Monday, 20 January 2020

"Abbey Road: Anniversary Edition" by THE BEATLES featuring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and (Guests) Billy Preston on Keyboards with George Martin on Production and Keyboards (27 Sept 2019 UK and EUROPE Apple Universal Music Group International 4-Disc "Anniversary Edition" Box Set with 3 Audio CDs and 1BLU RAY Audio – Giles Martin, Sam Okell and Steve Rooke Remixes and Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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Exceptional Reissues and Remasters 

"...Here Comes The Sun..."

The 50th Anniversary of 1969 has certainly proven a lucrative 2019 tap for reissue companies. It seems that everything issued in that end-of-decade pivotal year is getting the bells and whistles – some rehashing what's already been available for years with supposedly new remasters. So for those sceptics amongst us, both lifetime fans and newcomers alike may look at this half-century vaults-trawl of the magical "Abbey Road" album by THE BEATLES with a nagging feeling that Universal Music Group sure does know how to milk a cash cow (check out the endless format list below for starters).

But make absolutely no mistake – having lived with this sucker for a few weeks now, this 27 September 2019 reissue of "Abbey Road" in its 4-Disc "Anniversary Edition" form is a proper Bobby Dazzler - a genuine treasure in their awesome musical back catalogue. There's a huge amount of info and multiple formats to wade through, so take off your shoes, come together and let's scoot across the world's most famous zebra-crossing once more...

UK and EUROPE released, Friday 27 September 2019 - "Abbey Road: Anniversary Edition" by THE BEATLES on Apple/Universal Music Group International 0602577921124 (Barcode 602577921124) offers 4-Discs - 3 Audio CDs and 1 BLU RAY AUDIO all housed within a 12" x 12" Hard Card Outer Case with a 100-Page LP Sized Hardback Book. It plays out as follows:

CD1 "Abbey Road" 2019 Mix (47:29 minutes):
1. Come Together [Side 1]
2. Something
3. Maxwell's Silver Hammer
4. Oh! Darling
5. Octopus's Garden
6. I Want You (She's So Heavy)
7. Here Comes The Sun [Side 2]
8. Because
9. You Never Gave Me Your Money
10. Sun King
11. Mean Mr. Mustard
12. Polythene Pam
13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
14. Golden Slumber
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Her Majesty
Tracks 1 to 17 make the album "Abbey Road" – released 26 September 1969 in the UK on Apple PCS 7088 and 1 October 1969 in the USA on Apple SO-383. Original artwork in both countries famously didn't credit "Her Majesty" (the short acoustic ditty by Paul McCartney that ends Side 2) on the rear artwork at all. Labels - American copies credited the song on the label whilst many original UK copies didn’t (some did in later re-pressings). For the sake of showing everything that's on "Abbey Road" 50 years later – that 'hidden track' of old is now superimposed in on the CD card artwork and credited on the label too.

CD2 "Abbey Road Sessions" (52:24 minutes):
1. I Want You (She's So Heavy) (Take 32 with Billy Preston Organ)
2. Goodbye (Home Demo)
3. Something (Studio Demo)
4. Ballad Of John and Yoko (Take 7)
5. Old Brown Shoe (Take 2)
6. Oh! Darling (Take 4)
7. Octopus Garden (Take 9)
8. You Never Give Me Your Money (Take 36)
9. Her Majesty (Takes 1-3)
10. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight (Takes 1-3/Medley)
11. Here Comes The Sun (Take 9)
12. Maxwell's Silver Hammer (Take 12)

CD3 "Abbey Road Sessions" (55:23 minutes):
1. Come Together (Take 5)
2. The End (Take 3)
3. Come And Get It (Studio Demo)
4. Sun King (Take 20)
5. Mean Mr. Mustard (Take 20)
6. Polythene Pam (Take 27)
7. She Came In Through the Bathroom Window (Take 27)
8. Because (Take 1 - Instrumental)
9. The Long One (Trial Edit & Mix - 30 July 1969)
10. Something (Take 39 - Instrumental - Strings Only)
11. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight (Take 17 - Instrumental - Strings & Brass Only)

Disc 4 "Abbey Road" BLU-RAY AUDIO
With its larger storage capacity, the BLU RAY offers a further 5.1 Surround Mix of the whole LP (96 kHz/24 bit DTS-HD Master) and a Dolby ATMOS Stereo Mix too (96kHz/24 bit high resolution).

Sourced directly from the original 8-track sessions tapes, GILES MARTIN (son of original producer GEORGE MARTIN) has returned with SAM OKELL, STEVE ROOKE and a team of other Audio Engineers who've been involved with all of these Beatles' and Apple label reissues at Abbey Road Studios and remixed the Stereo Tapes into a new version. Across 40-tracks in the SUPER DELUXE version we are dealing with - CD1 houses the original 17-track STEREO LP whilst CD2 and CD3 offer up for the first time a mouth-watering 23 outtakes called "Abbey Road Sessions" that include selected previously unreleased material, studio chatter, a version of the stand-alone 45 "The Ballad Of John And Yoko" also released in 1969, a version of the White Album track "Goodbye" and sweetest of all - "The Long One" - an unheard early version of the 8-song medley that made up most of AR's Side 2.

The LP-sized box (12" x 12") features a truly beautiful 100-page hardback book with contributions from Giles Martin, Paul McCartney, a new appraisal of the album and its legacy by noted writer, author and former head bod at the Mojo Magazine DAVID HEPWORTH, song-by-song breakdowns, articles and unpublished photos on the iconic artwork, vast reissue credits and so on. Let’s get to the content...

Lennon's Timothy Leary song "Come Together" (a slogan tune that was supposed to depose the actor Ronald Reagan then running for Governor of California) opens proceedings with an audio wallop. The Bass, Drums and grinding guitar join Paul's vocals and that break at 2:03 minutes after 'right' - it all suddenly sound startling. Harrison's gorgeous "Something" feels luxurious and even more beautiful while bang-bang "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" now features that piano and Moog Synth combo to amazing effect (John absent entirely from that track). Producer GEORGE MARTIN gives it some additional piano on "Something" and also plays Electric Harpsichord on "Because" and Organ on the combo of "Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard". Like GM's subtle but significant contributions - "Something" also features the first of three uncredited album appearances by keyboardist BILLY PRESTON - the other two being "Oh! Darling" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". Preston's mere presence seemed to inspire the band during those July 1969 sessions. 

Speaking of inspiration - with John and Paul on duelling guitars and Harrison joining in on those three-guy harmony vocals - the power of "Oh! Darling" is shocking (the lyrics are tastily reproduced on Page 33, scribbled on Portland Club headed paper). Then of course Ringo gets his moment in the sun with the silly but enjoyable "Octopus's Garden" - Paul and George giving it some great harmonies as Ringo sings with that child-like wonder only he has (Take 32 was the master). Side 1 ends with the monster "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" - a brilliant and seriously accomplished piece of recording - Preston adding tasteful organ. If ever one song in this remaster was to show off the combined brilliance of the band - it's this brooding beast - the Bass playing - Lennon's seriously aggressive guitar attacks and that crescendo ending - it's not overwrought to my ears as some have suggested – it's bloody genius.

In direct contrast to the menace and brooding of 'heavy' - Side 2 opens with the literal sunshine of "Here Comes The Sun" - Harrison's second moment of glory on the album. The story goes that he was due to be at an Apple business meeting - Lawyers, Bankers, Accountants and various other money-men winding up the legal mess - when he just couldn't stand the idea of it and bunked off to Eric Clapton's home 20-miles south in Ewhurst, Surrey. Sat in the garden with acoustic guitar in hand, the tension-releasing melody to "Here Comes The Sun" popped into his head and out onto his fingers. The song was later finished on a holiday in Sardinia. The track also features eight woodwind players and with Electronic Music and its machinery still in its infancy – the Moog Synthesizer. The machine was a beast and is pictured on Page 42, a tangled wall of jack leads, knobs and modulators galore. The Middle Eight of "Here Comes The Sun" is also described by Harrison as "Son Of Badge" on the Lyrics repro’d on Page 41 - "Badge" being the Cream tune he had co-written with EC. George uses the Moog again on the gorgeous Lennon song "Because" – a perfect instrument counterpoint to the three dreamlike Lead Harmony Vocals (the Remaster here is superb). And on it goes to that fantastic guitar battle in the final segments before Paul gets all acoustic ditty on her indoors supping on a jug of wine.

The two CDs of outtakes are a strange brew of fabulous insight and slightly underwhelming noodle. It opens with an engineer at Abbey Road telling the boys that the neighbours have complained about the 'loud' session and could they tone it down - to which Lennon caustically preambles the take with "...last chance to be loud boys..." on his seven-minute moody rocker "I Want You..." And as you listen, you hear how Billy Preston's keyboard presence in the background elevates everything (such a smart move) giving that guitar crushing dominance some almost Yes Prog Rock organ melodies. Mary Hopkin would put "Goodbye" up at No. 2 for Apple Records in April and May 1969 - here we get Paul's demo that is pretty but hardly essential. However, we're then hit with both Harrison and Lennon on accomplished songwriting form with their Demo versions of "Something" and "The Ballad Of John And Yoko" - one man in love - the other angry and wanting to batter everyone. Both feel like genuine early-song magic - "Something" beautiful even in this stripped down form and "Ballad" with lyrics that hurt even now (fifty years after the press intrusion). Neither Harrison's "Old Brown Shoe" or Ringo's moment on "Octopus's Garden" leave much of an impression but Take 36 of "You Never Give Me Your Money" is a whole different ballgame. Recorded by a weary band at 2:30 a.m. - it still offers up five minutes of brilliance - more melodic guitar ideas than you can shake a stick at and must surely be one of their most underrated songs. And then "Golden Slumbers..." with its gorgeous piano makes you appreciate the finished cut with renewed wonder.

The Badfinger hit "Come And Get It" is presented on Disc 3 as a Paul McCartney demo that already has the song's winning arrangement fully in place but "The End" is sadly way too short and one of those instances where you wish it were six or seven minutes. However, the big draw is "The Long One" - an early edit of the Side 2 medley that slaps "Her Majesty" in the middle of the song-cycle instead at the tail end of the album and adds in some Liverpudlian shouts for "Polythene Pam" that were wisely edited out later. The piano refrain too is beautiful as it ends. Best of all are two 'string' versions of songs - "Something" and "Golden Slumbers" that feel like they were recorded for a project 40 years after 1969. They remind me of that "Eleanor Rigby" strings-only out-take on "Anthology 2" that blew so many away. For sure Discs 2 and 3 are very much for the fan and many may feel they'll never return to them again (so buy the single disc and leave it at that). But as someone who’s cherished this band and this long-playing record for so long, I'm psyched to hear them any old way.

To sum up – I had always expected to be impressed by this 50th Anniversary 2019 edition of "Abbey Road" – but what I hadn’t expected was to be so moved by it. And in the end (if the Fabs will forgive the pun), isn’t that the best recommendation of all. Half-a-century on and here comes the sun again...

With a dizzying array of issues to pick from, I've provided a format list below. But fans will notice that although selling sites are not surprisingly trying to differentiate between editions for befuddled customers, the titles on each of these 50th Anniversary releases doesn't actually say DELUXE EDITION or SUPER DELUXE EDITION or even 50th Anniversary anywhere (the sticker ‘titles’ can be a wee bit confusing). And the only way to get Disc 3 of the outtakes on digital is to buy the 4-Disc "Anniversary Edition".

FORMATS (all released 27 September 2019)
1. "Abbey Road: CD Anniversary Edition" - Apple/Universal Music Group International 0602508007439 (Barcode 602508007439) – a single CD version in a foldout tri-gatefold card sleeve with a new booklet – 2019 Remix by Giles Martin and Steve Okell based on the 2009 Stereo version

2. "Abbey Road: 2CD Anniversary Edition" - Apple/UMGI 0602577915079 (Barcode 602577915079) – a 2-CD Version where the second disc offers 16-tracks, a mixture of outakes from the "Abbey Road Sessions" featured on CD2 and CD3 in the Super Deluxe Anniversary Edition. CD2 tracks...
1. Come Together (Take 5)
2. Something (Studio Demo)
3. Maxwell's Silver Hammer (Take 12)
4. Oh! Darling (Take 4)
5. Octopus's Garden (Take 9)
6. I Want You (She's So Heavy) (Trident Recording Session & Reduction Mix)
7. Here Comes The Sun (Take 9)
8. Because (Take 1 - Instrumental)
9. You Never Give Me Your Money (Take 36)
10. Sun King (Take 20)
11. Mean Mr. Mustard (Take 20)
12. Polythene Pam (Take 27)
13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (Take 27)
14. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight (Takes 1-3)
15. The End (Take 3)
16. Her Majesty (Takes 1-3)

3. "Abbey Road: Anniversary Edition" - Apple/UMGI 0602577921124 (Barcode 602577921124) – A Super Deluxe Edition with 4-Discs, 3CDs and 1BLU RAY inside a 12" x 12" Hard Card Outer Case with a Hardback Book 

4. "Abbey Road" - Apple/UMGI 0602577915123 (Barcode 602577915123) - Single 180 Grams Remastered VINYL LP, Limited Edition. As in keeping with the original 1969 release, neither the rear sleeve nor the label on this 2019 reissue registers "Her Majesty" as a track. EMI have even aligned the APPLE Logo correctly beneath the Side 1 track list. The Giles Martin and Sam Okell Remix and Remaster is based on the 2009 Stereo version

5. "Abbey Road: Anniversary Edition Picture Disc" - Apple/UMGI 0602508048883 (Barcode 602508048883) - a Limited Edition that comes in a die-cut sleeve with the album picture disc artwork showing through, no booklet

6. "Abbey Road: Anniversary Edition" - Apple/UMGI 0602508007446 (Barcode 602508007446) - a Triple VINYL LP DELUXE EDITION in a Box. LP1 is the 2019 remix of the album, LP2 and LP3 carry all 23 of the CD2 and CD3 outtakes from the "Anniversary Edition" DELUXE BOX SET

7. "Abbey Road: Anniversary Edition" - Digital and Streaming Versions with 40 FLAC Files offering all of the Super Deluxe Edition (no catalogue numbers)

Sunday, 19 January 2020

"The Who Sell Out: Deluxe Edition" by THE WHO – Third Studio Album from 1967 featuring Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon (June 2009 Polydor/Universal 2-Disc DE Reissue with both Mono and Stereo Mixes and more – Jon Astley and Andy McPherson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Get Saucy..."

Thin Lizzy, Bob Marley & The Wailers and The Who share an unlikely bond - an abundance of 'Deluxe Edition' reissues from Universal (Black Sabbath and Fairport Convention too for that matter). Yet despite such lavish attention, some remain unloved and sulking in the reissue corner of a battered megastore near you.

Patchy album number three for England's favourite reprobates - 1967's "The Who Sell Out" - is more often than not overlooked for the British band's more famous and dare-we-say-it accomplished fare like 1969's "Tommy", 1971's "Who's Next" and 1973's Mod double "Quadrophenia". Why? Not everyone at the time felt the Radio London, Premier Drums and Roto Strings jingles and adverts between the 1967 tracks made it an essential listen but instead more of a gimmick - complete with its silly-billy artwork. And in the cold light of 2018 - even the most rabid Who nut would have to agree that the listen is still unnecessarily awkward - the actual songs on "Sell Out" swamped with unnecessary fluff around them (period charm or no).

But I'd like to argue that for lifetime fans like me (and newcomers alike) - this 2009 'DELUXE EDITION' of "...Sell Out" is a wee bit of a reissue gem for an odd reason. Offering genuinely brilliant Extras on both jam-packed discs (79:10 and 75:55 minutes) - a geezer can rearrange the album into a more coherent listen minus all the clutter (and in STEREO too). And in a world of bloated and overpriced Super Deluxe Editions - this reasonably priced star in a double-CD car is cheap too (usually just above a tenner). There are rivers of baked beans to swim through and underarm deodorants to sniff and whiff - so let's get to the acne spots and loincloth men…here are the details…

UK released Friday, 2 June 2009 - "The Who Sell Out: Deluxe Edition" by THE WHO on Polydor/Universal 5315336 (Barcode 600753153369) is a 53-Track 2CD 'Deluxe Edition Reissue featuring both the Stereo and Mono mixes of the 1967 album and more and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (79:10 minutes):
The Original Stereo Album
1. Armenia City In The Sky
2. Heinz Baked Beans
3. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
4. Odorono
5. Tattoo
6. Our Love Was
7. I Can See For Miles
8. I Can't Reach You [Side 2]
9. Medac
10. Relax
11. Silas Stingy
12. Sunrise
13. Rael 1 & 2
Tracks 1 to 13 are the STEREO mix of their third studio album "The Who Sell Out" - released 16 December 1967 in the UK on Track Records 613 002 and December 1967 in the USA on Decca Records DL 74950. Produced by KIT LAMBERT - the album peaked at No. 13 in the UK and No. 48 on the US LP charts. Note: right from the opening song and in between most of the tracks are uncredited Jingles and Adverts from 1967 for varying Radio Stations and Musical Instrument Companies – these are listed in full detail on Pages 22, 23 and 24 of the booklet.

14. Rael - Naïve
15. Someone's Coming
16. Early Morning Cold Taxi
17. Jaguar
18. Coke After Coke
19. Glittering Girl
20. Summertime Blues
21. John Mason Cars
22. Girl's Eyes
23. Sodding About
24. Premier Drums (Full Version)
25. Odorono (Final Chorus)
26. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand (US Mirasound Version)
27. Things Go Better With Coke
28. In The Hall Of The Mountain King
29. Top Gear
30. Rael 1 & 2 (Remake Version)
Tracks 20, 24 and 30 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 16, 18, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28 and 29 Remastered from Original Mixes
Tracks 14, 15, 17, 19, 25 and 26 are1995 Remastered Remixes by Andy MacPherson and Jon Astley

Disc 2 (75:55 minutes):
The Original Mono Album
1. Armenia City In The Sky
2. Heinz Baked Beans
3. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
4. Odorono
5. Tattoo
6. Our Love Was
7. I Can See For Miles
8. I Can't Reach You [Side 2]
9. Medac
10. Relax
11. Silas Stingy
12. Sunrise
13. Rael 1 & 2
Tracks 1 to 13 are the MONO mix of their third studio album "The Who Sell Out" - released 16 December 1967 in the UK on Track Records 612 002 and December 1967 in the USA on Decca Records DL 4950. Produced by KIT LAMBERT - the album peaked at No. 13 in the UK and No. 48 on the US LP charts. Note: right from the opening song and in between most of the tracks are uncredited Jingles and Adverts from 1967 for varying Radio Stations and Musical Instrument Companies – these are listed in full detail on Pages 22, 23 and 24 of the booklet.

14. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand (US Single Mono Mix)
15. Someone's Coming (US Single Mono Mix)
16. Relax (Early Demo - Stereo)
17. Jaguar (Original Mono Mix)
18. Glittering Girl (Unreleased Stereo Version)
19. Tattoo (Early Mono Mix)
20. Our Love Was (Take 12 - Unissued Mono Mix)
21. Rotosound Strings (With Final Note - Stereo)
22. I Can See For Miles (Early Mono Mix)
23. Rael (Early Mono Mix)
Tracks 16 and 18 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 Remastered from Original Mixes

The 26-page oversized booklet has new liner notes from ANDY NEILL and a host of period photos - an advert for the American release on Decca Records showing the four boys on both sides of the witty album sleeve (Odorono Deodorant and Heinz Beans etc.) as well as a Jaguar Car advert where we're told their sleek front-grilled sex-o-machine offers 'grace, space and pace...' as well as a photo of Bassist Entwistle being handed a packet of Rotosound Strings by a grateful company-executive. Dave Marsh's liner notes for the July 1995 CD Remasters are repro'd in the first few pages followed by Andy Neill's essay entitled 'More Music'.

Release-delayed a month from November 1967 to December 1967 for copyright clearances of the jingles - legend has it that only 500 copies for each UK Mono and Stereo Track Records LP was released with a stickered sleeve declaring that you just got a 'Free Psychedelic Poster Inside' with your purchase. I mention this because while the Osiris-drawn poster for “I Can See For Miles” is reproduced on Page 8 (they also did the album poster) – it’s a bit of a major oversight not to have that original piece of packaging memorabilia reproduced anywhere in this new otherwise uber-thorough reissue. Where is the rare poster that so few have actually seen? Making up for that though are Stereo and Mono original master tape boxes (ABC Recording Studios) appearing beneath the two see-through CD trays and unseen outtake photos for the album shoot on the four flaps of the card digipak – one showing Daltrey sat in his laden bathtub looking ever so slightly worried as he offers a handful of cold baked beans to the camera (an overspill of red goo on the floor below).

But the big news is new Remasters for both the MONO and STEREO mixes from the original tapes with 11 Previously Unreleased Tracks and Mixes thrown in – long-standing WHO associates JON ASTLEY and ANDY McPHERSON handing the fabulous sounding transfers. Overall - it's very sweetly done. To the music…

"Sell Out" opens with a Radio London jingle where flanged voices urge listeners to keep that dial locked to their station on 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...' only to be followed by the blast of Speedy Keen's "Armenia City In The Sky" - THE WHO embracing the sound of the year - 1967 Psychedelia. "...Close your eyes and relax..." the lyrics advise as the band trashes across each speaker. Bassist John Entwistle provides the first real moment of wit-and-wisdom in the 'wots-for-tea darling' minute long "Heinz Beans". Always a highlight "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" is the first Townshend song where May can't cook and Cindy can't sew but Mary Anne has other much-in-demand skills.

Premier Drums and Radio London provide two blink-and-you-miss-them jingles followed by a Townshend ditty "Odorono" where a lady in a glittering gown can't hide her disappointment at the grubby hands of a false suitor. Daltrey finally emerges as lead vocalist with the wickedly good welcome-to-my-life Townshend song "Tattoo" followed by an RL 'Church of Your Choice' jingle. Shining like a summer morning is how the upbeat "Our Love Was" feels – The Who stretching out musically - a song where the complexity and daring of "Tommy" is already showing. Two more jingles and the clashing cool of "I Can See For Miles" ends Side 1 on a high (an obvious single - and England's 'See For Miles' named their reissue record label after the song).

Side 2 opens with Pete telling us that a Charles Atlas course of body-building can turn you into a beast of man - but he doesn’t sound too convinced. That's followed by his melodic "I Can't Reach You" – an emotional distances song - craning his neck for love but to no avail. Called "Spotted Henry" on the US album, Entwistle provides one minute of acne nonsense in "Medac" (smooth as a baby’s bottom) – far better is "Relax" from Townshend – a firm fan fave and for good reason. Entwistle provides the menacing "Silas Stingy" where a moneybags man gets short-shift – John reckons lying in the gutter is best for him. The Townshend-penned "Sunrise" is the kind of song that many felt was drowned out by the LP's clever-clever jingles – a gorgeous tender acoustic melody far better than the showy gimmickry surrounding it (for me "Sunrise" is a highlight here). The LP ends with five-minutes of "Rael 1 & 2" - an ambitious piece where the band try out new sounds that I feel are unfortunately lost in a cluttered production.

The first nugget amidst the Bonus material comes in the ‘see you here tomorrow’ brassy "Someone’s Coming" – a brilliant song that I feel should have replaced one of the lesser Entwistle songs on Side 2. For that matter "Early Morning Cold Taxi" is the same – another winner with a rare Townshend/Daltrey co-writing credit. "Summertime Blues" would of course become a barnstormer on "Live At Leeds" in 1970 but I'm loving the kick-ass studio version offered here. Other outtakes like "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" and "Sodding About" are dismissible – but I like the slightly sappy "Glittering Girl" and "Girl’s Eyes". Which brings me to 'my' rejiggered version of "Sell Out" playing as follows at a theatre near you (without the jingles):

Side 1:
1. Armenia City In The Sky
2. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
3. Tattoo
4. Someone's Coming
5. Our Love Was
6. I Can See For Miles

Side 2:
1. Relax
2. Early Morning Cold Taxi
3. Summertime Blues
4. Silas Stingy
5. Sunrise
6. Rael 1 & 2

Answers, flowers, death threats, specks of bubonic plague…on a postcard please…to...

"Tommy" by THE WHO – Fourth Studio Album, A 2LP Set from May 1969 on Decca (USA) and Track Records (UK) featuring Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon (11 November 2013 UK Polydor/Universal/Track Records 1CD Reissue - The Original Album 2013 Remaster – Jon Astley and Myles Clarke Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...


"...Amazing Journey..."

Some albums like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon", Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and Steely Dan's "Aja" have been subject to a mind-blowing amount of CD and Audiophile reissues in the UK, USA and Japan – and it seems like The Who's 1969 double-album Rock Opera "Tommy" has been the same.

But which one do you splash the cash on? Well from my itsy-bitsy seagull perch in sunny but pooped upon Margate, I'd argue that although the 2CD Deluxe Edition has that fab live set on Disc 2 as a genuine bonus (recorded in Canada and initially thought lost) - if you're on a budget and still want uncompromising quality - then this humble 2013 Single CD Remaster for under six quid is the proverbial dogs dangly bits. Here are the acid queens and pinball wizards...

UK released Friday, 11 November 2013 - "Tommy: The Original Album 2013 Remaster" by THE WHO on Polydor/Universal/Track Records 3747403 (Barcode 602537474035) is the original 1969 double-album reissued and remastered onto 1CD and plays out as follows (74:58 minutes):

1. Overture [Side 1]
2. It's A Boy
3. 1921
4. Amazing Journey
5. Sparks
6. Eyesight For The Blind (The Hawker)
7. Christmas [Side 2]
8. Cousin Kevin
9. The Acid Queen
10. Underture
11. Do You Think It's Alright? [Side 3]
12. Fiddle About
13. Pinball Wizard
14. There's A Doctor
15. Go To The Mirror!
16. Tommy Can You Hear Me?
17. Smash The Mirror
18. Sensation
19. Miracle Cure [Side 4]
20. Sally Simpson
21. I'm Free
22. Welcome
23. Tommy's Holiday Camp
24. We're Not Gonna Take It
Tracks 1 to 24 are the double-album "Tommy" - released 17 May 1969 in the USA on Decca DSXW 7205 and 23 May 1969 in the UK on Track Records 613 013/4. Original copies came with a 'libretto' booklet featuring lyrics and drawings pertinent to the 'Rock Opera' – all of it is reproduced in the 24-page CD booklet with added reissue credits. Pete Townshend wrote all the songs except "Cousin Kevin" and "Fiddle About" by John Entwistle, "Tommy's Holiday Camp” by Keith Moon and "Eyesight To The Blind" aka "The Hawker" which is a cover of a Sonny Boy Williamson song. It peaked at No. 2 and No. 4 respectively on the UK and US albums charts.

THE WHO was:
ROGER DALTREY – Lead Vocals and Harmonica
PETE TOWNSHEND – Guitars, Keyboards, Lead and Backing Vocals
JOHN ENTWISTLE – Bass, French Horn, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Lead and Backing Vocals
KEITH MOON – Drums, Tympani, Gong, Tambourine, Lead and Backing Vocals

Two things jump to mind – the fabulous new 2013 sound that feels like a real improvement on the overly loud 1996 initial effort and the underwhelming 2003 SACD effort. This latest audio restoration return to the original tapes by JON ASTLEY and MYLES CLARKE now sports a rather beautifully balanced feel between poise and power – much like the music itself. The acoustic guitar strings rattle and the riffs punch like they have been unleashed and on faves like the five-minutes of "Amazing Journey", the gorgeously rich acoustic/drums ten minutes of "Underture" and the gloriously bombastic finisher "We're Not Going to Take It" – you want to press replay to go back to the start - take me away once again baby (surely the best compliment a Remaster can be given).

The other thing that jumps to mind once you've settled in with the reissue is that while the booklet at 24-pages is aesthetically pleasing to look at – it's a damn shame that an essay on the double-album's history and impact wasn't included – especially given Tommy's astonishing 50-year legacy. I can remember as a kid pouring over every nuance of this beasty and every time it felt like you discovered something new. There is no sense of that impact on this singular CD version which is a shame...still to the good bits...

The opening strums of "Overture" leap out of the speakers, as does that familiar acoustic/electric guitar melody - horns too. "It's A Boy Mrs. Walker..." Townshend sings and the clarity is fabulous as is that segue into "1921" which as I recall dipped a little on the SACD version I've had. Entwistle's Bass notes threaten your living room on "Sparks" while their cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight To The Blind" (changed over the years to "The Hawker" from the original label name) hears Daltrey and Moon right up in yer face. Side 2 opens with "Christmas" where children wake up 'excited' but Tommy doesn't know what day it is - silent and unaware of anything. The deeply sinister "Cousin Kevin" is the first of two Entwistle compositions - the other is "Fiddle About" - both featuring abuse of the deaf, dumb and blind kid. I remember I had the picture sleeve single of "Acid Queen" when Merry Clayton covered it for the 1973 double-remake of Tommy - it was issued as a 45 in the UK on Ode Records with "Underture" as its flipside (ODS 66301). Here the Who original remaster feels huge, as does "Underture" in all its instrumental glory. By the time we get to "Pinball Wizard" (the obvious single) - I'm sold on this 2013 version - fantastic song that stills packs a whack (sure plays a mean pinball for sure). And on it goes to forgotten album gems like the ego-trip song "Sensation", the blue Rolls Royce tune "Sally Simpson" and the unexpectedly pretty "Welcome" - finally stomping its legend status with "I'm Free" and that massive finisher "We're Not Going To Take It" where Tommy is aware and advising you to put in your earplugs...

For sure in 2020, "Tommy" is of its 1969 time and truth be told, I probably return more to their 1973 double "Quadrophenia" because in my mind anyway, the music is even better. But what a great urge-splurge this early studio double-album was and still is. Re-visiting "Tommy" has been a joy and revelation.

See me, feel me, touch me - well I think this latest variant allows a punter to do just that – and for not a lot of wedge either...

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