Egypt Pepper Bowl – An SHM-CD Roundup!

 

Another Friday is finally upon us!

With the weekend looming what better way to sit and relax this weekend than listening to some CDs. Some Beatles CDs. Some SHM-CD Beatles CDS!

Today I thought I’d take a quick look at three SHM-CDs that I bought in the last couple of years or so that are truly amazing to look at as well as listen to on a nice stereo.

(By now any reader of this blog is pretty much familiar with Japanese SHM-CDs. If not go to the search on the home page of this blog as I’ve written about them quite a lot.)

The three SHM-CDs I want to take a look at today are the following (newest to oldest that I acquired):

Paul McCartney – Egypt Station

The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (2 CD Deluxe Edition)

The Beatles – Live at the Hollywood Bowl

To say that I enjoy these three albums is an understatement. All three of these SHM-CDs have been in constant rotation since I received them and I view each of these discs as my preferred way of hearing each of these albums.

I of course own the regular U.S. CD versions of these albums as well but as is usually the case, in MY opinion, these SHM-CD versions have a deeper, more fluid bass sound and nicer separation than their regular CD cousins.

On “Egypt Station” and “Sgt. Pepper” especially these Japanese SHM-CDs have an extra something to the sound that draws me in more than the regular CD versions. I’m not saying night and day different but better for sure.

Again, I’m not going to argue with those who feel this is all snake oil and that SHM-CDs don’t sound any different to regular CDS but in my experience they do.

In the case of McCartney’s “Egypt Station” the SHM-CD version does contain the two bonus tracks that were only available in the U.S. on the Target Stores exclusive CD which is a nice bonus.

(Note: On May 17th “Egypt Station” is coming out in a 2 CD Explorer version which has an extra disc with these two bonus tracks plus 8 more studio and live tracks. I’m hoping they’ll be an SHM-CD version of that – stay tuned.)

As for the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (2 CD Deluxe Edition) if you own the 4 CD version you’ll be happy (or not) to know that the 2 CD version has some differences in sound on certain songs.

Some of the tracks are mastered a bit quieter than the massive 4 CD set (which I’ve reviewed on this blog – see search) so for the Beatles obsessives out there this 2 CD set does give you something a bit different and is well worth seeking out.

Again, the SHM-CD sounds like an improvement to me so it might be worth hunting down if you’re into collecting Beatles CDs or music.

The “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” also sounds quite good but this is the one that sounds only marginally better than the regular CD version. The bass does sound better but it’s not as noticeable as the studio CDs.

Again, lovely packaging and a slight improvement but for this one the SHM-CD may be a bit of a stretch unless of course you’re a Beatles nut like me, then hands down go seek one out.

I’m so glad to have run into a few fellow collectors who love the SHM-CDs as much as I do. I’m sure it’s an acquired taste, or sickness whatever the case may be, but I also think it’s fun to have photos of the sets as you rarely see them online (thus my reason for doing this blog!).

Anyway, enjoy the photos above and if you’ve never tried an SHM-CD order one and see what you think. (Okay, I know I’m talking to folks around my age as younger people look at you as their heads pin when you talk about actually BUYING music.)

Until next time, be well and Happy Weekend!!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Partridge Family At Home With Their (Multiple Format) Greatest Hits

 

Maybe it’s the time of year (rainy and blah today) or maybe it’s the times we live in but lately I’ve been thinking of the past. Okay, truth be told I do that any time of year but even more so lately.

I think growing older does that to a person, things from the past seem shinier, happier and somehow better. I’ve been afflicted with “pastitis” as I call it since I was a child and because I’ve always felt like an old soul I’ve grown fonder of things from my youth more than ever before.

An illusion I know but here I go again  …

Today I’m taking a look back at an album from 1972 called “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits”.

Ahhh 1972.

Nixon, Watergate, “All in the Family”, “Maude”, the Munich Olympics Terrorist Attack and among all the turmoil a little family show about a family rock group called The Partridge Family.

I remember getting “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits” as a gift in 1972 but I didn’t really play it all that much as I owned all the other Partridge Family  albums and listened to those quite often.

This greatest hits album did however contain one of the last Partridge Family Top Forty hits, their cover of Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” which reached number 28  in the Billboard Hot 100. The song was only available on “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits” album and the 45. If I played this album I usually played the side that song was on if I played the album at all.

(Note: the version of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” on this lp is actually in mono. It wasn’t mixed into stereo until a recent CD release called Playlist: The Very Best Of The Partridge Family” which came out in 2015. This CD is the only source for a true stereo version and is well worth seeking out. The entire CD was mastered by the esteemed Bob Ludwig and is one of the best sounding Partridge CDs out there.)

Looking back as an adult I took the album out recently and was pleasantly surprised at how good it sounded on vinyl and now give it a spin every now and again as these songs just sound right on vinyl.

Funny enough what prompted this blog post was my recent acquisition of two other formats of this album that came out on in the 1970’s – an 8-track tape version and a truly rare reel to reel version.

Unfortunately I can’t play either version – yet, lol – but since when has logic ever stopped me from collecting music!

At one time I used to own this album on 8-track as my family did have an 8-track player in the 1970’s and I remember owning a few Partridge as well as many other 8-tracks which I played often.

I have no idea where the original tape I owned all those years ago ended up but about 9 months ago I spotted a lovely near mint copy at a thrift store for a $1 so nostalgia took over and voila I have it on 8-track again.

I have a box of about 15 8-track tapes I’d love to play someday so if I ever find a working player for cheap this is one of the first tapes I’m going to play, as long as it still works and hasn’t dried up yet.

(Note 2 : 8-track tapes are prone to having the pads that hold the tape dry up and crack making the tape unplayable.)

My most recent copy of “At Home With Their Greatest Hits” I found on Amazon just two weeks ago. Someone had posted a vinyl copy of the album but when I went to look at the listing it showed a photo of the reel to reel tape version.

It was really inexpensive so I ordered it and to my surprise an unplayed reel to reel copy appeared in my mailbox just this week.

I do have access to an old reel to reel tape player (my father was a Magnavox engineer and I have his old reel to reel player) but it hasn’t worked in years so maybe if I get it fixed someday I’ll pop this baby in to see how it sounds.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to see the different formats side by side. At least it is for me. I’m sure there are other obsessives out there who may enjoy it as well!

Until next time, be well and remember … Come on, Get Happy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Beatles Capitol Albums – Vol. 2/Now You Hear It, Now You Don’t

 

Ahhh The Beatles. Yes I know I’ve posted a lot about The Beatles here but I’ve just been in a such mood lately to step back into the haze of time especially to U.S. circa 1965 and the height of Beatlemania.

To me there’s no better way to step back into that era than to listen to the Beatles’ albums Capitol Records released in 1965 – “The Early Beatles”, “Beatles VI”, “Help!” and “Rubber Soul”.

You see Capitol Records not only re-sequenced their Beatles releases but they also used fake stereo on certain songs, added echo on others and compressed the sound making these Beatles records much different from their UK cousins which are more what The Beatles envisioned when they  made them.

In the past I’ve been pretty pro UK Beatles releases and while I still consider them the way The Beatles wanted them there is a certain charm and nostalgia attached to the Capitol albums and as time goes by these versions are more a mirror of my childhood as these are the versions I grew up listening to here in the States.

Anyway, tonight I thought I’d take a look at one of the more interesting Beatles releases of the past 15 years or so – The Beatles Capitol Albums – Vol. 2 CD box set which features four of these groovy Capitol Beatles albums – warts and all.

This 4 CD set came out in 2006 and was the follow-up to the The Beatles Capitol Albums  – Vol. 1 which was released in 2004.

Why start with Volume 2 you may ask? Why not as I usually reply. But actually this set has a very interesting twist to its release that first Capitol albums CD set lacked.

You see when this set came out in April 2006 there was a mistake with the mono versions of two of the discs – “Beatles VI” and “Rubber Soul”.

Instead of using the true mono mixes of these albums somehow mono fold-downs from the stereo versions were used and there was quite an uproar in Beatles fandom to say the least.

These Capitol sets were meant to replicate The Beatles Capitol albums exactly as they came out in the 1960’s and fans were outraged to find these mistaken mixes as they had been waiting for these albums for a couple of years since the release of the first set.

If I remember correctly some third party mastering house used the stereo mixdown versions by mistake (which actually didn’t matter for the other two albums as they were originally stereo fold-downs to begin with) which sent Capitol into a frenzy trying to fix the mistake.

Eventually Capitol repressed the set with the corrected versions but they also offered to swap the two bad discs for those who bought the set and wanted to exchange them.

Ever the collector I sent my bad discs back to Capitol and had them replaced BUT I also bought a new set with the corrected versions as well. And as I also usually do I saved all the letters and envelopes from EMI about the disc exchange (see above) for posterity.

The easiest way to tell if you had a corrected set at retail or not was to look at the small print on the hype sticker on the outside of the box and if you saw a SK1 at the bottom of the sticker you knew you had a corrected set.

There were numerous bad sets on the market for years and many places never ordered the corrected sets as most sales happened at the initial release and quickly fell off soon after.

I’m sure some casual fans never even noticed or cared about the mistake as the discs themselves sounded fine but they didn’t  contain the correct mono versions which was a problem for hardcore fans,

There are small but distinct differences in sound on the correct vs. incorrect mono mixes which are easy to hear if you know what to listen for on certain songs,

For example in the song “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” there is an audible cough in the mono version that’s missing on the stereo version and the song “I’m Looking Through You” has a false start in stereo that’s lacking on the mono version just to name two differences.

Another way to tell if you had the good vs bad discs was to look at the timing of the discs when you put them in your CD player.

According to a Wikipedia post these are the timing differences:

Discs with the correct mono mixes have a slightly longer playing time.

Disc 1 = 52:25
Disc 2 = 56:16 (disc with incorrect mono version is 56:01)
Disc 3 = 59:07
Disc 4 = 59:08 (disc with incorrect mono version is 59:01)

Surprisingly enough I didn’t save a copy of the mistake discs, unusual for me lol, but I think I wasn’t sure if they’d repress the whole set so I jumped on the exchange when I saw online that Capitol was offering it.

Above you can take a gander at the two U.S. sets I own (I also own the Japanese version of this set but that’s a story for a future blog!) and look at the lovely mini album reproductions and the reproductions of the original Capitol vinyl labels for these albums.

One thing that’s interesting is that I looked at the matrix for the SK! set I own and all of the discs in it have an RE in the matrix in the center of the discs.

The copies of “Beatles VI” and “Rubber Soul” that I sent to EMI for an exchange don’t have an RE in the matrix yet play the correct mono versions, interesting. They also have the same timing as the SK1 discs as well.

In the future I’ll take a look at the Volume One set as well as the Japanese versions of these sets which have better made covers than the U.S. sets.

Well that’s my Beatles fix for the day my friends.

Anyone in the mood for a game of Monopoly or an episode of “Bewitched”?

Sorry, it’s hard to kick that 1965 habit.

Until next time, be well and Beatle on!!!

 

 

 

 

Fine Man, Crazy Man – “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” (Happy 51st)!!!

 

 

I know I’ve written about anniversaries before but since today is yet another anniversary of one of my favorite albums I thought I might just post a little tribute.

Fifty-one years ago today the album “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” dropped into record stores (in the U.S.) on the Colgems label with it’s lovely multi-colored trippy cover in all it’s flower power glory (see above).

This was the fifth long-player by The Monkees and the last one to be released while their NBC TV show was still on the air. Because of that TV exposure, and two Top Ten hit singles (“Daydream Believer” and “Valleri”) included on the album, “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” hit the No. 3 spot on Billboard’s Hot 200 Lp chart and eventually sold over one million copies.

I’ve done posts about this album before so today I thought I’d share a few photos of 45’s that came from the “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” album, some of which are fairly uncommon these days.

From the photos above you can see the original U.S. Colgems 45 (with picture sleeve) as well as a fairly rare 1972 45 reissue of “Daydream Believer” on the baby blue Arista label as well as a rare 45 featuring an unreleased mix of “Daydream Believer” without horns and other sweetening.

This cool 45 was only available on Rhino Records Handmade Website as a bonus for buying their CD Deluxe reissues of “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd” and features a groovy cardboard sleeve that mimics the design of Colgems 1960’s releases.

I have no idea where I got the blue Arista 45 of “Daydream Believer” but I’ve never seen another one and I had forgotten I even owned this until a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled across it in a box lol. Nice though.

The other 45 release I’m showing is one of my all-time favorite releases from “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees”, a Mexican EP that features true mono mixes of “Valleri”, “Tapioca Tundra”, “Auntie’s Municipal Court” and “P.O. Box 9847”.

(Note: the true mono mix of “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” is probably the rarest Monkees record out there as it was released in 1968 when mono was being phased out and very few copies were pressed. I don’t even own one myself and have never seen one for sale. The mono mix was made available to other countries thus the Mexican EP above which features the rare true mono mixes.)

I’ve done a post about the Mexican EP before but since it’s such a fun release and sounds so good in true mono that I thought it was worth repeating!

Anyway, just a fun little celebration of “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” and its music on its 51st birthday.

You can go back to your regularly scheduled blogcasts now.

Over and out and until next time … “What number is this? 7A perhaps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!