Let Them Roll Across Your Sound System – George Harrison “All Things Must Pass” 50th Anniversary/Three Versions to Ponder

“Everyone has choice” …

Those opening lyrics to the song “Run of the Mill” by George Harrison from his classic 1970 triple album set “All Things Must Pass” certainly ring true in 2021 as far as buying physical media product is concerned.

Last Friday, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of this now legendary record, a host of different versions of “All Things Must Pass” have been made available to fans for purchase.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you can get:

  • A double CD of the album containing a brand new 2020 remix of the album by Paul Hix along with Harrison’s only son Dhani Harrison plus a mini poster and small booklet
  • A triple CD of the album that contains the 2 CDs mentioned above plus a CD of previously unreleased studio outtakes and demos and the mini poster and slightly fuller booklet
  • A Target store exclusive version of the 3 CD set that contains a sticker pack plus the small poster and booklet
  • A five CD/Blu-ray Deluxe box set that contains the 3 CDs mentioned above plus two more CDs of unreleased demos plus a Blu-ray disc which contains Hi Definition/Surround Sound versions of the album plus a larger 56-page booklet and bigger poster
  • A triple Lp vinyl set containing just the 2020 remix of the album plus poster and small Lp-sized pamphlet
  • An exclusive green splatter version of the above 3 Lp vinyl set on sale from http://www.georgeharrison.com
  • A 5 Lp vinyl set that contains all the audio content from the 3 CD set plus bigger poster and small Lp-sized pamphlet
  • A deluxe 8 Lp vinyl set that contains all the audio from the 5 CD/blu-ray set in two separate cases plus a hardback book as well as a large poster (truly lovely looking)
  • The grand daddy version of them all, an Uber Deluxe set that comes in a large wooden crate and contains the 8 LP vinyl set, the 5 CD/Blu-ray set plus two books as well as other memorabilia including some lovely figurines of George Harrison and the gnomes from the cover of “All Things Must Pass”. (Note: this set costs a whopping $999 plus shipping and though I didn’t get one does looks superbly well done and fantastic.)

Phew, I think that’s all! See what I mean, purchasers of physical media really have a choice.

And as usual I went overboard and bought more variations then I thought I would (or needed) but really for me I did pretty well considering all the variations out there to empty my wallet.

I ended up purchasing the Deluxe 5 CD/Blu-ray set, the 5 Lp vinyl set as well as the groovy Target exclusive 3 CD set (see photos above and below) and I have to say that I’ve had a great time reacquainting myself with this superb album and the sessions that produced it.

Now that I’ve spent over a week listening to and absorbing these beauties I bought I thought I’d share a few thoughts about them as well as about the remix of the album that has somewhat polarized the George Harrison/Beatles fanbase online.

Let’s take each point on its own.

The 2020 Remix:

Okay, let me first start off and say I’m not the biggest fan of remixing classic albums. Sometimes I like the result and other times I feel why mess up a good thing and change what wasn’t broken to begin with?

I have detailed my thoughts on previous Beatles and solo Beatles remixes here on this blog and while most of the time they are enjoyable they tend to be mastered too loud and that takes away some of the pleasure of listening to these albums.

As time has gone by I am growing to see these new remixes as nice alternative ways of experiencing these classic records and I’ve never thought of them as being in any way superior to the original mixes nor should they ever be considered such. All of these albums are of a certain time and place and the original mixes should always be considered the way to hear these records.

But I see that the remixes must have a place in keeping these artists in the public eye and aid in exposing this terrific music to new generations so if that’s the case then great, that’s a valid reason why these things should exist.

I have to say that I was really nervous about this particular remix of “All Things Must Pass” as I saw a lot of previews of the set online from Uber set buyers who got their sets delivered a week earlier than most and some of them were not too pleased about the new remix.

Then there was also a particularly nasty video from Bobby Whitlock who was one of the musicians who played on “All Things Must Pass” album back in 1970 who basically couldn’t find enough ways to say how much he hated the new remix and how bad it was and how much this was a pure cash grab – yikes!

As usual with these things I really wanted to hear this remix for myself and after having listened to the remix on both vinyl and CD I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Yes I said enjoyed. I have to say that again the mix is a bit loud for my tastes, at least the CD versions, but certainly not horrible or brickwalled and thoroughly enjoyable.

After listening to the complete remix I’d have to say this is one of my favorite of all the solo remixes so far. I think it’s world’s better than the Paul McCartney “Tug of War” remix from a few years ago which was very harsh sounding and to me it’s better than the “Imagine” and “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” remixes both of which I enjoyed. 

I love the sound of Harrison’s voice being brought up a bit in the 2020 mix with Harrison’s voice on top of the Spector mix which I rather enjoy. I love the original mix but it sounds like Harrison is more present in this new remix without losing the the Spector touch in the music. Very enjoyable. More enjoyable that I thought it would be.

I view the new remix and a cross between the majestic original Spector mix and the more intimate way Harrison sounds on the Day One demos from the 5 CD box set. Yes in places this new remix sounds a bit muddy or thick but new things still stick out with instruments I’ve never heard or noticed before and the much richer bass really works on quite a few of the tracks.

Is it better than the original mix? – no.

Is it good? – in my opinion, yes. Hell yes!  Very good and quite enjoyable.

I do find that I enjoy playing the vinyl version of the new remix a bit more than the CD as I can turn the vinyl up a bit louder and let it breath a bit more which takes me into the new mix a bit more than the CD.

The Bonus Tracks:

The bonus tracks are really worth the price of admission for this set – they are superb! I especially love the Day One demos which feature Ringo Starr and Klaus Voormann which sound like Harrison’s version of the “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album albeit from a more spiritual perspective. This is “All Things Must Pass” stripped bare with an intimacy and directness that’s great to hear.

Anyone who likes the songs on the album but doesn’t like the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” will revel in this disc as it presents quite a few of the songs from the 1970 set more intimately but sounding more like a full band as there’s bass and drum as well as guitar which fleshes the songs out more than the acoustic demos from the Demos Day Two disc. The acoustic demos are great as well though and sound much better than the bootleg versions that have been making the rounds for years. 

The studio outtakes of the songs from “All Things Must Pass” are equally a trill to hear and I will definitely get many repeated plays from me as I truly love to hear the work-in-progress takes as they are newer and fresher and sound a bit livelier than the produced versions from the finished album. 

Highlights for me include the extended Take 5 of “Hear Me Lord” with a blazing guitar solo from Eric Clapton as well as the Take 1 slower version of “Art of Dying” (written in the “Revolver” era, too bad it there wasn’t a Beatles take on this superb tune) and the lovely and languid Take 27 of “Isn’t It a Pity”, a song of which I never grow tired.

I can say that almost universally fan reaction to the bonus tracks have been very favorable as well it should. The outtakes sound great and really give a nice insight into how Harrison worked in the studio.  

One misstep for me is that the lovely completed take of “I Live for You” from the 2001 reissue of this album wasn’t included. Don’t get me wrong I love the demo version from the 5 CD set but I really miss the added pedal steel guitar from the finished take which makes the song one of my favorites from the entire project. 

The Packaging:

I must say the packaging on all three of the versions I bought is truly wonderful.  I love the small box on the Target 3 CD version which closely replicates the original vinyl set as well as the sticker set that comes with it – a very nice touch. 

(Note: I just got the Target exclusive version yesterday as I guess the first shipments that came out on release day had an exclusive sticker on the box but didn’t include the sticker pack. Make sure your sticker looks like the one above and states sticker pack included and not just a red exclusive sticker to get the version with the stickers).

At first I was kind of disappointed to hear the the Deluxe 5CD/Blu-ray set would be in a smaller box but after having received it it’s very well done. I like the size. It fits in well with my Monkees Deluxe box sets which are roughly the same size and is modeled after them. The box is well done and though I feel it’s still a tad overpriced it’s VERY lovely.

I also really like the 56 page book. Lovely photos and nice information though it would have been great to have a small hardback but it’s not a bad little booklet. I would have liked a bit more session info/details but it’s still pretty nice.

The box and presentation for the 5 Lp is very nice as well and is just basically a larger version of the original Lp box set from 1970. I was just going to buy the standard 3 Lp version to have the 2020 remix on vinyl but since the 5 Lp was less than twenty dollars more than the 3 Lp set I went for that as it had the two discs of outtake material as well.

(Note 2: All five Lps in the set I purchased were perfectly flat, warp free and all were super quiet and very clean. I’ve read online that several people got warped Lps but that wasn’t the case with my set. Very well pressed and the set sounds great)

I would have loved to buy the 8 Lp set but at $200 it was way more expensive than the 5  Lp set and I really only wanted the remix on vinyl but got the 5 Lp set because it made more sense than the 3 Lp set pricewise.

The Cost:

Well here’s the sticky part. I think that the sets are all very well done and put together very well but as far as value for money the 5 CD/Blu-ray set is a bit overpriced. Had it been around $75-$80 I think it would have been a very good deal. 

Similar John Lennon and Paul McCartney sets cost much less and contain hardback books in bigger sizes than this set yet cost way less. I think the Target or regular 3 CD version is a fair price though and well worth the cost. 

The cost of the 5 Lp set wasn’t too bad and seeing how well done the 8 Lp set is with the sweet hardback book I think that set is actually  decently priced but I wish the 5 CD/Blu-ray set was a bit cheaper but nonetheless a very fine set to own.

I didn’t even consider the Uber set because quite frankly it was way out of my price range. After seeing many online videos of the unboxing of the set it does look tremendous but it’s nonetheless too big and bulky for me but it looks like it was designed superbly and with love and care.

Conclusion:

I have to say I’m overall very pleased with these 50th Anniversary “All Things Must Pass” sets as this album is one of my all-time favorite releases by a solo Beatle and really one of my all-time favorite records by anyone. It’s worth the price of admission for all this great music and since I have purchased various bootlegs of material from these sessions in the past I feel the added price is sort of a tax on having obtained some of this material unofficially.

In short the album is great, the remix is really well done and whatever version you pick you’ll be sure to get a quality reissue filled with great music! There is no better endorsement for a physical media product than to say it’s quality through and through.

Of course if you only stream your music you should at least check this album out. It’s a monumental achievement and filled with some of the best pop/rock music of the 20th century. 

That’s all for now. I hope you’re enjoying these later days of summer and that you are safe and well.

Until next time be healthy and see you soon!

Record Store Day Strikes Again – Another Link in the Collector’s Chain – The Monkees “Missing Links” Volume 2 and 3

A week ago today there was another Record Store Day across the world.

For those uninformed Record Store Day highlights independent record stores around the world and record companies release exclusive items, mostly vinyl and CDs, only to those independent record stores who are part of the Record Store Day system.

Collector’s love Record Store Day as they are usually a ton of cool and exclusive vinyl that they can add to their collections though truth be told the flippers and prices are beginning too really drag the fun out of trying to fight your way through the crowds to find these limited edition goodies.

I had to work last Saturday so it made it easier to stay away and not spend any money. I have a hard time when items are right in front of me so I thought I had done well. I had good intentions, I really did, but nearly a week later I fell victim to my own collector’s greed and purchased a couple of items that were available last week.

You see there were three groovy colored vinyl pressings of three of my favorite Monkees albums/collections that were released last week through Friday Music Records: “Missing Links Volume 1”, “Missing Links Volume 2” and “Missing Links Volume 3”

(Note: Each of these three volumes were limited to 2000 copies pressed so they pretty much flew off of the shelves and are now going for obscene money online.)

These three albums originally came out on Rhino Records in the late 1980s and early 1990s and were lovingly put together by esteemed Monkees historian and manager Andrew Sandoval and Bill Inglot who engineered all three sets.

All of these collections are full of fantastic Monkees songs that were left in the vaults in the 1960s and thought to be lost to the mists of time until Sandoval and Inglot searched high and low and restored them to their sonic glory and made them a big part of the Monkees canon.

The quality of the music on these sets is truly astounding as many of the songs on them were not only just as strong as but in many cases better than the songs that were picked to go on the original Colgems Monkees albums in the ’60s. In fact I’d say song for song “Missing Links Volume Two” is one of the strongest Monkees albums that was ever issued and should have come out at the time.

(Note 2: All three Missing Links CDs are long out of print and are now hard to find)

Only one of these Missing Links collections was originally released on vinyl, Volume One, and the other two only were released on compact disc so naturally most collector’s have longed to have the others on vinyl if they were done right and sounded good.

And there’s the catch – done right. 

Normally I would have been chomping at the bits to get these on vinyl but Friday Music who released them has a tendency to be hit or miss on their vinyl reissues with some nice quality releases and some not so much.

After reading the pre-release information about these discs it was clear that Friday Music, who licensed the albums from Rhino Records, was just going to copy the CD masters over to vinyl and hope for the best. That kind of put me off as I already own the original CDs which sound great so why bother getting these?

Then there is also the sticky question as to why Friday Music has taken off the credits for Andrew Sandoval and Bill Inglot which is truly a crime. Without Sandoval’s and Inglot dedication none of these gems would more than likely never seen the light of day and not in the great quality in which they were issued by Rhino Records.

Friday Music has previously reissued some nice Monkees CDs and vinyl but even those lacked the Sandoval and Inglot credits and they should be called out for that as they are taking credit for someone else’s hard work.

All of these issues weighed on my mind plus the fact that these three new vinyl issues by Friday Music were priced way too high set me off of buying them so I skipped Record Store Day last week.

Well as is usual with me I caved. It just so happens that I came upon the two volumes that I didn’t own on vinyl (volumes two and three) this week at a small record store in Michigan that still had some in stock and also had them priced under what I had seen them online so I’ll be damned if I didn’t buy them! (Not a shocker really if you’ve ever read this blog before lol).

I knew that if I saw them in person it would be too tempting and sure enough I was right. Even though I felt that they didn’t hold a candle to the recent and lovely Run Out Groove reissue of “The Monkees” the collector in me won out and so here we are.

Now that I have these two lovelies in my hands and have played them what do I think you may ask?

Well, let’s see. 

The Positives:

  • Each of the volumes is pressed very well, nice and flat and super quiet and the colored vinyl sure does look purdy
  • They each sound pretty good though you can tell they were sourced from the CDs and they sound a little flat in places but overall they sound nice. They actually remind me of the sound of original Colgems pressings which were decent but not great so that’s kind of fun
  • I love how the back covers look like the 1969 era Colgems Monkees albums as these issues would have been great to have been released at the time as they feature a lot of songs that were on the Saturday morning reruns of The Monkees TV show which was getting great ratings 

The Negatives:

  • The price – ugh too high. At least most of Friday Records previous Monkees releases were reissued with groovy new gatefold covers with cool photos of picture sleeves of the era, etc. These three sets are just bare bones with no notes or photos at all. A missed opportunity. (Truth be told it seems that Rhino Records isn’t that keen on quality Monkees reissues anymore)
  • The artwork is obviously scanned from the Rhino CD booklets as they are pixelated and grainy – see photos above and below

All in all a mixed bag but I have to say they were fun to play and sound decent enough. I really should have taken more of a stand and not bought them as they should have credited Sandoval and Inglot but the collector in me got the best of my judgement. 

They are fun to own but I am so looking forward to the next Run Out Groove Monkees vinyl release (“More of the Monkees”) as Run Out Groove releases are truly superb and done right in every way possible.

Well there you have it. That’s all from this collector’s corner of the Web. As usual you can take a gander at these two new albums above and below to see how they look.

Until next time, have a great weekend and be safe and well … and listen to some music!

In a World of Pure Imagination … “McCartney III Imagined”

Okay, sometimes being an old fart is a good thing but sometimes being an old fart can just get in your way.

Take for example this new CD that just arrived in my mailbox called “McCartney III Imagined”.

This groovy new CD takes Paul McCartney’s latest album that was released a few months ago and casts it in a new light featuring the entire album redone with new remixes and new takes of the songs by some of today’s modern musicians. I won’t pretend to know most of them besides Beck (the old fartitis I was talking about) but I was curious to hear what they had done to McCartney’s album.

Actually the music on this CD has been available online for weeks but when it was first announced I was, shall I say, less than enthused about the idea and decided to not listen to these new remixes/versions online and waited for the old fart physical disc to be released.

Well that disc was released today and voilà here we are and here that discs sits in my old-fashioned CD player.

I sat and looked at the new cover and read over the contents and thought “well, here we go, let’s give it a try.”

And here’s where the old fart gets in the way. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that I sort of liked some of these remixes. Actually most of them were pretty darn good! I pretty much enjoyed the entire CD and that  did surprise me. I’m happy to say that this new CD is a lot of fun and not what I was expecting.

My initial worry was that this album would sound like one of those tribute albums that barely resembled a Paul McCartney album. I thought I’d have to really dig deep to hear any trace of McCartney in these new versions of the songs from “McCartney III” but I was totally and happily mistaken.

Not is McCartney all over these new remixes but much of the album reminds me of the experimental remixes McCartney himself put together in the 1980s especially for the material on his 12-inch singles (remember those?) and his 45 b-sides (remember them?).

Here’s a run down of my thoughts on each track on this new 2021 version of “McCartney III”:

Find My Way (featuring Beck) – I actually really enjoyed this take. It reminds me a lot of ’80s McCartney and is the perfect link to the McCartney II album. It definitely has a much more experimental vibe much more so than the mix that was on the original album last year.

The Kiss of Venus (Dominic Fike) – Not bad but not my cup of tea. I do enjoy hearing a modern spin on this track but prefer McCartney’s original.

Pretty Boys (featuring Khruangbin) – I actually love this! Again reminds me of McCartney II. Love the atmosphere of this version. This takes the track to another level, very fun. Also reminds me of the late 1980s McCartney b-sides which I love.

Women and Wives (St. Vincent remix) – Now this is really cool. Great remix. Love the jazzy yet bluesy feel. I may prefer this mix to the original. I’m surprised at how much I’m really enjoying this album so far. It’s actually quite good probably my favorite on the album.

Deep Down (Blood Orange remix) – The beginning of this remix reminds me of Brian Wilson for some reason. I love the transformation of this track too, really interesting. While I love the original track this remix has a little bit more variation which is really fun to hear. This remix has a bit lighter touch than the original yet still atmospheric.

Seize the Day (featuring Phoebe Bridger’s) – Now I really enjoy this version. I like Bridger’s vocal. This is modern yet retro as well – my sweet spot. One of my favorites on the album. It shows how strong McCartney’s writing is when other people can make the songs shine.

Slidin’ (EOB remix) – I still really love this song it reminds me of the great lost Wings single from the ’70s. This remix is actually pretty terrific. This sounds a little bit more like the Foo Fighters but still very interesting.

Long Tailed Winter Bird (Damon Albarn remix) – Pretty cool remix actually. A little soul, a little techno – great vibe to this mix. I still prefer the original but this is pretty cool.

Lavatory Lil (Josh Homme) – Not bad but doesn’t add much to the track. Not horrible. Not my favorite but I can listen to it, interesting.

When Winter Comes (Anderson .Paak remix) – This is interesting but I love the simplicity and the beauty of the original. Fun and not bad but the original is a minor McCartney classic that really stands on its own and doesn’t need a thing added to it.

Deep Deep Feeling (3D RDN remix) – I’m kind of meh on this remix. I like the atmosphere of the original much much better. Probably my least favorite remix on this album though I do enjoy the “Temporary Secretary” riff throughout. This may grow on me.

Long Tailed Winter Bird (Idris Elba remix) – Interesting but near the bottom on my list of the remixes on this album. There are parts I enjoy but maybe a little too modern sounding for my taste.

There you have it. One really good new/old yet new Paul McCartney album – and that’s never a bad thing.

Like I said when I’m wrong I’m wrong. I’ll think I’ll actually come back to this album a lot. It’s very atmospheric and much much better than I was anticipating. This time around though I’m skipping the multi-colored vinyl editions and different cover variations – this one CD version will do me just fine.

But I’m happy to say that this CD is a really well worth seeking out especially for all those other old fart McCartney fans out there who may have pooh-poohed it. Go on, give it a try. Hunt down a copy or hunt it down online. It’s really fun and very Paul McCartney.

Well, there you have it. Just a quick note on this new Paul McCartney album. I’m old so it’s time to take a nap.

Until next time be well and see you soon.

Take care and be well … AND GET VACINATED!!!

 

 

 

 

Banana Colored “The Monkees” – Web Exclusive Version from Run Out Groove

Okay, a quick update to last weeks Monkees blog post.

I had actually ordered a Web exclusive version of “The Monkees” (for review of this new set see previous post) directly from Run Out Groove and lo and behold it finally arrived today.

As you can see from the photos above this version, which could only be purchased from the Run Out Groove Website (https://www.runoutgroovevinyl.com/), came pressed on spiffy looking yellow vinyl for the first 1000 orders received. As luck would have it I was one of the first 1000 and today that groovy yellow vinyl version is now in my hot little hands.

All of the music and packaging is the same except for the vinyl color (I know, I know collector’s are a weird breed!).

And today is fitting day to receive this yellow pressing as the Run Out Groove website just this afternoon began to take pre-orders for their next Monkees project – a 2 LP version of “More of the Monkees”. The early orders for that disc will come in a green color and I’m sure will go fast.

To pre-order click here: https://shop.runoutgroovevinyl.com/more-of-the-monkees-deluxe-edition-green-vinyl-edition.html

If this pressing of “The Monkees” is any indication than the upcoming two disc pressing of “More of the Monkees” should be a thing of beauty and be the definitive sounding version of that album as well as its accompanying bonus tracks.

Well, that’s all for now. Just a quick update on the yellow vinyl version. Stay tuned for more posts soon.

Until next time be well and I hope you’re enjoying your summer wherever you are!

 

 

Run Out Groove Issues Definitive Edition of “The Monkees” on 2 LP Deluxe Vinyl Set

Christmas in July, that’s what it feels like – at least for this Monkees fan anyway.

What am I talking about? You see a division of Warner Brothers Music called Run Out Groove, http://www.runoutgroovevinyl.com, that produces limited edition vinyl reissues of classic rock, pop, soul and jazz albums has just this past Friday reissued a superb 2 LP vinyl set of one of my all-time favorite albums entitled simply “The Monkees” by the iconic TV and music sensation The Monkees.

Actually truth be told this reissue has been a long time coming in many ways. It was announced in the fall of 2020 that pre-orders were being taken for this new set to hopefully be manufactured and produced by the spring of 2021.

Well with Covid rearing its ugly head there have been several production delays producing any vinyl records, let alone this set, this past year or so which has delayed the eventual release of this set by several months.

Suffice to say that after having received a black vinyl copy of this lovely 2 LP set this weekend I say that the wait has been totally worth it!

This not the first time at the rodeo, so to speak, for this particular album being reissued on vinyl or CD.

In fact this new 2 LP set is one of several reissues of this album to hit store shelves over the years including a partially remixed issue on CD by Arista in the late 1980s as well as a terrific reissue of the original mix of the album with bonus tracks on Rhino Records in 1994 and the crème de la crème 3 CD Super Deluxe Edition box set reissue of “The Monkees” through Rhino Handmade in 2014.

So what does this new 2 LP reissue have that the other reissues lack you may ask? Let me tell you.

First off I have to say that everything about this new reissue has been done right with an attention to detail that shows all the love and care the team that produced this set has for the group and the album itself.

From the sturdy and shiny cardboard cover that contains the clearest photo reproduction of the cover (front and back) I’ve ever seen to the great four page insert with absolutely superb liner notes by Andrew Sandoval (who also produced this new reissue as well as being credited with mixing and audio restoration) to the super quiet and flat new pressings of the album along with the best take on the old Colgems label that has ever been done since the original Colgems album releases of the 1960s, this reissue shines in every way.

But the thing that REALLY stands out about this new 2 LP vinyl set is the sound.

In my humble opinion this is the best this album and its accompanying bonus tracks have ever sounded – period! And trust me I own and have heard all the previous reissues of this material.

Esteemed audio mastering engineer Kevin Gray remastered this collection and I have to say the results are stunning! The bass on this set is so nice and so full bodied sounding. It doesn’t overwhelm yet is so present and clear that it’s truly amazing how the bass now floats out of the speakers with a richness I’ve never heard before on these tracks.

The vocals also sound just right with a presence and fullness that was not even captured on the best Colgems pressings from the 1960s. Though I must say that original Colgems pressings were hit or miss as far as sound was concerned. Some that I own sound really sweet but many of them have sibilance issues on certain tracks and a decisive lack of bass especially noticeable on any original pressing of “The Monkees”.

Plus the many bonus tracks on the second disc of this set also sound as good as I’ve ever heard them. The ones that have been previously released by Rhino Records on CD all sound much more in line with the original mixes of the album proper giving them a much more genuine ’60s sound. All the newly remixed tracks now blend in much better with the sound of the original album.

(Note: This new set uses the original stereo 1966 mixes for the album proper, only some of the bonus tracks contain remixes).

The bonus tracks are also sequenced so well that this new 2 LP set makes the perfect presentation of this album and I would now say that this 2 LP version is my preferred way of listening to this album. In fact I will now consider “The Monkees” a double album from now on as the bonus tracks are so good that they should have seen the light of day in the ’60s as some are superior songs to the ones that got released at the time.

The newly unreleased bonus tracks for this set – “I Don’t Think You Know Me” (2014 remix), “So Goes Love” (2020 remix), “I Can’t Get Her Off Of My Mind” (2014 remix), “( I Prithee) Do Not Ask for Love” (2020 remix) and “I Wanna Be Free” (Demo – Take 5) – all sound superb with all but the last one now the definitive sounding mixes of these tracks. There’s also a previously unreleased radio spot on Side 3 that features all four Monkees that’s a treat to hear.

I’ve always enjoyed the new remixes of Monkees tracks that has become common place especially on the Super Deluxe Rhino box sets but the remixes here sound less compressed than the CD issues and more in line with how the original mixes sounded making them a total pleasure to hear and absorb.

Really I can’t think of anything this new 2 LP set doesn’t do right. It is now by far my go to way of hearing this album and I so, so hope that the team that produced this treasure will work it’s way through The Monkees catalog (The Monkees second album “More of the Monkees” may be around the corner) so that all of their 1960s albums at least can be reproduced with such care and love both visually and aurally.

Seeing as how this new 2 LP set is very limited, only 6536 copies worldwide are being produced, if you’re a fan of this album and you still own a turntable then you owe it to yourself to try and hunt down and copy and add it to your collection pronto.

I find it impossible to imagine anyone being disappointed in any way by the quality in both sound and presentation of this new 2 LP vinyl set. Here’s hoping that a CD reissue may one day be on the horizon for those physical music fans who don’t do vinyl but unfortunately I think that’s not likely to happen.

Well that’s all for today. As usual you can find some pictures of this groovy new set above and below.

Until next time be well and more to come soon!

An Unexpected Career Highlight – “Dolenz Sings Nesmith” by Micky Dolenz Surpasses All Expectations And Gives 7a Records Its Crown Jewel

To say that all good things come to those who wait has many meanings nowadays.

Not only did it take me quiet a long time to secure a physical copy of the album I’m reviewing today but it also took quite a long time for an album of this quality to be bestowed on the solo career of singer Micky Dolenz.

You see the album in question, “Dolenz Sings Nesmith”, is quite frankly a late career triumph I wasn’t really expecting. Sure when I heard that Micky Dolenz had spent his time in lockdown last year recording an album of his ex-bandmate Michael Nesmith’s songs, I thought it was a great idea.

What’s not to like? One of the premiere pop voices of the 1960s tackling the equally excellent songs of Mike Nesmith, I mean sounds good right? I was expecting good.

What I wasn’t expecting was the end result – something not merely good but great. Excellent in fact – excellent, adventurous, audacious and catchy as hell thank you very much.

The people at 7a Records, the small boutique label that released this album, must be pleased as punch as I’m sure they know what a quality product they have released.

Produced and arranged by Nesmith’s oldest son Christian with the help of Monkees scholar and sometimes manager Andrew Sandoval, “Dolenz Sings Nesmith” takes a loving and creative look at not only the career of Mike Nesmith as a songwriter but the entire Monkees musical output and blends it with a modern yet retro sound that hits on all cylinders and is ripe for repeated listening pleasure.

Okay, okay that may sound a bit over the top but I am truly smiling ear to ear having finally digested this album in its entirety and I must say I am one happy music fan.

It’s funny I’ve also never had to search so hard for a physical copy of a new album before as I had to do with this release.

Part of that search stems from the fact that physical media is the ugly stepchild of the music industry as of late but the other part stems from the fact that this album was way more popular than anticipated and had to be repressed to meet demand as it sold out fairly quickly in physical form (yay!).

Of course the album has been available online since its May 21st release date but I am such an old fart and physical media lover that I wanted to wait and digest the album in full with either a CD or vinyl pressing that had liner notes I could read while I listened.

Well it took me until just yesterday to be able to finally get ahold of a vinyl copy (a turquoise and Michel Nesmith signed copy) that I could give a few spins and finally gather my thoughts and dig deep into this monumentous new recording.

I had previewed a couple of tracks from the album online and luckily the entire album not only sounds as good as those samples implied but is in fact without question one of the best solo Monkees albums I’ve ever heard.

(Note: By the way this vinyl pressing sounds fantastic and is super quiet and very nicely pressed, very flat.)

Here is my track-by-track rundown on the entire vinyl album:

“Carlisle Wheeling” – I love the classical sounding strings at the beginning, a nice touch. This is one of my favorite Nesmith songs and it has been since I first heard the 1987 issue of The Monkees outtake on “Missing Links” Volume One. And of course Dolenz’ singing is superb as always. Actually this arrangement and recording approach remind me so much of Paul McCartney especially his songs like “English Tea” from the “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” album.

“Different Drum” – This is one of the ones that I heard online beforehand and I appreciate it so much more hearing it on a bigger stereo system on the vinyl pressing. It sounds terrific. This jaunty, poppy yet bluesy approach would have worked so well on a Monkees LP. Only two songs into the new LP and this album already feels like a cousin to The Monkees “Good Times” album – older yet modern sounding at the same time.

“Don’t Wait for Me” – This is another one of my all-time favorite Nesmith songs from the “Instant Replay” Monkees album from 1969. I love this gentle acoustic approach versus the heavy country and western approach of the Monkees take. Of course both work but this version somehow seems a little bit more emotional in its stripped down form and Micky’s vocal also adds a bit of urgency to the song.

“Keep On” – This is one of the Nesmith tunes I’m not as familiar with but what a great performance. If Dolenz could get any airplay this would be a natural single, the country yet slightly psychedelic pop feel works great and sounds old and new at the same time. Great lyrics for 2021 and very timely!

“Marie’s Theme” – God what a great tune. This reminds me of the feeling I get listening to Nesmith’s Monkees country influenced tunes. While this take has an obvious overall country feel there’s enough pop sensibilities that this song comes across as the perfect blending of country and pop. The echoed vocals near the end remind me of the vocals from “Auntie’s Municipal Court” a favorite cut of mine from 1968’s “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” – just great.

“Propinquity (I’ve Just Begin to Care)” – Another classic Nesmith song that sounds so good in this sped up arrangement. The fast banjo so reminds me of “You Told Me” from the “Headquarters” album. In fact I’d call this take “Headquarters 2021” as Dolenz vocals sounds so 1967 here and so strong. A great country/pop tune.

“Nine Times Blue” – Yet another great Nesmith tune that the Monkees themselves actually performed live on The Johnny Cash show in 1969. What a great transformation to turn this simple acoustic ballad into a torch song. I love Dolenz vocal on this track. This is some of his best singing in years. The background vocals are terrific as well at the build-up near the end of the song before it slips into the rock psychedelia of …

“Little Red Rider” – Holy cow what a great blistering rock take on this Nesmith tune. I enjoyed the original approach to this song but this simply superb all-out rock attack is terrific! Truth be told this arrangement really transforms this song into something special.

“Tomorrow and Me” – Love the Dolenz vocal on this! Very 1969 sounding with a hint of Pink Floyd to boot. Reminds me of Dolenz own “Shorty Blackwell” (another tune from The Monkees “Instant Replay”) mixed with Nesmith. Love the strings, one of the many highlights of the album for me.

“Circle Sky” – What can I say, what an inspired idea to turn the garage band rock of the classic Monkees song into an Indian raga!!! I’ve heard some people online who hate this but I absolutely LOVE IT!!!

This reminds me more of George Harrison’s approach to Indian pop/rock than Peter Tork’s approach on the sitar laden “Can You Dig It?” which is also on the “HEAD” soundtrack. This may be my favorite version of this fine song. SIMPLY SUPERB!

I was not expecting this kind of transformation, hats off to Christian Nesmith production and arranging skills.

“Tapioca Tundra” – An otherworldly “Lost in Space”/”Star Trek” space like beginning that evolves into a 1930s/40s vibe. Cleaver and effective. Another highlight of the album for me.

“Only Bound” – What a lovely song. So reminds me of an update of “As We Go Along” also from the “HEAD” soundtrack. In fact this whole album blends the entirety of The Monkees short musical journey (which in itself encompassed many musical styles) with Nesmith’s solo country career and tosses it in with a hint of the blues and eclecticism that never fails to entertain.

“You Are My One” – A lovely and haunting short coda of a song that is the perfect way to end the album

Well there you have it, not a bum track in the lot. This is a surprisingly strong album and what a gift to Monkees/pop/rock or country music fans.

In this day and age I’m sure a new Micky Dolenz album is not on many peoples radars and that’s too bad. This album is way better than it has to be and is so nice to hear a voice like Dolenz’ being utilized to its highest potential on such strong and moving material.

If you’re a fan of physical media keep an eye out for copies of this album online. It’s an import in the United States as 7a Records is a British company but I hear more physical copies are being made and should be available soon.

If you aren’t a fan of physical media then you owe it to yourself to track this album down on all the streaming services online as it’s far too good an album to go unnoticed.

As usual I’ve shared a few photos above of the vinyl copy of the album which can be bought from Nesmith’s own Videoranch Website.

Until next time be well and see you soon and here’s hoping for some new 7a Records products as good as this one in the future!

Til the Box Set Brought Me Down – “Fleetwood Mac Live” 2LP/3CD/45 Set

Collecting physical media is a funny thing, at least nowadays.

This seems to be the golden era of deluxe box sets (probably the only thing that really attracts $$$ for record companies) and there seems to be an abundance of them lately.

Just in the last few months there was the superb “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” 6CD/2 Blu-Ray set (reviewed here previously), the lovely Al Stewart “Year of the Cat” 3 CD/DVD set as well as The Who’s “The Who Sell Out” a 5 CD/2 45’s box set.

“Yet another deluxe box set, “Fleetwood Mac – Live”, was released this past April (April 9th to be exact) and again this new box set grabbed my attention and after much back and forth I finally added it to my collection.

“Fleetwood Mac – Live” was originally released way back in 1980 and consisted of live material from the classic (and my favorite) line-up of Fleetwood Mac which includes Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

I’ve always been a fan of the “Fleetwood Mac – Live” album which features live material mostly from Fleetwood Mac’s 1979/80 tour but also features some live takes from as far back as 1975 and 1977 as well. I’ve owned the original 2 CD set of this album since it came out in the 1990s and have always found it to be a good sounding collection though one I don’t reach for as much as their studio material.

I was reawakened to the superb Fleetwood Mac live recordings from this era that were released as part of the superb “Tusk” super deluxe box set that came out a few years ago so I was anxious to see how this new deluxe set would treat the “Fleetwood Mac – Live” album and what new goodies it may contain – that is until I saw the price and the format.

The new super deluxe edition that came out on April 9 consists of the “Fleetwood Mac – Live” 2 CD set remastered along with a newly remastered 2 Lp vinyl set of the album as well a bonus CD of unreleased live material plus a 45 rpm single containing demos of “Fireflies”/”One More Night”. All for the price of $99.00 – errrrr.

I’m not a fan of the mixed media format but can live with it if the price is decent but $99.00 seemed a bit too steep for me. I had bought all of the previous Fleetwood Mac deluxe sets of the studio albums from the classic line-up but none of them were quite this expensive and devoid of bonus material as this new set. For heaven’s sake I only paid $56.00 the 5 CD super deluxe set of “Tusk” which also contained a DVD as well as a 2 LP set!

So I let this new set linger in the background of my mind to see if the price would go down. As luck would have it, this week the set has finally come down on Amazon so I decided to take the plunge and add it to my collection.

(Note: Truth be told I think that the set didn’t sell that well and it was just announced that the 3 CDs and the 2 Lp’s in the set are being released individually soon thus the new discount.)

I must say that I am fearful of buying these kind of sets from my local record store as sets containing vinyl these days are notorious for having pressing issues.

This new “Fleetwood Mac – Live” set proved my fears well founded as the first set I received contained a horrendous pressing of the bonus 45 (see photo above of the bad 45 and the good 45 below) that was pressed so far off center that it was barely playable.

After just receiving a spanking new set that is completely error free I must say “Fleetwood Mac – Live” is a very well done set that looks and sounds lovely. The new mastering of the “Fleetwood Mac – Live” is a tad bit louder than I would like but overall it sounds pretty good and very detailed. I may still prefer the sound of the original CD but this new remastering sounds decent. 

The new remastered 2 Lp vinyl set though sounds very nice and is very quiet and superbly pressed. I will probably play the 2 Lp set for the main album when I reach to give this set a listen in the future as I enjoyed the sound of the vinyl a bit more than the new CD remastering.

The content of the bonus CD is what makes this new set a joy as it contains a terrific 1982 live take of “Hold Me” as well as great sounding previously unreleased live versions of “Think About Me”, “What Makes You Think You’re the One”, “Brown Eyes” and “Tusk” – all from the “Tusk” album which is probably my favorite Fleetwood Mac studio album.

I also really enjoyed the demos of “Fireflies”/”One More Night” from the 45 but wish they had been included on the CDs but they are fun to have and sound great.

The whole bonus disc is terrific and well worth buying the set if you can find it at a decent price. Or you can also wait for the much cheaper 3 CD version of the set that’s coming out this summer which will contain the bonus CD as well.

The booklet that comes with the set is nice though not very informative but it does include great photos from Fleetwood Mac’s 1979/80 world tour which is nice to flip through as you give the set a listen.

So there you are. If you are a fan of this era of Fleetwood Mac now is the time to grab this set as it is much cheaper than when it first came out and because the vinyl sounds so good it may be the way to go for owning these recordings.

Of course the 3 CD set will be a great bargain so whatever you chose if your a fan of the Mac’s  music you won’t be disappointed.

As usual you can see pictures of this nifty set above and below.

Take care and be well and see you next time!

Fifty Years of Ramming On – Paul & Linda McCartney’s “RAM” Half-Speed Mastered 50th Anniversary Vinyl

It was fifty years ago this month – I know, I know, yet another anniversary.

With all of my most cherished albums hitting the fifty year mark this is becoming sort of a mantra around here BUT this anniversary is truly worth it.

Paul and Linda McCartney released the “Ram” album in May of 1971 and even though it was pretty much critically slagged off at the time it has always been one of my all-time favorite McCartney solo albums.

I’ve written previously about my history with the “Ram” album here on this blog but I will do a short recap. 

I had owned the single of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” as it was bought for me when it came out in 1971. I didn’t manage to get ahold of the entire “Ram” album until 1977 and was introduced to it the summer of that year along with The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” Lp.

Because I discovered “Ram” along with “Magical Mystery Tour” I always felt that the McCartney of both albums were pretty much the same – adventurous, surrealistic and melodic as hell.  I had no preconceived notions of what a McCartney album should sound like or how much better McCartney was as a Beatle vs a solo artist. I just took the music head on and loved each of these albums the same.

I can see how the atmosphere of 1971 may have played a part in the negative reviews of the album at the time but for me this album just appealed to me from the first listen.

To this day I still believe that the “Ram” album is one of McCartney’s finest achievements and am so glad that after all this time critics have finally (well mostly) warmed up to the album and can now see it as the wonderful sonic impressionistic painting that I’ve always viewed it as and not as a step down from being a Beatle.

So anyway, the 50th anniversary of this album is being celebrated with a truly superb half-speed mastered edition of the album on vinyl which just hit record stores in the past two weeks or so. I finally got ahold of a copy and after playing it today I have to say that it really one sweet experience.

I have an original pressing as well as an original US Apple vinyl copy, a US Columbia vinyl copy AND a colored vinyl copy of the McCartney Archive version that came out a couple of years ago. This new 50th anniversary edition I must say holds up very well to all of those editions.

This new pressing is dead quiet and has nice bass and lovely clear vocals and a lot of presence. It comes very close to my original UK copy and actually I’d say it’s a better listening experience because my UK copy is full of ticks and clicks so this new pressing edges it out a bit.

The recent McCartney Archive vinyl is very close to this new 50th edition but I can hear a bit more detail on this new vinyl version so I’d give the edge to this pressing over the archive version.

While the US Apple and Columbia pressings are quite good this new one has a bit more magic to it so I would say it really does hold up well to any other pressing of the album on vinyl.

If you have a mint UK original than that probably would be the best version out there but if not than this new limited 50th is well worth seeking out as it sounds very close to that pressing.

I actually prefer this 50th anniversary pressing to the 50th anniversary pressing of the “McCartney” album which came out a few months ago. I loved that as well but this new “Ram” pressing sounds even better and is closer to the original analog 1971 pressing than the “McCartney” album sounded to it’s UK first issue.

So there you have it. Just a few quick thoughts on this 50th anniversary “Ram”.

If you’re so inclined to chase down Paul McCartney vinyl I’d say you’re in for a treat if you decide to hunt this new one down. It’s only available from indie record stores so if you’re interested go out sooner rather then later as vinyl issues seem to dry up quickly these days so no telling how long it will be available.

That’s all for now. As usual you can see photos of this new pressing above.

As the man says “Ram On” and and listen to some music!

Until we meet again be safe and well and see you next time.

 

Some of Shelley’s Unreleased Blues – Michael Nesmith “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings”

Now this is how you do an archival CD release.

Great cover – check.

Great liner notes  – check.

Great recreation of old vinyl label on CD – check.

Wonderful unreleased content that sounds great – most important check of all.

What am I talking about? Well this Friday a new CD compilation will be released called “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings” by former Monkee Michael Nesmith.

This terrific new CD from Real Gone Music consists of 22 unissued recordings from Michael Nesmith’s acclaimed RCA albums from the early 1970s. Among the 22 songs are out-takes, alternate versions/takes from the era as well as alternate instrumentals, alternate backing tracks and uncut versions.

Monkees fans in particular should look out for some of the really interesting versions of tunes Nesmith wrote and recorded with The Monkees including “Circle Sky”, “Listen to the Band”, “Magnolia Simms” (weirdly enough) and “Tapioca Tundra”. Not to mention “Some of Shelly”s Blues” and “Hollywood” both of which were released as Monkees as well as solo Nesmith recordings.

Now I have to admit that I came to Michael Nesmith’s solo career as a true blue Monkees fan.  I’ve always enjoyed the country leanings of Nesmith’s Monkees music but I must admit that besides “Joanne” (a song I’ve always loved) I never really delved that deeply into his RCA catalog certainly not at the time in the 1970s.

I was a true pop fan and for some reason back in those days being the kid that I was I never liked the sound of the steel guitar all that much or the sound of more traditional country music. I’m not sure when that changed but gradually as I got older I began to seek out more traditional sounding country music and I must say began to enjoy it.

Nesmith’s solo music on a lot of his RCA albums leans much more toward traditional country than his Monkees work with the steel guitar very prominent on many of the songs. So with my ears now more tuned to this style of music I thought it might time to reassess these RCA albums.

It was only when Nesmith began to tour again around 2014 that I really began to take another look at his RCA years and found that not only did I really like those recordings but I was amazed at how good of a songwriter Nesmith really was and what a great voice he and on these RCA albums.

Skip to 2018 and the reissue of Michael Nesmith’s RCA albums on digital and streaming services by Sony Music Entertainment. Renowned Monkees archivist/manager Andrew Sandoval lovingly chose and mixed the 22 songs that comprise “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings” as bonus tracks for the various RCA albums as part of their new expanded streaming presentations.

There was no talk of them being pressed onto physical disc and it seemed as if they would only ever be available online. I quite enjoyed these new out-takes as well as the remastered albums but I am a physical music buyer and thought that since they would never be released on disc they would never be part of my collection.

Well I guess never say never as even though Nesmith’s remastered RCA albums haven’t been issued on disc, not yet anyway, lo and behold these lovely 22 out-takes will finally see the physical light of day this Friday with the release of “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings”.

I happened to get a copy of this disc early as I ordered it directly through Real Gone Music’s Website, https://realgonemusic.com/, and it got here in three days.

After giving this fine disc a spin or two, here are some thoughts on my personal highlights:

Different Drum – A very country and western take on the song that propelled Linda Ronstadt into the Top Twenty in 1967. This version is different from the version that appeared on“And the Hits Keep on Comin'” album as it swings a bit more than that version and is a bit looser sounding. Very nice.

American Airman – A previously unreleased track that’s quite good. It’s a song about life on the road with a country band and to me sounds like a sort of sequel to “Listen to the Band”. After you’ve listened to the band then here’s a document of what life’s like on the road. Check out some of these lyrics:

“Yeah, flight two
And it’s back to you
So I set my watch on L.A. time
Jet-lag
Find my bag
I think the one over there is mine
It’s 10 pounds overweight”

Tengo Amore – I truly love this track. An alternate instrumental that really works sans the vocal. It’s very atmospheric and what I would call cosmic cowboy music much like the sound of Nesmith’s recent disc “Cosmic Partners: The McCabe’s Tapes” featuring Red Rhodes. Originally released on the “Loose Salute” album I think I enjoy this alternate version more than the released take.

Circle Sky – Obviously well known to Monkees fans this take is actually very like the “HEAD” soundtrack take with clearer vocals. It’s a rocky version that’s slower than The Monkees “HEAD” version yet thankfully not like the grunge version found on “Justus”. This take is actually really good and might be my favorite version next to the live Monkees version from the film “HEAD”.

Listen to the Band – A much different take not only from the classic Monkees version but also from Nesmith’s other solo recording. The Monkees version is country with a pop sheen while the version from the Loose Salute album is decidedly more country. This new alternate is more rock with a hint of country. Lovely take, interesting.

Some of Shelly’s Blues – A great version, is there any bad version of this terrific track? More laid back than The Monkees version which is actually more country sounding than this. This new take has a country feel but sounds a little bit more what I would have thought a Monkees version would sound circa 1966, a mix of country and pop. Great Nesmith vocals on this take.

Magnolia Simms – A very country take on the classic Monkees track. Weird to hear a non-1920s sounding version without skips. Too bad there’s no vocal but really fun to hear. Strange to hear this track played straight so to speak but nice.

Hollywood – Another instrumental take on one of my favorite Nesmith songs. Again would have loved to hear a vocal but a really nice take and much faster than The Monkees version.

Tapioca Tundra – A very lovely languid country instrumental take on the Monkees “Valleri” b-side and “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” album track.

Loose Salute (Radio Spots) – Too funny and typical contrary Nesmith doing radio spots for his album yet highlighting albums by other artists. Too fun and a great way to end this disc

Those are just some of the many highlights in this new collection. Really the whole disc is very enjoyable and a nice way to get acquainted with Nesmith’s solo career working as a greatest hits of sorts as it covers a lot of Nesmith’s best songwriting throughout his career.

Then again perhaps a true hits collection may be a better introduction to Nesmith’s solo music as this set may appeal more to the already converted but it’s still a really good listen and a well put together CD package in the waning days of physical media.

Now how about those remastered Nesmith RCA albums in a small CD box set perhaps? I know, I’m probably dreaming but why not?

As usual check out some photos of this new CD above.You should be able to buy it anywhere CDs are sold or online as well. I love saying that seeing as how CDs seem to be getting more and more scarce.

Until next time be safe and well and enjoy this early summer sunshine!

No More Isolation – “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection” 6 CD+2 Blu-Ray Deluxe Edition (A Review)

Today is Friday.  It’s cooler where I live but at least it’s somewhat sunny outside and there’s no snow (which can’t be said of a couple of days ago).

Today is also a day in which there seems to be a growing sense of hope that the pandemic which has been raging out of control throughout the world may be on the verge of subsiding, hopefully, into the past.

As it happens today is also the day to celebrate John Lennon’s classic 1970 solo album “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”. Though this album was originally released on December 11, 1970 today a glut of 50th anniversary releases come out which detail almost every nook and cranny of the sessions that created this masterwork of Lennon’s solo career.

Let’s go through this fantastic new releases shall we?

First there’s a lovely new single CD that contains a fresh remix of the entire album plus remixes of three singles from around the time of the album’s release (“Give Peace a Chance”, “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”.

Secondly there a 2 CD version that includes the same remix of the album on disc one as well as a second disc of the same songs but all in out-take versions. Plus there’s also a groovy foldout poster included with the set.

There’s also a 2 LP vinyl release available that features the same contents as the 2 CD set minus the 3 bonus single tracks.

Then we have the grand daddy release of them all a 6 CD/2 Blu-ray set packaged inside a lovely case that includes a terrific 132-page hardback book, 2 postcards as well as the same poster as the 2 CD set but larger.

(Note: this great new collection is also available to stream online but since this is a site about physical media well why spoil the fun talking about streaming.)

Titled “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection” this deluxe edition truly is the last word on this album as this collection contains:

CD1: THE ULTIMATE MIXES, CD2: THE ULTIMATE MIXES/THE OUT-TAKES, CD3: THE ELEMENTS MIXES CD4: THE RAW STUDIO MIXES, CD5: THE EVOLUTION DOCUMENTARY, CD6: THE JAMS & THE DEMOS

Blu-Ray 1: All tracks in Stereo 24/192, Dolby Atmos and 5.1 Surround Sound

The Ultimate Mixes Album And Singles
The Ultimate Mixes Outtakes
The Elements Mixes Album And Singles
The Demos Album And Singles

Blu-Ray 2: All tracks in Stereo 24/192, Dolby Atmos and 5.1 Surround Sound

The Raw Studio Mixes Album And Singles
The Raw Studio Mixes Outtakes
The Evolution Mixes Album And Singles
The Jams Live And Improvised
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band The Live Sessions

Whew! Seriously, that’s a lot of material for an album that only contained 11 songs.

It’s the very fact that there’s so many multiple versions of just a few songs that really made me sit and consider if I even wanted this big of a set. I mean how much would I actually listen to these alternate versions? How different would they be? Would the book be worth it? It’s not a cheap set but considering you do get 8 discs plus the book the list price of $135 isn’t too bad. Is it?

I bought the lovely “Imagine – The Ultimate Collection” that came out a couple of years ago which featured the same exhaustive approach to that album and while I enjoyed that set I really haven’t gone back to it that much yet did enjoy what I heard. The elements disc in that set was mainly instrumental and while fun isn’t something I’ve returned to much.

So, what to do? Since I’m a Beatles/solo Beatles nut I broke down and bought the big set. I even had the 2 CD set in my hands but after picking up the big set it was all over.

BUT let me say I’m so glad I did! Even though I thought I liked the “Imagine” album more than the “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album after playing this new ultimate collection that opinion may have changed.

Let me share a few thoughts on each disc in this set. And while I haven’t listened to every note on this set (that may take me quite a while) here are some observations on some of my favorite moments so far:

CD1: THE ULTIMATE MIXES

First off I really enjoyed the new remix of this album much more than I thought I would. To me this remix is better than the remix for the “Imagine” album which I enjoyed as well. The songs on the new remix of “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” sound clearer and cleaner without making me long to hear the original mix. 

The bass is strong and defined and thankfully not overwhelming and Lennon’s vocals really shine and highlight the fact that he was at or near his vocal peak during these sessions.

Because this album is so sparse instrumentally I thought a remix wouldn’t really do much but this set really works. The material sounds so fresh which makes the intimacy of the songs that much more apparent. I’d say this new remix is my favorite of the recent Lennon solo remixes as it models the original mix but makes it better. A rare feat.

CD2: THE ULTIMATE MIXES/THE OUT-TAKES

Again I enjoyed this disc much more than I was expecting to. These alternate takes are different enough to be worth repeated listening and in some cases not only hold their own to the released versions but may be better.

I was really struck by “God” Take 27 which I think has a superb vocal by Lennon as well as take 1 of “Cold Turkey” which to me is much closer to the sound of The Beatles “White Album” and will now be my go-to version of this song. 

I also really enjoyed the Take 6 of “Love” played on the guitar instead of the pianoThe piano take is more delicate but this take is a nice change and while not dramatically different is certainly nice to hear.

Really I enjoyed this complete disc and feel that it hangs together better than the outtake material from the “Imagine” set. Maybe it’s Lennon’s passion for the material but there’s commitment on each and every take that makes this set interesting.

I’ll have to say that the rawness of Lennon’s lyrics and performance due to his then recent primal therapy with Arthur Janov has always made me leery of this album but these alternate takes seem to feel less abrasive at times which as a listener draws me in a bit more. 

CD3: THE ELEMENTS MIXES

Here’s a big surprise, this disc which I thought I would like but not love turns out to be probably my favorite of the discs in this set.

As I said before this Elements disc has vocals throughout which makes repeated listening more enjoyable. In fact I absolutely LOVE the guide vocal from Lennon on “God” that’s partly spoken. While I really enjoy the outtake I previously mentioned this new guide vocal really struck me as superb. It may be my current favorite version of this song in fact.

Not to mention the extra vocals on “Hold On”, the unused conga overdub on “I Found Out”, the alternate organ track on “Isolation” and my other favorite the no reverb or echo on “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”.

Plus:

“Mother” – just Lennon’s voice, no instruments. Even more haunting than the finished master, such a powerful vocal. The song this bare is so much more raw and edgy. I might like this version the best

“Cold Turkey” – though this is the instrumental take without vocals I really love the take sounding this way. Amazing guitar work and drums. Almost Hendrix like without the vocal

Each and every version on this disc was interesting and different enough that I was totally taken aback by how much I enjoyed this alternate listen. I prefer it to the outtake disc two which is quite good as well.

CD4: THE RAW STUDIO MIXES

I haven’t perused this disc as much as the others but what I’ve heard is quite good as well.

I really love the vocals on the songs I’ve played so far the highlight being the lovely vocal on this version of “Isolation”

Plus:

“Look at Me” – so clear and clean it’s like listening to a song from the Kinfans demo tapes, superb

“Remember” – again the voice is so clear and clean. I love Lennon’s voice without the added echo or processing of the finished mix and with Ringo’s drumming these raw mixes sound like long lost Beatles takes

I’m sure I will take a much closer look at this disc in the future but I do enjoy the less produced rawness of the final versions of these songs that makes them sound like alternate takes but familiar at the same time.

CD5: THE EVOLUTION DOCUMENTARY

This disc, along with the Elements disc, is a real highlight of this set. I absolutely love these versions which feature multiple takes blended together to form a picture of how the songs sounded from demo to finished take.

Highlights for me include:

“Mother” – I love the discussion at the beginning of how to do the song and adding the bell at the beginning, really cool. “All this technical shit” lol. I love the feeling of being in the studio with Lennon and Starr

“Hold On” – I really love the beginning with the fast drumming and Lennon singing hold on in a comical manner, great studio banter.

“Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” – this is the highlight of the entire set for me. I love listening to snippets of all the takes from this session. Truly a fly on the wall experience that doesn’t get boring at least not to me.

I am so surprised at how much I enjoyed this Evolution disc. There was a similar disc in the “Imagine” set but this disc is just so fun to listen to probably because of the presence of Harrison and Starr so prominent throughout these various takes. I guess the dream wasn’t completely over, it was just sleeping.

The fact that I nearly didn’t buy this set because I feared I’d never listen to the Elements or Evolution discs makes me so glad I caved as these two discs are probably my favorite Lennon archive discs I’ve heard so far – they’re that enjoyable for me.

CD6: THE JAMS & THE DEMOS

I actually enjoyed this disc more than I thought I would much like the Elements disc. It may not get as much play time as the Elements and Evolution discs but it’s well worth a listen and very enjoyable.

Highlights for me include:

“Mother” – home demo on electric guitar with a flangy effect that makes the song sound almost like a cousin to the first take of “Tomorrow Never Knows” meets country and western.

“Isolation” – a studio demo with a lot of echo on Lennon’s vocal. Not too different from the regular studio take but another really nice vocal from Lennon

“Love” – another home demo with that same flangy effect on the vocal as the “Mother” demo. Nice to hear it played on electric guitar instead of piano. Reminds me a bit of “Free as a Bird” for some reason

“God” – again played on the guitar instead of piano and much faster than the studio take. Also has a country and western swing to it. It really takes the edge off the lyrics in this version.

“Honey Don’t” and “Matchbox” – I really love that these two jams are both Lennon vocals much like he had done in the BBC days before Ringo took them over for the studio recordings. Both of these are reasonably complete unlike some of the other jams which are just minute snippets. These would have been nice additions to b-sides of his singles at the time

“Mystery Train” – a nice Dylanesque take on this Elvis tune. One of my favorite songs. Not exactly finished sounding but certainly better sounding than a lot of the Get Back era jams

The Blu-Rays:

I haven’t really explored the Dolby Atmos or 5.1 mixes yet I usually save those to last because I’m not a huge surround sound fan. I will get around to trying them I just haven’t at the moment.

I have skimmed most of the other things on the blu-rays and I must say they all sound really great.

And I have to say I actually liked most of the Yoko sessions for her Plastic Ono Band album. There are a couple of moments that weren’t my favorite but all in all it’s an interesting sounding album with the same band that played on Lennon’s album.

Surprisingly I may go back to it from time to time. Again, something I never thought I would say but these raw takes of the “Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band” album are really a good listen.

These two blu-rays discs will certainly get more attention then I thought they would which is a great thing. Very, very enjoyable for sure.

The 132-Page Book:

The book, as I have said, is really well made and is very informative and is stuffed with terrific photos from the Lennon archive as well as a lot of great information that really takes you into the sessions of this album and the times in which it was made.

This book alone is nearly worth the price of admission for the set. I love the great quotes from Lennon and Ono on most of the songs on the album as well as the thoughts of the engineers on how and why they did what they did with all the mixes that are present in this set.

In a word superb!

Conclusion:

I must admit I’m happily surprised at how much time I’ve spent listening to this set in a short time frame yet I’ve never grown tired of the multiple takes and versions of the eleven songs from the original “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album. Plus the three singles they added to the set are some of my favorite Lennon solo tunes which makes the set that much better in my opinion.

In fact I’d say this new set has made me appreciate the “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album much more than I had before especially after listening to the Elements and Evolution discs which are just so good and really take you inside the studio with Lennon in a much more intimate and engaging way than I was anticipating.

Now I realize that probably only die-hard Lennon/Beatles fans are really interested in hearing this much behind the scenes stuff from this album but I was really happy to find that this deep dive into these sessions was very illuminating and entertaining in ways I truly wasn’t expecting.

You’re mileage may vary of course but I’ve found this set to be a blast and one that I will certainly play often and enjoy.

As usual you can take a gander at the set above and below and if you’re not a physical media fan you owe it to yourself to at least check out some of this sets contents on You Tube.

You can experience John Lennon sing at near the peak of his powers and blast his way through some truly engaging and at times harrowing songs that put his personal feelings out for all to see more so than any other music he ever made in his short but brilliant career.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you are all well and enjoying this lovely spring day.

Until next time stay safe and play some music!