All Things Must SHM – George Harrison on SHM-CD

“Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so …”

Or so it may seem if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time.

You see I must admit I really LOVE Japanese CD pressings as evidenced by the plethora of SHM-CD and other Japanese CDs that I’ve posted on this blog.

In keeping with this Japanese theme, today I thought I’d share with you some terrific George Harrison SHM-CDs that I own from the Land of the Rising Sun.

(Note: As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts SHM-CD stands for Super High Material CD. SHM-CDs are made in Japan with higher quality material that supposedly enhances the playback ability of the discs which also supposedly enhances the sound quality. Much like Blu-Spec CDs, which are also popular in Japan, SHM-CDs are coveted by collectors.

Truth be told I’ve never heard much of a difference on the few Blu-Spec discs that I own but I do hear a difference on the SHM-CD discs I own. For me the SHM-CDs really do enhance the sound a bit. Many will argue otherwise but I still love my SHM-CDs!)

There were two batches of George Harrison SHM-CDs released in Japan  – one in 2014 that corresponded with the worldwide release of the George Harrison “Apple Years 1968-75” CD box set and another batch released in 2017 that corresponded with the release of the “George Harrison Vinyl Collection” vinyl box set.

The 2017 SHM-CDs were supposedly taken from the masters that produced the 2017 box set and these 2017 transfers didn’t make it onto CD in any country other than Japan.

So, here we are – where are we?

Let me just say that for the most part these SHM-CDs sound fantastic! As I’ve said before I’m not going to go into the debate as to whether or not the SHM-CDs indeed sound better than a regular CD pressing, I’m just going to tell you how these SHM-CDs sound on my system – in my opinion.

Let me start with the two 2014 SHM-CDs I own – “All Things Must Pass” and “Extra Texture“.

I really like the mastering on these discs which are taken from the Apple Years box set that I mentioned above.

I would consider the SHM-CD versions of both of these albums to be my go-to discs for each album. Both sound superb and the SHM-CD versions sound a bit better than their regular CD counterparts.

The vocals on each of these discs sound a bit more clearer and warmer and the bass especially just sounds smoother and stronger than the regular CD versions. Not night and day better but better. I also love that both of these discs have some really nice bonus tracks which really enhances these CD pressings of the albums.

Now onto the 2017 versions.

I’d say for the most part these too sound great BUT I’d have to say the 2017 SHM-CD of “All Things Must Pass” sounds worse than the 2014 version as it’s much louder than the 2014 and also doesn’t include the terrific bonus tracks.

I will say that the packaging for the 2017 wins hands down though as it’s a near perfect replica of the original UK vinyl pressing from 1970 and is quite stunning to look at in person.

For some reason the 2017 SHM-CD doesn’t sound like the 2017 vinyl pressing, to me anyway. I like the 2017 vinyl pressing but this SHM-CD sounds more like the 2000 CD version of “All Things Must  Pass” that was supervised by George Harrison himself before he died. It too was a bit loud and could have used some taming. This 2017 CD version is beautiful but a slight disappointment sound wise.

The other 2017 disc that is good but not great is the SHM-CD of Harrison’s “Living in the Material World“, one of my favorite Harrison albums.

This CD does seem to match the mastering on the 2017 vinyl set as it’s much more muted sounding than the original CD or vinyl pressing.

I actually like this SHM-CD better than it’s vinyl counterpart which seems a bit too muffled sounding as if the high end has been rolled off. The SHM-CD still sounds a bit muffled but is much better sounding than the vinyl version.

Again the 2017 Japanese mini-Lp SHM-CD pressing is gorgeous and sounds good but  I may actually prefer the previous remaster of this album which came out in 2006 which has some nice bonus tracks and sounds a bit punchier and less muted.

As for the rest of the 2017 SHM-CDs that I own – “Dark Horse“, “33 and 1/3“, “George Harrison“, “Somewhere in England“, “Gone Troppo” and “Brainwashed” –  each of them I think sound superb!

I think the discs of “33 and 1/3” and “George Harrison” especially stand out as the bass on them is the best I’ve heard on these albums and they just shine in comparison to any other CD pressings I own. These two also really shine on the 2017 vinyl box set as well and these discs sound very close to those vinyl pressings.

The SHM-CDs of “Somewhere in England” and “Gone Troppo” sound actually more like the first CD issue of these albums by Warner Brothers in the early 1990s where the bass isn’t quite as full as the other discs but nonetheless sound really nice. Nice to hear them not goosed up in volume at all.

I’d have to say that for all the albums but the two 2017’s I mentioned with slight sound issues these Japanese SHM-CDs are my go-to discs when I put these albums in my CD player to get my George Harrison fix!

It really is worth taking the time to track down these lovely mini-CD Japanese SHM-CD versions of these albums if your a fan of Harrison’s work. They’re limited pressings but still can be found online at various online stores.

Take a gander above at these groovy looking discs and until next time be well and Be Here Now to quote one of my favorite George Harrison songs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Partridge in a Japanese Tree – David Cassidy Blu-Spec CDs

 

 

 

 

 

“Hello world, hear the song that we’re singin’ …”

Does that phrase remind you of something? Something sort of bird-ish? Something musical?

Does it maybe bring back some happy memories from the past like puka shells and shag haircuts?

Of course to anyone over the age of 45 those lyrics conjure up images of a groovy multi-colored bus and a singing musical family from a TV show called The Partridge Family.

For those uninformed out there The Partridge Family was a popular TV show that ran on the ABC television network from 1970-1974. It starred Shirley Jones and spawned one of the decades biggest teen idols – David Cassidy.

Not only was The Partridge Family a big hit on television but the make believe group was also responsible for some major hit records that were released from the show featuring the languid and well-sung vocals of Cassidy with some background help from Jones (sorry, no one else in The Partridge Family cast sang a note or played on any of the recordings).

Cassidy sang lead on most of the recordings that were released from the TV show including the No. 1 smash “I Think I Love You” from 1970 as well as two more Top Ten hits “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” and “I’ll Meet You Halfway” plus the Top 15 hit “I Woke Up in Love This Morning.”

Fast forward 48 years or so (really? Yikes!) and with the passing of David Cassidy this past November some of the music of The Partridge Family as well as Cassidy’s solo career have been issued  recently once again on compact disc – this time in Japan.

Three CDs – “The Definitive Collection”, “Cherish” and “Rock Me Baby” – were reissued on Blu-Spec CD, a CD format that’s popular primarily in Japan.

Blu-Spec CDs are made with the same process that produce Blu-Ray movie discs and are supposedly better sounding than normal CDs.

Much like SHM-CDs which are also popular in Japan, some collectors believe these discs produce better and more accurate sound thus are sought after by some as an upgrade in sound quality of domestic discs produced in the States.

I happened to track down all three of these Blu-Spec discs, no surprise to readers of this blog!, and wanted to share some thoughts and photos of the discs that are fairly obscure in this country as most people have never heard of the Blu-Spec format and don’t track down import CDs.

I own the regular editions of the “Cherish” and “Rock Me Baby” CDs that came out in the early 2000s in the U.S. so I was anxious to see if these new Japanese discs hold any improvement in sound as the U.S. versions sounded okay but were mastered a tad loud and were just of average sound quality.

I don’t own the older US version of the “Definitive Collection” which features Partridge Family hits mixed with solo David Cassidy hits so this CD is completely new to me.

Let’s start with the best sounding of the three discs “The Definitive Collection.”

Not only is this disc a nice overview of David Cassidy’s biggest hits but it is also a really nice sounding disc.

I like the mastering on this CD as the songs don’t seem to be mastered overly loud – a problem with some of the more recent Partridge Family and David Cassidy CDs on the Buddha label from the early 2000s.

I was pleasantly surprised that The Partridge Family songs sounded near to the best sounding digital versions of these hits that were released by the Razor & Tie label in the 1990s. Even Cassidy’s solo hits sound a bit better, less hot, than the same songs on the “Cherish” and “Rock Me Baby” CDs.

Unfortunately, the “Cherish ” and “Rock Me Baby” CDs use the same masters that produced the U.S. versions. They might actually sound a bit improved on these Blu-Spec versions as they do sound a bit more open and tad bit less muddy but for those collectors out there who love this music the difference between these and the much less expensive U.S. versions probably would not be worth it.

And as the “Cherish” album is practically a Partridge Family album – same sound, same musicians and producers as the group – it’s worth tracking down a version of the album as it’s quite good.

The “Rock Me Baby” album is good as well but is definitely a more rock oriented album and not quite as smooth as The Partridge Family discs with Cassidy adopting a huskier vocal approach that may take some getting used to if you’re only a fan of his work under the Partridge Family banner.

As usual the packaging is first rate on these Japanese CDs but unless you’re a mad collector like me you’d probably be just as happy tracking down the U.S. discs.

I’m guessing the mastering on the “Definitive Collection” is probably the same as the U.S. version and if it is than that disc is a good deal as I think this CD sounds really nice and is a great place to land if you just have a causal interest in this material and want to own it (yes Virginia, some people want to own their music and not just stream it!!!).

The artwork – minus the Japanese lyric booklets – is the same as the U.S. discs as well but I did notice something I’ve never seen before in that the Definitive Collection disc, which features music from The Partridge Family, has been released on the Columbia label unlike the U.S. version which was released on Arista who owns the Partridge Family material.

Columbia/Screen Gems, now owned by Sony, was the original studio that made The Partridge Family TV show and recordings so it’s interesting to see the Columbia label pop up on a new Partridge Family reissue – mmm.

Anyway, feast your yes on the Blu-Spec discs above and until next time – Come On, Get Happy!!!

 

 

Instant Rewind – Monkees on Columbia VHS

 

Okay hands up, anyone out there remember VHS tapes?

Good, a lot of you.

Now anyone out there remember Monkees VHS tapes?

Anyone?

Bueller? Lol. Anyone?

Well for those perpetually curious about all things Monkees and those who want to see some actual Monkees VHS tapes, you’ve come to the right spot on the Web!

Today I’m taking a look back at some of the VHS tapes of The Monkees TV series that were released by Columbia Pictures in 1986 and 1987.

You see, in 1986 The Monkees returned to the pop landscape in a HUGE way! And that my dear friends was a weird and wonderful thing.

If you were born in the late 1960s or earlier and lived through the 1970s you would be hard pressed to see any way in which The Monkees could ever possibly become one of the hottest acts of 1986.

Until 1986 The Monkees were seen by many, especially the rock press and critics, as cardboard cutouts that leaped off of cereal boxes to hoist their evil corporate-run hands onto radio and record sales stealing the limelight from more legitimate acts.

No seriously, The Monkees were scorned.

Most “hipsters” even at the mere mention of the group mockingly sung the TV theme song (“Hey, Hey, We’re The Monk -ees”) and then proceeded to laugh the group off. The Monkees were seen as merely a kids TV show that should be consigned to the past – end of story.

That is until MTV started playing The Monkees TV series in early 1986 and The Monkees phenomena started a major phase two and a cultural rebirth lifted The Monkees from the scrapheap of time.

MTV’s exposure of The Monkees caused a huge demand for Monkees live appearances as well as all sort of Monkees products including vinyl, CDs and VHS tapes. At one point The Monkees had seven, yes seven, of their albums on the Billboard Top 200 charts at the same time!

And, as usual, I was there to eagerly soak up all of those various releases and revel in the most unlikely but satisfying return of one of my all-time favorite musical acts to TV (as well as cable) and radio airwaves.

Now while I really enjoyed The Monkees TV series, in 1986 I hadn’t actually seen it for several years, probably since the CBS Saturday morning reruns in the early 1970s.

For me The Monkees appeal was 85 percent driven by my love of their music and 15 percent by my memories of the TV show.

It was such a revelation to finally get to see all the episodes of the series when they ran on MTV and it was really nice to finally be able to own some of the episodes via the  release of the Columbia VHS tapes.

Each Columbia VHS tape contained two complete Monkees episodes and included two of my all-time favorite Monkee episodes – “I was a Teen-Age Monster” and “The Devil and Peter Tork” both of which I remembered seeing as a child on the Saturday morning reruns of the show all those years ago (cue the George Harrison song!)

I’ve come to really enjoy the series now that I can actually watch it whenever I want. Plus since it’s currently available in stunning quality on Blu-Ray I can enjoy the madness of the series even more because the color really pops off the screen like a Andy Warhol painting (more on the Blu-Ray box set in future posts!).

BUT in 1986 Columbia pictures (who then still owned all the group’s output on TV and record as well as their name) put out these few VHS cassettes and at the time I was thrilled to have them.

I’ve since transferred these VHS tapes to recordable DVD and they still look pretty darn good – not great but good.

Rhino records bought The Monkees catalog in the early 1990s and later issued the complete series on VHS and DVD and those looked even better but the original Columbia VHS tapes look just fine – if you can still play them that is.

I’ve put photos above of the five Columbia VHS Monkees tapes that I own. Included is a groovy sheet from Rhino advertising their Monkees audio catalog reissues from that time period (which came in one of the VHS tapes) and a really nice promotional display card for the VHS tapes that folds open to advertise the tapes in a store.

I just found the VHS display card this past weekend at an antique store which prompted me to drag my VHS tapes from the darkness of storage out into the sunlight to make this blog post.

Anyway, enjoy this look at the Columbia Monkees VHS tapes!!!There will be more Monkees VHS tapes in the future so keep an eye out.

Until next time be well and

“Here They Come” …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reel Love – Musicland Evatone Soundcards

Every now and again I like to dip my toes into the waters of time and journey back to my high school years.

Today I’m sitting on the banks of my river of memories and stirring up the waters of 1982.

Ahhh, 1982, I remember it well. I still have a fondness for several records that came out that year.

Let’s see some of my favorite albums from 1982 would include Paul McCartney’s “Tug of War” (naturally), The Go-Go’s “Vacation”, Billy Joel “The Nylon Curtain”, Fleetwood Mac “Mirage”, Asia “Asia” as well as a now obscure Beatles collection called “Reel Music”.

The Beatles “Reel Music” was released in March of 1982 (36 years ago this past week – yikes!) and featured music from the films The Beatles made in the 1960s.

It really was an oddball collection but it did feature a fun booklet and I loved the selection of songs on the album. Of course this collection has never made it to the CD age and is now doomed to lie on the shorelines of time as a fun but nearly forgotten memento.

BUT the Reel Music album did inspire another wacky yet fun collectible – Beatles Soundcards!

Musicland, a chain of record stores located in shopping malls around the US in the 1970s and 80s, and The Beatles record label Capitol Records came up with these colored flexi-discs to promote the release of the Reel Music collection.

Oddly enough the Soundcard flexi-discs featured songs from three of The Beatles double albums – “1962-1966” (“Red” album), “1967-1970” (“Blue” album) and The BEATLES (“White Album”) – and played at 33 1/3 speed.

Each Soundcard was numbered and featured two songs from the albums mentioned above:

1962-1966 – “All My Loving”, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” – (Mine is No. 2193)

1967-1970 – “Magical Mystery Tour”,  “Here Comes the Sun” – (Mine is No. 19537)

The BEATLES – “Rocky Raccoon”, “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” – (Mine is No. 6050)

Pictured above are all three discs that Musicland offered as well as a newspaper ad advertising the discs and a groovy promotional sign for the “Reel Music” album.

You don’t hear much about these odd collectibles nowadays so I thought it might be fun to take a look at them and you certainly don’t see the Musicland ad at all as I’ve never seen it other than the copy I clipped from the newspaper in 1982.

Every now and again I take the “Reel Music” album out for a spin and look through the groovy booklet of photos from the Beatles films. It’s a nostalgia thing more than anything else but it does take me back to a fun time.

Anyway, take a look for yourself and enjoy.

Until next time be well and Ta Ta for Now!

 

 

 

Arise Sir Ringo! Knight in a Box – Ringo Record Store Day 45 Box Set

 

In honor of Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) being knighted by the Queen of England yesterday I thought I’d celebrate and feature some Ringo love on today’s blog post.

Of course there’s no better way to celebrate any occasion then music and here on my corner of the Internet I’m going to celebrate as I usually do by taking a look at some vinyl –  Ringo vinyl.

Ringo is the second Beatle to receive a knighthood, Paul McCartney received his in 1997, and since being made a knight is quite an honor in the UK I thought it might be a good excuse to take a look at a very nifty Ringo 45 box set that came out a few years ago in 2013 for Record Store Day.

The Ringo 45 box was released in limited quantities (though it’s still not too hard to locate) and featured a sleek black colored box with just a silver star on the front cover with the word Ringo neatly placed in the center.

Inside the box are gorgeous reproductions of three U.S. singles from Ringo’s 1970s hit-making heyday – “It Don’t Come Easy”/”Early 1970”, “Photograph”/”Down and Out” and “(It’s All Down to) Goodnight Vienna”/”Oo-Wee” – that feature lovely reproductions of the original sleeves and labels.

Each of these terrific 45’s look just as they would have had you walked into a record store in the mid-1970’s. Actually, strike that. The covers do look the same but feature a much sturdier cardboard sleeve (unlike the thin paper stock of originals) and thicker vinyl as well.

Not only are the discs and sleeves a bit better quality than the original releases but these singles were newly remastered for this set and the super clean and quiet vinyl is certainly heads above the quality of the vinyl on the 1970’s discs.

Like the recent Ringo Starr Lp reissues from earlier this year these 45’s look impressive with no washed out photos on either the sleeves or the labels and they sound great as well – very nicely done!

The box also features a groovy fold-out poster and a Ringo 45 adapter that comes with the same artwork as the “Photograph” 45.

I know there aren’t as many Beatles fans into collecting Ringo discs as there used to be but these 45’s are so well done that it might be worth hunting down one of these boxes if your a fan of Ringo or The Beatles or ’70s pop/rock.

Anyway, there are some photos above of the Ringo box for all you Ringo fans out there. Take a look at just how nicely the labels and sleeves look – I love me some sweet loooking vinyl!

So, here’s to Sir Ringo, may he live long and prosper! (I know, I know, he’s not a Star Trek cast member but at least it’s got a 60’s ring to it lol!)

Until next time, Peace and Love (Ringo style!!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Around the World – Monkees in Venezuela

Okay, let me start this post with a bit of background.

For years, from say around 1972 to 1985, Monkees records were out of print and not easy to find – at least where I lived. These are what I call the desolate years lol.

This was a time before my city had many used record stores and while used records may have been easier to find at garage sales I wasn’t able to drive until 1981 so it seemed like a barren desert as far as finding new copies of my favorite Monkees albums was concerned.

(Note: I’m just trying to put into context my train of thought as to why I buy multiple copies of the same album. I know, there is a huge therapy bill in my future but at least it makes sense to me!)

Anyway, “More of the Monkees” was the first album I ever owned (I got a copy before  I was three, no joke!) and since I beat my original copy to death playing it over and over again on a small portable record player I’ve spent a lifetime tracking down new and used copies of this album.

Since 1985 there have been several newer reissues of “More of the Monkees” released (both on CD and vinyl) and of course I’ve bought all of those but my favorite finds are vintage vinyl copies whether they are US stereo or mono Colgems copies or RCA pressings from around the world.

Every now and again I do manage to track down an obscure or interesting foreign pressing of “More of the Monkees” and just recently I found a groovy old mono copy of the album from Venezuela!

(Note 2: I must say that I won’t spend a ton of money so the price has to be right or else no deal. At least I’m not completely crazy.)

Now this copy is not in the best of condition, the cover has writing all over the back, but at least the vinyl itself is in very nice shape and cleaned up very nicely.

I must also say that the cardboard they used on the cover is some of the sturdiest cardboard I’ve ever seen on any pressing of this album!  It seems to have survived fairly intact even though it looks like it has had some serious loving over the years.

Since I’ve never come across any Monkees albums from Venezuela I thought it would be fun to post some photos of this nifty mono copy. It’s not actually that different looking from the regular US Colgems copy but I really like it nonetheless. Love those black RCA labels!

In the future anytime I find a cool or unique copy of a Monkees or Beatles album I will post them here so the other vinyl addicts out there can enjoy my fix as well.

Until next time, be well and good luck with your vinyl hunting!

 

 

 

 

Three HEADs are better than one … Reissues of The Monkees classic soundtrack

Ahhh, The Monkees “HEAD” soundtrack.

Released almost 50 years ago in November 1968, the soundtrack album to The Monkees only movie has grown into something of a cult classic and deservedly so.

The “HEAD” soundtrack album is filled with not only great music but is also edited together so uniquely with dialogue from the film that the record stands by itself as its own unique experience – trippy, random and odd yet completely mesmerizing.

Songs like “Porpoise Song (Theme from “HEAD”), “As We Go Along”, “Circle Sky”, “Can You Dig It?” and “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again” are among the strongest music The Monkees ever recorded and stand out as being some of the most hard-edged songs both lyrically and musically in their catalog.

Now I have been a fan of The Monkees music since I was practically able to speak but for some reason I discovered the HEAD soundtrack several years after having owned and played to death all the other original albums released during the group’s heyday in the 1960s.

Oddly enough  I owned the more obscure “Present” and “Changes” albums right after they were released in 1969 and 1970 but for some reason I didn’t stumble upon a copy of the HEAD soundtrack until the summer of 1976.

I do vividly remember seeing the funhouse-like reflective “HEAD” album cover for the first time when a local record store owner named Smoky Montgomery (of Smoky’s Record Shop) pulled the album out of a box he had of old stock new albums he keep upstairs in his small record store.

I had seen the HEAD album cover on the Colgems inner sleeve that was placed inside the later Monkees albums but didn’t know the cover looked like a mirror and I certainly had no idea what was in store for me when I first put the record on the turntable and played it!

Everything from the cover to the dialogue to the music stood out to me from all the other Monkees albums I owned and I remember playing this album over and over again like it was a newly released Monkees album, a feeling I wouldn’t be able to repeat until the group reformed in 1986.

To this day I find new bits and pieces to enjoy in the dialogue and music on the HEAD soundtrack every time I play it and much like the film its from the HEAD soundtrack has no conventional story but conveys a different narrative feeling each time you play it.

Anyway, above I have pictured three of my favorite reissues of the HEAD album that  I own.

You may see the photo of the Colgems version of HEAD above and say ‘reissue?’ but it is indeed the first reissue of the album – see the RE in the top right had corner of the album?

The first issue of the album in 1968 spelled songwriter and producer Gerry Goffin’s first name as Jerry. This little known reissue copy corrects the spelling of his name thus the RE on the cover.

I had never even heard of this reissue until I stumbled across this copy online a few years ago. The seller had photos of the album and must have had no idea it was a rare version of the album. I was puzzled myself but ordered it because I had never seen a copy with RE on the cover.

To this day I’ve never found another copy of this Colgems RE version and don’t know how many were pressed or when.

I’m guessing it must have come out in 1969 when Colgems changed their logo on the early Monkees albums and I can’t imagine there were very many pressed as HEAD wasn’t one of The Monkees bigger selling albums.

Nevertheless It’s one of my favorite Monkees Colgems pressings and the vinyl itself is practically near mint though the cover is a bit worn but in VG condition.

The other two HEAD vinyl copies above are both colored vinyl – one (the clear one) from the 50th Anniversary Rhino Classic Album Collection and the other (the gold one) is the Friday Music Alternate HEAD Lp which contains alternate versions of the music from HEAD taken from the three CD Rhino box set from a few years ago.

All three versions above sound great and are must have if you’re a Monkees collector.

If you’ve never heard of the Colgems HEAD RE version, keep an eye out for it if you see a used copy of the HEAD album. I know I do as I’d love to find one in NM condition though I think the odds are fairly low of finding it again as I this is the only one I’ve ever seen!

Until next time, be well.

More 50th anniversary Beatles and Monkees posts coming soon!