Dirty Flowers – Paul McCartney Closes Out the 1980’s on a High Note with “Flowers in the Dirt”

The 1980’s was a tough decade for Paul McCartney’s career.

It started out okay for him with the release of the experimental one man show “McCartney II” album in 1980 (which contained the number 1 smash “Coming Up”) then a couple of years later hit a high point with the commercially and critically acclaimed “Tug of War” in 1982.

But his career began to take a major drift into the abyss with his successful duets with Michael Jackson (“The Girl is Mine” and “Say Say Say”) which angered many long-time fans with whispers of being a sell-out then headed straight into the crapper with the commercial and critical flop of the movie “Give My Regards to Brad Street” in 1984.

While the lovely song “No More Lonely Nights” rightfully hit the Top Ten in late 1984 McCartney’s commercial viability took a major slide shortly thereafter and by 1987 McCartney seemed to be adrift as he lost his sense of what direction he should take his music and how to remain relevant.

Truth be told I’ve always loved this era of McCartney music and the trio of albums produced by George Martin (“Tug of War”, “Pipes of Peace”, “Give My Regards to  Broad Street”) are among my favorites of his solo career.

All of them encompass my high school listening years and while there are some low points on the records and they are slickly produced nonetheless they are all uniformly excellent albums and ones I frequently travel back to for some listening sessions each year.

This brings me to the point of this blog post. In 1989 Paul McCartney was on the verge of an historic comeback to the concert stage and wanted to release an album before the tour that he felt was a strong piece of work that could restore him critically and commercially as well as provide him with strong songs to put in his live show.

One of the main things of interest for this album was McCartney’s songwriting collaborations with punk rock darling Elvis Costello which really peaked my interest in the album.

McCartney had released a superb song co-written with Costello in 1987 called “Back on My Feet” as the flip side of the lovely “Once Upon a Long Ago” UK single so I was really excited to see what else the two could come up with as this song had become a personal favorite potentially making this upcoming album something really special.

When the album, called “Flowers in the Dirt”, finally arrived in early June of 1989 I was certainly not disappointed as I felt that it, along with “Tug of War”, was his some of McCartney’s best work of the decade.

This well-crafted album featured several strong songs including the very Beatley first single and Costello co-write “My Brave Face” as well as “Figure of Eight”, “We Got Married”, “Put it There”, “This One” and “Distractions” which to this day remain some of my all-time favorite gems in McCartney’s solo canon.

Today I thought I’d share some of the various original CD pressings I own of the album including photos of the longbox that came with the first US CD pressing as well as a PDO CD pressing I found of the disc sometime last year in a used bin – I just love how the artwork really shines on the disc of the PDO pressing.

The Japanese 2-disc special 1990 tour issue of the “Flowers in the Dirt” album (see above) is one of the highlights in my collection. The second disc of bonus material was my first exposure to some really choice bonus tracks including the terrific “Loveliest Thing” as well as the sublime live rehearsal take of “The Long and Winding Road” and dreaded by many “P.S. Love Me Do”.

This special Japanese 2 CD set was tough to track down at the time so I’m sure it’s a rarity these days but it is certainly one of the best issues of the album to ever be released.

Even with the great McCartney Archive box set reissue of “Flowers in the Dirt” from a couple of years ago (more on that set in a future blog post) some of these bonus tracks never made it to the physical discs in the box (just bonus downloads) thus making the Japanese 2-disc CD set a must have for McCartney maniacs.

The 1993 McCartney Collection CD issue is also a great disc as it sounds really good (it wasn’t really futzed with no noise as some of the others 1993 discs) and contains the  wonderful bonus tracks “Back on My Feet”, “Flying to My Home” along with “Loveliest Thing” which makes this 1993 CD worth tracking down.

Well there you have it. One of the best Paul McCartney solo albums, in my opinion, and well worth checking out if you’re not familiar with it.

That’s all for now Be safe and until next time be well!

 

 

 

 

 

Wars from the Past – Paul McCartney’s “Tug of War” on CD (X 5)

April 1982, I remember it well. I was just finishing my sophomore year in high school and as per usual for me I was waiting with bated breath for a new album to be released.

This wasn’t just any album mind you. It was an album called “Tug of War” by Paul McCartney and it was the first album he was to release since the death of John Lennon and rumor had it that it was going to be a major return to form and well worth waiting to hear.

Not only was it said to contain some of the best songs of McCartney’s solo career but it was being produced by none other than George Martin, famed Beatles producer extraordinaire.

This was the first full album Martin had produced with McCartney since The Beatles split in 1970 so anticipation was very high that this album would be special. I was so pumped by news about the album on MTV and in various magazines that I could hardly wait to get my hands on it and give it a good spin or two (thousand lol?).

Anyway, I remember the anticipation being so high for the album that the week before it was due in the stores there was a radio special in which the entire album was played on air.

I can’t for the life of me remember what radio show it was but I do remember taping it off the air on a portable tape recorder and playing the special over and over until the record came out in the stores. Ahhh, those were the days.

I also remember that I religiously used to go to a stake out a local book store called Reader’s World each week to look at the latest issue of Billboard magazine as well as any tidbits about the upcoming album.

As I recall the album was delayed a few times so the anticipation was really building up. No McCartney album before or since was greeted with such high hopes and buzz at least for me that’s for sure.

Shortly after the album came out I remember buying an issue of Rolling Stone in which they gave the album a five star review. Five star reviews in Rolling Stone magazine was truly an occasion as the magazine spent most of the 1970’s slagging McCartney and his music off so this was really impressive to me.

Needless to say the “Tug of War” album was and still remains something very special in McCartney’s solo canon for me as it’s the one album of his solo career that brings back the most fond memories.

Of course I loved the album then as well as now so today I thought I’d share photos of five different CD issues of the album that reside in my collection.

They include: the first UK CD pressing, the first US CD pressing on the Columbia Records label, the first Japanese CD pressing, a later Capitol US CD pressing and a mini-lp style Japan CD that was made from the 1993 Paul McCartney Collection masters.

I can honestly say that all five CDs above sound really good but if push came to shove I’d have to say my favorite sounding CD is the Columbia Records version as it just has a sparkle and airiness that’s missing on the others. Actually all three of the first CD pressings of this album (UK, US and Japan) sound damn fine but the Columbia CD wins by a tad.

As for the other two CD issues surprisingly the later Capitol CD sounds damn good as well and the 1993 sounds good too but it would probably be the one that sounds the worst though not bad by any means. It sounds a bit more muted than the others but still very nice though it wins for packaging hands-down for sure.

Take a gander above at the various CD pressings of the “Tug of War” album. And anyone out there whose just getting into this album you must track down an early issue of the CD as the most recent version from McCartney’s acclaimed Archive Collection has been remixed and it really loses the air and sparkle that’s present in the original mix.

You need look no further than to compare the original mix to the remix of the song “Take it Away” as the background vocals on the original mix sound so lush that they seem to float on air but come crashing down to earth in the harsh sounding remix.

If you’re lucky enough to find the Columbia Records CD version stop there as you have the best sounding version on CD that was ever released (IMO).

It’s fun to compare the various CD versions but really any early version is a treat compared to the 2015 remix which just lacks the magic of the original mix.

Well that’s all for now. As usual take care of yourselves and until next time be safe and see you soon.

 

 

 

 

Monkees in the ’70’s – Solo Monkees/Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart – Artifacts, Music and Rarities

Hard to believe (pun intended all you Monkees freaks out there) but the 1970’s was a long time ago.

Even though I was a kid through most of the decade, I can still vividly remember quite a lot about the ’70’s – Watergate, the Bi-Centennial celebrations of 1976, the crappy clothes as well as most of the groovy music and television shows of the era.

I also remember being a Monkees fan and to put it mildly how utterly uncool a thing that was in the have a nice day decade. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before most of the 1970’s was a vast empty desert for Monkees fans.

Sure their TV show was still in reruns in large parts of the country (not where I lived of course) and their songs did happened to creep up on the radio occasionally but after 1971 trying to find Monkees records or any mention of the group was a futile endeavor.

/that all began to change however in the middle of the decade when in 1975 Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones tamed up with Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to tour and record new music.

I remember being super excited to see the group perform on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” TV show. As a nine year old it was a real chore to stay up late enough to catch their performance (the show was broadcast on the weekend so it got parental approval) and how cool and odd it was to see two Monkees perform outside the confines of their TV personas.

Even though I was a tad annoyed with Dolenz’ antics while he performed “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (seriously dude just sing the song) I was

Then in 1976 when the “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart” album came out on Capitol Records I was over the moon with excitement as this was as close as  I was going to get to a new Monkees album so I devoured the Lp as soon as I saw it at a local Kmart. In those days Kmart was my main source of music purchasing and  I remember scouring the record section every time I went with my parents.

At the time I was really impressed with the record but even then I remember thinking they used too much echo on Davy Jones vocals and wished they’d had Peter and Mike for at least one song but it was still a thrill it was to have some new “Monkees” music even if it was just two actual Monkees on the record.

While I wasn’t thrilled with all the tracks on the Lp songs like “Right Now”, “It Always Hurts the Most in the Morning”, “I Love You (And I’m Glad That I Said It)”, “I Remember the Feeling” and especially the superb “You and I”  were certainly good enough to get heavy rotation on my parent’s Magnavox stereo as I stared at the trippy illustration from the back cover (see photo in booklet above).

I also remember getting a Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart cup with a frozen Coke (another Kmart staple) which has barely survived to the present day (again, see photos above) and for a brief moment I thought that the group may have some legs and keep on releasing new music. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be.

The “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart” album was flop commercially but the interest the group generated from touring did propel a new Monkees greatest hits into the Top 100 on the Billboard charts as well as generating a Laurie House 2 Lp set containing  Monkees hits and album cuts that I ordered from the TV in the summer of 1976.

The “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart” album did briefly manage to surface in the digital age on CD through Cherry Red Records in the UK (not from a tape source though unfortunately). It’s not a bad sounding disc mind you and if you don’t have the original vinyl Lp it’s a nice way to get acquainted with the album.

Another Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart Lp also made it onto CD. The “Concert in Japan” album was released on the Varese Sarabande label and is really worth checking out as it sounds terrific and includes most of The Monkees’ biggest hits as well as Boyce and Hart’s smash “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight”.

There are also some nice live versions of “I Remember the Feeling”, “A Teenager in Love” and “I Love You (And I’m Glad that I Said It)” from the “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart” Lp which makes this CD a must have for fans of either The Monkees or Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart.

I’ve also posted some photos that I got when I was a member of a Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart fan club as well as some photos I got as member of the David Jones Fan Club as well as my yellow membership card.

Some of the photos come from Dolenz and Jones club tour from 1977 as well as some photos of Jones solo shows from the 1970’s. The Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart fan club was also the source for a low-fi recording of a Dolenz and Jones show from the Rum Point from July 1977 that’s a real treat as well.

I also threw in a UK flyer I got for “The Point”, a play which starred Dolenz and Jones from the 1977/78 time period. It probably came from the Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart club as well as they sent a lot of things like that at the time including the original UK pressing of “The Point” cast recording on MCA Records.

Also, if you’re a big fan of the “Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart”  album there is a 1995 CD from Australia called “The Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart Anthology” which contains some songs from the Lp ( “I Love You (And I’m Glad that I Said It)”, “A Teenager in Love”, “Sail on Sailor”, “I Remember the Feeling”) that sound like they’re from a tape source and are a great source for these tracks.

You also get a nice selection of Boyce & Hart tracks which are also worth the price of admission as many of them would have made superb Monkees tracks in the 1960’s.

Well that’s all for memory lane today. Until next time be well and as usual take a gander at some of the photos above to see some of these groovy ’70’s artifacts.

Be safe and see you soon!

 

 

 

 

The Long and Winding Longbox? – The Beatles “Let it Be … Naked” Longbox Edition

In anticipation of the brand new version of The Beatles “Let it Be” film hopefully coming out in September (by famed director Peter Jackson called “Get Back”) today I thought it might be fun to take a look back at another earlier attempt at some reworking of some “Let it Be” material.

In 2003 a team at Abbey Road Studios (Paul Hicks, Guy Massey, Allan Rouse) took The Beatles “Let it Be” album and remixed it and in effect striped it naked of any overdubs like the orchestrations on “Let it Be”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “I Me Mine” and “Across the Universe” whilst also removing the dialogue snippets that appeared throughout the album.

Obviously sanctioned by the remaining Beatles and the wives of George Harrison and John Lennon, this new release was called “Let it Be … Naked” and it certainly had the effect of a sort of Beatles “back to nature” experience as was originally intended by the group when they were originally making the album in 1969.

Now how well they succeeded has been the focus of much fan discussion since this release came out with quite a few loyal Beatles maniacs feeling this was more of a Frankensteined and noise reduction mess that wasn’t actually that different from the version of the “Let it Be” albums that came out in 1970.

While it’s true that most of the same takes that Phil Spector used in 1970 when he was asked to produce the album were also used for this project, I personally have always enjoyed this “naked” take on the album and the versions of “Let it Be”, “The Long and Winding Road” and “Across the Universe” in particular are my personal favorite versions of these songs.

The song order was also changed from the original “Let it Be”  LP but the team at Abbey Road also added of one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs “Don’t Let Me Down” to the running order which to me was a huge plus in favor of this new creation.

Granted I would have enjoyed one of the versions of the unreleased “Get Back” album that were put together by Glyn Johns in 1969/70 but I do find that “Let it Be … Naked” flaws and all is a fun listening experience nonetheless.

There is also a second 22 minute disc included in the package (entitled “Fly on the Wall”) that was a nifty little bonus that featured some highlights of the filming sessions from Twickenham studios which were not caught on multi-track tape but on nagra reels.

Glimpses of early versions of songs such as “All Things Must Pass” (soon to be the title track of George Harrison’s epic 1970 triple solo album), “Sun King” and “She Came into the Bathroom Window” plus a brief casual snippet of “Every Little Thing” and the humorous dialogue on this bonus disc are a fun listen but full versions of songs from the sessions might have been a better idea.

I do listen to the “Fly on the Wall” every now and again but it’s mainly the remixed album that I find myself going back to for repeat listening.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Beatles fans from the new soundtrack that will be put together by Giles Martin as an accompaniment for the new Disney release of Peter Jackson’s “Get Back”.

Martin’s remixes of Beatles material has been overall a worthwhile experience so his new take on this album plus his respectful treatment of out-take material will probably make “Let it Be … Naked” nothing more than a curio in the future but it’s still fun to have in the collection anyway.

Above I have posted a few photos of the 2 CD set plus the rarely seen longbox version of this set that I stumbled upon at a Sam’s Club I believe when the disc came out in 2003. Longboxes were long gone by 2003 except at places like Sam’s Club an  I’m guessing Costco.

If you’ve never seen one it’s a fun reminder of the longbox early CD era of the 1980’s and I think the “Let it Be … Naked” cover looks great on the packaging above.

So feast your eyes above and again I hope this day finds you well and healthy and able to find a moment or two of distraction from the sadness in the world as we speak.

Until next time be well and see you soon!

 

 

“The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show” CD (A Review)

I have to say it’s so nice to have a burst of aural sunlight to dissipate at least some of the gloom in the world at the moment.

Yesterday a brand new Monkees CD came out entitled “The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show” which goes a long way to help restore my fractured and jagged nerves.

This new album/CD chronicles The Monkees most recent live tour in 2019 which features the two surviving members of The Monkees, Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz, as they explode through a set of over 25 classic Monkees songs.

Featuring the group’s biggest hits along with a nice sampling of deep cuts long-time fans have clamored for decades to hear live this new CD is a treat not only for those loyal fans but I can’t really imagine any casual fans being disappointed either.

I happen to have seen the very first leg this tour in 2018 in Ohio right before Mike Nesmith had open heart surgery and I was so impressed not only by the performances but by the stellar set list as well as the fantastic band.

Having seen many a Monkees live performance in my day, I had my doubts about seeing the show as I wasn’t sure how it would sound without Peter Tork or Davy Jones but after just a couple of songs into the show I was so blown away by the music and performances that this presentation easy nestles in my Top Two Monkees performances ever.

Unfortunately the 2018 tour was cut short by Mike Nesmith’s health woes but as fate would have it The Mike & Micky Show picked up again in 2019 after Nesmith had successfully recovered from surgery and the results of that tour have finally made it onto CDs and streaming services worldwide.

What can I say about this CD? Well if I had to pick one word it would be … fantastic.

First off the sound is stellar. Christian Nesmith, Nesmith’s oldest son as well as band member, did a terrific job mixing these performances. The mix is such that you feel as if you are right onstage with the group as they perform.

The band is exceptional and the crisp, clean mix only highlights their musicianship as well as the vocals by not only Dolenz and Nesmith but the enchanting background vocals (which feature Micky’s Dolenz’ sister Coco as well as Christian Nesmith’s wife Circe) that really make these songs take flight.

Speaking of vocals, as much as I enjoyed the 2018 version of this show I have to say how much more dynamic and passionate Mike Nesmith’s vocals come across on this CD. His performances here are some of the best I’ve heard him sound on any live Monkees performance.

If you go back even to the 1960’s Monkees live recordings they had a tendency not to capture Nesmith’s vocals very well. In fact the fantastic 1968 live performance of “Circle Sky” from the film “HEAD” had re-recorded vocals as he live vocal was really murky.

There have been several Monkees live albums from the “Live 1967” Lp though the various releases from the 1980’s through 2000’s but believe it or not “The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show” is the first Monkees live tour that was purposely intended to be captured as an album thus the close detail to all aspects of the sound.

From the mix to the right performances from the group to the unbelievable setlist “The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show” for me wins hands down as the definitive presentation of The Monkees music as a live recording. You can listen to it over and over and find it more than just a quicky document of a tour, it’s a true album.

Highlights of the disc are almost too numerous to mention but I’ll have a go anyway.

I’m one of those weirdo die-hard fans that have been itching to hear some really deep Monkees songs in a live setting so it’s no surprise that the deep cuts were the first things I played.

Songs like “You Told Me”, “Sweet Young Thing” (in an arrangement that matches the original studio version!) and especially “The Door Into Summer” and the magnificent “Auntie’s Municipal Court” are just thrilling to hear.

Not only does Nesmith really nail the vocals on all these songs but the arrangements of these lend a nice touch of Nesmith’s 1970’s country languidness that really gives these songs a freshness that breathes new life into them. And as usual Dolenz as well sings like he’s thirty years younger than he is – he sounds just great as always.

And I have to go on record that “The Door Into Summer” may now be my all-time favorite Monkees live performance as the vocals are just so good it almost surpasses the original studio version in my humble opinion.

Other gems include the newer material from 2016’s “Good Times!” album, the superb “Me & Magdalena” and “Birth of An Accidental Hipster”, as well as the lovely new acoustic reading of the 1968 classic “Tapioca Tundra” (the flip-side of the “Valleri” 45) which I feel rings so much more emotion from the song that I may prefer it to the studio cut.

And I must say that the live version of “Circle Sky” though not quite as intoxicating as the live 1968 group performance has one of the best Nesmith live vocals I’ve ever heard – simply amazing.

Even the tried and true songs like “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer” sound pretty darn fresh which is saying something as they’ve been on every live recording the group has ever put out.

Needless to say I’m just thrilled with this CD. And I have to say that you really need to listen to this album on a real old fashioned stereo set-up as it just sounds so wonderful and full.

While waiting for the CD to arrive in the mail yesterday I previewed some cuts online and while they sounded just fine they simply explode from my vintage 1970’s speakers with a warmth as well as punch that simply is a marvel to enjoy.

As usual I’ve posted some pictures above of the new CD as well as some photos from the Huber Heights, OH concert I had the pleasure of attending in 2018.

Search this live set out be it CD or online, you won’t be disappointed.

That’s all for now.

Until next time be well and safe and healthy!!!

Early Morning Blues and … Early Arista and Rhino Monkees CDs

 

I think its time for another Coronavirus distraction!

Personally I can use any kind of distraction I can get but for me music is the best medicine for these trying times.

Today I thought I’d turn the wind back dial again and look at some early Monkees CD’s that came out on the Arista and Rhino record labels.

We start our journey today in late 1986. Ahhhh 1986, what a year for Monkees fans.

Who would have thought in January of that year that The Monkees would not only be resurrected commercially speaking but that they would have not only have one of the biggest tours of the year but that they would have a Top Twenty hit as well as see most of their old albums chart plus have a platinum selling new greatest hits with three new songs on it!

That platinum greatest hits was of course “Then & Now – The Best of The Monkees” which contained the Top Twenty song “That Was Then, This Is Now” as well as two other new songs “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere” and a remake of the ’60’s song “Kicks” originally done by Paul Revere and The Raiders.

Of course I was thrilled by the three new songs and was equally thrilled when Arista released a 25 song version of the vinyl Lp on CD near the end of the 1986.

The CD version of “Then & Now – The Best of The Monkees” was the first CD I owned of Monkees music and at the time I was quite thrilled and played it to death. It has a weird mixture of mono and stereo sources and while it’s still a good listen much better sources of these songs have been found since that time so it’s not the best sounding Monkees CD out there.

The following year was when the true Monkees music nirvana happened with the release of the first full new Monkees album since 1970, “Pool It!” on Rhino Records, bas well as also two of my all-time favorite Monkees albums “Live 1967” and “Missing Links” also both on Rhino.

Don’t get me wrong, at the time I was thrilled with the “Pool It!” album and while it does have a decent selection of strong tracks (“Heart and Soul”, “Midnight”, “Gettin’ In” and “Don’t Bring Me Down”) it’s ’80’s production weighs it down and it pales in comparison to the more recent and truly superb “Good Times!” album from 2016.

Even in 1987 I was actually more excited for the release of “Missing Links” and “Live 1967”. “Missing Links” in particular, which was filled with top quality unreleased studio recordings from the 1960’s, was a thrill.

Lost gems such as “All of Your Toys” (the fabled unreleased single from 1967 featuring the guys playing their own instruments) and “Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears”, “Carlisle Wheeling” and “I Don’t Think You Know Me” where quite the revelation as I had no idea at the time that such a treasure trove of  quality music was left to rot in the vaults at Columbia Pictures.

“Live 1967” was also quite a mind blower as I had no idea a live album was recorded in the 1960’s and to this day I’m still thrilled with the garage band roughness of the real Monkees playing their own material for a screaming crowd of hysterical teens.

Both “Missing Links” and“Live 1967” came out many months after their vinyl counterparts and both contained extra tracks which make the CD’s the definitive versions of these albums to own.

My all-time favorite Monkees CD, “Missing Links Volume Two”, came out in January 1990. This album also featured a slew of unreleased Monkees tracks but this time every single song on the collection is a total keeper especially the TV versions of “Valleri”, “I Wanna Be Free” and “You Just May Be the One”.

In fact this collection is so strong I view it as a long lost unreleased superb Monkees album as it’s contents are much better than some of the albums that came out in the 1960’s!

As usual above I posted a lot of photos of these five CDs along with their now rare long boxes. I love the look of the long boxes and even though their a pain to store thy are just so cool like the digital era version of a 45 r.p.m. picture sleeve.

I also threw in some photos of a little booklet that came with the “Pool It!” CD which touts Rhino Records other CD compilations they had out a the time which is a great time piece from the early CD era.

I hope everyone out there is safe and able to be at home. I will be posting more virtual distraction posts soon.

Until next time remember to wash your hands and take care out there!!!