Thursday, 23 March 2017

"Clouds In My Coffee - 1965 to 1995" by CARLY SIMON [feat Mick Jagger, James Taylor and Robbie Robertson] (1995 Arista 3CD Book Set - Ted Jensen Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of..."

Anyone whose bought or dipped their toes into the murky waters of the WEA/Rhino "Original Album Series" will know that these 5CD card slipcase Mini Box Sets offer an infuriating enticement – they’re cheap and musically plentiful for sure – but only some are Remasters – most not – and none of the dinky little buggers state it either way on the packaging (the EMI related ones do at least feature Remasters and they tell you so when you put them in your PC or Mac).

I mention all this because the Carly Simon "Original Album Series" set for her Elektra Years material 'isn't'. In fact for decades - her lengthy catalogue had conspicuously remained minus decent audio transfers. That is until this 56-Track Retrospective appeared in late 1995 from the company she was then signed to – Arista Records.

In the liner notes to "Clouds In My Coffee" (the Box Set takes it title from lyrics in her most famous song "You're So Vain") – Ace Engineer and all-round Audio Hero TED JENSEN (has done a huge swath of the Atlantic catalogue) makes a big deal about the fact that if the box set were to take place at all - he'd want the absolute best sources. And on the aural evidence presented to us here - the knob-twiddling Tedster got what he wanted. The transfers on this three-decade long retrospective are truly fabulous – and the Previously Unreleased/Rare Stuff actually worth owning.

Let’s get to the music. Here are the not-so-vain details...

US released 7 November 1995 (16 March 1996 in the UK) - "Clouds In My Coffee - 1965 to 1995" by CARLY SIMON on Arista 07822-18798-2 (Barcode 078221879828) is a 3CD 56-Track Long Book Set Of Remasters and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - "The Hits" - 75:07 minutes:
1. Let The River Run (from "Working Girl" Soundtrack, 1988 on Arista)
2. You Belong To Me (from "Boys In The Trees", 1978 on Elektra, a co-write with Michael McDonald, James Taylor on Backing Vocals with David Sanborn on Alto Saxophone)
3. Nobody Does It Better (from "The Spy Who Loved Me", 1977 James Bond Soundtrack on United Artists, Carole Bayer Seger and Marvin Hamlisch song)
4. Coming Round Again (from "Coming Round Again", 1986 on Arista)
5. Jesse (from "Come Upstairs", 1981 on Warner Brothers)
6. The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (from "Coming Round Again", 1986 on Arista)
7. You're So Vain (from "No Secrets", 1972 on Elektra - uncredited Backing Vocals by Mike Jagger of The Rolling Stones)
8. Touched By The Sun (from "Letters Never Sent", 1994 on Arista)
9. Haven't Got Time For The Pain (from "Hotcakes", 1974 on Elektra - feat James Taylor and Jimmy Ryan on Acoustic Guitars)
10. Better Not Tell Her (from "Have You Seen Me Lately?" - 1990 on Arista)
11. Legend In Your Own Time (from "Anticipation", 1971 on Elektra - feat Jimmy Ryan from the 60s Group The Critters on Guitar)
12. Mockingbird (from "Hotcakes", 1974 on Elektra - duet vocals with James Taylor - feat Robbie Robertson of The Band on Guitar, Dr. John on Organ with a Michael Brecker Saxophone Solo)
13. That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be (from "Carly Simon", 1971 on Elektra - Jeff Baxter on Guitar)
14. All I Want Is You (from "Coming Around Again", 1986 on Arista)
15. The Right Thing To Do (from "No Secrets", 1972 on Elektra)
16. Like A River (from "Letters Never Sent", 1994 on Arista)
17. Anticipation (from "Anticipation", 1971 on Elektra)
18. Give Me All Night (from "Coming Around Again", 1986 on Arista)

Disc 2 - "Miscellaneous & Unreleased" - 75:02 minutes:
1. Angel From Montgomery (Previously Unreleased 1972 Elektra Recording - a John Prine cover version)
2. Raining (Previously Unreleased 1990 and 1993 Recording - a Carly Simon song)
3. I'm All It Takes To Make You Happy (Previously Unreleased 1972 Elektra Recording - a Carly Simon song)
4. Easy On The Eyes (from the Soundtrack "This Is My Life", 1992 on Qwest, a co-write with Andy Goldmark)
5. Turn Of The Tide (from the Marlo Thomas and Various Artists LP "Free To Be...A Family", 1988 on A&M, a co-write with Jacob Brackman)
6. Libby (from "Another Passenger", 1976 on Elektra - features Glenn Frey of The Eagles on Guitar and Bill Payne of Little Feat on Keyboards)
7. Have You Seen Me Lately? (From "Have You Seen Me Lately?" - 1990 on Arista)
8. My New Boyfriend (from "Spoiled Girl", 1985 on Epic - features her sister Lucy Simon and Ron Taylor (Bleeding Gums in The Simpsons) on Backing Vocals)
9. Voulez-Vous Danser (from "Carly Simon's Romulus Hunt - A Family Opera", 1993 on Angel Records - a duet with Luretta Bybee)
10. The Night Before Christmas (from the "This Is My Life" Soundtrack, 1992 on Qwest)
11. Halfway 'Round The World (from "Letters Never Sent", 1994 on Arista)
12. Life Is Eternal (from "Have You Seen Me Lately?" - 1990 on Arista - a duet with Will Lee)
13. We Have No Secrets (from "No Secrets", 1972 on Elektra - features Lead Guitar by Jimmy Ryan from 60s group The Critters)
14. Why (from the Soundtrack "Soup For One", 1982 on Mirage - 4:06 minute album version)
15. Take Me Out To The Ballgame (from the 1992 Documentary "Baseball - A Film by Ken Burns", 1994 on Elektra Nonesuch)
16. Back The Way (from the "This Is My Life" Soundtrack, 1992 on Qwest)
17. Itsy Bitsy Spider (from "Coming Round Again", 1986 on Arista)
18. Play With Me (Previously Unreleased 1968 Recording - a Carly Simon song - Produced by John McClure)
19. My Luv Is Like A Red, Red Rose (from The Simon Sisters LP "The Simon Sisters Sing The Lobster Quadrille And Other Songs For Children",
1969 on Columbia - a Traditional Song cover version)

Disc 3 - "Cry Yourself To Sleep" - 73:01 minutes:
1. It Happens Everyday (from "Hello, Big Man", 1983 on Warner Brothers)
2. Boys In The Trees (from "Boys In The Trees", 1978 on Elektra - with James Taylor on Backing Vocals)
3. Julie Through The Glass (from "Anticipation", 1971 on Elektra - features Lead Guitar and Bass by Jimmy Ryan from 60s group The Critters)
4. Orpheus (from "Hello, Big Man", 1983 on Warner Brothers)
5. Never Been Gone (from "Spy", 1979 on Elektra - with Lucy Simon on Backing Vocals)
6. Happy Birthday (from "Have You Seen Me Lately?" - 1990 on Arista)
7. Devoted To You (from "Boys In The Trees", 1978 on Elektra - Duet Vocal with James Taylor)
8. Davy (from "Letters Never Sent", 1994 on Arista - Duet with Andreas Vollenweider)
9. Do The Walls Come Down (from "Coming Round Again", 1986 on Arista)
10. Danny Boy (from "My Romance", 1990 on Arista)
11. Dink's Blues (from The Simon Sisters LP "Cuddlebug (The Happiness Blanket)" - 1966 Stereo LP on Kapp Records)
12. We're So Close (from "Spy", 1979 on Elektra - with David Sanborn on Alto Saxophone)
13. Someone Waits For You (from the Soundtrack "Swing Shift", 1984 on Warner Brothers)
14. Born To Break My Heart (from "Letters Never Sent", 1994 on Arista)
15. Time After Time (from "My Romance", 1990 on Arista)
16. What Shall We Do With The Child? (From "Torch", 1981 on Warner Brothers - Jay Berliner on Guitars)
17. I've Got A Crush On You (from the Various Artists cover versions compilation "The Glory Of Gershwin", 1994 on Mercury)
18. Something Wonderful (from "My Romance", 1990 on Arista)
19. You're The Love Of My Life (from the "This Is My Life" Soundtrack, 1992 on Qwest)
20. I Get Along Without You Very Well (from "Torch", 1981 on Warner Brothers - Lee Ritenour on Guitars)
21. By Myself/I See Your Face Before Me (from "My Romance", 1990 on Arista)

The 48-page attached booklet is a seriously classy affair with loads of photos from her family archives with (not surprisingly) quite a few are (how shall we put it) liable to light a "Torch" of their own in her many admirers. The snap of Mum and Daughter on Page 8 is truly beautiful - outtakes from the "Anticipation" sessions and live shots. Special mention should also go to Bob Gothard's front cover and David Simon for Carly as a beaming young girl - a wonderfully alive snap that adorns the booklet's cover and acts as a picture Disc on CD1. After a long list of thank you moments and dedications from CS - there's "A Life Without Limits" essay by Steve Morse of The Boston Globe - followed by "Reflections From A Window On AOL" by Jim Armstrong and the usual reissue credits.

But the big news is the Audio - a seven-month archive trawl (with help from all the other labels) has been given 24-bit digital remasters by TED JENSEN at Sterling Sound. Now while the 80s and 90s stuff was always well produced anyway - the Elektra album cuts from the 70s are an absolute revelation. At last you can hear Jagger on those "You're So Vain" backing vocals - a clear as a bell Bass intro too - the band of sessionmen heavyweights on stuff like "You Belong To Me" and that gorgeous piano-intro to "The Right Thing To Do" followed later in the song by Carly harmonising with Lisa Strike and Vikki Brown - all of it is lovely and sweetly transferred. That same quality applies throughout - except maybe on the 1968 "Play With Me" recording which sounds very much like an acoustic demo done to impress say Tom Rush or Fred Neil. Other than that - the audio quality is remarkably good across the board. 

Disc 1 is the crowd pleaser and it’s easy to hear why four of the eighteen are from 1986's "Coming Round Again" - the huge synth opening of "All I Want is You" threatening to dislodge cabinet doors adjacent to your stereo. The sequencing is clever too - although I can't abide "Jesse" or the overdone Neil Diamond melodrama of "Touched By The Sun". A downside (if you could call it that) is that a lot of all three discs focus on 80s and 90s tracks - so you get that same plinking keyboard sound generic to the periods throughout and it can grate badly. What I wasn't expecting was the five Previously Unreleased tracks on Disc 1 to be so good - "Angel From Montgomery" is a Mom and Dad killing each other marital mayhem song from the pen of John Prine - a properly recorded outtake from the "No Secrets" sessions in 1972. But even better (and surely the real prize on here for fans) is the gorgeous "Rain" from 1990 - another outtake remixed and finished in 1995. It's as good as any of the released stuff. "I'm All It Takes To Make You Happy" is another from the "No Secrets" period. It comes with fey crowd noise, bottles clanking and a live feel around the music - but instead of helping a good song - it sort of does for it - still it's a find.

On the other Discs the Previously Unreleased "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" from the Ken Burns Documentary on Baseball provides a reason as to why Carly is adored - her fabulous voice. Its first half is pure Acapella - just her singing - the second sees her joined by Piano. The overall effect is wow. But I'm also drawn to the beautiful Robert Burns poem put to music on "My Luv Is Like A Red, Red Rose" - a tune that reeks of the romance she herself exudes when she sings (the Irish air "Danny Boy" is the same). The Elektra period "We Have No Secrets", "Legend In Your Own Time" and "Dedicated To You" provides you with tantalising glimpses into how good her first five albums could sound.

Itself already over 20-years old – the 3CD Book Set "Clouds In My Coffee" by Carly Simon has (like good sound in her catalogue) become a necessity if you want her music sounding ship-shape and tip-top (and Stateside it's cheap too). 

Fans will have to own it (if they don't already) and the uninitiated should seek out its aural glories wherever they can...
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