It Was 56 Years Ago Today … The Beatles in 1964, A Celebration (Ed Sullivan and Beatlemania)

Today marks the anniversary of the day Beatlemania really took hold of the United States.

Fifty-six years ago on another cold February 9th The Beatles performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show in front of over 73 million viewers and changed the course of musical history in the process.

(Note: weirdly enough this years calendar days match the calendar days of 1964 exactly so if you have a vintage 1964 calendar you can use it for 2020 as well!)

Many thousands of words have been said and written about this first U.S. Beatles performance so  I won’t really go into detail about it other than to say it was epic, incredibly influential and a total blast to watch.

Instead of describing The Beatles first Ed Sullivan Show appearance I thought I’d honor the occasion of its anniversary by showing a few rare items from the compact disc/DVD era which perfectly capture The Beatles in 1964, especially in the U.S., and remain the ultimate time capsule back to that time.

Above you’ll see photos of two sampler CDs as well as the DVD issue of The Beatles 1964 film “A Hard Day’s Night” as well as bonus; a cool advertisement for the first issue of Beatles albums on CD which features the hit compilations “Past Masters Volume One and Two” .

“Past Masters Volume One” contains the hit that started it all in America for The Beatles “I Want to hold Your Hand”  so even though it’s a stretch I thought it would be fun to include a photo of the rare ad just for grins.

The first CD sampler, “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol.1”, came out in 2004 and features true Capitol mono and stereo mixes from the first four Beatles Capitol albums that were released in the United States in 1964.

(Note 2: These first four Capitol Beatles albums are the embodiment of Beatlemania for U.S. fans and “Meet the Beatles” especially is tied so closely with The Beatles first U.S. visit in February 1964 that it is synonymous with that time period.)

Of course this radio sampler CD is fairly rare nowadays so I thought it would be fun to show what it looks like.

It’s retail 4 CD set “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol.1” contains all the true Capitol mixes in all their weird glory, with all the fake stereo and added echo that filled the original 1964 vinyl pressings of the albums.

Right or wrong Capitol Records felt that they knew how to market The Beatles music in America better than the UK versions of The Beatles albums thus the American albums have different track listings, covers and a generally more exciting or compressed and/or loud sound than their UK cousins.

If you want to hear how The Beatles sounded to American audiences in 1964 than “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol.1” and its rare CD sampler are one of the best ways to do that especially since they won’t suffer from the pops, clicks and scratches that appear on the millions of beat up vinyl copies that still survive from that era.

The next sampler also highlights the U.S. Capitol Beatles album and was released in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first U.S. visit by containing all the U.S. Beatles albums in a nifty CD box set fittingly called “The Beatles U.S. Albums”.

While I think this set is super, it contains terrific mini lp CD covers and nice reproductions of the original U.S. vinyl labels, some Beatles fans were pissed that Capitol and Apple (The Beatles company) removed all fake stereo and most of the excessive echo from some of the songs and replaced them with the best sounding UK mono and stereo mixes derived form the 2009 Beatles CD remasters.

While most of the truly unique Capitol Beatles mixes did make it to the box set, some fans were miffed because they felt this was rewriting history. They had the same covers and track listings but they weren’t 100 percent authentic 1964 Capitol mixes thus they felt this set was a major let down.

For me, as Capitol Records often upgraded the sound for their later pressings of these same U.S, albums, I thought (and still do) that this set is the best sounding CD versions of this material and with both mono and stereo mixes present it seemed like just a completely upgraded U.S. albums experience that was and is a joy to look at and listen to true mixes be damned.

Anyway the sampler above is a fun collectible and another fun way to celebrate this anniversary.

The last thing I’ve decided to post is the first DVD pressing of The Beatles first film that came out in the summer of 1964 – their critically acclaimed black and white film “A Hard Day’s Night”.

While the most current DVD/Blu-Ray version of this film does indeed have a better picture, I still enjoy looking at this first DVD version as it has great stereo sound and I love seeing the cover as it takes me back to the first VHS version as it has the same type of cover.

Anyway, there you go. Just a quick little way to celebrate the 56th anniversary of The Beatles first U.S. visit.

Enjoy the photos and f you happen to have a DVD of The Beatles February 1964 Ed Sullivan shows tonight would be the perfect time to take them off the shelf and give them a spin.

Until next time be well and see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Elton John on SHM-CD (2019) – “Madman Across the Water”, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”

 

Elton John seems to be getting a lot of press attention in the last few months that’s for sure.

What with his biopic movie “Rocketman”, with its Oscar nomination for the song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”, and his autobiography “Me” popping up in news feeds constantly it seems like Elton John is on a roll. One could certainly call 2019 a good year for Elton John.

But, did you know that it was also a really good year for CD reissues of his classic albums as well?

A good chunk of Elton John’s earlier work has just been recently reissued in Japan on SHM-CD, again, and the results are fantastic. You see these albums have been reissued just a few times even on SHM-CD but this time the results are truly something special.

I have been reading about these new 2019 SHM-CD reissues for a few months online and decided to take a dip into the Elton SHM-CD pool recently and came up with three of my favorite Elton John albums: “Madman Across the Water”, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”.

I had read that these new SHM-CD versions were some of the best sounding Elton John transfers in the digital age and I am happy to report that I find that to be true as well – at least for the three discs that I bought.

Not only do they sound great but the mini-Lp CD packaging is superb, as usual, and contains all the booklets and posters that came with the original vinyl issues which makes these SHM-CD packages something truly wonderful to behold.

Let me start with the first SHM-CD I played of the three I bought: “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”

After placing the shiny disc in the CD player tray I was shocked to find that as I stepped away from my CD player I actually had to go back not once but TWICE to turn the sound up! Dynamics, full dynamics. I’ll be damned.

Needless to say I was thrilled by the sound. Nice and clean, lovely smooth acoustic guitar, great bass and crisp bass drum sound all sounding, dare I say it, analog. There was absolutely no fatigue at all listening to this disc.

This is by far my best digital representation of this album that I own and I own a couple of copies including the first USA MCA CD pressing as well as the first UK CD pressing on the DJM label . This new disc really sounds a lot like that original DJM but with improved clarity and a better sound stage.

“Tell Me When the Whistle Blows” sounded particularly good as the horns and orchestration stood out to me as never before. It sounded so much clearer that it could almost be a remix but it didn’t have that digital sound that it most likely would have had it been newly remixed.

The sound was so good and so enjoyable in fact that I was anxious to give one of my favorite early Elton albums, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player”, a tryout. After just a few bars into the first song and I could tell this disc sounded superb as well, just right in fact.

The first song I played was “Blues for Baby and Me” which has always been one of my favorite Elton tracks and it didn’t disappoint. This SHM-CD is loaded with dynamics just like the previous disc.

I’ve always been partial to the original USA CD pressing of this album on MCA that was pressed in Japan. It has great dynamics too but this song in particular has a clarity and better bass than that version which leads me to pick this version as the best sounding digital version that I’ve personally heard.

Even “Crocodile Rock” which is one of my least favorite Elton songs due to its being overplayed to death sounded more fresh then I’ve ever heard it. It was so clear that it almost sounded remixed. It sounded so good I might even play it again which is saying something for this song.

Playing through the “Madman Across the Water” album (the title song is perfect for the current political climate we’re living in) was pretty much the same experience as both of the previous albums – superb sound with full dynamics and great mastering. The mastering on these discs is what really makes a difference.

(Note: I believe these new SHM-CDs are the only CDs in the world to feature this new mastering and because its uniformly excellent it’s well worth tracking down a CD or two if you’re a major Elton John fan and still like to collect physical media.)

I was surprised at just how good these new SHM-CDs sound compared with other more recent Elton John remasters. It’s no contest they smoke most other previous CD versions that have been available!

It’s so great to hear this material without feeling like your ears are bleeding from the loudness and or hardness like the mastering of prior Elton John CD reissues especially the ones from the mid 1990s.

I’m tempted to buy more which is really saying something as I pretty much felt I had the best CD versions out there of Elton John’s classic album period … and I did, until now.

So there you have it Elton fans. If you need an Elton fix these new SHM-CDs are the way to go for sure. And if you want to gaze above at some photos of the three Elton John SHM-CDs I purchased please do. They are really fantastic to look at as well as play.

As usual, be well and see you next time around!

 

 

Bell Records NOT FOR SALE – The Monkees “Re-Focus” and “David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits” Promo Albums

Well, time does fly. Last time I dropped down into Webland it was still 2019 and it was right before New Year’s Eve.

Wham bam it’s now February 2020 so I thought it might be high time for a new blog post.

Today I’m going to share a couple of albums that I got in the past month or so that I think are really fun. Both of them happen to be on Bell Records and both of them are promo copies!

Now I’ve gone nearly 50 some years and have never run across Bell Records promo copies and now in the last six moths I’ve bought three of them (note: see my post from a few months ago about my promo copy of The Partridge Family’s “Up to Date”).

So today I bring you promo vinyl copies of 1972’s “Re-Focus” by The Monkees and 1974’s “David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits”.

As I said in my blog of my promo copy of The Partridge Family’s “Up to Date” there’s definitely a difference in sound quality with the promo Bell Records pressings vs their non promo cousins.

And when it comes to these two promos that continues to hold true.

Let’s start with The Monkees “Re-Focus”.

“Re-Focus” was released a year after The Monkees original label Colgems folded and since The Monkees recordings were owned by Columbia Pictures it’s seems logical that this album would be relased on Bell Records since it was now owned by Columbia Pictures.

Looking back “Re-Focus” is sort of an odd title as it’s basically a greatest hits album (wouldn’t you think mentioning hits would be a good idea) that was I’m sure designed to appeal to the Saturday morning crowd who were enjoying re-runs of “The Monkees” TV show which was then running on ABC-TV.

The album is actually a really nice selection of songs but would have been perfect with the addition of “Valleri” which was one of The Monkees biggest hits and their last Top Ten hit to boot.

(Note: this album was re-released with the exact same songs in 1976 on Arista Records and re-named “The Monkees Greatest Hits”. It also happened to eventually sell over a million copies in this configuration as well)

Nonetheless the album cover is fun and I remember seeing this album in cut-out bins throughout the 1970’s (which is where it was purchased for me originally) and I also remember being really surprised it was on a record label other then Colgems which I thought was really cool.

The promo pressing which I found a few weeks ago sounds really nice and is definitely a much better pressing than my old stock copy.

While it does tend to sound thin with the bass lacking on certain songs it’s a super quite pressing and overall sounds nice with better separation and clarity as compared to the regular copy.

I’m guessing that the tapes for this album were compiled from copy tapes which wouldn’t surprise me and may account for the overall thin sound present on several tracks.

“David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits”, which I just found two weeks ago, on the other hand sounds spectacular!  In fact the songs on this pressing may be some of the best sounding versions I’ve ever heard of these songs.

Not only does the album look like it’s never been played it plays perfectly quiet as well with a clarity and presence to all the songs that I wasn’t expecting.

(Note 2: the album contains all the biggest Partridge Family hits as well as David Cassidy’s solo hits for Bell Records)

Seeing as this is a compilation album I was kind of expecting it to sound a bit like it was compiled from copy tapes much like “Re-Focus” but every single song on this pressing sounded superb and much better than I would have guessed it they would sound. The songs must have been taken from the original tapes or this Lp is just mastered really well as the sound is terrific.

Much like my promo copy of The Partridge Family’s “Up to Date” this promo copy absolutely smokes the stock copy version of the album (yes, I own a regular pressing too) with much better clarity and bass then the normal pressing.

And, like the regular stock copy, this promo pressing contains the “whoops” moment with the song “Could it Be Forever” actually playing “Blind Hope” even though the label and sleeve list “Could it Be Forever”.

I’ve always thought that was a careless and sloppy mistake but with Cassidy’s star power diminishing in the United States I’m guessing Bell Records just wanted to cash in quickly on any sales a hit collection may bring and if they made a mistake oh well. I love the song “Blind Hope” at least so I’m glad it’s on the Lp.

The really intriguing thing about this particular promo pressing of “David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits” is the EMI Music Publishing Archive sticker on the front of the Lp. That’s another first as I’ve never had a promo Lp that was from a music publisher’s archive library. Very cool!

I’m guessing that’s why it looks like it’s never been played as  I’m guessing it probably hasn’t ever touched a turntable until mine.

Well, there you go, 2020 is off and running on this blog and in interesting style! I hope the year brings some interesting musical discoveries and whatever I may run across I’ll be sure to share with you fine folks.

Until next time be well and above you can take a gander at these two promo Bell Records beauties.