“Roll Up, Roll Up – Satisfaction Guaranteed” / The Beatles UK Albums on SHM-CD

 

Well, well, it’s almost Memorial Day.

The weather is warm (today at least), the pollen count is up and spring is about to give way to summer.

And what does this make me think about … CDs of course. Beatles CDs. Beatles Japanese SHM-CDs to be exact.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I’m taking a look at the supreme, the best sounding and certainly most beautiful Beatles CDs out there (in my humble opinion) –  the limited edition Japanese 16 CD collection of all The Beatles UK albums.

(Note: These SHM-CDs are fairly rare in the U.S. so I thought it might be fun to get a much closer look at them and see some of the details that aren’t readily available on most Websites.)

This set which came out at the very end of 2014 features Japanese SHM-CDs of all The Beatles albums (which were remastered in 2009) in stunning mini-Lp sleeves which feature every gatefold, inner sleeve, booklet, label and poster that came with the original UK vinyl pressings from the 1960s.

I know that CDs are now being poo pooed as un-collectible and passe and yesterday’s news but these SHM-CDs are truly a thing of beauty to behold and are among the best mini reproductions of the original Beatles albums that you’ll probably ever see – at least in this lifetime.

Not only is the artwork superb but I feel – as I’ve said many times before – that these SHM-CD issues have an edge sound wise compared to their non-SHM-CD cousins with richer bass and better separation thus making these CDs the ultimate Beatles releases to track down for collectors and fanatics.

When this set of 16 SHM-CDs came out they sold out fairly quickly and were issued again with slightly different OBI’s but I believe also came with the same high quality covers and inner sleeves, etc.

Take a gander above at several photos of these CDs and notice how well they were made and how nice they look.

I’m especially impressed with how they got the texture and cardboard for “Magical Mystery Tour” dead on to an original Capitol pressing as well as the completely groovy flipback style UK sleeves that were on all original UK pressings as well as the original Parlophone and Apple record labels.

If any of you out there own “The Beatles in Mono” CD set which has equally beautiful mini-lp recreations you’ll know how fun it is to see these albums in such high quality in the CD format.

For those of you who still like CDs and have never seen these SHM-CDs before I believe you can still track them down (if not the first issues than the reissues) and really even if you just grab a couple of your favorites albums there’s no way you’d be disappointed as the quality is totally first rate.

Of course I would say that but see for yourselves.

Well, that’s all for now in Beatleland. This was just a brief Beatles oasis in a sea of politics and ugliness so however brief I hope it was a nice distraction – you’re welcome.

Until next time be well and PLAY SOME MUSIC!!! (Beatles preferably and on CD to boot!)

 

Wings’ “Back to the Egg” Lp Hits 40 – EggStravaganza (Part 2)

My how time flies.

Forty years ago this month, on May 24, 1979 to be exact, Paul McCartney and Wings released what would become the last Wings album ever issued entitled “Back to the Egg”.

Ahhh “Back to the Egg” I remember it well.

I was thirteen years old the spring when this album came out and I remember stumbling upon it in a mall in the Chicago area as my family were in Illinois for a graduation celebration.

In those dark days before the Internet I didn’t know the album was out yet but had heard the first single from the album, “Getting Closer”, on the radio so I knew it would arrive soon.

I remember seeing the album cover for the first time in a huge display featuring the album at a Musicland store (remember them?) and loving its sci-fi-ish look and wondering how it would sound. I loved the first single and was anxious to hear how the rest of the album stacked up against it.

Nineteen seventy-nine was of course the end of the disco era and punk and harder rock were in vogue at the time as well. I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of any of them so I loved it when a new McCartney album came out and couldn’t wait to slap that baby on a turntable and give it a listen as I knew he would create something really special – as he usually did.

As luck would have it the friends we were staying with allowed me to indulge myself and I played the record that weekend after it came out.

From the very first listen I loved the entire record and kept telling my older brothers how much the album was a return to form and rocked pretty hard. They of course were into The Clash and Bob Seger and thought the album wasn’t ballsy enough but I disagreed – of course.

I also remember reading some fairy nasty reviews of the record at the time as well which of course I thought wasn’t warranted but I was used to the press slagging McCartney’s work so that didn’t bother me at all, I loved the record then and I still love it now.

Is it McCartney’s best work? No, but it’s still a very good record. It has some short-comings yes but it’s still a solid collection of songs.

I will admit that some of the lyrics could have been polished a bit more, “Getting Closer” comes to mind, yet the album does contain some of my all-time favorite Wings moments including “Arrow Through Me”, “So Glad to See You Here”, “Winter Rose/Love Awake”, “To You”, “Old Siam, Sir” and the ’40’s style lovely piano ballad “Baby’s Request”.

Last year I posted a selection of some of the “Back to the Egg” CDs I own but today I thought it might be nice to take a look at my vinyl and 8-track copies as these were the ones available at the time and these were the ones I played at the time.

Above you can see photos of the Columbia Records press kit for the album, a promo copy of the Colombia album, a nice copy of the regular edition of the Colombia album still in the shrink wrap with a rare yellow and white hype sticker (which I just found this past weekend for $5!), a German copy of the album on the EMI label, a Wings Fun Club issue featuring the album and a copy of my original 8-track of the album which I bought in 1979 to play in the car.

Whew, that’s a lot of egg!

I don’t know what it is but the McCartney albums from 1978 to 1984 really stick closet to my heart and all of them really bring me back to that era vividly so that music will always remain a time capsule for me of my youth and better (or so it seems?) times.

Of course “Back to the Egg” is no exception and is one of my most played McCartney albums which to this day remains one of the highlights of his esteemed catalog.

So on this 40th anniversary of the last Wings album feast your eyes above and until next time be well and as the man said … carry on, carry on!

 

 

 

 

 

Egypt Pepper Bowl – An SHM-CD Roundup!

 

Another Friday is finally upon us!

With the weekend looming what better way to sit and relax this weekend than listening to some CDs. Some Beatles CDs. Some SHM-CD Beatles CDS!

Today I thought I’d take a quick look at three SHM-CDs that I bought in the last couple of years or so that are truly amazing to look at as well as listen to on a nice stereo.

(By now any reader of this blog is pretty much familiar with Japanese SHM-CDs. If not go to the search on the home page of this blog as I’ve written about them quite a lot.)

The three SHM-CDs I want to take a look at today are the following (newest to oldest that I acquired):

Paul McCartney – Egypt Station

The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (2 CD Deluxe Edition)

The Beatles – Live at the Hollywood Bowl

To say that I enjoy these three albums is an understatement. All three of these SHM-CDs have been in constant rotation since I received them and I view each of these discs as my preferred way of hearing each of these albums.

I of course own the regular U.S. CD versions of these albums as well but as is usually the case, in MY opinion, these SHM-CD versions have a deeper, more fluid bass sound and nicer separation than their regular CD cousins.

On “Egypt Station” and “Sgt. Pepper” especially these Japanese SHM-CDs have an extra something to the sound that draws me in more than the regular CD versions. I’m not saying night and day different but better for sure.

Again, I’m not going to argue with those who feel this is all snake oil and that SHM-CDs don’t sound any different to regular CDS but in my experience they do.

In the case of McCartney’s “Egypt Station” the SHM-CD version does contain the two bonus tracks that were only available in the U.S. on the Target Stores exclusive CD which is a nice bonus.

(Note: On May 17th “Egypt Station” is coming out in a 2 CD Explorer version which has an extra disc with these two bonus tracks plus 8 more studio and live tracks. I’m hoping they’ll be an SHM-CD version of that – stay tuned.)

As for the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (2 CD Deluxe Edition) if you own the 4 CD version you’ll be happy (or not) to know that the 2 CD version has some differences in sound on certain songs.

Some of the tracks are mastered a bit quieter than the massive 4 CD set (which I’ve reviewed on this blog – see search) so for the Beatles obsessives out there this 2 CD set does give you something a bit different and is well worth seeking out.

Again, the SHM-CD sounds like an improvement to me so it might be worth hunting down if you’re into collecting Beatles CDs or music.

The “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” also sounds quite good but this is the one that sounds only marginally better than the regular CD version. The bass does sound better but it’s not as noticeable as the studio CDs.

Again, lovely packaging and a slight improvement but for this one the SHM-CD may be a bit of a stretch unless of course you’re a Beatles nut like me, then hands down go seek one out.

I’m so glad to have run into a few fellow collectors who love the SHM-CDs as much as I do. I’m sure it’s an acquired taste, or sickness whatever the case may be, but I also think it’s fun to have photos of the sets as you rarely see them online (thus my reason for doing this blog!).

Anyway, enjoy the photos above and if you’ve never tried an SHM-CD order one and see what you think. (Okay, I know I’m talking to folks around my age as younger people look at you as their heads pin when you talk about actually BUYING music.)

Until next time, be well and Happy Weekend!!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Partridge Family At Home With Their (Multiple Format) Greatest Hits

 

Maybe it’s the time of year (rainy and blah today) or maybe it’s the times we live in but lately I’ve been thinking of the past. Okay, truth be told I do that any time of year but even more so lately.

I think growing older does that to a person, things from the past seem shinier, happier and somehow better. I’ve been afflicted with “pastitis” as I call it since I was a child and because I’ve always felt like an old soul I’ve grown fonder of things from my youth more than ever before.

An illusion I know but here I go again  …

Today I’m taking a look back at an album from 1972 called “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits”.

Ahhh 1972.

Nixon, Watergate, “All in the Family”, “Maude”, the Munich Olympics Terrorist Attack and among all the turmoil a little family show about a family rock group called The Partridge Family.

I remember getting “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits” as a gift in 1972 but I didn’t really play it all that much as I owned all the other Partridge Family  albums and listened to those quite often.

This greatest hits album did however contain one of the last Partridge Family Top Forty hits, their cover of Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” which reached number 28  in the Billboard Hot 100. The song was only available on “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits” album and the 45. If I played this album I usually played the side that song was on if I played the album at all.

(Note: the version of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” on this lp is actually in mono. It wasn’t mixed into stereo until a recent CD release called Playlist: The Very Best Of The Partridge Family” which came out in 2015. This CD is the only source for a true stereo version and is well worth seeking out. The entire CD was mastered by the esteemed Bob Ludwig and is one of the best sounding Partridge CDs out there.)

Looking back as an adult I took the album out recently and was pleasantly surprised at how good it sounded on vinyl and now give it a spin every now and again as these songs just sound right on vinyl.

Funny enough what prompted this blog post was my recent acquisition of two other formats of this album that came out on in the 1970’s – an 8-track tape version and a truly rare reel to reel version.

Unfortunately I can’t play either version – yet, lol – but since when has logic ever stopped me from collecting music!

At one time I used to own this album on 8-track as my family did have an 8-track player in the 1970’s and I remember owning a few Partridge as well as many other 8-tracks which I played often.

I have no idea where the original tape I owned all those years ago ended up but about 9 months ago I spotted a lovely near mint copy at a thrift store for a $1 so nostalgia took over and voila I have it on 8-track again.

I have a box of about 15 8-track tapes I’d love to play someday so if I ever find a working player for cheap this is one of the first tapes I’m going to play, as long as it still works and hasn’t dried up yet.

(Note 2 : 8-track tapes are prone to having the pads that hold the tape dry up and crack making the tape unplayable.)

My most recent copy of “At Home With Their Greatest Hits” I found on Amazon just two weeks ago. Someone had posted a vinyl copy of the album but when I went to look at the listing it showed a photo of the reel to reel tape version.

It was really inexpensive so I ordered it and to my surprise an unplayed reel to reel copy appeared in my mailbox just this week.

I do have access to an old reel to reel tape player (my father was a Magnavox engineer and I have his old reel to reel player) but it hasn’t worked in years so maybe if I get it fixed someday I’ll pop this baby in to see how it sounds.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to see the different formats side by side. At least it is for me. I’m sure there are other obsessives out there who may enjoy it as well!

Until next time, be well and remember … Come on, Get Happy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Beatles Capitol Albums – Vol. 2/Now You Hear It, Now You Don’t

 

Ahhh The Beatles. Yes I know I’ve posted a lot about The Beatles here but I’ve just been in a such mood lately to step back into the haze of time especially to U.S. circa 1965 and the height of Beatlemania.

To me there’s no better way to step back into that era than to listen to the Beatles’ albums Capitol Records released in 1965 – “The Early Beatles”, “Beatles VI”, “Help!” and “Rubber Soul”.

You see Capitol Records not only re-sequenced their Beatles releases but they also used fake stereo on certain songs, added echo on others and compressed the sound making these Beatles records much different from their UK cousins which are more what The Beatles envisioned when they  made them.

In the past I’ve been pretty pro UK Beatles releases and while I still consider them the way The Beatles wanted them there is a certain charm and nostalgia attached to the Capitol albums and as time goes by these versions are more a mirror of my childhood as these are the versions I grew up listening to here in the States.

Anyway, tonight I thought I’d take a look at one of the more interesting Beatles releases of the past 15 years or so – The Beatles Capitol Albums – Vol. 2 CD box set which features four of these groovy Capitol Beatles albums – warts and all.

This 4 CD set came out in 2006 and was the follow-up to the The Beatles Capitol Albums  – Vol. 1 which was released in 2004.

Why start with Volume 2 you may ask? Why not as I usually reply. But actually this set has a very interesting twist to its release that first Capitol albums CD set lacked.

You see when this set came out in April 2006 there was a mistake with the mono versions of two of the discs – “Beatles VI” and “Rubber Soul”.

Instead of using the true mono mixes of these albums somehow mono fold-downs from the stereo versions were used and there was quite an uproar in Beatles fandom to say the least.

These Capitol sets were meant to replicate The Beatles Capitol albums exactly as they came out in the 1960’s and fans were outraged to find these mistaken mixes as they had been waiting for these albums for a couple of years since the release of the first set.

If I remember correctly some third party mastering house used the stereo mixdown versions by mistake (which actually didn’t matter for the other two albums as they were originally stereo fold-downs to begin with) which sent Capitol into a frenzy trying to fix the mistake.

Eventually Capitol repressed the set with the corrected versions but they also offered to swap the two bad discs for those who bought the set and wanted to exchange them.

Ever the collector I sent my bad discs back to Capitol and had them replaced BUT I also bought a new set with the corrected versions as well. And as I also usually do I saved all the letters and envelopes from EMI about the disc exchange (see above) for posterity.

The easiest way to tell if you had a corrected set at retail or not was to look at the small print on the hype sticker on the outside of the box and if you saw a SK1 at the bottom of the sticker you knew you had a corrected set.

There were numerous bad sets on the market for years and many places never ordered the corrected sets as most sales happened at the initial release and quickly fell off soon after.

I’m sure some casual fans never even noticed or cared about the mistake as the discs themselves sounded fine but they didn’t  contain the correct mono versions which was a problem for hardcore fans,

There are small but distinct differences in sound on the correct vs. incorrect mono mixes which are easy to hear if you know what to listen for on certain songs,

For example in the song “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” there is an audible cough in the mono version that’s missing on the stereo version and the song “I’m Looking Through You” has a false start in stereo that’s lacking on the mono version just to name two differences.

Another way to tell if you had the good vs bad discs was to look at the timing of the discs when you put them in your CD player.

According to a Wikipedia post these are the timing differences:

Discs with the correct mono mixes have a slightly longer playing time.

Disc 1 = 52:25
Disc 2 = 56:16 (disc with incorrect mono version is 56:01)
Disc 3 = 59:07
Disc 4 = 59:08 (disc with incorrect mono version is 59:01)

Surprisingly enough I didn’t save a copy of the mistake discs, unusual for me lol, but I think I wasn’t sure if they’d repress the whole set so I jumped on the exchange when I saw online that Capitol was offering it.

Above you can take a gander at the two U.S. sets I own (I also own the Japanese version of this set but that’s a story for a future blog!) and look at the lovely mini album reproductions and the reproductions of the original Capitol vinyl labels for these albums.

One thing that’s interesting is that I looked at the matrix for the SK! set I own and all of the discs in it have an RE in the matrix in the center of the discs.

The copies of “Beatles VI” and “Rubber Soul” that I sent to EMI for an exchange don’t have an RE in the matrix yet play the correct mono versions, interesting. They also have the same timing as the SK1 discs as well.

In the future I’ll take a look at the Volume One set as well as the Japanese versions of these sets which have better made covers than the U.S. sets.

Well that’s my Beatles fix for the day my friends.

Anyone in the mood for a game of Monopoly or an episode of “Bewitched”?

Sorry, it’s hard to kick that 1965 habit.

Until next time, be well and Beatle on!!!

 

 

 

 

Fine Man, Crazy Man – “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” (Happy 51st)!!!

 

 

I know I’ve written about anniversaries before but since today is yet another anniversary of one of my favorite albums I thought I might just post a little tribute.

Fifty-one years ago today the album “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” dropped into record stores (in the U.S.) on the Colgems label with it’s lovely multi-colored trippy cover in all it’s flower power glory (see above).

This was the fifth long-player by The Monkees and the last one to be released while their NBC TV show was still on the air. Because of that TV exposure, and two Top Ten hit singles (“Daydream Believer” and “Valleri”) included on the album, “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” hit the No. 3 spot on Billboard’s Hot 200 Lp chart and eventually sold over one million copies.

I’ve done posts about this album before so today I thought I’d share a few photos of 45’s that came from the “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” album, some of which are fairly uncommon these days.

From the photos above you can see the original U.S. Colgems 45 (with picture sleeve) as well as a fairly rare 1972 45 reissue of “Daydream Believer” on the baby blue Arista label as well as a rare 45 featuring an unreleased mix of “Daydream Believer” without horns and other sweetening.

This cool 45 was only available on Rhino Records Handmade Website as a bonus for buying their CD Deluxe reissues of “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd” and features a groovy cardboard sleeve that mimics the design of Colgems 1960’s releases.

I have no idea where I got the blue Arista 45 of “Daydream Believer” but I’ve never seen another one and I had forgotten I even owned this until a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled across it in a box lol. Nice though.

The other 45 release I’m showing is one of my all-time favorite releases from “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees”, a Mexican EP that features true mono mixes of “Valleri”, “Tapioca Tundra”, “Auntie’s Municipal Court” and “P.O. Box 9847”.

(Note: the true mono mix of “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” is probably the rarest Monkees record out there as it was released in 1968 when mono was being phased out and very few copies were pressed. I don’t even own one myself and have never seen one for sale. The mono mix was made available to other countries thus the Mexican EP above which features the rare true mono mixes.)

I’ve done a post about the Mexican EP before but since it’s such a fun release and sounds so good in true mono that I thought it was worth repeating!

Anyway, just a fun little celebration of “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” and its music on its 51st birthday.

You can go back to your regularly scheduled blogcasts now.

Over and out and until next time … “What number is this? 7A perhaps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe We’re Amazed (49 Years and Counting) … “McCartney” April 1970

Forty-nine years ago yesterday, April 17, 1970 to be exact, a monumental thing happened in Beatles history – Paul McCartney released his first solo album entitled simply “McCartney”.

On the surface that sounds pretty ordinary but stepping back into the era the “McCartney” album heralded The Beatles break-up as press copies of the album featured an interview with McCartney in which he categorically stated he had left The Beatles and had no plans to return.

In truth John Lennon had left The Beatles first that previous fall but McCartney was the first to announce to the press the group was over thus the “McCartney” album signals the true beginning of the solo Beatles era.

At the time of the album’s release it was pretty much slagged as inferior work compared to McCartney’s Beatle days. Other than the truly superb song “Maybe I’m Amazed” which was universally praised the album was met with a critical ho-hum and seen as a step down.

Looking through the lenses of time it’s easy to see why expectations were high for this album. It had come out on the heels of The Beatles last recorded work together, the slickly produced “Abbey Road”.

“Abbey Road” contained the Side 2 long medley which was a McCartney brainchild and seen by many as the group’s high water mark as a recording act.

The “McCartney” album on the other hand was practically a homemade affair with McCartney indeed recording most of the record at home on a 4-track recorder and playing all the instruments himself with only bit of vocal assistance from Linda as the only other contribution from anyone other than McCartney himself.

The album was a low-key celebration of home and family and feels like a warm blanket on a cold night as it’s very soothing and mellow for the most part – something that I think is it’s strong point.

While certainly not on a production level with The Beatles last few albums hindsight reveals that the “McCartney” album is actually one dame fine record and one of my all-time favorite works by McCartney.

I came to the album long after all the furor of The Beatles break-up had settled and to me the basic nature of the “McCartney” album has always appealed to me.

I love the raw sound of the record and some of the songs have remained favorites especially “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Every Night”, “Junk” (a Beatles cast-off), “Teddy Boy” (another Beatles cast-off) and “Oo You”.

The album is melodic, acoustic, atmospheric and filled with nice rock guitar licks throughout. There’s just something about the basic raw nature of the album that’s appeals to me and I’ve never grown tired of the album since I first discovered in 1978.

Today I thought I’d post some of my favorite vinyl and CD copies of the album that  I’ve acquired over the years.

The cream of the crop sound wise I have to say is the original UK first vinyl pressing of the album (see above) as it just has a presence to the bass as well as the vocals that other copies seem to lack.

Having said that I don’t actually think the other vinyl copies are that far behind mind you. In fact all of my vinyl copies of “McCartney” sound quite good but the first UK is the best.

I just recently found a well-loved Canadian first vinyl issue (pressed in the States it seems) and even though its a bit crackly in spots it sounds just great.

I’d also have to say that the Columbia pressed copy I own also sounds damn fine and is actually just a step below the UK original – it sounds that good.

I also have the original UK and Japanese CD pressings which also sound terrific but I think my favorite CD pressing is the recently released SHM-CD of the McCartney Archive version which has a really nice oomph to the bass and has more muscle to the sound compared to the first CD issues.

As usual feast your eyes on some slabs of the great “McCartney” album above.

Until next time Happy 49th to the “McCartney” album and if you’ve never heard it – you must! It will sound good no matter what sound medium you try but of course there’s nothing like placing the needle down on a vintage vinyl copy!

Cheers and Happy “McCartney“ing!!!