Peter Tork Gets His Due With “Stranger Things Have Happened” Reissue on 7a Records

Ahhh January. Cold, wet, grey and the holidays are over.

Sounds fun right? Well, not all is lost. I’ve been catching up on some new CD releases, something that always cheers me up, and I thought I’d share some thoughts about a really wonderful new CD from one of my favorite boutique music labels 7a Records.

Peter Tork’s 1994 solo album “Stranger Things Have Happened” has recently been reissued by 7a and I have to say that the results not only meet the label’s previous high standards but this CD/vinyl release may be one of their all-time best discs.

For those who don’t know, 7a Records has been around for about six years and have released a series of fantastic CD and vinyl compilations of solo work from members of The Monkees or releases from people associated with the group like Monkees writer and producer Bobby Hart.

I’ve posted about some of 7a Records previous work including some terrific solo albums by ex-Monkees Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith but the one Monkee who always came up on the short-list of reissues was Peter Tork. That is until now.

Peter Tork, who died in February 2019, did not release a ton of solo music during his post Monkees career. In fact, “Stranger Things Have Happened” was his first full-length album release outside of The Monkees.

Strange as it may seem (no pun intended) while Peter Tork was a fixture on the live stage he didn’t feel the need or possibly didn’t get the support to make many solo recordings.  What recordings he did issue were pretty darn good and this CD is, in my opinion, the cream of the crop of his solo work.

The musicianship, singing and song selection on  “Stranger Things Have Happened” are all first-rate and may surprise quite a few people who only think of Peter Tork as the lovable goof from The Monkees who sang novelty songs like “Your Auntie Grizelda” from The Monkees’ second album the mega-selling “More of the Monkees”.

Not only does “Stranger Things Have Happened” contain some fine songwriting by Tork with “Get What You Pay For”, “Miracle” and “Sea Change” but it also contains some stellar covers including “Giant Step” (a remake of The Monkees own “Take a Giant Step”) plus solo versions of two of his self-composed Monkees songs “MGBGT” and “Gettin’ In” as well as a superb take on “Higher and Higher” (a hit for both Jackie Wilson and Rita Coolidge).

The other highlight of the album is the song “Milkshake” (written by Martin Briley) which really could be considered a true Monkees track as it features very distinctive background vocals by none other than fellow Monkees Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith making this a more collaborative song than anything on The Monkees 1987 comeback album “Pool It”.

While the production of the original 1994 “Stranger Things Have Happened” songs may sound a tad dated, the album is nonetheless quite good and full of some really great performances.

The real jewel of this reissue though, and what makes it so worth tracking down even if you do own the original 1994 version of the album are the nine bonus tracks.

With this new reissue you get lovely acoustic versions of four songs from the album (“Milkshake”, “MG-BGT”, “Miracle” and “Pirates” – all with James Lee Stanley) as well as a live version of “Get What You Pay For” plus truly stunning solo versions of The Monkees “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and “Higher and Higher” both which feature Tork’s short-lived group The New Monks and both from a 1981 single release.

(Note: I think the 1981 version of “Higher and Higher” is quite terrific and really should have been a hit – it’s that good.)

But the true highlight of this disc, in fact one of the highlights of Peter Tork’s entire recorded output, is the lovely song “I Truly Understand” from 1982 which features Tork on banjo. Really to me this song completely captures Peter Tork as a musician and performer and is a sweet gem of a folk song that really touches the heart.

In fact I’ve owned a low-fi copy of “I Truly Understand” for years on an old bootleg cassette and it has always been one of my favorite Tork performances either with or without The Monkees. It’s so nice to finally have it in great quality. 

Add in the lovely solo demo of the song “Easy Rockin'” and you have basically two excellent Peter Tork albums in one!

And the liner notes in this reissue are both detailed and informative and really put this album and Tork’s solo career into perspective and give great insight into what made him tick as a solo performer.

What can I say, if you’re a fan of The Monkees or just a fan of good rock/pop/folk music then you really owe it to yourself to track this release down. I don’t own the vinyl but the CD version with the bonus tracks is a real treat and frankly probably the best document you can find of Peter Tork as a songwriter and performer.

It’s too bad that Tork really was brushed aside as far as his musical ability was concerned. Yes vocally he could be hit or miss but he was a multi-instrumentalist and a solid and engaging performer with extreme charisma. This new reissue of “Stranger Things Have Happened” really gives Peter Tork his due as it’s a really wonderful album and showcases his talents well.

As usual check out photos of this new reissue above.

Until next time be safe and well and I hope your new year is a good one so far!

 

 

“McCartney III” Dice Roll On – Cassette, Colored Vinyl and Japanese SHM-CD

Okay, here we go again …

Last month I spotlighted the regular CD version of the new Paul McCartney album “McCartney III” with a review of the album in which I stated I thought it was quite good. I then followed that post up with a look at a special Target store CD version of this same album as well as four different colored dice variations of the CD each with a bonus track (available only at paulmccartney.com).

At the end of that post I mentioned there would be more to come. True to my word, I was right.

“McCartney III” has been out less than a month and yet there seems to be a never ending stream of variations of this album available in several different formats. Believe it or not there are over eight different colors of vinyl alone to choose from plus a cassette version as well as a Japanese SHM-CD pressing with four bonus tracks, the same tracks as the four colored CDs from paulmccartney.com but all on one disc this time.

Whew, got it so far? I know, believe me I know.

Each of the various colored vinyl records of “McCartney III” were pressed in limited quantities (some smaller than others) and as tempted as I am even I’m not crazy enough to buy every color that’s available.

As far as vinyl is concerned I decided to stick with the groovy green vinyl pressing, which is also a Target exclusive, as well as a pink colored pressing which has a very limited run of 1500 copies and was only available to purchase from Newbury Comics.

(Note: I know, I know, why even buy two colors but if you’ve spent any time reading this blog at all you’ll know the answer.)

Anyway, to make matters worse, or better depending on your perspective, I also ordered a cassette (yes I said cassette) version of “McCartney III” and the crème de la crème CD version of the album, the SHM-CD pressing that contains the four bonus tracks all together.

As I’ve said before I think the SHM-CD version of this album sounds a tad cleaner with more separation but the addition of the four bonus tracks makes this the must buy version of this album as the bonus tracks are very good and a fun listen for sure.

Unfortunately it’s not too easy to get a hold of the Japanese SHM-CD but if you look on Amazon or try importcds.com you may be able to track a copy down. It’s well worth it if you a McCartney fan and want the one-stop shopping best version of this album.

Why oh why all these different version of the same album you may say? Because, I will answer, it’s Paul McCartney. Seriously I’m just as amazed sometimes at the collector mentality but sine I’ve got it and I like to share it feast your eyes above and below on these new and most excellent variations of “McCartney III”.

I will say that since I posted my review of the album I’ve grown quite a bit more fond of the record and now I see it as one of the high points of McCartney’s remarkable last career renaissance. While “McCartney III” may not be McCartney’s best solo record I find that much like his ’70’s studio work this album is a grower and indeed it lodges itself in your brain until you fall in love with each and every song.

Too bad the song “Slidin” wasn’t released in 1979 as I’m sure it would have been a huge hit. This song so reminds me of the 1979 “Back to the Egg” Wings era and I would have loved to see it included on that album.

Anyway, this is my last dip in the “McCartney III” pool for now at least.Those Macheads out there will certainly enjoy seeing the various editions. I enjoy that there are three different back cover photos between the different variations as well as different inner cover photo spreads.

Until next time be well and if you haven’t given “McCartney III”  a listen, you must. It’s really a fun record and oh so every drop Paul McCartney.

TTFN until I stumble across some more juicy “McCartney III” nuggets to share.

Colored Dice – Paul McCartney’s multi-colored “McCartney III” CD Variations

It was just a few days ago that I posted my thoughts on the release of Paul McCartney’s terrific new album “McCartney III”. Since that time the album has gone to the No. 1 spot on the UK charts and will most likely place in the Top 3 in the U.S. charts next week.

That’s really pretty impressive. Or is it?

You see the “McCartney III” album has come out in several different color editions both on vinyl as well as CD.  The CD variations are certainly interesting and while I am an obsessed collector I have to admit the release strategy for this album is a bit puzzling.

It seems that the “McCartney III” release campaign is aimed at getting the album to place high in the charts as most hardcore fans will buy multiple copies just to collect the multiple variations thus improving the albums chart placement.

Believe me, I thought I was being excessive buying the variations I’m showing you today but trust me there are many more variations out there that I didn’t end up buying!

This brings me back to today’s post. I thought I’d share the most interesting CD variations I own so far and post some photos here so folks can see what’s out there or just shake there heads at the sheer craziness of these various versions.

The most interesting of the new variations are four different dice colors in single cardboard sleeves that come directly (and exclusively) from Paul McCartney’s Website (paulmccartney.com) – the yellow dice cover, the blue dice cover, the red dice cover and another white dice cover.

What makes these particular CDs so enticing is not the color variations but the fact that each CD includes an exclusive bonus track. The yellow dice cover CD includes “Women and Wives (Studio Outtake)”, the blue includes “Slidin’ (Dusseldorf Jam)”, the red includes “Lavatory Lil (Studio Outtake)” while the white dice CD cover contains “The Kiss of Venus (Phone Demo)”.

Why on earth include one bonus track per color CD? My only conclusion is to make sure the charts reflect more sales and a higher showing for the album. These four colored dice CDs are also available in more expensive packages including t-shirts and dice as well as other goodies but luckily they were also available just as single CDs as well at least in the US.

Speaking as a McCartney fan the advent of tracking down rare bonus tracks dates back to the 1980s. Many European CD singles of that era contained exclusive bonus tracks so the practice of getting these nuggets isn’t really that foreign to me but I have to admit this is a bit much – though quite frankly I did enjoy purchasing them so I guess I’m really to blame for them coming out in the first place.

(Note: Truth be told I’m quite happy with these colored CDs so all’s well that ends well – at least for me).

As for the bonus tracks, here’s my thoughts on them:

“Women and Wives (Studio Outtake)”a very nice alternate take with some bits left out of the finished track including some bonus lyrics and different instrumental breaks. Very nice though not as good as the finished track but different enough to be interesting

“Slidin’ (Dusseldorf Jam)”This sounds like it came from a soundcheck jam before a concert and is a very atmospheric instrumental take of the song and quite excellent. This is my favorite of the four bonus tracks

“Lavatory Lil (Studio Outtake)”An interesting acoustic take of the song. I actually like the acoustic approach to the song a bit better but McCartney’s vocal here sounds a bit too rough. If it had a stronger vocal I’d prefer it to the finished take but nice to have as it’s a nice variation

“The Kiss of Venus (Phone Demo)”My second favorite of the four bonus tracks. This demo, despite having unfinished lyrics, has a very nice McCartney vocal that sounds a bit stronger to me than the completed studio take. Very nice to have and a gem to add to the McCartney canon

I’m happy that at least these four bonus tracks are available in a physical format. Most likely there will be some sort of super deluxe version of “McCartney III” in the near future but if not at least these lovely demos and outtakes made there way out of McCartney’s vaults.

The other variation I have today is an exclusive CD version available only at Target stores. This CD comes with a groovy green color of dice and a very nice alternate photo of McCartney on the rear cover. Too bad the four bonus tracks weren’t all added to this version but all four are being made available together on a limited Japanese SHM-CD which I will be covering soon.

Well, there you have it. I thought it might be fun to see some of the interesting variations of this CD that are available. As usual you can check out some photos of these CDs above and below.

That’s all for now. Future blog posts will highlight some vinyl versions of “McCartney III” as well as the Japanese SHM-CD.

Take care and if I don’t post before then have a safe and happy New Year!

Have Yourself a Davy Jones Christmas

It’s almost Christmas. In two days in fact.

If you’re like me and you’ve been listening to Christmas music since early November then it should come as no surprise that we’ve almost reached that most magical of days. But before we gather around the Christmas tree and open presents, let’s reflect back on this one heck of a momentous year.

The year 2020 began with a whirlwind of political madness (at least in the U.S.) and quickly devolved into one of the worst health crises of the past 100 years, the Covid-19 pandemic, that struck every corner of the globe.

With the past eleven months of nothing but extreme weirdness, I for one am glad just to spend a few precious hours listening to some Christmas music, mainly old and old-fashioned Christmas music, to help heal my soul and ease the tension of this very dramatic year.

I have grown to really love Christmas music especially old Christmas music as it really takes me out of today and back into the magical feeling of being young and more hopeful.

I was just thinking this past October how nice it would be to have a new Christmas album by one of my favorite artists come out as sort of a musical band-aid to help heal this broken year. It was not a couple of weeks later that I heard that a new Christmas album (sort of) by none other than the late Davy Jones of The Monkees was being released in November.

Entitled appropriately enough “It’s Christmas Time Once More” this groovy new collection features Jones singing thirteen festive selections, most of which came out originally in cassette from in 1991, as well as two bonus tracks.

Produced by famed Monkees producer Chip Douglas, “It’s Christmas Time Once More” originally included eleven songs:  “Winter Wonderland”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Silver Bells”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” , “White Christmas”, “Mele Kalikimaka”, “This Day in Bethlehem”, “Silent Night”, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “When I Look Back on Christmas”.

This new 2020 edition adds two lovely demos from the 1960’s (two versions of “White Christmas”) plus some newly added vocals by none other than fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz along with his sister Coco plus Jone’s youngest daughter Annabel who duets with her father on another version of “White Christmas” and sings background vocals on three other tracks.

For those Monkee fanatics out there, Dolenz and his sister Coco are featured on background on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “This Day in Bethlehem”, two of the highlights from this new disc. Monkee fans may also recognize “Silver Bells” and “Mele Kalikimaka” as Jones’ vocals from these were used on The Monkees 2018 release “Christmas  Party”.

What can I say, this newly tweaked version of “It’s Christmas Time Once More” is truly a gift. Nearly nine years after Jones’ death in February 2012, it’s so nice to be able to hear his familiar voice wafting out of stereo speakers and so nice that the Davy Jones estate is keeping his memory alive with superb releases like this one.

Davy Jones voice is so suited for Christmas music so if you’ve never heard him sing some of these evergreen classics it might be worth tracking this new album down and giving it a listen in the next couple of days.

“It’s Christmas Time Once More” came out in November on most digital platforms but I was also able to get a hold of a CD copy just this past week. It seems that Davy Jones estate has made limited copies of the CD version available this year and I believe there might be a vinyl version in the future as well.

I have to say that the wonderful cover photo by esteemed rock photographer Henry Diltz (who also sings background on some of these selections) is by far one of the best Christmas album covers I have ever seen – it’s just terrific.

As I said this year has been so dreadfully bleak that to end it with this lovely new/old collection of Christmas standards sung by Davy Jones is the perfect way to cap of 2020 with a little hope and merriment. If you’re a fan of CDs this album is out there though it may be hard to track down as I think it may have sold out but I’m sure it will be available next year as well.

As usual I thought I would share some photos (above) of the new CD and if you can’t find it at least stream or download the album as it’s widely available in digital form. If you liked The Monkees “Christmas  Party” from 2018 I’m sure you’d love to hear this new collection and what better time than two days before Christmas.

Well that’s it for now. I hope all of you out there are staying safe this Christmas and are able to have a few moments of calm and peace as we roll out of 2020 into a hopefully much better and brighter and healthier 2021.

Until next time be well and MERRY CHRISTMAS one and all!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul McCartney Takes 2020’s Sad Songs And Makes Them Better With “McCartney III”

What would make the approaching winter of 2020 seem a little less dark and scary? A vaccine isn’t a bad place to start but since most of us won’t see that until next year what else would make the end of this crummy year more tolerable?

Food? Relaxation? A warm bath? Music? Did I hear someone out there say music?

Ahh, music, right you are. But my dear friends not just any music will do. Personally it would take something like a brand new Paul McCartney album to appear out of nowhere to help part some of the dark and ominous clouds that seem to keep rolling through this dreaded year of 2020.

Well as luck would have it today of all days Paul freakin’ McCartney has indeed released a completely new collection of freshly recorded music!

Paul McCartney’s new album entitled “McCartney III” was released today and I have to tell you it’s been the highlight of a very long and frustrating year which in fact seems to be growing ever more winding with each passing week.

The “McCartney III” album is the third album McCartney has released since he left The Beatles in which he wrote, performed and produced everything on the album by himself.

The first two in this trilogy, “McCartney” from 1970 and “McCartney II” from 1980, were both released in times of challenge and transition for McCartney so how appropriate is it that he would create a third homespun album in one of the most challenging years, so far, of the 21st Century.

The album contains ten songs which find McCartney in a playful mood just making music for music’s sake. There are no guest stars, no hot new producers, no agenda other than McCartney following his muse to see where it goes.

With Britain in lockdown, or Rockdown as McCartney calls it, it was the perfect time to let the mad scientist 
McCartney work in his music lab unfiltered and unfettered making what can honestly be called pure McCartney music.

At 78 McCartney has lost none of his touch for writing catchy tunes and creating a world of sound textures that stick in your brain without any effort.

I did hear a preview of some of the songs on this album that were leaked on the Internet in the last few weeks but after hearing the entire album in great sound quality I can honestly say that I’m very pleased with what I hear on this album.

While I’ve only heard the album a few times, already I can say that there’s only a couple of songs I feel a bit meh about while the rest I find really good to excellent.

Highlights of the disc so far for me are the lovely opening acoustic track “Long Tailed Winter Bird” (a song very much in the “McCartney” album mode), “Find My Way” (a song I call The Beatle tune, very poppy), the  White Album sounding “Lavatory Lil” (a nice rocking tune with some biting lyrics), the “RAM” like “Deep Deep Feeling” which is more groove and sound texture than lyrics and the exquisite folk ballad “Winter Bird/When Winter Comes” which is actually a leftover track from the “Flaming Pie” era that is so deceptively simple yet endearing and catchy.

Really the only songs on the album that I haven’t really warmed up to yet are “Deep Down” and “Pretty Boys” both of which are decent enough songs but may need some time to really sink in. They seem like b-side material at best but a lot of time McCartney songs like this grow on me so who knows what further listening may bring with these songs.

I don’t hear anything I really dislike on this album and quite frankly I love it when McCartney lets himself be free in the studio without trying to be anything but himself. It sounds more organic and earthy to me and while I wouldn’t say that on first blush this is one of his best albums it’s certainly a very good album that may grow in stature with repeated exposure like many of my favorite McCartney albums.

I’ve read quite a bit of comments online about the sound of McCartney’s aging voice but honestly I think he sounds better on this album than on 2018’s “Egypt Station” (which I love by the way). Yes his voice at 78 is nowhere near what it was say in 1980 at the time of “McCartney II” but on this new album McCartney seems to really fit his voice well to the material.

I think the rest from touring this year has helped his voice sound less ragged and I find that he sounds perfectly fine on this album. If you are waiting for his 1970 “Maybe I’m Amazed” voice to pop out you’ll sadly be disappointed but I find he maneuvers his voice well to the songs he’s writing now and I think he sounds better in this rawer state then the excessive voice processing used on “Egypt Station”.

“McCartney III” seems to find the right blend between McCartney’s pop and experimental sides which makes this new album sort of the child of “McCartney” and “McCartney II” as it really comes off as a blend of those two approaches which is my book is a very good thing.

What a gift to still be hearing new and interesting music from Paul McCartney in 2020. I’ll take new McCartney music any day but at this moment in time it’s quite a special treat and I’ll be revisiting this album quite a lot in the next few weeks as it’s the perfect escape from the weariness of politics and Covid that has made this year such a weary and depressing experience.

You can catch this new album either online or in a variety of interesting CDs and different colored vinyl pressings so if you’re in need of hearing a master pop craftsman doing what he does best (entertain) then look no further than checking out “McCartney III”.

I for one am going to give this album a few more spins and let it try and wash off some of the grim of 2020.

As usual you can check out photos of the regular CD edition above. More to follow as I have some vinyl and a special SHM-CD version with four bonus tracks on the way so look out for them on future blog posts.

Until next time be well and stay safe!

 

Fifty Years of “My Sweet Lord” – 2020 RSD “My Sweet Lord”/”Isn’t It a Pity” 45

Fifty years ago this past November, George Harrison released his first solo 45 in the United States entitled “My Sweet Lord” b/w “Isn’t It a Pity”.

Fifty years on that may not seem like such a big deal but when this record came out in 1970 The Beatles, likely the biggest band of all-time, had just broken up and fans around the world were anxious to hear any kind of new music from the group members.

This debut single actually wasn’t even George Harrison’s first excursion into making music away from the safety net of The Beatles.

Harrison had dipped his toes into the solo music pool so to speak a couple of years earlier in 1968 with the release of his album called “Wonderwall Music” which was the soundtrack to the film “Wonderwall”.

The “Wonderwall Music” album featured mainly instrumental music that had a more limited audience than the music that was featured on the 45 of “My Sweet Lord” which had much more mainstream appeal and was a fitting choice for his solo 45 debut as it hit the No. 1 spot in many countries around the world.

Both songs on Harrison’s first solo 45 were featured on his monumental triple Lp set entitled “All Things Must Pass” which was also released at the end of 1970 to critical acclaim and huge sales worldwide.

To this day the “All Things Must Pass”  album is seen has Harrison’s peak both as a writer and performer with an abundance of beautiful songs that Harrison had been stockpiling as he had become too prolific for his allotment of two or three songs per Beatles album.

So in celebration of the fifty years since the release of “My Sweet Lord” and the “All Things Must Pass” album Harrison’s estate decided to reissue the “My Sweet Lord” 45 in a replica of the first pressing from the country of Angola as a part of the November 2020 Record Store Day crop of new releases.

This new reissue of  “My Sweet Lord” is pressed on very thick vinyl (as is the norm nowadays) and to add a little more attraction to collectors it’s not only a numbered edition but comes on lovely clear vinyl instead of the normal black.

Interesting choice too in recreating the Angola 45 of “My Sweet Lord” as it had a Parlophone black label and not the then current Apple label that The Beatles and solo Beatles were using plus it has an interesting picture sleeve with is a bit different to the ones that came out in the US or the UK.

When I first heard of this reissue of “My Sweet Lord” I wondered if it would contain remixed versions of both songs as it had been rumored for some time that the “All Things Must Pass” album may be reissued in remixed form for it’s 50th birthday.

Well the good news is that indeed the “All Things Must Pass” album is getting a brand spanking new remix which looks like it will be coming out sometime in 2021 but the bad news is that this new reissue of the “My Sweet Lord” 45 contains the original mixes of both songs.

Not that that’s a bad thing mind you. Having played this new 45 I must say that both songs sound really, really nice and in fact stack up very well sound wise to the better vinyl pressings of the “All Things Must Pass” album that have come out in recent years.

The vinyl is super quiet and both songs sound very analogue to me. I’m not sure if these are digital files pressed onto vinyl but if they are they’ve done a superb job as both songs sound great.

I’m sure that only diehard Beatles freaks like me are the target audience for this type of release but as far as quality goes this 45 is really well done and a nice piece to add to your collection of you’re a Beatles or Harrison fan.

This new reissue is limited to 7500 copies pressed and seems to be going online for a lot more than its original $21 asking price.

If you’re a fan I’m sure you’ll enjoy owning this single if you can find it for a decent price if not then I say it’s probably good to pass as the new  “All Things Must Pass” reissue on the horizon will be a much more satisfying purchase and I’m sure it may be a bit pricey itself when it does materialize.

As usual you can take a gander at this new 45 above.

Until next time be safe and well and enjoy the holiday season!

 

There Goes an Unknown Gun – Elton John’s “Come Down In Time” (Jazz Version) 10-inch 45

It’s no understatement to say it’s been quite a year for unreleased Elton John music! With the recent release of the fantastic eight CD box set “Jewel Box”, featuring sixty unreleased tracks from John’s overflowing archives, Elton fans were able to gorge themselves at Thanksgiving with some fun new/old music as well as turkey.

BUT the “Jewel Box” set isn’t the only new/old music Elton John has bestowed on fans. Another superb though rather limited and low-key release came out around the same time – a ten-inch 45 pairing a truly sublime unreleased jazz take of “Come Down in Time” from the “Tumbleweed Connection” album backed with a rather Rolling Stones sounding demo of “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” from the same album.

Both of these gems were presumably found during the vault trawl that resulted in the “Jewel Box” set. Why on Earth these quite lovely versions didn’t make it to the box set is a total shame. I’ve always loved the song “Come Down in Time” especially and listening to this jazz version is a total and welcome surprise.

I love the loose jazzy take and the extended jam at the end is a real treat to listen to and I’ve been playing it over and over since I received the 45 a couple of weeks ago.

While not nearly as gentle as the finished take that made the “Tumbleweed Connection” album, this jazz version has quite a lot going for it. The song has a much different feel without the orchestration on the released take but it’s just as intriguing to listen to in this much longer jazz version.

Had this jazz version been more polished it would have been just as effective as the released version which is one of my favorite songs in John’s recorded canon.  I also love hearing the studio chatter at the beginning and near the extended jam which really gives you a feel for being at the sessions for “Tumbleweed Connection” .

The new 45’s flip side, the DJM (Dick James Music) demo of “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun”, sounds like it was recorded at a Rolling Stones session and while not as funky as the released take has a charm that I may actually prefer to the well-known “Gun” (sorry, I just couldn’t resist!). I love a lot of Elton John’s demos and this demo is no exception.

Now I have to say that while I absolutely LOVE this new 10-inch 45 with it’s lovely “Tumbleweed Connection” style cover I must say that the price ($21.98) is a bit steep for just two songs but as luck would have it I got it for just over $5 from a sale at udiscovermusic.com so I’m a happy camper.

For those of you who don’t buy physical media “Come Down in Time (Jazz Version)” is available to listen to online but I believe “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” is exclusive to this new disc. It may be the same version of the “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” demo that was included on a deluxe 2 CD set of “Tumbleweed Connection” from a few years ago (I haven’t compared them) but if it is it’s a new mastering anyway.

If you still love vinyl as I do this new 45 is really something special and may be worth hunting down. Both songs are great and the cardboard cover that recreated the “Tumbleweed Connection” artwork is just perfect.

If you can find this 45 for a decent price I say go for it! If you’re an Elton fan you’ll love it. Even at the full price a true Elton fan would be happy to add this to their collection as this is has super versions of two great songs.

As usual you can look at photos of this groovy new 45 above.

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

 

A John Lennon Remembrance Forty Years On plus my favorite Lennon Album “Walls and Bridges”

Could it possibly be forty years since John Lennon walked this earth for the last time? Lennon was just forty years old in 1980 and indeed on December 8, 1980 Lennon was brutally shot down and killed in front of his Dakota apartment building in New York City.

I was a freshman in high school that far away Fall of 1980 and I still remember the cold sting of hearing Lennon had died and the sound of the songs from his and Yoko Ono’s recently released new album “Double Fantasy” filling the airways non-stop in the weeks after his death.

Oddly enough I had gone to bed early on the evening of December 8th and didn’t hear Lennon had died until the next day. The report of Lennon’s death the evening of December 8th broke during a football game of all things and I guess sportscaster Howard Cosell was the first to report that Lennon had been shot.

In those days there wasn’t the 24-hour news cycle like you have now with constant minute to minute reports of all the gruesome details of a major story like Lennon’s death. We didn’t have cable TV then so I was spared having to relive the shooting every five minutes and was blissfully able slept through the night unaware of the shooting.

I remember on the morning of the 9th my mother showing me the cover of my local newspaper with the glaring headline that Lennon had been shot and killed the night before. I just sat at the kitchen table for a few minutes in stunned silence.

I had only purchased the “Double Fantasy” album a few weeks prior, the week it came out, but I was already familiar with all the songs on the record including Yoko’s which truth be told I kind of liked. I had a love/hate relationship with Yoko’s music but I especially enjoyed the song “Kiss Kiss Kiss” which I found kind of hypnotic.

I remember so clearly my anticipation for this new John Lennon album was sky high as Lennon seemed like a mythical figure to me as he hadn’t had new music out for years and I was so excited to hear what he would come up with on his new album. Would it sound like The Beatles? Would I like it?

(Note: This album was the first Lennon solo album I remember looking forward to buying as I hadn’t purchased any of his solo work before 1975 when he was actively releasing new music.)

I actually scanned the airways for days to hear the first single from the album “(Just Like) Starting Over” which I finally heard late one night shortly before it’s release date while laying in my parents bed listening to their old 1960’s clock radio. I remember thinking the song was fun but kind of retro sounding. Of course I grew to love the song but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

I had really only become a big Beatles fan about six years earlier in 1974 when I discovered the then recently released “The Beatles 1962-1966 (The Red Album)” album as well as 1964’s “The Beatles’s Second Album”. By 1980 I had become such a rabid fan that I already owned most of The Beatles catalog of albums as well as a good portion of their solo work.

In fact on my 13th birthday the year before in 1979 I had received lovely sealed Apple first pressings of John  Lennon’s “Mind Games”, “Walls and Bridges” as well as his 1975 oldies album “Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  I loved all three but  I had a special affinity for the “Walls and Bridges” album which remains my favorite Lennon solo album to this day.

I remember pulling that copy of “Walls and Bridges” out the week Lennon died and playing it over and over. Some of the songs on the album seemed so otherworldly like “#9 Dream” which to me seemed like a long lost Beatles song and the lilting “Bless You”. Plus I loved the grit of “Steel and Glass” as well as the haunting “Scared”.

Really there isn’t a song I don’t like on the album but obviously all of the songs on that album though took on new meaning after Lennon’s death.

On those grey December days of 1980 I recall fondly looking over the fold out cover and booklet for the “Walls and Bridges” album and thinking how strange that I had come to his solo work only a couple of years before his death. I don’t know why but I’ve always found that “Walls and Bridges” enchants me more than any other solo Lennon album.

Of course I have always loved the bit hit from the album “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, as I remember hearing it quite frequently on the radio in 1974, but there’s just something about Lennon’s work on this album that feels to me as  if it was the last time Lennon’s music felt to me like the Lennon of 1967.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but there’s just something a bit more Beatlely to the production as well as the sound of Lennon’s voice on this album that just reminds me of  the “Magical Mystery Tour” album which I had discovered around the same time so maybe that’s why this album is so linked to The Beatles for me.

Both the “Walls and Bridges” and “Double Fantasy” albums hold such bittersweet memories for me. It took years for me to hear these records without that sinking feeling in my stomach which as time has gone on has drifted to an just an occasional sadness sometimes when I remember the Fall of 1980.

In remembrance of Lennon’s incredible body of work I thought I would post a few photos of some of the “Walls and Bridges” CDs I’ve acquired over the years.

Above you can see an original US CD pressing, the 2005 reissue with some tracks remixed and bonus tracks plus my favorite CD release of the album the 2014 SHM-CD from Japan which features Lennon’s original mix in great sound quality.

The original US CD release doesn’t get much love from fans as it has been treated to the no-noise process which tends to deaden the sound a bit. Truth be told I don’t think it’s a horrible listen but the more recent SHM-CD has much better and fuller sound and stays quite true to the sound of the original vinyl and it also includes a groovy mini replica of the original fold-out cover and booklet so it wins all the way around in my book.

I do enjoy the 2005 issue as well as it represents the music in a clearer sound than Lennon’s original mix but it tends to be a bit on the loud side compared to the other two CDs but is a nice change every so often and well worth seeking out to add to your collection if you want to hear this record a bit less murky than the original 1974 mix.

As of tomorrow it will be forty years but instead of sadness I think I’ll just pull out some of my favorite John Lennon music most especially the “Walls and Bridges” album and maybe “Double Fantasy” as well if I can escape the sadness associated with it.

Until next time enjoy the photos above and below, be safe and well and if you’ve never listened to Lennon’s solo work then I can’t think of a better time to start exploring his great catalog of music.

“We All Stand Together” – The 100th Anniversary of Rupert the Bear and a Theme Song for 2020

Well, it certainly has been an interesting few weeks since I’ve last posted here.  The pandemic has reared its ugly head again, unfortunately, but fear not there has been a bit of musical light in the darkness so to speak to keep ones spirits up.

With the news of a brand new studio album by Paul McCartney entitled “McCartney III” due in December and upcoming box set reissues of Lennon’s classic “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album as well as George Harrison’s epic solo masterpiece “All Things Must Pass” on the horizon there is at least something to look forward to in the midst of all this uncertainty.

There have also been a few newer and exciting music releases that have snuck out recently which I have decided to share on this blog. In fact just a few days a go I received a package in the mail that I thought I would be perfect to share here with you all.

Direct from paulmccartney.com came a lovely picture disc reissue of McCartney’s charming children’s song “We All Stand Together” from 1984 which was featured in an award-winning short cartoon film McCartney made called “Rupert and the Frog Song”.

The short but enchanting “Rupert and the Frog Song” was originally going to be part of a complete animated feature film but for unknown reasons McCartney only produced this lovely small film which made its debut as a trailer for his full-length movie “Give My Regards to Broad Street” in which he starred which likewise made its debut in 1984.

Ahhhh 1984. It was a strange year for so many reasons.

For Paul McCartney the critical drubbing of his self-written “Give My Regards to Broad Street” film sent his career into a tailspin that didn’t really recover until near the end of the decade with the release of his “Flowers in the Dirt” album and its accompanying tour.

For me I had graduated from high school in the spring of 1984 and I too felt a bit adrift as I tried to decide where my life was going. I took a few classes from a local trade school that Fall not really knowing where my future was headed.

I remember finally seeing “Give My Regards to Broad Street” in a near empty movie theater a few weeks after it was released and completely falling in love with the “Rupert and the Frog Song” short and absolutely loving “We All Stand Together”.

“We All Stand Together”, which was produced by famed Beatles producer George Martin, was the perfect antidote to my Fall of uncertainty.

While the song wasn’t even released in the U.S. at the time I remember locating an import copy on 45 as well as a groovy little picture disc and playing it to death on those last cold and wet winter evenings of November and December of 1984.

McCartney decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rupert the Bear cartoon character – which has been a staple of British life all these many years while remaining relatively unknown in the States – by reissuing the 1984 picture disc of “We All Stand Together” .

I’m so glad he did as my original copy, see above, which came in a plastic PVC type cover has badly yellowed due to chemicals from the plastic cover seeping into the vinyl disc and discoloring it.

The new reissue is quite lovely and practically a spot-on copy of the original from 1984 but this time comes in a terrific cardboard cover and sleeve and also contains a small poster with images from the photo session for the original 45 sleeve and picture disc.

To top it off both “We All Stand Together” and it’s b-side “We All Stand Together (Humming Version)” have been lovingly remastered and sound great despite being pressed on a picture disc.

(Note: Picture discs tend to sound lousy as they usually add a lot of noise while playing but this disc sounded lovely without a hint of added hum or hiss.)

To me this song has become a part of the holiday season and I am so glad to have a reissue of the picture disc as to me “We All Stand Together” is the perfect way to close out the horrid year of 2020 and the song’s sentiment certainly stands as a great theme for this year of challenge, uncertainty and heartache.

As usual you can take a gander above at some photos of the new disc release as well as my much yellowed original 1984 picture disc minus the PVC type sleeve which fell apart a few years ago.

Well that’s all for now.

There are more new releases to come including a report on the fantastic new “Jewel Box” eight CD set by Elton John which I am currently wading through at the moment.

Until next time be well and safe and I hope the holiday season treats you well wherever you are!

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme Some … Bass? – John Lennon “Gimme Some Truth” Deluxe Box Set

This past Friday, October 9th, John Lennon would have turned eighty years old. Let that sink in a minute.  For anyone of a certain age that is really a remarkable statement.

How on earth have forty years passed since Lennon was brutally shot and killed outside his home in New York City?  It’s hard to comprehend but that’s the cold hard truth.

In celebration of what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday a new collection of Lennon’s work was also released this past Friday entitled “John Lennon/Gimme Some Truth – The Ultimate Remixes”

As usual these days there are several ways of buying this new collection:

  • A single CD version containing 19 tracks and a 20 page booklet
  • A 2 CD set with 36 songs in a slipcase with a 20 page booklet as well as a double-sided fold out poster
  • A deluxe edition containing 2 CDs and 36 songs as well as a bonus blu-ray disc featuring hi-res stereo 96/24 PCM versions of the same 36 songs as well as new 5.1 surround mixes and Dolby Atmos plus a lovely 124 page hardback book and 2 postcards, a bumper sticker and a double-sided fold out poster
  • A 2 Lp set containing 19 songs, an 8 page booklet as well as the bumper sticker and double-sided fold out poster
  • A 4 Lp set containing 36 songs in a lift-off lid box with an 8 page booklet, 2 post cards, bumper sticker and a double-sided fold out poster

Got all that? Whew!

All of the above sets are touted as containing the ultimate remixes of most of Lennon’s solo hits as well as a smattering of deep album cuts from the various albums he recorded and released after leaving The Beatles.

I have to admit from the start that I am pretty much hit or miss with the idea of remixes.

Sometimes I enjoy these new remixes, as in the case of many of the recent Beatles albums that have been re-released and remixed, but many times I’m less than thrilled with the results of trying to modernize older recordings.

Lennon’s youngest son Sean is listed as the producer and creative director on this new set and I’ve read that his aim was to make Lennon’s music appeal to a new generation of streaming listeners by remixing all these songs from scratch with an emphasis on bringing John Lennon’s vocals to the fore.

Sean Lennon said he was afraid that younger audiences were not as familiar with his dad’s solo work and he wanted to make his father’s music sound like other more modern music, i.e. louder, they would hear on the various steaming platforms. 

First off I have no problem with Sean Lennon wanting his father’s solo career to be remembered. If it takes these remix projects to keep John Lennon’s work from fading into oblivion then great, I’m all for it.

But as a long-time fan of Lennon’s solo career, and one who listens to music the old-fashioned way on a two speaker stereo system, making these older recordings more appealing to younger listeners tends to dampen some of the magic these songs had in their original form.

So after getting this set on Friday and spending the weekend with it did Sean really make the remixes of the songs in this new collection the ultimate remixes?

Well, not really but that’s not to say this set isn’t enjoyable.

When I finally sat down and scanned through the first disc in this set at the normal settings on my receiver the thing that jumped out most to me was the bass. There is a lot of bass on these new remixes. I mean A LOT.

By the fifth song I was already getting fatigued.

There were some good things going on with these new remixes especially with the nice stereo separation and Lennon’s vocals which were now indeed more up front but the overpowering bass tended to make everything sound muddy and cramped which was a disappointment.

I stopped listening after the five songs from disc one on Friday night and then picked up listening again on Saturday. I was afraid I should have left well enough alone and skipped this set as my first impression was depressing.

For my second listening attempt I set the bass way down on my receiver and turned the overall volume a bit lower and voila much, much better. This time I could focus on the new remixes without being overwhelmed by the bass.

I have to say that for the most part after making these small adjustments I enjoyed this set. Not every new remix on this set works but there were a few that I truly did enjoy.

I have to say that of these new remixes “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”, “Isolation”, “Angela”, “Come Together (Live)”, “I Know (I Know)”, “Bless You”, “Steel and Glass” all stood out to me the most as being really enjoyable and fresh sounding.

“Angela” for one is a song I rarely paid attention to on the “Some Time in New York City” album but this new remix really makes this song stand out to me in way it never did before. It’s much better than I remember it being.

I’d also say that the “Imagine” and “Double Fantasy” Lp material also sounded really nice as well though as for being the ultimate remixes I’d say that would be stretching it. Different yes, interesting yes, but ultimate – no.

There are several instances throughout the set where John Lennon’s vocals were really different from the original mixes – single-tracked vs. double-tracked, less echo, etc. Sometimes these changes were really nice and other times they seemed to change the song too much for my tastes.

I think that some of the songs, “Mind Games” especially, tend to sound like rough mixes with Lennon’s voice overemphasized which push the music to the background too much making the song sound disjointed to me.

I’d say the first disc tended to be more hit and miss for me though that’s not to say I hated it by any means – it’s just different. The second disc was much more pleasing for me and one that I’d probably play a bit more often than the first disc.

The blu-ray disc actually was a bit more of pleasure to listen to as I played it through my television system which has much smaller speakers and not as much bass ability.

This actually tamed the music a bit and made the mixes sound a bit fresher and less jarring. I’m guessing listening online through streaming improves these mixes as well as I think that’s what this project was aimed at versus any sort of audiophile experience. So be it. 

Overall this set was enjoyable but if I had to pick I’d still reach for the original mixes if I was to really get into a Lennon mood.

I will say what really pushed this set up in my opinion is the terrific hardback book.

This book details each song in the set in Lennon’s own words and makes a really nice read with or without the 2 CDs. There’s also some really nice home photos I’ve never seen which makes this book a really nice way to celebrate Lennon’s life and 80th birthday.

To sum it up I’d give the deluxe set a solid B+ and would recommend it to any true Lennon fan. As to whether you need it or not I’d have to say no. Is it enjoyable, sure. The remixes are fun but I would definitely say not necessary by any means.

Whether or not the vinyl versions sound any better than the CD set I don’t know but I think this new deluxe version is enough for me. Famous last words probably but for now I’ll just stick to this set.

I’m guessing there will be another new John Lennon set on the horizon as the book lists a new deluxe set coming for Lennon’s most critically acclaimed album “John Lennon/Plastic One Band”

That’s certainly something to look forward to and hopefully it will be released in the near future.

As usual I have posted several photos of this set above and below.

Until next time take care and be well and see you soon!