Monday, 23 January 2017

"Blood On The Tracks" by BOB DYLAN (2012 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Audiophile CD Reissue - ULTRADISC UHR GAIN 2 Remaster in Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…In The Tall Grass…In The Ones I Love…"

The undisputed singer-songwriter champ/people's poet of the Sixties was all but commercially washed up by 1974. Neither the weedy "Dylan" from 1973 nor "Planet Waves" from 1974 were good as whole albums - with that old melody/lyrical magic only sporadically evident on songs like "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue" and "Knocking On Heaven's Door". A pointless live double "Before The Flood" with The Band followed in July of 1974 and smacked of contract filler damaging his reputation further. But come early the following year - all that lost faith was about to change...

Fast forward to April 1975 - and I'm scouring the singles boxes in Dublin's cool and trendy Dandelion Market (a sort of indoor Camden Town). Dealers would collect ex chart singles that were a few weeks past their sell-by-date from the city's abundant record shops and flog them for 50p or less. New and in their label bags - you'd pick up deals and take chances on new names. So I'm flicking through the Dawn and Bell label bubble gum pop when I spot "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan on its Orange and Yellow CBS Records label (3160). I paid my 50p, took it home and hoped for the best when I put the needle down. My jaw promptly fell to the kitchen lino...and in many unhygienic ways...its been there ever since...

There can't be too many Dylan nuts who don't worship at the feet of CBS Records S 69097 and Columbia PC 33235 released January 1975 in the States and February 1975 in the UK. Charted at 4 in Blighty but going all the way to the top in America - "Blood On The Tracks" signalled that the man was back - and how. In all truth he hadn't sounded this vital (or confused) since "Blonde On Blonde" in 1966.

Let's get to the CD - two standard versions in 1989 and 1993 preceded the real deal - a proper remaster on a 2003 Columbia SACD Hybrid CD that contained both an SACD layer and a Standard STEREO mix. Easily available in a glossy card digipak - it has beautiful sound quality and should be enough for most. But this is Bob Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks" and if I can attain another microscopic ounce of audio quality out of yet another release - I'm gonna spend money on that sucker. So I bought this gorgeous USA-Only Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab audiophile pressing - and I'm thrilled I did. Here are the buckets of rain...

1. Tangled Up In Blue
2. Simple Twist Of Faith
3. You're A Big Girl Now
4. Idiot Wind
5. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
6. Meet Me In The Morning [Side 2]
7. Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts
8. If You See Her, Say Hello
9. Shelter From The Storm
10. Buckets Of Rain

USA released November 2012 (February 2013 in the UK) - this issue of "Blood On The Tracks" is an "Original Master Recording" CD on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2098 (Barcode 821797209861). An Audiophile Hybrid Edition - it has both SACD and DSD CD layers and does not require an SACD player for playback (it will automatically default to the DSD CD layer once in standard machines). The transfer from the original master tapes used Mobile Fidelity's patented ULTRADISC UHR GAIN 2 Remaster System with mastering by ROB LoVERDE (assisted by SHAWN R. BRITTON). It's a straightforward 10-track transfer of the album at 51:48 minutes housed in oversized hard card repro artwork. An inner gatefold black and gold card sleeve houses the gold CD (itself in a gauze protective) and there's a numbered (embossed) square on the rear cover.

When you first hear the opening triple-whammy of brilliance - "Tangled Up In Blue", "Simple Twist Of Faith" and "You're A Big Girl Now" - the differences to my ear are the acoustic guitars and the beautiful clarity to the bass - they're floating around the room but not drowning out his impassioned vocals. The high hats and drum taps on "Big Girl" are crystal clear but again they're not amped to a point where they take over. It's properly beautiful stuff.

And as everyone now knows the album revolved around the dissolution of his marriage - so the lyrics and songs flit between apathy and stupor ("Meet Me In The Morning") to slighting bitterness ("Idiot Wind") and a sort of hurting reconciliation ("If You See Her, Say Hello"). But then they come roaring back to simplicity and lingering affection ("Shelter From The Storm" and "Buckets Of Rain"). Dylan ends Side 1 with the short but oh so sweet "You're Gonna Make Lonesome When You Go". It's typical of the album - confessional yet still guarded - its Sixties throwback sound and vocals has to be one of his loveliest songs -with lyrical rhymes that thrill to this day (words from it title this review). The smacking of the acoustic guitar strings on "Buckets Of Rain" have fabulous clarity and that double bass in the background is warm and full too. Wonderfully done...

In some respects it's a shame Columbia simply don't just get on with it and do a DELUXE EDITION of this most iconic of his albums - maybe they will with its 40th Anniversary looming in 2015. There are two outtakes on Biograph and a further four on "The Bootleg Series Volumes 1 - 3" and with the original withdrawn album mix - would make a corker of a reissue.

In the meantime - if it's the best sound you want - then the spondulicks spent on this lovely reissue of "Blood On The Tracks" will pay dividends...
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"New Morning" by BOB DYLAN (2009 Columbia CD Reissue - Greg Calbi Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Sign On The Window..."

Following on from June 1970's self-indulgent and often derided "Self Portrait" double album (funnily enough hindsight has many loving it to pieces) - critics and the public alike went nuts for the supposed 'return to form' of October's "New Morning". The British pummelled it into the No. 1 slot when it was issued slightly later in November of 1970 - and no self-respecting Bob Dylan "Greatest Hits" or "Anthology" is complete without "If Not For You".

Some have even said that "New Morning" is as good as 1975's meisterwork "Blood On The Tracks" - which in my mind is stretching credulity and the obvious audio truth way past its limit. "New Morning" is a solid Dylan album only with some moments of greatness. And re-listening to it in 2017 on this fabulous Remaster hasn't changed my opinion on that. Here are the Winterludes...

UK released May 2009 - "New Morning" by BOB DYLAN on Columbia 88697347002 (Barcode 886973470022) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 12-track 1970 album and plays out as follows (35:50 minutes):

1. If Not For You
2. Day Of The Locusts
3. Time Passes Slowly
4. Went To See The Gypsy
5. Winterlude
6. If The Dogs Run Free
7. New Morning [Side 2]
8. Sign On The Window
9. One More Weekend
10. The Man In Me
11. Three Angels
12. Father Of Night
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "New Morning" - released 21 October 1970 in the USA on Columbia KC 30290 and November 1970 in the UK on CBS Records S 69001. Produced by BOB JOHNSTON - it peaked at No. 7 in the USA and No. 1 in the UK.

Given that the original single-sleeve LP was so staggeringly boring to look at - the new 8-page inlay comes as a blessed relief. It's made up mostly of in-studio photos - Bob at the microphones - reading lyric sheets - the boys in the band discussing what to do next with Producer Bob Johnston. There's no new liner notes per say.

Al Kooper plays Keyboards, Guitar and French Horn - David Bromberg plays Electric Guitar and Dobro - Buzzy Feiten plays Electric Guitar - Russ Kunkel is on Drums with Maeretha Stewart guesting on "If Dogs Run Free" on Background Vocals. 

But at least we get that stunning GREG CALBI Remaster - a man whose had his mitts on McCartney's "Band On The Run", Paul Simon's "Graceland", Supertramp's "Crime Of The Century" and "Breakfast In America" and even John Mayer's Remastered catalogue. Calbi has turned in another winner - these Dylan remasters are all jobs well done it has to be said.

The photograph on the rear cover is a youthful Bob in early 1962 with one of his Blues heroes – the barnstorming big-lunged Victoria Spivey – famous for misery raunchy tunes like "Furniture Man Blues" and troublesome fools like "Dope Head Blues" (see my review for the 20CD Box Set "Roots & Blues"). Though in hindsight – it's an odd photo to feature here with precious little on the album resembling Blues Music except maybe some of "One More Weekend". Word has it that the "New Morning" project was going to be another double set – a sort of Part 2 to "Self Portrait" combining covers that moved him in his youth with new material (some of those outtakes have turned up on the "Bootleg Series" of CD reissues) - but perhaps because of the backlash to "Self Portrait" that idea was paired down to the single LP we now have made up entirely of BD originals.

The album opens with "If Not For You" – a hooky-as-Hell love song Beatle George Harrison had debuted to the world only weeks earlier on his 3LP Box Set "All Things Must Pass" on Apple Records (the opening song). People love this song to Dylan's wife of the time - perhaps because that weird organ sound Al Kooper gets harks back to his 60ts sound on "Highway 61 Revisited" and that thinny Harmonica back even further to "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". And despite it’s rather slight feel BD sings - "...without your love I'd be nowhere at all..." and you can't help but think he actually means it this time (Olivia Newton John would lodge her first chart hit in February 1971 with "If Not For You" on Uni Records – No. 25 USA). "Day Of The Locust" feels like a great Bob Dylan song - while "Time Passes Slowly" was reputedly amongst the first three tunes recorded for an abandoned musical version of "The Devil And Daniel Webster" called "Scratch" (the other two were "New Morning" and "Father Of Night"). I have a very sweet cover of "Winterlude" by England's Steve Gibbons which he did for his 1998 CD "Bob Dylan Project" – Gibbons doesn't change its strangely casual nature and "...this dude thinks you're grand..." lyrics. We go early-morning smoky barroom Jazz for the spoken "If Dogs Run Free" that features scat vocals from Maeretha Stewart. As he'd veered away from 'Bob Dylan' – fans naturally went nuts and slagged off the song as derisory and all things unholy – but I've always thought it kind of brill. One man's heaven is...

Side 2 opens with the very Van Morrison sound of "New Morning" – acoustic guitars and lingering organ – marital bliss clearly keeping him happy (skies of blue – so happy just to see you smile). The album’s other biggie for me is "Sign On The Window" – a ballad with lyrics that I still can’t figure out – three’s a crowd – down on Mean Street – a cabin in Utah – catch rainbow trout. Whatever you read into the forlorn sad words – I love his piano playing while the band plays catch up and that impassioned vocal is the strongest on the whole record. "One More Weekend" is a slippin' and slidin' Bluesy trollop of a song – the band finally sounding like a cohesive unit as they boogie in that Bob Dylan way (great Remaster). Some people enjoy "The Man In Me" but those girly vocals feel forced to me - I much prefer the simpler almost Gospel spoken song "Three Angels" with its 'concrete world full of souls'. The album finishes on the piano and voices rumble of "Father Of Night" - a sound Cat Stevens would tap on his "Foreigner" album in 1973. The one-and-half-minute song is also an indication of his emerging beliefs - gorgeous audio as he sings of "...father of air and father of trees...that grows in our hearts and our memories..." 

Good - great - ordinary - different - the same – I love it – I don’t love it - it's Bob Dylan. Even now his enigma eludes me...and would we have it any other way...
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Sunday, 22 January 2017

"Lunch" by AUDIENCE (2015 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD – Ben Wiseman Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Can't Behave Myself..." 

AUDIENCE suited the eclectic roster of Charisma Records perfectly – their mixture of early-ELO/Lindisfarne/The Move dense melodic flourishes sat comfortably alongside their Prog musical label mates Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Nice, Jackson Heights, Atomic Rooster and Rare Bird.

Along with their uber-rare debut LP on Polydor Records in 1969 – Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red of the UK) have reissued all 4 of their albums onto expanded CDs – remastered from original master tapes – all with bonus cuts and involvement from Howard Werth of the band (see list below).

"Lunch" was their 3rd and last LP for Charisma before they disbanded due to musical differences (it actually troubled the American LP charts in July 1972 on Elektra Records rising to the lofty placing of 175). They regrouped briefly and successfully in 2004 and Audience retain huge affection amongst fans to this day (they were monster in Europe – Number 1 in Italy in fact). And you have to say listening to their long-forgotten music that Esoteric Recordings have done a top-notch job on these remasters. Here are the ladies who lunch details...

UK released 25 May 2015 (June 2015 in the USA) – "Lunch" by AUDIENCE is an Expanded 13-track CD on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2493 (Barcode 5013929459342) and breaks down as follows (45:50 minutes):

1. Stand By The Door
2. Seven Sore Bruises
3. Hula Girl
4. Ain't The Man You Need
5. In Accord
6. Barracuda Dan [Side 2]
7. Thunder And Lightnin'
8. Party Games
9. Trombone Gulch
10. Buy Me An Island
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 4th and last studio album "Lunch" – released February 1972 in the UK on Charisma Recordings CAS 1054 and July 1972 in the USA on Elektra Records EKS 75026

BONUS TRACKS:
11. Grief And Disbelief – Previously Unreleased
12. Hard Cruel World – non-album B-side to the UK 7" single "Raviole" released November 1972 on Charisma CB 196. The A-side can be found on "The House On The Hill" album from 1971 (see list below)
13. Elixir Of Youth – Previously Unreleased

Recorded at Trident Studios in London and Produced by the legendary GUS DUDGEON - the album title was suggested by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis sleeve-art fame from the phrase "Ladies who lunch..." The softly sentimental gatefold artwork and inner sleeve of the original 1972 vinyl LP actually came from a knitting pattern and followed on in theme from that slightly 30s and 40s look the preceding album "The House On The Hill" had in April 1971. The AUDIENCE line-up for "Lunch" was Howard Werth (Guitar and Vocals), Keith Gemmell (Tenor Sax, Clarinet and Flute), Trevor Williams (Bass, Accordion and Vocals) and Tony Connor (Drums, Vibes and Marimba) with outsiders Nick Judd on Piano and the horn section on "Seven Sore Bruises", "Barracuda Dan", "Ain't The Man You Need" and "Trombone Gulch" provided by Rolling Stones regulars Bobby Keys on Tenor Saxophone and Jim Price on Trumpet and Trombone.

The 16-page booklet is coloured in the same tint as the original artwork (a nice touch) with 2015 liner notes by noted freelance writer and reviewer SID SMITH that features new interviews with Howard Werth. It goes into the history of the album, touring as the support band for the Faces in the USA (the song title "Trombone Gulch" comes from a flight over the Grand Canyon) and how they finally disbanded – tired and harassed by European authorities at Ostend. But the big news for fans is a 24-bit remaster from original Charisma master tapes by Sound Engineer BEN WISEMAN who has done loads of great work for a large number of reissue labels. The audio is wonderful – given clarity to those dense multi-layered arrangements.

It opens with "Stand By The Door" which comes at you like a strange mixture of Mott The Hoople meets Lindisfarne meets Roxy Music – Werth’s vocals sounding like the lovechild of Roy Wood and Lindisfarne's Alan Hull - while the Saxophones and layered vocals give it a lovely musicality. Charisma put "Stand By The Door" out as UK 7" single in late June 1972 on Charisma CB 185 with the album track "Thunder And Lightnin'" as its B-side but it did no business. A million miles away from Prog - the band jaunt it up with the cheeky-chappy "Seven Sore Bruises" which is more Rock 'n' Roll than "Foxtrot" by Genesis. I never liked the cod Hawaiian vibe (and whistling) of "Hula Girl" but the Americana The Band feel to "Ain't The Man You Need" is great – the nasal vocals impassioned and heartfelt. Side 1 ends with the accomplished Acoustic vs. Saxophone "In Accord" which feels like an outtake from the Move's 1971 "Message From The Country" album on Harvest.

Side 2 opens with a happy ditty – the 2:20 minutes of "Barracuda Dan" while the frantically paced "Trombone Gulch" seems to be hustling to be an American single albeit at one hundred miles an hour and terrified of heights. It ends on the 'money' song "Buy Me An Island" where a grumpy Werth shouts "...you ain't heard the half of it...and neither have I!" - our heroes longing to get away to sunnier places that are easier on the noggin (and once again the tune has that clever mixture of Acoustic Guitar duetting with the Saxophone and Vocals in a very Audience way). Charisma chucked out another Mad Hatter label 45 after the album – the Italian-sounding "Raviole" off the preceding LP "The House On The Hill" and released it as a single in November 1972. Its rare non-album B-side "Hard Cruel World" turns up here as one of the bonus tracks and it’s a great addition for fans. Both of the unreleased tracks are shockingly good in fact – both featuring prominent Flute from Keith Gemmell and the band’s trademark acoustic guitar mix (both very Jethro Tull in ways).

Sticks man Tony Connor joined Hot Chocolate, Trevor Williams did stints with Jonathan Kelly’s Outside and Judas Jump and has been a part of the Audience reunion gigs, Nick Judd joined with Chris Spedding and Free’s Andy Fraser (sadly passed away recently) for Sharks (did two albums on Island) - while Keith Gemmell moved into Stackridge and spent many years with The Pasadena Roof Orchestra. The band’s main man and principal songwriter Howard Werth released a solo album "King Brilliant" in September 1975 (Charisma CAS 1104) trading as Howard Werth & The Moonbeams.

Audience’s sound were never everyone’s favourite tipple if I'm honest (none of their albums charted in the UK) but this CD has been superbly done and made me reassess their music big time. A top job done and a must-buy for fans...

AUDIENCE Expanded CD Remasters on Esoteric Recordings:

1. Audience (1969 debut LP on Polydor 583 065)
29 June 2015 Expanded CD Remaster with 3 Bonus Tracks on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2494 (Barcode 5013929459441)

2. Friend’s Friend’s Friend (May 1970 2nd LP on Charisma CAS 1012)
29 June 2015 Expanded CD Remaster with 7 Bonus Tracks on Esoteric Records ECLEC 2499 (Barcode 5013929459946)

3. The House On The Hill (April 1971 3rd LP on Charisma CAS 1032)
25 May 2015 Expanded CD Remaster with 3 Bonus Tracks on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2492 (Barcode 5013929459243)

4. Lunch (July 1972 4th and final studio LP on Charisma CAS 1054)
25 May 2015 Expanded CD Remaster with 3 Bonus Tracks on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2493 (Barcode 5013929459342)
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"Rocks" by AEROSMITH (1993 Columbia CD Reissue - Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Back In The Saddle Again..."

In 1975 - Aerosmith's 3rd album "Toys In The Attic" was a vinyl monster stateside - clocking up over 8-million LP sales and a two and half year chart reign (128 weeks in total). Their 4th platter "Rocks" went one better – jumping the Top Ten and eventually peaking at No. 3 amassing quad-platinum status with indecent haste – a paltry four million albums sold amidst a blizzard of questionable underwear, white powder lines and thundering riffage. In 1976 Aerosmith were literally Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll incarnate.

Yet over here in Blighty most Rock lovers seemed utterly indifferent to their excess and musical success. Aerosmith didn't hit the UK charts until 1987 with "Permanent Vacation" – another anthem - only this time on Geffen Records and not their 1970ts spiritual home of Columbia. Even the mighty - and let's call it what it is - damn cool strut of "Walk This Way" didn't sell on 45 in the UK (CBS Records 4878) on initial release – it was stumbled on much later as 90s radio re-discovered its swagger for a generation already looking back.

Forty-one years on and "Rocks" is cited by everyone from Soundgarden, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue, Metallica and a whole host of other hard-hitting Rock ‘n’ Roll bands as one of their seminal influences – a boozy debauched little whippersnapper with bad hair and enflamed nostrils - naughtily leering at the big pucks of the lithesome hockey team in the locker-room. Which brings us to its digital incarnation...

This 1993 Columbia CD Reissue/Remaster celebrates that Rock beast with a stunning Don De Vito/Vic Anesini Remaster (shame about the lack on Bonus Tracks though). Back in the saddle again indeed – here are the diamond details...

UK released 8 November 1993 (reissued several times since including September 2011) - "Rocks" by AEROSMITH on Columbia 474965 2 (Barcode 5099747496523) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1976 album and plays out as follows (34:35 minutes):

1. Back In The Saddle
2. Last Child
3. Rats In The Cellar
4. Combination
5. Sick As A Dog [Side 2]
6. Nobody’s Fault
7. Get The Lead Out
8. Lick And A Promise
9. Home Tonight
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 4th studio album "Rocks" - released May 1976 in the USA on Columbia PC 34165 and June 1976 in the UK on CBS Records S 81379. Produced by JACK DOUGLAS and AEROSMITH - the album peaked at No. 3 in the USA. "Home Tonight" written by Steve Tyler - "Combination" written by Joe Perry - "Back In The Saddle", "Rats In The Cellar", "Get The Lead Out" and "Lick And A Promise" written by Steve Tyler and Joe Perry - "Last Child" and "Nobody’s Fault" written by Steve Tyler and Brad Whitford and "Sick As A Dog" written by Steve Tyler and Tom Hamilton.

AEROSMITH was:
STEVE TYLER - Vocals, Keyboards, Electric Bass on "Sick As A Dog"
JOE PERRY - Lead and Rhythm Guitars and Vocals
Six String Bass on "Back In The Saddle"
Lap Steel Guitar on "Home Tonight"
Electric Bass on "Sick As A Dog"
BRAD WHITFORD - Lead and Rhythm Guitars
TOM HAMILTON - Bass and Electric Guitar on "Sick As A Dog")
JOEY KRAMER – Drums, Percussion and Backing Vocals on "Home Tonight"
Guest:
Paul Prestopino – Banjo on "Last Child"

The mediocre double-sided four-leaf foldout-inlay of "Toys In The Attic" gets extended for "Rocks" into a six – a six-square long concertina effect (twelve leaves of photos on both sides in total). They repro 'The Record Plant Studios' Tape Boxes - the rear sleeve with its recorded data and throw in new colour collages of Aerosmith memorabilia. But there's no new liner notes for something that clocked up four million sales in the USA alone - a trend with Sony when it comes to anything that isn't a Deluxe Edition (visually their releases are o.k. rather than great). And surely someone could have located outtakes or live stuff and made this an 'Expanded Edition' with some decent Bonus Tracks to please long-suffering fans. But alas...

What we do get by way of compensation however is a stunning new 24-bit digital remaster from original tapes by DON DeVITO and Mastering Engineer supremo VIC ANESINI - an Audio transfer name I actively seek out when looking for exceptional CD Remasters. Anesini has had a long association with Sony and all things Columbia - Santana, Simon & Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, Mott The Hoople, Janis Joplin, Carole King, The Jayhawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mountain, Nilsson and many more. Bringing out the power of those riffs and just how tight the band were was always the priority with this most 'Hard Rock' of LPs - and the team behind this transfer have achieved that.

Having established speed and attack on the mission-statement album "Toys In The Attic" the year prior – "Rocks" is even more down and dirty – returning with a 1976 big-arena swagger that's exemplified in the amazing opener "Back In The Saddle". This thing is HUGE and immediately you’re hearing Van Halen's self-titled debut in the two-year future – G n' R's "Appetite For Destruction" 11 years after that – all screaming vocals and fantastic rocking guitars with Joe Perry riffing away like a demented golem in search of some shinny ring. That's followed by the funky chug of "Last Child" where a Tallahassee Lassie is getting to the boys. That 'punk in the street' anthem is followed in turn by the very Ronnie Montrose blasting of "Rats In The Cellar" - rapid-fire rock that makes you want to do indecent things to a floor mop as you pose in the kitchen - lead guitarist by the soap suds. Side 1 ends on a typically great Aerosmith rocker "Combination" - talking about the shape I'm in - always moving on - restless - one step away from something - guitars wailing as Tyler sings "...I traded you for me..."

Side 2 opens with a melodic "Sick As A Dog" with more than a hint of a Boston/Foreigner combo sound - Tyler singing 'please' like he's begging a dealer for mercy. Or is he slagging off some socialite that thinks she's hot to trot when the truth is that life has taken its toll and you're not that young anymore. And just when you think they must be running out of killers – they roll out the Ted Nugent assault of "Nobody’s Fault" – an ultra-Produced wall of Hard Rock –an aural Chieftain Tank of guitars and voices trampling your living room with squeaky wheels and a mad driver with weeks of greasy stubble - giggling as he chews on his half-smoked Havana. "Get The Lead Out" threatens to do just that – strip your bathroom bare – and don't you just love those guitar-sounds Perry produces as the song fades out. Back to Rock 'n' Roll and Gurls with "Lick And A Promise" – a wall of rock sound that actually reminds me of The Sex Pistols debut - the kind of sound that would destroy the world in 1977 (well over in the U of the K anyway). It ends on the only concession to pace – the 'say goodnight to you' of "Home Tonight" – a tearful goodbye that for me is the least convincing song on an otherwise flawless Rock LP.

Boston's Aerosmith would tear it up yet again with their 5th platter "Draw The Line" in the lead up to Christmas 1977 - another winner that like “Toys In The Attic” went to No. 11 on the US album charts. But this is where their locker-room legend and guitar mayhem really started. 

Dude looks like a winner - and the CD Remaster is dirt-cheap too...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

"Toys In The Attic" by AEROSMITH (1993 Columbia CD Reissue - Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Walk This Way...Talk This Way..."

Aerosmith's 3rd album "Toys In The Attic" was a vinyl monster stateside clocking up over 8-million LP sales - and from April 1975 starting a two and half year chart reign (128 weeks in total). Yet over here in Blighty most seemed utterly indifferent to those legions of long-haired men who bought this hard-rockin' snotty little git with mid-decade mid-American glee. Aerosmith didn't hit the UK charts until 1987 with "Permanent Vacation" – another anthem - only this time on Geffen Records and not their 1970ts spiritual home of Columbia. Even the mighty - and let's call it what it is - damn cool strut of "Walk This Way" didn't sell on 45 in the UK (CBS Records 4878) on release - which is some respects must have been down to lack of radio play (no such problem in the USA) – it wasn’t recognised until much later as a classic.

Forty-two years on though and "Toys In The Attic" stills rawks as they say in the very White House of 2017. And you just have to love its sheer balls-to-the-wall rock-out-with-your-knob-out impact - track after track with riffage Lemmy would have been proud of. And although this 1993 Columbia CD reissue/remaster is in desperate need of a packaging upgrade and some decent Bonus Tracks - it still boasts a stunning Don De Vito/Vic Anesini Remaster. So once more unto the rocking horses and used teddy bears - let's walk this way...

UK released 8 November 1993 (reissued several times since including September 2011) - "Toys In The Attic" by AEROSMITH on Columbia 474964 2 (Barcode 5099747496424) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1975 album and plays out as follows (37:12 minutes):

1. Toys In The Attic
2. Uncle Salty
3. Adam's Apple
4. Walk This Way
5. Big Ten Inch Record
6. Sweet Emotion [Side 2]
7. No More No More
8. Round And Round
9. You See Me Crying
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 3rd studio album "Toys In The Attic" - released April 1975 in the USA on Columbia PC 33479 and July 1975 in the UK on CBS Records S 80773. Produced by JACK DOUGLAS - the album peaked at No. 11 in the USA. "Adam's Apple" written by Steve Tyler - "Walk This Way", "Toys In The Attic" and "No More No More" written by Steve Tyler and Joe Perry - "Uncle Salty" and "Sweet Emotion" written by Steve Tyler and Tom Hamilton - "Round And Round" by Steve Tyler and Brad Whitford - "You See Me Crying" by Steve Tyler and D. Soloman - "Big Ten Inch Record" is a cover version of an old Fred Weismantel song recorded in 1953 by R&B artist Bullmoose Jackson on King Records.

AEROSMITH was:
STEVE TYLER - Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica and Percussion
JOE PERRY - Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Acoustic and Slide, Percussion and Backing Vocals
BRAD WHITFORD - Lead and Rhythm Guitars
TOM HAMILTON - Bass (rhythm guitar on "Uncle Salty")
JOEY KRAMER - Drums and Percussion
Guests:
Scott Cushnie - Piano on "Big Ten Inch Record" and "No More No More"
Jay Messina - Bass Marimba on "Sweet Emotion"

The double-sided four-leaf foldout inlay is hardly the stuff of legends. They repro 'The Master Lab' Tape Box For Side 2 of the album - the rear sleeve with its recorded data and a two-page colour collage of Aerosmith memorabilia - but there's no new liner notes - the Cream and L.A. Times reviews that were used on stickers to sell the original vinyl album. For something that clocked up eight million sales in the USA alone - it's a bit of a let down. Everyone knows too that third American 45 - "You See Me Crying" b/w "Toys In The Attic" had a radically reduced 7" single edit on the A-side reducing the album cut of 5:12 down to 3:00 minutes. Surely along with some outtakes or live stuff - that could have been included as a 'Bonus'. But alas...

What we do get by way of compensation however is a stunning new 24-bit digital remaster from original tapes by DON DeVITO and Mastering Engineer supremo VIC ANESINI - an Audio transfer name I actively seek out when looking for exceptional CD Remasters. Anesini has had a long association with Sony and all things Columbia - Santana, Simon & Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, Mott The Hoople, Janis Joplin, Carole King, The Jayhawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mountain, Nilsson and many more. Bringing out the power of those riffs and just how tight the band were was always the priority with this most 'Hard Rock' of LPs - and the team behind this transfer have achieved that.

Coming at you like Montrose in 1973 - the sheer speed and attack of the mission-statement title-track "Toys In The Attic" is fantastic stuff - building and building into a frantic thrasher (you half wonder why someone didn't think it would make a good 45). Things calm down with "Uncle Salty" - where daddy got busted and mother's love for all the others didn't help much either (the guitars and vocals are so good). A nasty slide guitar opens "Adam's Apple" setting up a lady-luck rocker - guitars and vocals that would make The Black Crowes nervous (love at first bite baby). What can you say about "Walk This Way" - surely one of 'the' great Rock singles of the Seventies or any other decade for that matter - fun, irreverent and bursting out of your speakers with school bells and snotty guitars intent on kitties in the gym. Side 1 ends on a bit of Rhythm 'n' Blues fun complete with pumping Brass complimenting those guitars – a cover of Bullmoose Jackson's 1953 Rhythm & Blues hit "Big Ten Inch Record" that originally came out on King 4580. With Tiny Bradshaw's Orchestra backing up the truly salacious lyrics - Bullmoose pushes the lyrical envelope - thrilling the ladies when he gets out his giant ruler-long talent (for the Blues you understand). You can image that Steve, Joe and the boys had a grin on their collective kissers when they recorded this.

Side 2 opens with the huge guitars of "Sweet Emotion" - another head-chugging winner given full power here on this amazing Remaster (and what about those guitar solos towards the end as they go off into another variant of the riff - wow). Acoustics finally rear their highly-produced heads in "No More No More" where the band sound like Boston's debut in 1976  - or is it the other way around. The piano is still in the back of the mix but at least I can kind of hear it now.

New Remaster or no - "Round And Round" is the one track on the album that sounds 'wrong' to me - that vocal all strangulated and too distant and that grungy guitar over 'there somewhere'. I suppose they recorded it that way on purpose - but it still sounds off. The big ballad finisher of "You See Me Crying" is five-minutes of weepy Aerosmith and it's not surprising to me that Columbia 3-10253 (with "Toys In The Attic" on the flipside) failed to dent the charts. It's one string-moment too far - in fact I feel some of Side 2 seriously lets the whole album down...

Boston's AEROSMITH would tear it up with their 4th platter "Rocks" in 1976 and "Draw The Line" in 1977 - but this is where their locker-room legend and guitar mayhem really started. 

Dude looks like a winner - and like most of their reissue catalogue - it's dirt-cheap too...

Friday, 20 January 2017

"Stage Fright" by THE BAND (2000 Capitol 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of their 3rd album from 1970) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Turned From The Sun...Saw Everyone...Searching..."

With two hugely influential albums already under their belt (1968's "Music From Big Pink" and 1969's "The Band") – it was time for Americana's pioneers to let the side down.

Some felt they did with "Stage Fright". I didn't. I've always loved this album. In fact it's quite probably biblically blasphemous and goat-sacrificial to say that studio platter number three for THE BAND is 'better' in places than its illustrious predecessors. But as Californication's Hank Moody would say to his agent Charlie the Runkalator as they hide even more scantily clad skanky hookers and a blizzard of cocaine from their long-suffering wives - "...I'm going to rock out with my cock out..."

Again - I love this album and this sweet-sounding 2000 CD Remaster only hammers that affection home all of 47 years later. Here are the details and The Shape It's In...

UK released September 2000 (August 2000 in the USA) - "Stage Fright" by THE BAND on Capitol 525 3952 (Barcode 724352539529) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Four Bonus Tracks and breaks down as follows (71:57 minutes):

1. Strawberry Wine
2. Sleeping
3. Time To Kill
4. Just Another Whistle Stop
5. All La Glory
6. The Shape I'm In [Side 2]
7. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show
8. Daniel And The Sacred Harp
9. Stage Fright
10. The Rumor
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 3rd studio album "Stage Fright" - released August 1970 in the USA on Capitol Records SW-425 and October 1970 in the UK on Capitol Records EA-SW 425. Produced by DICK HIRTHE and Engineered by TODD RUNDGREN - it peaked at No. 5 in the USA and No. 15 in the UK LP charts.

BONUS TRACKS:
11. Daniel And The Sacred Harp (Alternate Take)
12. Time To Kill (Alternate Take)
13. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (Alternate Mix)
14. Radio Commercial

THE BAND was:
ROBBIE ROBERTSON – Guitars and Vocals
RICHARD MANUEL - Vocals, Piano, Drums, Baritone Sax & Mouth Harp
GARTH HUDSON – Keyboards and Saxophones
RICK DANKO - Vocals, Bass, Violin & Trombone
LEVON HELM - Vocals, Drums, Mandolin & Guitar

Compiled for CD by Cheryl Pawelski and Andrew Sandoval - the 16-page booklet has fantastically comprehensive liner notes by ROB BOWMAN that feature interviews stretching back twelve years (from 2000), repros of the American Promo 45 for "Time To Kill" and "The Shape I'm In" on Capitol P-2870 as well as two photos of The Band on sofas (one at outtake from the LP shoot). There is discussion on Todd Rundgren's pivotal role as Producer giving the LP the polish their 2nd album "The Band" lacked in 1969. Both Glyn Johns and Rundgren mixed the record and this CD offers the album as it was meant to be – differing from the original Remaster by Capitol in 1990 and the subsequent audiophile issue by DCC in 1994. The new 24-bit remaster by ANDREW SANDOVAL and RON McMASTER gives the album the oomph it's needed. It's a triumph to my ears. Let's get to the music...

"Stage Fright" is a group dealing with and being cudgelled by fame. Recording in June 1970 over only two weeks – the ramshackle looseness (musicians and like minds enjoying themselves) that so warmed up the first two albums was already gone. Some felt the overall LP cold and dark and too bleakly personal in places – and it was short too at 35 odd minutes. But the music for me is key. It opens with "Strawberry Wine" by Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson – a rollicking accordion song about drinking with lyrics about never getting any peace of mine (climbing up the walls and laughing in the dark). "Sleeping" is sad for sure - but it’s beautiful too and the remaster has accentuated that lovely piano and Robertson's distant thinny guitar parts (lyrics from it title this review).

Things slide slightly with Robertson's "Time To Kill" - it's good but its also throwaway for me and the happy-wappy vibe Danko and Manuel try to vocally create feels forced. Nice axe work from Robbie on "Just Another Whistle Stop" and the bass on "All La Glory" is so damn clear now - a hymn from Robbie Robertson to his newly born daughter sung by Levon in that utterly unique voice of his (love that keyboard break - so subtle and pretty). "All La Glory" ends Side 1 on a high.

As I recall the 16-days in the jailhouse tale of monetary woe that is "The Shape I'm In" was relegated to the B-side of "Time To Kill" in the States (October 1970) - when I can't help feeling it was an obvious A with its pounding keyboard funk. In March 1971 the British side of Capitol got it right and issued "The Shape I'm In" with "The Rumor" as its flipside on Capitol CL 15675 - not that the public noticed. "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" was the kind of tune that would have sounded fresh on "Music From Big Pink" - here for some reason it feels old already. Better is "Daniel And The Sacred Harp" - a religious procession song sung as if its a love song to some in the Old Testament. There's beautiful sound on it - those slides and strummed acoustic. The album's title track "Stage Fright" remained a live staple for the band for years - culminating in 1979's "The Last Waltz" where it seemed to come into its own. Although some think it a downer - I've always found the very Harvest-sounding "The Rumor" to be a huge grower - that piano and guitar duetting and the vocals. And you can so hear today's Americana seeping out its every pore...

"...Should I come in there...with that back beat..." - the boys joke in some studio banter after a false start. Amidst the bonus tracks is a thrill for Band fans - an Alternate Mix of one of the album's strong points "Daniel And The Sacred Heart". The audio is gorgeous - clear Bass and Acoustic Guitar - less clutter than the finished version. I might actually prefer the new Alternate Mix to "Time To Kill" to the released version - and again on here with fabulous audio. Great guitar opens "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" where the Alternate has more pronounced vocals and brass - and the one-minute po-faced sounding "Radio Commercial" uses snippets from "Stage Fright", "Strawberry Wine" and "The Shape I'm In" to sell 'the third album from The Band on Capitol'...

I know some see it as a four-star record but with that renewed audio and those genuinely cool extras - "Stage Fright" is one of those occasions where you don't have to pay through the CD nose to get that great combo of top music, quality sound and a cheap price (their first two album outings are the same and mots are online for less than a fiver).

"...The storm is past...there's peace at last..." – Richard Manuel sang on the many mood shades of "Sleeping" – lost in his music – lost in the game. Lost or not - I've so enjoyed joining him there once again...

"You Broke My Heart So...I Busted Your Jaw" by SPOOKY TOOTH (2016 Universal/Island CD Reissue - Paschal Byrne and Ben Wiseman Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Wild Fire..." 

Like Mott The Hoople and The Pretty Things - England's SPOOKY TOOTH have never really received the accolades they deserve. Between 1968 and 1974 they produced seven studio albums (six on Island - one on Goodear) as well as a posthumous Island Records 'Best Of' in 1976 - yet I defy even knowledgeable Rock types to name just two of those original LPs.

Their fifth studio album is the same. It came at Blighty in January 1973 with a Klaus Voorman sleeve and the delightful title of "You Broke My Heart So...I Busted Your Jaw" across both sides of the cover (an in-joke apparently amongst band members – a phrase they used in jest and not a mission statement). Their previous album "The Last Puff" (credited to Spooky Tooth featuring Mike Harrison) had come and gone in October 1970 and January 1973 was a long time to be off the release sheets. But even though the new platter featured both Mike Harrison and Gary Wright with future Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones bolstering up the ranks – very few took notice of the 8-track vinyl LP. In fact none of their Rock/Blues Rock albums ever bothered the British LP charts (not even a nostalgia 'Best Of' in 1976) and though founder member and songwriter Gary Wright did some commercial welly in the mid Seventies (especially in the USA with his "Dream Weaver" LP) - Luther Grosvenor and Mike Harrison had solo careers also but few noticed. The band is not even in Martin C. Strong's stunning 'Great Rock Discography' Books (and almost everyone is in there). And now the final facial slap (sock in the jaw)...

These new CD Reissues and Remasters on UMC's Universal/Island with truly superb Audio and a wad of good bonus tracks on most (not this one unfortunately) have already quietly slipped under the radar only two months after release in September and October 2016. Time to rectify this horrid anomaly on the part of an uncaring and post Christmas flabby public - here are the eerie dental details...

UK released 30 September 2016 - "You Broke My Heart So...I Busted Your Jaw" by SPOOKY TOOTH on Universal/Island 570 547-8 (Barcode 602557054781) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 8-track 1973 Island Records album and plays out as follows (35:12 minutes):

1. Cotton Growing Man
2. Old As I Was Born
3. This Time Around
4. Holy Water
5. Wild Fire [Side 2]
6. Self-Seeking Man
7. Times Have Changed
8. Moriah
Tracks 1 to 8 are their fifth studio album "You Broke My Heart So...I Busted Your Jaw" - released January 1973 in the UK on Island ILPS 9227 and May 1973 in the USA on A&M Records SP-4385. Recorded at Olympic, Island and Apple Studios - it was produced by GARY WRIGHT and SPOOKY TOOTH and the LP peaked at No. 84 in the USA but didn't chart in the UK.

SPOOKY TOOTH was:
GARY WRIGHT - Vocals, Organ and Piano
MIKE HARRISON - Vocals and Piano
MICK JONES - Lead Guitar
CHRIS STEWART - Bass
BRYSON GRAHAM - Drums

The 12-page booklet is good rather than great. Researched, co-ordinated and produced by MARK POWELL of England's much-revered reissue label Esoteric Recordings (have done wads of quality reissues from the Sixties and Seventies) – it’s missing stuff. There are several black and white group shots and photos of band members (Chris Stewart and Mick Jones) and a repro of that pencil drawing by Voorman of a woman with a rolling pin and a poor sucker under heel on the floor. But the colour photos of the band members on the US A&M Records LP are missing as are the lyrics that were printed the inner gatefold sleeve.

On the upside Powell details the band's history on Island Records (including stuff about The V.I.P's and Art) and then explains the arrival of Mick Jones into the ever-changing line-up and the re-emergence of Gary Wright as the principal songwriter (he penned all eight with co-writes on "This Time Around" and "Times Have Changed" with Mick Jones). The CD is coloured Pink when in fact it was a Orange Palm-Tree label by early 1973 (all the reissues I've bought in this series are like this - Pink labels regardless of the time frame) and there's a close-up photo of the album artwork 'symbol' beneath the see-through CD tray. But the big news is new PASCHAL BYRNE and BEN WISEMAN Remasters from original tapes - wonderful rocking sound on the chug of "Wild Fire" - even Soulful when those voices kick in on the piano-ballad "Holy Water". The real killer is the lack of outtakes from this most rewarding of Spooky's line-ups...and we never do find out who those female backing singers are...

I've always been surprised as the obscurity of this album - a really great Humble Pie-type Rock LP with Gary Wright and Mick Jones sounding like a precursor to Bad Company's explosive 1974 debut "Bad. Co". There are only eight tracks - but each either has a nasty Rock groove or a Soulful ballad – and both sides of his writing works. Humble Pie groovers include "Cotton Candy Man" where both Wright and Harrison share the vocals, the fabulous swagger of "This Time Around" and Side 2's opener "Wild Fire". Softer shades come through on the melodious "Old As I Was Born" before turning into a Funky groove with multi-layered vocals - and then there's the almost church-like "Holy Water" - a song where Wright is genuinely reaching for Soulfulness in a slow Rock song. A plaintive piano opens "Self-Seeking Man" which is soon joined by an aching vocal and again I'm reminded of Marriott circa A&M's "Humble Pie" in 1970 and "Rock On" in 1971. Shades of Leon Russell filter throughout the piano plaintive but majestic "Times Have Changed" - the LP ending on the electric piano Funk of "Moriah" - a sexy little wild and free six-minute groove with weird windy sounds at the end that's part Rare Earth, part Mott The Hoople, part Pink Floyd and all indefinable Spooky Tooth (nice).

"You Broke My Heart So...I Busted Your Jaw" is an album that cries out for re-discovery and like the recent Free Remasters (also September 2016) that came with storming Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham Remasters - I'm going to have to own the lot of these Paschal Byrne and Ben Wiseman CD efforts for SPOOKY TOOTH.

Well done to everyone involved for giving ST the late dental polish they've deserved for so long. And as far as this 1973 album is concerned - sock me in the kisser one more time...

Reissue Titles for SPOOKY TOOTH in the 2016 Universal/Island CD Remaster Series:

1. It's All About (1968 Debut) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-1 (Barcode 602557054712) with 10 Bonus Tracks
2. Spooky Two (1969 2nd LP) - 7 Oct 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-3 (Barcode 602557054736) with 9 Bonus Tracks
3. Ceremony: An Electronic Mass (1969 3rd LP with Pierre Henry)
- 7 Oct 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-0 (Barcode 602557054705) with 6 Bonus Tracks
4. The Last Puff (1970 4th LP) - 7 Oct 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-5 (Barcode 602557054750) with 6 Bonus Tracks
5. You Broke My Heart...So I Busted Your Jaw (1973 5th LP) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-8 (Barcode 602557054781)
6. Witness (1973 6th LP) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-7 (Barcode 602557054774) with 1 Bonus Track
7. The Mirror (1974 7th LP) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-6 (Barcode 602557054767)

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