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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time be well and see you soon!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all for now.

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

Early Morning Blues and … Early Arista and Rhino Monkees CDs

 

I think its time for another Coronavirus distraction!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Another Brick in the Wall – The Beatles “The Capitol Albums Vol. 1 and 2” U.S. CD Sets (Brick Style Packaging)

Well, there’s certainly been a lot going on in the world since I last posted here just a few weeks ago.

During the first week of March there were just a few Coronavirus cases in the States but I knew that things would be getting bad. The horror show that’s developed across the U.S. (the entire world for that matter) plus all the closings and panic have cast a terribly dark pale over everyone’s daily lives.

One of the few things that helps me escape such stress is of course music.

While I can’t control the raging of the world outside of my own back door I can help pass a bit of distraction along that might help folks, even if it’s just for a few minutes, take a mental breather from the world.

Today I thought I’d share what to me are two of the best Beatles CD box sets that ever came out in the CD format – “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol. 1 and 2”.

Many moons ago I did a post here that focused on “The Capitol Albums Vol. 2″  and detailed the story of its mono mix mishap and showed a copy of the set in the tall, slim packaging.

Today  I am posting photos of both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 in the smaller size packaging also known as the brick style because of its small brick like compact size.

As I stated in my earlier post these two sets comprise eight Beatles albums that came out in America in 1964 and 1965 on the Capitol Records label, The Beatles ultimate U.S. record label.

The thing that makes these sets unique is that they are the only place on can find these eight Capitol Beatles albums in their authentic 1964 and 1965 U.S. mixes that feature duophonic stereo (fake stereo created from a mono recording), reverb a plenty (a Capitol Records trademark) as well as unique U.S. album covers, song selections and mixes.

There have been many, many debates by Beatles fans as to whether or not Capitol Records debased or helped The Beatles music by creating these unique American Lps but as time goes on I think they’re much like classic black and white movies – they are of a time and a place and should be preserved for future generations as a true timepiece of their era.

Plus even though they are dupohonic songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” just rock like crazy in all their fake stereo glory. The entire “The Beatles Second Album” in fact sounds glorious in its heavily echoed state which is worth checking out as it’s a totally different listening experience than the British versions of those songs on the UK records.

All of these albums actually sound pretty good though a bit distorted here and there but again there’s something special about listening to these two sets as they are exactly how first generation American fans heard this music as well as many second generation fans like myself so they do indeed hold a special place in the hearts of millions.

By the way, the Vol. 2 set pictured above is the first edition with the wrong mono mixes for the “Beatles VI” and “Rubber Soul” albums. I’m a freaky completest so of course I hung onto this set but it’s well  worth tracking down the corrected set with the authentic mono mixes if you’re so inclined (see my long ago post on Vol.2 with the search engine above).

So feast your eyes on these two beautiful sets above and if you’re lucky enough to own one or both today would be the perfect time to take them out for a spin to help ease your mind in these troubled times. Of course any time is a good time to go time traveling but today seems more appropriate then ever.

Hopefully you are all well and safe and until next time be careful out there!

Ta Ta for now.

 

 

Dreams Are Nuthin’ More Than … Vacation Finds Part 2

Well, I must say the vinyl revival has really brought old albums out of the woodwork.

I’ve been on vacation this past week and as per usual I’ve found myself in several small thrift and antique stores trolling the shelves for all things vinyl.  A few years ago I might find an old vinyl album here or there but nowadays you find vinyl EVERYWHERE!

I mean I visited some really small and out of the way places this week and even in a store that was stocked with mainly clothes and weird oddities there happened to be a box of vinyl … or two.

And not just crap vinyl but some really choice nuggets worth buying.

Case in point, I was meandering through a small store making my way outside when I spotted a small box of vinyl. Now who in the world would have thought there’d be a promo copy of a David Cassidy album plus another Cassidy album in the shrink wrap, I ask you?

The owner of the shop didn’t even seem to know she had any vinyl as she was surprised when I brought them up to buy. She was under 30 and asked was this the guy from The Partridge Family as her mom had a crush on him when she was young.

When she was young, ouch lol. That’s what forty some years does for you.

Anyway, it’s pretty tough to find Bell Records promo copies and to find one for under $5 is a great day – for me anyway. Both Cassidy albums were under $5 actually so bingo another fun find for the day.

To be honest the promo copy I bought of David Cassidy’s 1973 album “Dreams Are Nuthin’ More Than Wishes” wasn’t in mint shape mind you, far from it.

It was missing the portrait that’s supposed to slide out of the front cover and someone decided to be an artist on the front cover and labels but the vinyl was in decent shape.

Actually the vinyl looked as if it had never been cleaned so I wondered how it would sound. Luckily it cleaned up very nicely and as usual this promo copy didn’t disappoint in the sound department as it sounded terrific!

As I’ve said before I basically ignored Cassidy’s solo work in the 1970’s but this album is really quite good. Even better sounding on a good piece of vinyl like this pressing. His version of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” is crazy good as well as his take on Harry Nilsson’s “The Puppy Song”.

The other Cassidy album, “Cherish” from 1972, was in superb shape inside and out and also sounded quite good. Maybe not as good as the promo copy but very nice.

For fans of The Partridge Family the “Cherish” album sounds almost identical to any Partridge record and really could be included in their work but whatever it’s another gem from the early ’70’s that I was glad to find in such good shape.

It’s just so funny that every out of the way place manages to have a small stash of vinyl these days and sometimes it’s truly amazing the things you might find. I never thought I’d find these two albums but am so glad to add them to my collection.

You can get a glimpse of the albums above and since this is my last day of vacation the thrift stores await. I hope I find something amazing but the last week has been so good that it really doesn’t matter.

Be well and more next time!

All the Leaves are … SHM? – “California Dreamin’/The Best of The Mamas & The Papas” on SHM-CD

The Mamas and The Papas. Love their music but in the CD age it’s kind of hit or miss to find a decent sounding collection of their recorded work.

By far the best sounding CD of The Mamas and The Papas hits came out early in the CD era around 1986 called “16 of Their Greatest Hits” released on MCA records and mastered by renowned mastering engineer Steve Hoffman.

“16 of Their Greatest Hits” truly sounds about as good as this material will ever sound as supposedly most of The Mamas and Papas original masters and multi-tracks are MIA and what’s left is either third or fourth generation tape dubs.

I read somewhere long ago that Steve Hoffman used some alternate mixes for his CD  which were supplied to him by none other than Mamas and Papas lead songwriter John Phillips. That fact along with Hoffman’s remastering skills makes  “16 of Their Greatest Hits” a great place to find most of The Mamas and Papas biggest hits with quality sound.

The only thing that negative I can say about “16 of Their Greatest Hits” is that there are so many great Mamas and Papas tracks left out that I wish it was a 2 CD set.

Of course there are several other Mamas and Papas collections on CD that have been released over the years but a lot of them are mastered too loud or are too harsh sounding and don’t really bare repeated listening.

Luckily in the last month or so I stumbled a nice runner up to the “16 of Their Greatest Hits” CD that I feel sounds truly wonderful and contains all the Mamas and Papas hits plus a couple of key tracks missing from “16 of Their Greatest Hits”.

“California Dreamin’ – The Best of The Mamas & The Papas”  is a Japanese SHM-CD that came out in 2012 I believe and contains 22 of The Mamas and Papas hits as well as a few lovely deep album cuts.

I had read some good things online about Mamas and Papas SHM-CDs as several of their albums have been release din Japan on SHM-CD but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to splurge on buying them as they are kind of expensive.

I found a listing for the “California Dreamin’ – The Best of The Mamas & The Papas” SHM-CD and since it has all the hits plus some of my favorite Mamas and Papas tracks like “Dancing Bear”, “For the Love of Ivy”, “Step Out” and “Safe in My Garden” I thought it might be a good sampler to see how The Mamas and Papas fared in the SHM-CD format.

This set surprised me in that I wasn’t expecting it to sound quite this good. I thought it might sound bright and harsh and loud but was pleasantly surprised at how clean and lively it sounded while not being overly compressed.

This CD was Mastered in Japan by a gentleman named Akihiro Shiba at the JVC Mastering Center and whatever tapes he used he really did a nice job with the sound of this set.

I’m guessing he used the same tapes that are used to master U.S. CDs but the sound is so clean and crisp that I wonder if there are some better sounding Japanese tapes in existence that he may have had access to as this CD has better bass and separation then I’m used to hearing on Mamas and Papas recordings.

Whatever he did it worked as this CD along with the “16 of Their Greatest Hits” are the two best sounding examples of Mamas and Papas material I’ve found on CD.

(Note: I have been talking about Mamas and Papas CDs featuring stereo mixes of the groups material. There is also a superb sounding 2 CD set containing mono mixes of many of the group’s hits called “The Mamas and the Papas: The Complete Singles—The 50th Anniversary Collection” released by Real Gone Music which is a must have collection to own as The Mamas and Papas are best heard in mono as the mono mixes are better sounding than their stereo counterparts.)

For the curious the “California Dreamin’ – The Best of The Mamas & The Papas” SHM-CD can be found online to purchase and is well worth it if you’re a fan of The Mamas and Papas and want a decent sounding CD with a nice selection of their best material.

As usual you can take a peak above of some photos of the disc and see its contents. I don’t see many references to this particular SHM-CD and wanted to put a spotlight on it as it really does sound better than most Mamas and Papas CDs out there.

That’s all for now and until next time be well and happy early Spring!

Butchers and Peppers and 8-Tracks, Oh My! – Beatles music finds in Florida

Okay, last week was one of those rare times when, as a record collector, you find such a major find that it makes the  years of fruitless hunts in countless record and thrift stores worth it.

I happened to be on vacation in Florida, the city shall remain unnamed as it’s a goldmine, and as you might guess what is one of the first things I do – go to record stores of course!

Well luckily for me there were plenty of record stores to choose from so on the four days I was in Florida  I managed to peruse five or six record stores as well as a few antique and thrift stores thrown in for good measure.

The first day was pretty uneventful but on the second day I managed to find one of those ultra rare finds that made my whole trip to Florida worth while.

As I was casually glancing at a very nice section of Beatles used albums at a lovely store run by a couple of really nice young guys I spotted a really clean mono copy of The Beatles 1966 album “Yesterday and Today”.

Of course as  I’ve done countless times before I took a close look to see if it could be a butcher cover.

(Note: the “Yesterday and Today” album was initially released with a cover depicting The Beatles wearing butcher smocks with hunks of meat and baby doll parts covering their arms. It has been named the butcher cover and was immediately recalled and most copies destroyed. 

It was replaced with what’s called the trunk cover (The Beatles sitting around a large trunk) and while most copies were to be destroyed to save costs Capitol Records pasted this new trunk cover over the butcher covers thus an instant and highly prized collectible was born.)

It really only took me about five seconds to see the tell-tale sign of a small black triangle in the white section to the right of the trunk.

You see one of the easiest ways to spot a pasted over butcher cover is to look for the black triangle which is the black from Ringo’s shirt that is on the butcher cover photo which can be faintly seen beneath the trunk cover (see photo above).

Sure enough a closer examination of the cover revealed the edge of another cover underneath and the catalog number at the top right of the front cover with hardly any white beneath it (another sign of a paste-over cover).

Not only was the cover in VG++ condition but the record inside looked as if it had never been played. It was completely pristine and looked lovely.

The best part about this whole thing is that the album was marked $27.00 so of course that baby landed in my hands and made it’s way out the door in just a few minutes. Needless to say they go for way more than that on ebay so I was elaited.

My friends who were with me of course know of my record hunting habits and/or madness but even they were kind of excited when I told them the details when I made it outside with my newly acquired butcher cover.

I’ve read stores of people finding paste-over covers “out in the wild” so to speak but after having looked at dozens and dozens of copies of the “Yesterday and Today”  album over the years it never happened to me … until now.

As for the record store owners they were indeed nice guys but the story of The Beatles butcher cover is so well known that it really is their responsibility to check price guides out if they intend to sell used albums.

One of the owners commented on how pristine the vinyl album was but obviously had no idea what a butcher cover was because when you see it in person it’s really not that hard to spot the black triangle, etc. on the cover. I didn’t say anything I just calmly made my purchase and left.

As if this day couldn’t get any better later on I found a sealed 8-track copy of John Lennon’s “Live Peace in Toronto 1969” album and a mono Capitol first pressing of The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album for the princely sum of $2 at an off the beat antique store in the countryside.

The mono version is my go to way to hear this album. I love it as it has more punch and many noticeable differences to the more common stereo mix. Plus the mono version is a lot rarer as the mono was phased out in the States within a year of Pepper being issued so any mono Capitol version is a good find especially for $2.

To be fair the cover for this copy of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was kind of beat up and the record was really dirty. I actually bought it for the inserts (the cut-out sheet and original red inner sleeve inside) but after cleaning the album it played amazingly well (and sounded just great!) and looked as if it wasn’t really played all that much.

Really for $2 it was a no-brainer so I was very pleased. In fact all three finds cost me just $40 making this one of the more successful and fun record hunts I’ve ever had!

As usual you can glance at some photos above to see this collection of vacation gems. Plus if you’ve never seen a paste-over Beatles butcher cover this is what one looks like. In person the black triangle is easy to see but harder to spot in the photo above but it is there.

Anyway have a great week and until next time be well and go out and do some record shopping, you’ll never know what you’ll find lurking on dusty shelf.

 

It Was 56 Years Ago Today … The Beatles in 1964, A Celebration (Ed Sullivan and Beatlemania)

Today marks the anniversary of the day Beatlemania really took hold of the United States.

Fifty-six years ago on another cold February 9th The Beatles performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show in front of over 73 million viewers and changed the course of musical history in the process.

(Note: weirdly enough this years calendar days match the calendar days of 1964 exactly so if you have a vintage 1964 calendar you can use it for 2020 as well!)

Many thousands of words have been said and written about this first U.S. Beatles performance so  I won’t really go into detail about it other than to say it was epic, incredibly influential and a total blast to watch.

Instead of describing The Beatles first Ed Sullivan Show appearance I thought I’d honor the occasion of its anniversary by showing a few rare items from the compact disc/DVD era which perfectly capture The Beatles in 1964, especially in the U.S., and remain the ultimate time capsule back to that time.

Above you’ll see photos of two sampler CDs as well as the DVD issue of The Beatles 1964 film “A Hard Day’s Night” as well as bonus; a cool advertisement for the first issue of Beatles albums on CD which features the hit compilations “Past Masters Volume One and Two” .

“Past Masters Volume One” contains the hit that started it all in America for The Beatles “I Want to hold Your Hand”  so even though it’s a stretch I thought it would be fun to include a photo of the rare ad just for grins.

The first CD sampler, “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol.1”, came out in 2004 and features true Capitol mono and stereo mixes from the first four Beatles Capitol albums that were released in the United States in 1964.

(Note 2: These first four Capitol Beatles albums are the embodiment of Beatlemania for U.S. fans and “Meet the Beatles” especially is tied so closely with The Beatles first U.S. visit in February 1964 that it is synonymous with that time period.)

Of course this radio sampler CD is fairly rare nowadays so I thought it would be fun to show what it looks like.

It’s retail 4 CD set “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol.1” contains all the true Capitol mixes in all their weird glory, with all the fake stereo and added echo that filled the original 1964 vinyl pressings of the albums.

Right or wrong Capitol Records felt that they knew how to market The Beatles music in America better than the UK versions of The Beatles albums thus the American albums have different track listings, covers and a generally more exciting or compressed and/or loud sound than their UK cousins.

If you want to hear how The Beatles sounded to American audiences in 1964 than “The Beatles – The Capitol Albums Vol.1” and its rare CD sampler are one of the best ways to do that especially since they won’t suffer from the pops, clicks and scratches that appear on the millions of beat up vinyl copies that still survive from that era.

The next sampler also highlights the U.S. Capitol Beatles album and was released in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first U.S. visit by containing all the U.S. Beatles albums in a nifty CD box set fittingly called “The Beatles U.S. Albums”.

While I think this set is super, it contains terrific mini lp CD covers and nice reproductions of the original U.S. vinyl labels, some Beatles fans were pissed that Capitol and Apple (The Beatles company) removed all fake stereo and most of the excessive echo from some of the songs and replaced them with the best sounding UK mono and stereo mixes derived form the 2009 Beatles CD remasters.

While most of the truly unique Capitol Beatles mixes did make it to the box set, some fans were miffed because they felt this was rewriting history. They had the same covers and track listings but they weren’t 100 percent authentic 1964 Capitol mixes thus they felt this set was a major let down.

For me, as Capitol Records often upgraded the sound for their later pressings of these same U.S, albums, I thought (and still do) that this set is the best sounding CD versions of this material and with both mono and stereo mixes present it seemed like just a completely upgraded U.S. albums experience that was and is a joy to look at and listen to true mixes be damned.

Anyway the sampler above is a fun collectible and another fun way to celebrate this anniversary.

The last thing I’ve decided to post is the first DVD pressing of The Beatles first film that came out in the summer of 1964 – their critically acclaimed black and white film “A Hard Day’s Night”.

While the most current DVD/Blu-Ray version of this film does indeed have a better picture, I still enjoy looking at this first DVD version as it has great stereo sound and I love seeing the cover as it takes me back to the first VHS version as it has the same type of cover.

Anyway, there you go. Just a quick little way to celebrate the 56th anniversary of The Beatles first U.S. visit.

Enjoy the photos and f you happen to have a DVD of The Beatles February 1964 Ed Sullivan shows tonight would be the perfect time to take them off the shelf and give them a spin.

Until next time be well and see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Elton John on SHM-CD (2019) – “Madman Across the Water”, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”

 

Elton John seems to be getting a lot of press attention in the last few months that’s for sure.

What with his biopic movie “Rocketman”, with its Oscar nomination for the song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”, and his autobiography “Me” popping up in news feeds constantly it seems like Elton John is on a roll. One could certainly call 2019 a good year for Elton John.

But, did you know that it was also a really good year for CD reissues of his classic albums as well?

A good chunk of Elton John’s earlier work has just been recently reissued in Japan on SHM-CD, again, and the results are fantastic. You see these albums have been reissued just a few times even on SHM-CD but this time the results are truly something special.

I have been reading about these new 2019 SHM-CD reissues for a few months online and decided to take a dip into the Elton SHM-CD pool recently and came up with three of my favorite Elton John albums: “Madman Across the Water”, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”.

I had read that these new SHM-CD versions were some of the best sounding Elton John transfers in the digital age and I am happy to report that I find that to be true as well – at least for the three discs that I bought.

Not only do they sound great but the mini-Lp CD packaging is superb, as usual, and contains all the booklets and posters that came with the original vinyl issues which makes these SHM-CD packages something truly wonderful to behold.

Let me start with the first SHM-CD I played of the three I bought: “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”

After placing the shiny disc in the CD player tray I was shocked to find that as I stepped away from my CD player I actually had to go back not once but TWICE to turn the sound up! Dynamics, full dynamics. I’ll be damned.

Needless to say I was thrilled by the sound. Nice and clean, lovely smooth acoustic guitar, great bass and crisp bass drum sound all sounding, dare I say it, analog. There was absolutely no fatigue at all listening to this disc.

This is by far my best digital representation of this album that I own and I own a couple of copies including the first USA MCA CD pressing as well as the first UK CD pressing on the DJM label . This new disc really sounds a lot like that original DJM but with improved clarity and a better sound stage.

“Tell Me When the Whistle Blows” sounded particularly good as the horns and orchestration stood out to me as never before. It sounded so much clearer that it could almost be a remix but it didn’t have that digital sound that it most likely would have had it been newly remixed.

The sound was so good and so enjoyable in fact that I was anxious to give one of my favorite early Elton albums, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player”, a tryout. After just a few bars into the first song and I could tell this disc sounded superb as well, just right in fact.

The first song I played was “Blues for Baby and Me” which has always been one of my favorite Elton tracks and it didn’t disappoint. This SHM-CD is loaded with dynamics just like the previous disc.

I’ve always been partial to the original USA CD pressing of this album on MCA that was pressed in Japan. It has great dynamics too but this song in particular has a clarity and better bass than that version which leads me to pick this version as the best sounding digital version that I’ve personally heard.

Even “Crocodile Rock” which is one of my least favorite Elton songs due to its being overplayed to death sounded more fresh then I’ve ever heard it. It was so clear that it almost sounded remixed. It sounded so good I might even play it again which is saying something for this song.

Playing through the “Madman Across the Water” album (the title song is perfect for the current political climate we’re living in) was pretty much the same experience as both of the previous albums – superb sound with full dynamics and great mastering. The mastering on these discs is what really makes a difference.

(Note: I believe these new SHM-CDs are the only CDs in the world to feature this new mastering and because its uniformly excellent it’s well worth tracking down a CD or two if you’re a major Elton John fan and still like to collect physical media.)

I was surprised at just how good these new SHM-CDs sound compared with other more recent Elton John remasters. It’s no contest they smoke most other previous CD versions that have been available!

It’s so great to hear this material without feeling like your ears are bleeding from the loudness and or hardness like the mastering of prior Elton John CD reissues especially the ones from the mid 1990s.

I’m tempted to buy more which is really saying something as I pretty much felt I had the best CD versions out there of Elton John’s classic album period … and I did, until now.

So there you have it Elton fans. If you need an Elton fix these new SHM-CDs are the way to go for sure. And if you want to gaze above at some photos of the three Elton John SHM-CDs I purchased please do. They are really fantastic to look at as well as play.

As usual, be well and see you next time around!

 

 

Bell Records NOT FOR SALE – The Monkees “Re-Focus” and “David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits” Promo Albums

Well, time does fly. Last time I dropped down into Webland it was still 2019 and it was right before New Year’s Eve.

Wham bam it’s now February 2020 so I thought it might be high time for a new blog post.

Today I’m going to share a couple of albums that I got in the past month or so that I think are really fun. Both of them happen to be on Bell Records and both of them are promo copies!

Now I’ve gone nearly 50 some years and have never run across Bell Records promo copies and now in the last six moths I’ve bought three of them (note: see my post from a few months ago about my promo copy of The Partridge Family’s “Up to Date”).

So today I bring you promo vinyl copies of 1972’s “Re-Focus” by The Monkees and 1974’s “David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits”.

As I said in my blog of my promo copy of The Partridge Family’s “Up to Date” there’s definitely a difference in sound quality with the promo Bell Records pressings vs their non promo cousins.

And when it comes to these two promos that continues to hold true.

Let’s start with The Monkees “Re-Focus”.

“Re-Focus” was released a year after The Monkees original label Colgems folded and since The Monkees recordings were owned by Columbia Pictures it’s seems logical that this album would be relased on Bell Records since it was now owned by Columbia Pictures.

Looking back “Re-Focus” is sort of an odd title as it’s basically a greatest hits album (wouldn’t you think mentioning hits would be a good idea) that was I’m sure designed to appeal to the Saturday morning crowd who were enjoying re-runs of “The Monkees” TV show which was then running on ABC-TV.

The album is actually a really nice selection of songs but would have been perfect with the addition of “Valleri” which was one of The Monkees biggest hits and their last Top Ten hit to boot.

(Note: this album was re-released with the exact same songs in 1976 on Arista Records and re-named “The Monkees Greatest Hits”. It also happened to eventually sell over a million copies in this configuration as well)

Nonetheless the album cover is fun and I remember seeing this album in cut-out bins throughout the 1970’s (which is where it was purchased for me originally) and I also remember being really surprised it was on a record label other then Colgems which I thought was really cool.

The promo pressing which I found a few weeks ago sounds really nice and is definitely a much better pressing than my old stock copy.

While it does tend to sound thin with the bass lacking on certain songs it’s a super quite pressing and overall sounds nice with better separation and clarity as compared to the regular copy.

I’m guessing that the tapes for this album were compiled from copy tapes which wouldn’t surprise me and may account for the overall thin sound present on several tracks.

“David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits”, which I just found two weeks ago, on the other hand sounds spectacular!  In fact the songs on this pressing may be some of the best sounding versions I’ve ever heard of these songs.

Not only does the album look like it’s never been played it plays perfectly quiet as well with a clarity and presence to all the songs that I wasn’t expecting.

(Note 2: the album contains all the biggest Partridge Family hits as well as David Cassidy’s solo hits for Bell Records)

Seeing as this is a compilation album I was kind of expecting it to sound a bit like it was compiled from copy tapes much like “Re-Focus” but every single song on this pressing sounded superb and much better than I would have guessed it they would sound. The songs must have been taken from the original tapes or this Lp is just mastered really well as the sound is terrific.

Much like my promo copy of The Partridge Family’s “Up to Date” this promo copy absolutely smokes the stock copy version of the album (yes, I own a regular pressing too) with much better clarity and bass then the normal pressing.

And, like the regular stock copy, this promo pressing contains the “whoops” moment with the song “Could it Be Forever” actually playing “Blind Hope” even though the label and sleeve list “Could it Be Forever”.

I’ve always thought that was a careless and sloppy mistake but with Cassidy’s star power diminishing in the United States I’m guessing Bell Records just wanted to cash in quickly on any sales a hit collection may bring and if they made a mistake oh well. I love the song “Blind Hope” at least so I’m glad it’s on the Lp.

The really intriguing thing about this particular promo pressing of “David Cassidy’s Greatest Hits” is the EMI Music Publishing Archive sticker on the front of the Lp. That’s another first as I’ve never had a promo Lp that was from a music publisher’s archive library. Very cool!

I’m guessing that’s why it looks like it’s never been played as  I’m guessing it probably hasn’t ever touched a turntable until mine.

Well, there you go, 2020 is off and running on this blog and in interesting style! I hope the year brings some interesting musical discoveries and whatever I may run across I’ll be sure to share with you fine folks.

Until next time be well and above you can take a gander at these two promo Bell Records beauties.