Meet the Monkees in South Africa – “The Monkees” 32-173 Mono Pressing

Sometimes you just get plain lucky when you buy something from the Internet.

I mean, most times you know what you’re getting but every now and again you think you’re ordering one thing and get something else.  Sometimes what you get is better and sometimes it’s worse. 

Case in point, I ordered an imported vinyl record of The Monkees first album simply entitled “The Monkees”. From the description it sounded as if it was an RCA pressing from the UK. It said it came in a nice laminated cover, had great sound quality and was overall in very nice shape.

The price was right so I thought I’d take a chance and buy it. I don’t own many UK Monkees pressings so what the heck, I love to add foreign pressings to my collection. If they’re under $20 including shipping which this was then it’s a no-brainer for me.

The album arrived a couple of days ago and to my major surprise it was indeed a lovely copy of “The Monkees” on the RCA label but it wasn’t a UK pressing but a pressing from South Africa!!! I knew that Monkees records were pressed in South Africa but I figured they were quite rare and probably would look and sound crummy.

Well my friends not only does this South African copy of “The Monkees” sound terrific but the cover and the label are in great shape and the album looks as if it was only played a couple of times if that. It’s a very nice clean and crisp sounding copy of the mono mix of this album.

A couple of years ago I stumbled on a pristine mono Colgems copy of this album (see a previous blog post) which sounded really nice and this South African pressing not only equals the sound of that copy it might actually sound a tad bit BETTER. This 32-173 pressing has super quiet vinyl and while not overloaded with bass much like the Colgems pressing sounds nice and full with really warm and crisp vocals.

I’ve only seen a photo of this South African pressing on one other Website, one of my favorite Monkees Websites: http://monkee45s.net/Albums/South_Africa.html

If you take a look at the pressing from the above link the one that I now own has slightly different label text and the RCA Label and 32-173 on the cover aren’t in white box like they are in that photograph from monkees45s.net. Is mine a later pressing? Pressed in another country then imported to South Africa? I have no idea. 

All I can say is that this record sounds damn good and makes me want to track down more South African Monkees pressings though I doubt that would be very easy to accomplish as I’ve never seen them for sale online much at all.

I see that the inner sleeve says it was made in Britain so are the covers made in the UK and imported to South Africa? Is the record itself pressed in South Africa or is that imported as well? Again I have no idea. Interesting though.

I also love how the cover to this South African pressing still has the misspelling “Papa Jean’s Blues” on the cover yet has the correct “Papa Gene’s Blues” on the label. Minute yes but interesting to the collector in me.

Oh and there’s also an interesting selection of letters pressed into the matrix grooves on each side of the album. There’s the TZRM number as well which comes from the Colgems master tape number but I have no idea what the selection of letters between dots stands for. Anyone out there familiar with South African pressings? If so drop me a line or comment here and let me know.

Anyway, just a quick post for all the Monkees fans out there. I figured all those Monkees nerds out there like me might like to see and hear about a fairly rare foreign pressing of The Monkees first album. I was just so excited to get this pressing that I had to share it here for those of you who are interested. 

As usual you can take a look at some photos of this groovy South Africa pressing of “The Monkees” above and below. 

Until next time be safe and well and I hope you’ve been able to get your Covid Vaccine!

More Monkees and more soon to come.

A Digital Hello from Ringo Starr with “Zoom In” – His New Vinyl/CD EP

Things seem to be getting better all the time to borrow a phrase from one of my all-time favorite groups. What with spring finally arriving and Covid vaccines coming to the fore, at least in the US, there seems to be more hope in the air in first three months of 2021 than there was in the entire year of ugh that was 2020.

To top off all these good vibes comes a burst of digital cheer from none other than former Beatle Ringo Starr with the release yesterday of his new mini album or digital EP (whatever you want to call it) titled “Zoom In”.

This groovy new collection of five tunes lasts about twenty minutes and is a fun burst of energy that doesn’t overstay its welcome and because of that is ripe for repeated listening. And for all you physical media fans “Zoom In” comes on both vinyl as well as CD and is also available to stream at all the usual digital watering holes for those of you who could care less about owning your music but still may want to sample some of the songs.

So far this year I haven’t really bought any newer music so it’s a pleasure to discover an old friend sending out a kind musical word or two to help put out some much needed positivity into the universe after so many months of gloom.

I know a lot of folks may say Ringo Starr, really? But for me Ringo’s musical output from 1992 on has included some of the strongest and most entertaining music of his solo career and I can always count on at least a gem or two on every record he’s released in that time and this new EP is no exception.

Here’s a brief thought or two on each of the fives songs from “Zoom In”:

“Here’s to the Nights” – You know when I first had heard this song it didn’t really strike me as being great but serviceable. Now that I’ve heard it a couple more times I really enjoy it. It might be a tad bit generic in places but the lyrics fit 2020 like a glove. The melody does remind me of Paul McCartney’s song “Hope for the Future”. Speaking of Paul McCartney he’s featured on background vocals but you can’t really hear him that well. There are other big league back vocalists too like Sheryl Crow and Lenny Kravitz but again it’s hard to make them out. Not a bad song at all. I’d give it to solid “B“.

“Zoom In Zoom Out” – The title track and another decent song. Again a little bit generic but really nice instrumental work and Ringo sounds really good on this song. It has a nice groove and a typical Ringo pop tune circa 2021. Another solid “B

“Teach Me to Tango” I really like this song! I’d say this is my favorite from the EP. It has a great chorus and is a nice fast-paced song that’s played really well and Ringo sounds vocally the best of the five tunes on the album. In fact given his age Ringo sounds overall pretty good vocally these days. Yes there is a touch of autotune here and there but really he sounds pretty solid. I’d give this song an “A” and will definitely come back to it for repeated future spins.

“Waiting for the Tide to Turn” – For some reason this reminds me of an ’80s Police type tune with a little reggae mixed in. The first time I heard it it was a little bit generic but after a couple more plays I really like it. In fact I like the soulful backing vocals a lot. I’d give it a “B+

“Not Enough Love in the World” – I really enjoyed this song because the lyrics speak to so much of what I’ve been feeling  throughout 2020. It’s been such an isolating and sad year that this song’s message really struck a cord with me. It’s a breezy pop tune that would have sounded nice on any of Ringo’s ’70s albums. I give this another “B+

All in all I really enjoyed this ep. It’s a nice 20 minutes of solid pop/rock from Ringo which is always a good thing in my book. If you enjoyed any of Ringo’s work from the last 30 years or so this is on par with most of that and while it may be not as strong as his recent “Postcards from Paradise” album it’s still a solid and enjoyable piece of work.

My main criticism of this fine collection I’d say is the mix which is a tad bit muddy. It sounds good but a little thick and homogeneous in spots. It doesn’t bother me enough from enjoying the album but it would have been nice to hear a clearer mix but oh well I’ll take what I can get and am just glad Ringo’s still out there rocking in his own unique way.

At any rate it’s great to hear form an old friend. I’ve always enjoyed Ringo’s work and this is just another fun digital postcard that I will take out and enjoy every now and again. I think the shorter format works well for Ringo and I look forward to hearing more as he’s said that he’s working on another mini album as we speak.

As usual there are photos above of the CD version of “Zoom In”. I’m not sure if I’ll grab the vinyl version but like all things Beatle or ex-Beatle with me you never know.

Until next time be well and safe and I hope it’s a sunny and warm day in your part of the world!

 

A Closer Look: The Monkees “Headquarters Deluxe Edition” by Friday Music

Today we’re taking a look back on 2013 as well as 1967. What? Let me explain.

First, let’s set the dial of the way back time machine to the early part of 1967. At that time, in the United States at least, The Monkees were probably the hottest new musical group on the scene. (You see I said group, more on that in a minute).

By the time The Monkees went into the studio to record their third album called “Headquarters” they had already had two number one singles (“Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer”) as well as two number one albums (“The Monkees” and “More of The Monkees”).

In fact “More of The Monkees” was in the midst of it’s eighteen week run at the number one spot atop the Billboard charts after having overtaken “The Monkees” which had spent thirteen weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 200.

You see my friends those kind of sales numbers aren’t just big they are HUGE. That kind of overnight success tends to turn peoples heads and many in the music industry were in an uproar that this “fake” TV group was outselling practically everyone without seeming to have paid their dues or even be real musicians.

It was in the midst of this kind of criticism and animosity that The Monkees, spearheaded by group members Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, decided to make a stand and have the group not only record their vocals but also be allowed to play their own instruments on the music that they recorded.

It’s long been the spiel of many a Monkees critics that not only did the group members not play their own music but they were just four pretty faces picked at random to fill TV roles and none of them possessed any musical talent at all. That’s far from the truth.

Yes The Monkees was a TV show about a rock group that wanted to be The Beatles but somewhere along the line the fictional Monkees became an actual band that far outlasted the TV series from which they came.

The “Headquarters” album, in my opinion, is where The Monkees story really becomes interesting. This “fake” TV band did indeed morph into a pretty darn good bonified group that contained not only one of the best pop singers of the era (Micky Dolenz) but one truly superb songwriter (Mike Nesmith) as well.

Truly all four group members wrote some very good songs (just take a listen to the Dolenz penned “Randy Scouse Git” and Tork’s “For Pete’s Sake” both from “Headquarters”) and all four could sing and play very well. If the group members had little talent or musical ability then there’s no way they could have created such a long lasting legacy in the music world.

So where does this lead me, it leads me to today’s look at my favorite digital version of the “Headquarters” album which was released by Friday Music in 2013.

Actually this Friday Music 2 CD set called “Headquarters Deluxe Edition” is really a reissue of Rhino Records Deluxe CD version of “Headquarters” which came out in 2007. The main differences from Rhino’s set was that Friday Music’s version came in a standard CD case instead of a fold open digi-pak and had a different mastering of the music which was a bit quieter and more dynamic than Rhino’s set.

Both sets had the same bonus tracks but for some reason the Friday Music set deleted the slates or session chat that came before the start of the songs which I love but I’m guessing many fans can live without.

I’ve read online that some folks think that the mastering for the main stereo and mono versions of the “Headquarters” album came from Rhino’s “Headquarters Sessions” 3 CD set but as I’m uncertain of how this mastering happened all I know is that it sounds better to me than the 2007 Rhino version and is well worth seeking out for fans of this album.

I have also posted a vlog about this Friday Music CD release as well as a couple of other versions of “Headquarters” below:

As usual I have posted photos (above) of the groovy Friday Music 2 CD issue and while I believe this set may be out of print I think you can still find copies online fairly easily but that may change in the near future as people seem to be leaving physical forms of music behind fairly rapidly these days.

Well, that’s all for now. I just wanted to take a quick look at this lovely reissue which has pretty much fallen through the cracks.

I hope you are all healthy and well and until next time be safe and listen to some music! Preferably good music or at least some older good music.

See you next time.

Way Back Time Machine 1971-75: Old Store Stock, Promo Partridges and David Cassidy Vinyl Finds

Isn’t it nice to be so close to spring? Warmer weather, longer daylight – ahhh. I hope wherever you are the weather is getting better and God willing 2021 will be a MUCH better year than 2020.

I haven’t posted on here in about a month or so but in that time I did manage to find a few new pieces of vinyl (shocking I know) so I thought I’d share them with you today.

As per usual at this blog we’ve turned the way back time machine to the past, the 1970’s in fact. I’ve been in a seventies mood lately and seeing as it’s been such a craptacular winter I thought it might be fun to track down some albums I used to own on vinyl back in the day.

At one time or another I owned all three of these albums I’m looking at today (Sound Magazine and Shopping Bag by The Partridge Family and The Higher They Climb, The Harder They Fall by David Cassidy) but as I was under ten years old at the time those copies didn’t survive very well, or not at all, so I wanted to find some pristine copies.

As luck would have it some online scavenging turned up a lovely and NM promo copy of Sound Magazine as well as sealed old stock copies of Shopping Bag and The Higher They Climb, The Harder They Fall.

For anyone whose ever read this blog knows I love me some promo copies as well as old sealed vinyl. To me there’s no better way to time travel than to get a hold of old sealed copies of records I used to see all the time in the groovy old 1970’s.


First off, the promo copy of The Partridge Family’s Sound Magazine has to be heard to be believed. Not only is the vinyl nice and quiet but this pressing sound utterly amazing – great bass, nice presence on the vocals – it’s truly like hearing the record for the first time.

Last year I posed a blog about how nice a promo copy I found of another Partridge Family album (Up to Date) sounded and this copy of Sound Magazine sounds even better!

Stock copies of Bell Records vinyl, The Partridge Family’s record label, are notoriously hit or miss but these promo copies are by far the best sounding way to hear Partridge Family recordings I’ve ever found.

Case in point, the sealed copy of Shopping Bag (which I promptly opened) sounded good but there were several slight marks on the vinyl when I first pulled it out of the sleeve. I’m sure it probably slide around in the cover a lot seeing as how it’s nearly fifty years old (yikes!) but even pristine unopened Bell Records don’t sound quite as nice and as full as their promo cousins.

The sealed copy of The Higher They Climb, The Harder They Fall must have fared better as there was not a mark in sight and it sounded just great. Good record too. At the time when it came out I couldn’t stand the soulfulness in Cassidy’s vocals as compared to the sound of his Partridge vocals but today it sounds sounds so amazing. What a voice.

Too bad Cassidy never found the critical acclaim he craved as he was truly a gifted singer and not a bad songwriter to boot.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share my Partridge loot here and as a bonus I thought I’d join the 21st Century and am sharing my first vlog! It’s not the best quality but what the hey I thought I’d give it a try:

Also as per usual I’ve also shared quite a few photos of these records and the video above also includes a VG+ stock copy of Cassidy’s Rock Me Baby album which I found this month as well.

That’s all for now. I hope you’re safe and healthy and looking forward to warmer weather and hopefully better times in 2021.

Until next time be well and see you soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As usual check out photos of this new reissue above.

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

 

 

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

Okay, here we go again …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s really pretty impressive. Or is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have Yourself a Davy Jones Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time be well and stay safe!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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