Return to the Abbey – More New Beatles “Abbey Road” Anniversary variations

 

Today is unofficially Beatles Day, at least as far as Beatles fans are concerned, as multiple versions of a new “Abbey Road” Anniversary reissue hit store shelves (and yes streaming services) around the world.

Yesterday I took a look at the king of all the new releases – a Deluxe multi-CD/Blu-Ray set – but since I can never leave well enough alone I thought I’d highlight a couple of the other variations that came out today and happened to make it to my overcrowded (and groaning) book shelves.

Beside the big box set there are the following variations of the new “Abbey Road” to consider if you want to buy the album in a physical format: a 1 lp vinyl version, a multi-disc vinyl version in a box, a picture disc vinyl version, a single CD version as well as a 2 CD version that contains an alternate version of the album made up of out-takes.

As you can see from the photos above, I chose to add the single vinyl version of the album to my collection as well as the nifty 2 CD collection.

If you’ve ever read this blog you know that “collectoritis” is a sickness i suffer from so it’s not that unusual for me to add multiple versions of these reissues to my collection as some of the variations also have variations in sound or edits of the material. I spoke of how much I enjoyed the big box set but these two new variations also offer something for the collector to savor.

For one, the new vinyl version is by far the best sounding version of the new 2019 remix of the album as it isn’t nearly as compressed (ie. loud) as the CD version which allows the listener, especially older listeners, a chance to really enjoy the new remix more without the fatiguing pound of compression that somewhat plagues the CD version.

As I said yesterday the new box set also contains this lovely less compressed version but alas the Blu-Ray disc which contains it has some playback issues (at least on my copy) that mar the listening experience thus one of the vinyl versions is the way to go if you prefer to hear this lovely new remix with more dynamics.

(Note: As I write this I am listening to the new remix on the new 2 CD version at a lower volume and it’s charms are more apparent then they seemed yesterday. I am really starting to enjoy the new things that pop out like the end of “Come Together” with Lennon’s vocal ad-libs not present on the original mix and the great backing vocals on “Oh! Darling”. I doubt the CD in this set is mastered lower than the one in the big set but today I must be paying it lower as it sounds quite good. The vinyl just sounds better.)

The 2 CD set also offers the nice alternate version of the “Abbey Road” album which though the box set also contains these same out-takes they aren’t in the order of the album as on this set thus it’s a really nice listen for those who want to hear the album in a complete alternate form.

I haven’t delved into the 2 CD set yet so while I can’t say if it contains any differences in edits or sound level I wouldn’t be surprised if it did as a similar 2 CD version of the recent “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” had different levels in sound with extra dialogue present that wasn’t on the Deluxe box set.

So for all of you out there who are just finding out about this new release or are considering buying/listening to it, here are two more alternatives for you to ponder.

Of course for all the freaks out there like me out there you better close your eyes and open up your wallet (yikes) as there are a  lot of cool alternatives if you decide to add this new version of “Abbey Road” to your collection.

Happy 50th dear old Abbey now off for some intense listening, so glad it’s Friday.

Enjoy the photos above and until next time be well and have a great (Beatles) weekend!

 

 

 

FIRST LOOK – The Beatles “Abbey Road” Anniversary CD/Blu-Ray Box Set (A Review)

 

 

Well here we are, another beautiful Fall day filled with sunshine, warmth … and box sets. Box sets? Yes, Beatles box sets to be precise. The Beatles “Abbey Road” Anniversary CD/Bu-Ray box set to be exactly exact.

Today I got a hold of this sumptuous looking (and sounding) new Beatles anniversary box set and I thought I’d share some of my initial thoughts as I explore its contents. The actual release date is tomorrow, September 27th, but since this gem has found its way into my sweaty little hands today, here we go.

Like the other Beatles Deluxe box sets (“Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The BEATLES (White Album)”) this new 3 CD/1 Blu-Ray box set was put together by Giles Martin (son of original Beatles producer George Martin) and is full of some really wonderful behind the scenes snapshots of The Beatles working circa 1969.

This Deluxe CD set not only features a complete new 2019 remix of The Beatles 1969 swan song album “Abbey Road” it also features two CDs filled with prime out-takes and demos from the albums recording sessions as well as a Blu-Ray disc which contains surround sound mixes in Dolby Atmos and 5.1 surround and Hi-Res stereo as well.

Got that?

As I’m settling into some listening, here’s what I’ve found so far:

The 2019 Remix

I’ve just skimmed it but so far what I’ve heard I’ve enjoyed. As with the other new remixes that have come out in the past few years I’ll have to see how much I actually play it in the future but it is enjoyable.

Given my aging ears I’d say that my main criticism of this new mix is like Giles Martin’s remix of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” it’s a tad bit too loud for my tastes but played at a low volume it’s interesting. Not drastically different from the original mix but nice.

I’d say of the three new remixes of Beatles albums this one is my least favorite but enjoyable nonetheless.

The bass is pumped up a bit too much but as I’m sure this is aimed at a newer listening audience it does its job well. Too bad there isn’t a new remaster of the original mix as well but as long as there are some cool out-takes I’m happy.

The Out-Takes (Disc 2 and 3)

As with all these Beatles Deluxe box sets this is the true pay dirt for me! I love to hear how songs progressed in the studio so any glimpse into the recording process is what makes these sets a must buy – for me.

After listening to the pumped up 2019 remix of the main album it’s a joy to hear these out-takes and demos in all their sonic glory. There seems to be no messing about with compression so the out-takes discs are much easier on the ears and a pleasure to explore.

There’s a lot of studio chatter on these discs (which I absolutely LOVE!) and what struck me most was the light hearted banter especially from Lennon which reminded me of listening to Beatles studio out-takes from the 1963/64 era.

Highlights for me so far are the early mix of the long medley on Side 2 (not pristine sound but sounding MUCH better than bootleg versions I own), McCartney demos of two songs he gave away – “Come and Get It” (an original 1969 mix that sounds superb!) and “Goodbye” – plus a great early version of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and a truly beautiful strings only version of George Harrison’s “Something” that is one of the highlights of all the Deluxe box sets – really wonderful.

Blu-Ray Audio Disc

I haven’t really explored the Blu-Ray disc that much but I will say that if I feel like hearing the new remix I would probably reach for this disc as listening to it on my small surround sound set-up was a bit easier on the ears.

I did however experience some issues while trying to play the disc on my older Sony Blu-Ray player. When I got to the later songs they tended to skip here and there which was a bit annoying as one would imagine.

I also have a newer Oppo Blu-Ray player which played it fine but beware in case you have an older player that may have the same issues.

I’m an old school two speaker stereo geek anyway so as far as the surround sound I probably won’t play it much but what I heard did sound pretty good. I’ll have to explore this Blu-Ray disc more later after I’ve played the out-takes discs a few more times.

There is also a terrific hardback book included with the CD set that’s filled with great photos and information and it’s formatted so much better than last years While Album set – you can actually hold this without feeling the blood rush from your hands from the weight and size of it.

Conclusion

What can I say, this new set is truly a Beatles fans dream come true. While it didn’t include as many out-takes as the previous sets what is here is choice and on first listen may actually be one of my favorite sets of out-takes to listen to and enjoy.

I’ve really had fun listening so far but time will tell how much I go back to this set in the future. I have a feeling at least Discs 2 and 3 will get plenty of airtime at my house that’s for sure.

Well there you have it. Just a quick over view of a really, really fine new Beatles box set that fits in quite nicely to my Beatles collection.

If you’re a fan of the group I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed. If you have any of the other sets I’m sure you know how nice these sets are and how much fun they are to go back to over and over again.

As usual above I’ve posted quite a few photos of the set so folks can get a sense of what’s inside. I also got a nice lithograph free with the set I purchased today which you can also see above.

Until next time be well and … here it is, come and get it!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine All the People … Watching TV? – “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” Blu-Ray (A Review)

I must say this has been an interesting (and expensive!) year for Beatles and solo Beatles fans and collectors alike.

Not only did we get great archive releases from Paul McCartney last Fall (“Wild Life” deluxe box set, “Red Rose Speedway” deluxe box set) there was also a sweet multi-disc set from The Beatles (50th anniversary of the “White Album”) released last November and coming next week is a 50th anniversary multi-disc set of The Beatles swan song album “Abbey Road” which is sure to be a high point in this year of major Beatles booty.

Not to be outdone, the Lennon camp has also jumped into the fray and issued a superb box set themselves also last October entitled “Imagine -The Ultimate Collection”.

This truly wonderful collection features 4 CDs plus 2 Blu-Ray discs containing new stereo and 5.1 remixes of the entire album as well as out-takes and alternates from Lennon’s “Imagine” album sessions. It’s basically an in-depth audio study of  how the “Imagine”  album was made and contains a treasure trove of unreleased and interesting audio glimpses into Lennon’s recording process.

Released at the same time last Fall was a DVD/Blu-Ray disc containing two documentaries about those same sessions called “Imagine/Gimme Some Truth”.

This DVD or Blu-Ray featured the film “Imagine” that Lennon and Ono made in 1971 featuring lots of footage of the “Imagine” recording sessions set to music (basically a video album) as well as a later made documentary called “Gimme Some Truth” that featured a more in-depth look at the album with interviews and lots of footage of the “Imagine” sessions.

Fast forward to this past September 13 and the release of a new documentary entitled “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” which is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.

This enticing documentary also about about the recording of the “Imagine” album was originally broadcast on television in November 2018 and has now finally made its way to home video. I didn’t have a chance to see the film last fall so I was curious to see how it stacked up to the other two films about “Imagine” which I do own and love.

First off, this new documentary has new unseen footage throughout from the “Imagine” sessions which alone makes it a must see for Lennon fans. Of course seeing Lennon and fellow ex- Beatle George Harrison work closely in the studio never gets old – at least for me anyway.

After watching the film what sold me on “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” the most were the fascinating new interviews it contains which made the first half of this film a really fun presentation.

Lennon’s oldest son Julian Lennon in particular comes across as really grounded and insightful but the interviews with people I’d never heard speak about these sessions before including photographer David Bailey and personal assistant Dan Richter were also really interesting and gave a much richer insight into Lennon and Ono at the time these sessions occurred.

I may be experiencing a bit of “Imagine” burn-out from having lived with these sessions a lot in the past year as I really enjoyed the first half of the film enormously but towards the end I ended up wishing for more studio footage and less talking heads.

I think the film makes a good point about Ono’s involvement in the writing and recording of the album but at times in the second half of the film it seemed a little bit heavy handed in Ono’s direction but enjoyable nonetheless.

Luckily the bonus features on this disc which include “How Do You Sleep? (Takes 5 &6 Raw Studio Mix)”, “Oh My Love (Raw Studio Mix)” and “Oh, Yoko! (Bahamas, 1969)” bring more music back into the mix again which brings this disc back up a notch. These raw studio mixes contained here (along with the session footage) are terrific and sound and look amazing.

While “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” may not be a must see it’s certainly entertaining and well worth seeking out if you want some insight into Lennon’s frame of mind as he works in the recording studio post-Beatles.

All in all it’s a quite good film and if your a Lennon fan you may want to buy it but if you already own the “Imagine/Gimme Some Truth” docs from last year this may be something you’d want to track down somewhere online vs buying it to own.

As usual above I’ve posted some photos of the blu-ray disc I got last week so folks can see what they’d get if they decide to purchase the disc.

I’m so glad The Beatles as a group and solo are now finally opening up their vaults but I can feel the groan from my wallet ever time I see a new release in the pipeline.

Fortunately they’ve all been worth it up until now. Next up “Abbey Road”!!!

Well, that’s all for now (folks).

Until next time … get yourself some truth and be well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“O Holy Night”? or Oh Holy Smokes! – The Monkees “Christmas Party” comes to vinyl

 

 

 

 

There’s something weird yet exhilarating about listening to a Christmas album on a warm late summer September night.

Weird because seriously it’s friggin’ September for crying out loud but exhilarating because this is not just any Christmas album, it’s a Monkees Christmas album. A very good Monkees Christmas album at that and that’s a quite good thing anytime of year!

Released almost exactly a year ago, give or take a few weeks, “Christmas Party” by The Monkees is probably the last (though hope against hope not) new album of Monkees music that will grace music lovers CD players or turntables and is certainly the last Monkees project to feature Peter Tork who passed away this past February.

Produced by retro pop maestro Adam Schlesinger, “Christmas Party” positively reeks of pure pop-rock bliss with a major ’60s swagger and retro Christmas bent that’s way better than it has a right to be.

As I said last year when I reviewed it on this very blog, this new Monkees album is quite good and features well sung new and old Christmas fare that a year later sounds even better than it did on its first few listens.

Like fine wine it just keeps getting better so what more enjoyable way to experience this album than to give it a spin on some nice new purdy vinyl – colored vinyl to boot.

Honestly when heard that a new Monkees Christmas album was on the way I was excited yet quite hesitant. I like Christmas music but it certainly wasn’t what I wanted the group to release after their superb “Good Times!” Lp from 2016.

Almost a year later I can safely say I’m not only glad but grateful The Monkees decided to release this album. It’s so well done and lovingly retro that it sounds good any time of year. Plus the death of Peter Tork lends a real poignancy to this album as it was his last recorded contribution to The Monkees and what a beautiful way to end his tenor in the group by performing “Angels We Have Heard on High” – chilling.

All four Monkees sound great on this Lp but Micky Dolenz in particular sounds as if he lives in a permanent time warp. His voice is as strong and as interesting as it was in 1967 which is a feat rarely duplicated by current pop singers let alone his musical peers.

Mike Nesmith’s two songs here are wistful and moving and are among the best of his group contributions while Davy’s songs from a 1990’s solo Christmas album fit perfectly and are a welcome touch to a terrific collection.

The reason I’m revisiting this Christmas gem is that “Christmas Party” was just released on vinyl this past week on September 13th and I just received a groovy limited edition red and white candy cane type pressing available exclusively from Monkees.com.

After giving this new pressing a spin tonight I’m happy to report that it sounds SUPERB on vinyl! This pressing is perfectly quite and has better sonics than it’s CD counterpart.

The music and vocals all shimmer on this lovely piece of colorful vinyl and the dynamics are just right, nothing too loud  or jarring and less digital sounding than the CD. Not that the CD is bad by any means it’s just that this new vinyl pressing is done so well that it makes this album shine even more with a more pleasing aural presentation.

The cover is also totally groovy as well and there’s just something magical about holding a new slab of Monkees vinyl that just feels right as that’s the medium that I was introduced to the group with and looking at the large cover while the records spins on is just well … right.

There is a beautiful gatefold cover on this new vinyl pressing (which since I haven’t taken the shrink wrap off  I can’t show you lol) and a nice photo insert with credits from the album inside the cover with the disc.

As usual I’ve included some photos of this new pressing as well as some photos of the limited Target exclusive CD version of the album that came out after my review of the album last year.

The Target CD contains two great bonus tracks (“Riu Chiu” and “Christmas is My Time of Year”) one of which (“Riu Chiu”) is included on this new vinyl pressing.

“Riu Chiu” of course comes form the Monkees’ 1967 Christmas episode and features all four members singing acapella on one of the most beautiful songs in the Monkees’ recorded canon while “Christmas is My Time of Year” comes from a mid-1970’s reunion of Dolenz, Jones and Tork with famed Monkees producer Chip Douglas.

Both songs belong on this Lp so if you can track down the Target version of this album that’s the way to go on CD at least as both songs are great and of course fit the theme of the album beautifully.

Really if you’re any kind of Monkees fan or fan of ’60s pop/rock music or Christmas music you need to check this album out. Of course you can wait until it’s actually the holiday season but for any curious Monkees geeks out there run don’t walk to get this new vinyl pressing. You won’t be disappointed!

Until next time be well and Merry Christmas even if it’s a tad bit early.

Weekend Antique Shop Finds (Part 2) – Beatles/Monkees

 

Ahhh, long time no see.

Yep, it’s me again.

I usually don’t post things back to back but since I had such a great weekend at antique shops I thought I’d share two more things I found.

Previously I posted about two really groovy Partridge Family/David Cassidy records I found and now I thought I d share two really cool Beatles/Monkees finds.

As I said in my last post I really had no expectations of finding anything music related this past weekend when I went shopping at two small antique stores but as the saying goes you just never know what you’ll find.

Isn’t it the way it goes, if you’re not expecting to find anything you happen upon some really cool discoveries.

In this Part 2 I thought I’d share a really lovely piece of sheet music from The Beatles (“Help!” from 1965) and a sealed record club copy of The Monkees 1986 comeback album “Then & Now: The Best of The Monkees” on Arista Records.

I must say that the first thing I stumbled upon was the “Help!” sheet music and while I thought it was great I really don’t collect much sheet music. What sold me was not only the great cover shot from the film but the back cover with all the picture of other Beatles music books.

I strolled around about five minutes but my mind keep wandering back to this piece of sheet music.

There’s nothing that says time machine to me more than old sheet music and since this looked so nice and wasn’t very expensive I caved and bought it.

Really though it’s one of the best looking pieces of Beatles sheet music I’ve ever come across and just looks so great no matter if it’s rare or not.

My other wonderful find – the sealed “Then & Now: The Best of The Monkees” lp – was also too good to pass up as this particular album brings back so many memories for me of The Monkees 1986 tour and how it was so amazing that the group not only came back from the dead but literally exploded in popularity again much like 1967 revisited.

I had this album on vinyl once upon a time but as the years went by I gave it to a friend and never got it back. I was content with the much longer 25 song CD version and since my interest in vinyl really dropped around that time I let it go.

I’ve been meaning to track this album down again on vinyl and a sealed copy for under $10 seemed too good to pass up.

It’s a Columbia Records Record Club version, notice the CRC in the photo above, so I’m curious if it has any mix variations like the 1986 “Daydream Believer” remix but alas since it’s sealed I may never know.

Someday I may break it open and give it a spin but for now it just looks so purdy and new I think I’ll keep it in its sealed time capsule state.

Well again that’s all for now, I promise. I was just so thrilled by the holiday weekend and terrific finds that I felt like sharing some photos.

As usual take a look at the photos above and until next time happy hunting yourself and take care!

 

 

 

 

Weekend Antique Shop Finds (Part 1) – Partridge Family/David Cassidy

 

Okay, sometimes you just have lady luck on your side.

This past Labor Day weekend I spent a lovely rainy day on Sunday out and about eating an Italian lunch and by chance stopping into a couple of small antique stores in a small town not too far from where I live.

As always I’m on the lookout for records and/or old music memorabilia but realistically I usually expect to find nothing. And if I do it’s most likely a beat up copy of “Meet the Beatles” with the back cover either missing or haphazardly taped together with a record so worn you can’t see the grooves anymore with a price tag of $75.

Well, much to my surprise I found two fairly rare records that I personally have never seen or run into before – and here’s the kicker BOTH for the combined princely sum of $10. Yes, that’s $5 each!

As luck would have it I found a VG++ promotional copy of The Partridge Family album “Up to Date” (which happens to be my favorite Partridge platter) and a Japanese 45 of a David Cassidy single from 1976 called “Tomorrow b/w “Bedtime” from his excellent but obscure album called “Home is Where the Heart Is” on RCA Records.

Now to say I was shocked and happily surprised to find these records is an understatement. Not only was I not expecting to find any records of any kind (these stores didn’t seem like record type antique stores) but to find two rare and obscure records both in great shape and cheap – well needless to say since my luck seemed so good I bought a couple of lottery tickets as well.

The funny thing is, to me anyway,  I had just recently read on online about how good promotional Partridge Family Lp’s sound as compared to their commercial counterparts and I was curious to track one down and see for myself.

I never find them listed online very much and didn’t want to spend a lot of money anyway so these finds were too good to be true.

Now I’ll admit while these records are indeed fairly uncommon I’m sure not that many people yearn to buy them but since I’m somewhat of a music freak so to speak this was right up my alley.

Tonight I decided to clean this new promo Lp and play it along side a near mint commercial copy (this promo copy is marked NOT FOR SALE and was made for radio airplay) and see if I could hear any difference for myself.

Well, let me tell you that again I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the promo copy a much better and quieter copy than the commercial pressing but the sound was so much better and fuller and open that I just was flabbergasted.

Every cymbal, organ and bass part just leap out of the speaker on the promo copy while seeming muted, flatter and less vibrant on the commercial copy.

Plus the commercial copy while practically brand new played with a ton of pops and clicks and sounds as if it was pressed off center, the more it played near the center the more it sounded like it was having pitch issues.

I just have never heard this album sound better than this promo Lp. It even knocks the best CD version I own (from Razor & Tie Records) which until now was my go to version of this album when I want to listen to it.

For all you fellow obsessives out there I also noticed that this promo record was pressed by Best Way I believe (notice the BW on the catalog number on the label) which I’ve also read are much better pressings of The Partridge Family records as they supposedly sound better. Yep, check that one off, they sure do – in spades!

The David Cassidy 45 also sounds superb and while I don’t really collect that many 45’s the fact that I’ve never seen this Japanese disc before and that it came in a groovy picture sleeve and happens to be a terrific cover of one of my all-time favorite Paul McCartney songs (and a rather obscure McCartney song at that) from Wings’ first album “Wild Life” – well I just couldn’t resist picking it up as well.

I must say that Cassidy really sings both songs on this 45 so well. When I was younger I was disappointed in Cassidy’s more soulful and less silky singing post Partridge as compared to the Partridge Family recordings. As I’ve grown older though I find his solo discs are really quite good and his singing, though different, is just amazing. He was truly a gifted singer no matter what the genre.

Anyway, that’s all for now. As usual take a peek above at my two new discoveries and who knows maybe lady luck will shine on me once more with my upcoming lottery ticket drawings!!!

Until next time be well and Happy September!