 and feature nice warm sound and are somewhat sought after by music collectors who want to hear these albums in the best (of course this is debatable) sound of the CD age.

At least these CD issues are easier on the ears then some of their later CD issues and while not all agree on the sound I personally think all three sound really nice and while not perfect are some of the best version of these albums released on CD.

“All Things Must Pass”  (first CD release of this album in the UK)

Let’s begin with one of my favorite releases by any of the ex-Beatles, the triple vinyl LP masterpiece by George Harrison originally first released in 1970.

In a much earlier post I highlighted what most people feel is the best representation of this album on CD – the first Japanese issue which was also released in 1987 when this CD came out in the UK.

This first UK CD issue shares practically the same mastering as the first Japanese issue and features some of the same quirks – volume differences between songs especially the very low volume of the title track “All Things Must Pass”.

AS I understand it both this first UK issue and the first Japanese issue were not treated to the no-noise noise reduction process that plagued later CD issues of this album thus both, while certainly not perfect by any means,  are preferred by many as when they get it right, which is most of the album, the sound is very nice.

I own both this first UK CD issue as well as the first Japanese issue and while I would give the Japanese issue the edge really this first UK CD issue sounds very near the Japanese issue and is better then the CD issue Capitol Records released in the U.S. after these two CD releases came out.

There were several complaints about the sound of the first CD issues of this album so much that the CD was quickly deleted, treated with the no-noise process and then reissued thus this early UK CD version (as well as the Japanese) are harder to find nowadays and very collectible.

You can tell a first UK CD issue by the three dots in a triangle (see photos above)  near the CD matrix number CDP 7 46689 2.

“Dark Side of the Moon” (first US issue on the Harvest label and with Made in Japan on disc)

Another one of my favorite albums from the 1970’s, from 1973 to be exact, is the mega-selling classic by Pink Floyd called “Dark Side of the Moon.”

While I’ve never actually heard a bad CD version of this album on CD, I and many other people, feel this early CD mastering od this album is the best sounding version ever released on CD.

The “holy grail” CD version of this CD, and the one that commands the most desirability and cash, is the first Japanese issue this of this album which came out in 1983.

While I don’t own that version fortunately this first U.S, CD issue shares that same mastering and is much easier to find and sounds just as sweet.

Though this CD was supposedly mastered from a Japanese copy of the master tape it still retains a warmness and punch that very pleasing and sounds just great.

If you’re looking to find this particular CD version make sure to look out for the Harvest logo on the cover and disc as well as the “Made in Japan” wording on the back cover and disc and the catalog number on the discs inner circle – CP35-3017 – followed by, as on the case of my CD – 21A2 or numbers like it.

The key is the CP35-3017 number as that’s the same number as the first Japanese issue. There is another pressing of this disc that adds TO to the number which is supposedly not quite as nice sounding but I don’t own that version so I can’t say but I’d imagine it would sound very close to this CD and would be a nice find.

“Scarecrow” (first U.S. CD pressing with Made in West Germany on the disc and cover)

Now we jump into the 1980’s with the 1985 release by John Cougar Mellencamp titled simply “Scarecrow”.

This is the album that made me stand up and take notice of Mellencamp as it’s filled with classic songs like the haunting opening track “Rain on the Scarecrow”, the wistful “Minutes to Memories” and the heartfelt and fragile “Between and Laugh and a Tear” sung with Rickie Lee Jones.

This first CD pressing, like many early CD pressings that were made in West Germany, is very similar to the vinyl issue and is warm, not in your face and sounds much much nicer than later CD reissues of this album, barring the superb MFSL gold CD pressing, which jack up the sound making the album too compressed and overly loud and obnoxious.

This Early CD version is fairly easy to locate in used bins just make sure you look for the Made in West Germany wording at least on the disc. Some Made in West Germany copies may come in copies that don’t say “Made in West Germany on the cover so check the discs.

Well that’s all for now folks!

Until next time and hopefully much warmer weather – stay safe and play some old music!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wings Take Flight – “Wild Life”/”Red Rose Speedway” Tidbits plus Wings Live Circa 1972/73

 

Happy New Year!

A few days late but since it’s still early January and this is my first blog post of 2019 it just feels right.

Anyway, as you know if you’ve read this blog recently two prime Paul McCartney and Wings albums from the 1970’s were released early last month and the reverberations of those terrific releases are still being felt – in these parts anyway.

I posted two reviews of the Super Deluxe sets of Paul McCartney and Wings “Wild Life” and “Red Rose Speedway” and for my first blog post of 2019 I’m taking a look at their 2 CD counterparts.

I’ve highlighted several photos of the U.S. 2 CD sets as well as the Japanese 2 CD SHM-CD set for “Red Rose Speedway”. (See photos above).

As much as  I love the two Super Deluxe sets I reviewed a few weeks ago, I’m still playing them and soaking in the video content, the 2 CD versions of these albums are also quite well done and for the average McCartney fan (translation the non-obsessed fan) these smaller sets are more than enough to enjoy.

For one thing they’re MUCH cheaper than their Super Deluxe brothers and while they lack the video content (which in the case of “Red Rose Speedway” is a true loss) they contain most of the prime outtakes, demos and single material from these albums and for those who just want the music these are really quite nice and well done.

While the missing tracks from the Red Rose Speedway” Super Deluxe set like the studio versions of “The Mess” and “1882” are certainly missed they aren’t crucial as their live counterparts ARE on the 2 CD set and sound great.

The only missing audio from the “Wild Life” Super Deluxe set, the rough mixes of the entire album, while critical for super fans probably aren’t different enough for the average fan so I’m sure the 2 CD set will be more than enough as the video content isn’t quite as strong as the “Red Rose Speedway” set.

And of course for the super fans out there who want slightly better sound but not the Super Deluxe set there’s the 2 CD SHM-CD Japanese sets of both albums which might be the way to go if you’re nutty  (as they’re more expensive than the U.S sets) but not nutty enough to fork over for the Super Deluxe sets.

The other thing I wanted to highlight today is the 20 song “Wings Over Europe” CD which came as a part of the uber Deluxe set that was only available from McCartney’s Website (a few did escape on Amazon but not many).

The set contains the following songs:

1. Big Barn Bed [Live In Newcastle/1973]
2. Eat At Home [Live At The Hague/1972]
3. Smile Away [Live In Berlin/1972]
4. Bip Bop [Live At The Hague/1972]
5. Mumbo [Live In Antwerp/1972]
6. Blue Moon Of Kentucky [Live At The Hague/1972]
7. 1882 [Live In Berlin/1972]
8. I Would Only Smile [Live In Antwerp/1972]
9. Give Ireland Back To The Irish [Live In Groningen/1972]
10. The Mess [Live In Berlin/1972]
11. Best Friend [Live In Antwerp/1972]
12. Soily [Live In Berlin/1972]
13. I Am Your Singer [Live At The Hague/1972]
14. Seaside Woman [Live In Groningen/1972]
15. Wild Life [Live At The Hague/1972]
16. My Love [Live At The Hague/1972]
17. Mary Had A Little Lamb [Live At The Hague/1972]
18. Maybe I’m Amazed [Live In Groningen/1972]
19. Hi, Hi, Hi [Live At The Hague/1972]
20. Long Tall Sally [Live In Groningen/1972]

Now for ONCE I didn’t splurge on the uber Super Deluxe set, yes even I have my limits, but I did manage to get a listen to the entire CD and I must say it’s TERRIFIC! I  have a few of these songs on bootleg CDs which sound decent enough but even I was surprised at just how nice this CD sounds and how good the first incarnation of Wings sounded in a live setting.

I’m guessing there’s probably a few overdubs helping these performances along but whatever the case this CD sounds great and it’s a real shame it’s not more available to the general public.

Who knows that may change someday but until then you can find most or all of the songs on YouTube or other sources and this set of live performance is well worth checking out!

Well that’s all for this New Year’s 2019 post!

Until next time be well and may you have the best and the happiest 2019!!!