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Monday, 3 May 2021

"Minstrel In The Gallery" by JETHRO TULL – September 1975 UK and US Eight Studio Album on Chrysalis Records featuring Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evan, Jeffery Hammond-Hammond with Barriemore Barlow – Guests Include Orchestral Arrangements by David Palmer (May 2015 UK Chrysalis 40th Anniversary Edition 1CD Reissue Version – A New Steven Wilson Stereo Remix) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Mother England Reverie..."

Tull's eight studio-album of Folk/Prog Rock "Minstrel In The Gallery" originally hit the shops in vinyl form in September 1975 and has been subject to many digital variants ever since. But this May 2015 beauty from remix/remaster maestro Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) is the very best – thorough, affectionately handled and revealing in ways that none before have ever been. As with all things JT-reissue, the Wilster has only gone and done it again...

There are two UK/EUROPE CD variants issued on the same day 5 May 2015 – the Deluxe 2CD + 1DVD "La Grande Edition" on Chrysalis 0825646157204 (Barcode 0825646157204) that comes in an 80-page Hardback Digibook presentation. It offers seven Bonus Tracks on CD1, a Jakko Jakszyk Stereo Remix of a 5 July 1975 live show staged at the Palais Des Sports in Paris on CD2 with the album presented in 5.1 Surround and other various digital mixes on the DVD-A. Tull aficionados will have to own the book baby – a thing of beauty and reissue excellence bar none. But the rest of us will only need to settle for Door No. 1...

What we have here is the plain-old single-CD '40th Anniversary Edition' variant with its chock-a-block 24-page booklet and that masterful Steve Wilson Remaster in tow. So once more my balcony babies to the Mother England Reverie...

UK released Friday, 5 May 2015 - "Minstrel In The Gallery" by JETHRO TULL on Chrysalis 0825646157181 (Barcode 0825646157181) is a 40th Anniversary Edition Single-CD Reissue with a New Stereo Remix/Remaster from Steven Wilson that plays out as follows (45:11 minutes): 

Side 1:
1. Minstrel In The Gallery
2. Cold Wind To Valhalla 
3. Black Satin Dancer 
4. Requiem 

Side 2
5. One White Duck/o10 = Nothing At All
6. Tracks 6 to 10 are five-parts of the "Baker St. Muse" Suite
(6) Baker St. Muse 
(7) Pig-Me And The Whore 
(8) Nice Little Time 
(9) Crash-Barrier Waltzer 
(10) Mother England Reverie 
11. Grace 
Tracks 1 to 11 is their eight studio-album "Minstrel In The Gallery" – released September 1975 in the UK and USA on Chrysalis CHR 1082 (same catalogue number for both countries). Produced by IAN ANDERSON – it peaked at No. 7 in the USA and No. 20 in the UK LP charts. 

For a single CD reissue pitched at roughly seven quid new, the booklet is huge. The massively detailed DAVID WEBB essay is wittily called 'The Full Monte' after Tull had (for tax reasons) decamped to Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco on the French Riviera to record the album at a newly rigged out studio there with the latest tech. Four of the original five band members - Ian Anderson (Lead Vocals, Flute, Principal Songwriter), Martine Barre (Electric Guitars), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (Bass), Barrimore Barlow (Drums and Percussion) relay the story to Webb with the text peppered by period photos. The fifth member of the band was Keyboardist John Evan and there were string arrangements by David Palmer. 

But the big news is a new Stereo Remix and Remaster by STEVE WILSON whose name is now synonymous with these Jethro Tull reissues. In the second last page of the booklet he goes into full-on nerd mode by telling us that Martin Barre's guitar solo on "Cold Wind In Valhalla" has tape echo employed to enhance the notes as they ping from left to right channels. We non-techno-wizard types might not know our oscillator from our fretboard sustain – but there's no doubting the feeling you get of attention-having-been-paid as you play this CD. The clarity is fabulous and powerful. Those who have held a candle for "Minstrel In The Gallery" will be moved and not just pleased. 

A couple of weeks prior to the LP's 8 September 1975 UK release, Chrysalis took the self-titled album opener "Minstrel In The Gallery" in all its 8:18minute pomp and pumpkin-eater glory and edited down to a usable 45-single of 4:10 minutes. Issued 22 August 1975, Chrysalis CHS 2075 also sported a non-LP B-side in the shape of "Summerday Sands" which is available on the "La Grande Edition" set. Although hardcore Blighty fans probably bought copies at the time, it's American issue on Chrysalis CHS 2016 (August 1975 too) actually charted - albeit at a lowly No. 89. The combo of flute, strings and acoustic comes out of your speakers with gorgeous musicality when "Cold Wind To Valhalla" hits your man-palace and then you hear those cool electric guitar licks Wilson was talking about in the liner notes - brilliant. 

Guitars ping in combination with serious string arrangements on "Black Satin Dancer" and when it dips in that bells and cymbals moment - the clarity is fantastic. Side 1 ends with the LP's prettiest moment - Anderson's voice shimmering on "Requiem" and once again, hero of the hour is David Palmer conducting Violinists Elizabeth Edwards, Rita Eddowes and Bridget Proctor alongside Cellist Katherine Thulborn. Anyone who has had fondness for the album will wipe away a Proggy tear at this one. 

Side 2 opens with soft acoustic guitars catching a ride on violins, picture postcards of music for the two-parter "One White Duck/o10 = Nothing At All". I'd forgotten how good this is - deep and yet accessible - a perfect line-up for the LP's big one - the five-parts of "Baker St. Muse". Newspaper warriors chase headlines that thrill - Barre's guitar parts so Zappa-like- accomplished instrumental passages in "Nice Little Tune". But the section I like the most is the one-band-man of "Mother England Reverie" – a little boy sitting on a burning log dreaming of being a Minstrel In The gallery one day. And it all ends on the pretty ditty of "Grace" – a lone violin fading out what feels like a far better album than 1973's two-sider "Thick As A Brick" which is somehow revered more.

In some respects you can't help thinking that 1975's "Minstrel In The Gallery" is the forgotten gem in Jethro Tull's arsenal – a public (as I recall at the time) having had their confidence in the band tested by "A Passion Play" just a tad too much.

They would go on to even greater success of course – especially in the USA - who took Tull's Blighty Prog musings to heart – even in the years when they were as unfashionable as a band could get. But what clobbers you here is the Audio that has somehow elevated this LP way up high - high enough for us to notice the five-piece up in the gallery area waving with a glint in their collective beady eye...

Saturday, 1 May 2021

"Hokey Pokey" by RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON – March 1975 UK Second Album on Island Records featuring Simon Nicol of Fairport Convention, Pat Donaldson of Poet And The One Man Band and Fotheringay, Ian Whiteman of Mighty Baby, John Kirkpatrick of Steeleye Span and The Albion Band, Timi Donald of Trash and Blue with Aly Bain of The Boys Of The Lough (April 2004 UK Universal/Island Remasters Expanded Edition CD Reissue and Remaster with Five Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Ice Cream Songs..."

Following on from their April 1974 debut album as a duo - Richard and Linda Thompson matched "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" in my eyes with their first platter of 1975 - "Hokey Pokey" ("Pour Down Like Silver" would make it a trio of album releases in November 1975). Chock full of melodies - fast ones and slow ones that all hooked you in such subtle ways - I also liked that slightly drunk-sodden feel to the tunes. No doubt about it, there was something cool and musical about the pair of them when they hooked up with their natural home - Chris Blackwell's Island Records. 

This 2004 'Island Remasters' Expanded Edition also offers five tasty extras - four of which are Previously Unreleased. There's three from BBC sessions plus two live cuts including one recorded November 1975 at Oxford that first appeared on the Island Records retrospective double-album "Guitar, Vocal" in 1976. They're not exactly Audiophile it has to be said (Linda's vocals especially) – but they do show that the Thompson band dynamic was in raring form on the live front too - RT ripping into his guitar on the title track "Hokey Pokey". The Remaster of the album is lovely. Let's get to the Smiffy's Glass Eye and the Ice Cream Songs...

UK released April 2004 - "Hokey Pokey" by RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON on Universal/Island Remasters IMCD 305 / 981 790-6 (Barcode 602498179062) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster with Five Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (67:43 minutes):

1. Hokey Pokey (The Ice Cream Song) [Side 1]
2. I'll Regret It All In The Morning 
3. Smiffy's Glass Eye 
4. The Egypt Room 
5. Never Again 
6. Georgia On A Spree [Side 2]
7. Old Man Inside A Young Man 
8. The Sun Never Shines On The Poor 
9. A Heart Needs A Home 
10. Mole In A Hole 
Tracks 1 to 10 are their second album "Hokey Pokey" (as Richard and Linda Thompson) - released March 1975 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9305 (same release date and catalogue number for the USA). Produced by JOHN WOOD and SIMON NICOL with all songs written by RT except "Mole In A Hole" by Mike Waterson - it didn't chart in either country. 

11. Wishing (Live)
12. I'm Turning off A Memory (Live)
13. A Heart Needs A Home (Live)
Tracks 11 to 13 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED, recorded for the John Peel Show 11 February 1975, first transmitted 24 February 1975 
14. Hokey Pokey (Live)
Track 14 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED, recorded live at The Roundhouse 
15. It'll Be Me (Live) 
Track 15 recorded November 1975 in Oxford, first issued on the May 1976 UK 2LP compilation "Guitar, Vocal" on Island Records ICD 8 (it was called "Live More Or Less" in the USA with the same catalogue no)

LINDA THOMPSON – Lead and Duet Vocals 
RICHARD THOMPSON – Lead and Duet Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Mandolin, Electric and Hammered Dulcimer and Piano 
SIMON NICOL (of Fairport Convention) – Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Piano and Backing Vocals 
IAN WHITEMAN (of Mighty Baby) – Organ and Piano 
ALY BAIN (of The Boys Of The Lough) – Violin and Fiddle 
JOHN KIRKPATRICK (of Steeleye Span and The Albion Band) – Accordion 
PAT DONALDSON (ex Poet and The One Man Band and Fotheringay) – Bass 
TIMI DONALD (ex Trash, later with Blue) – Drums and Percussion 

The outer card slipcase afforded original April 2004 issues of the three Richard and Linda Thompson CDs lends each release a feel of classiness. The 12-page booklet thankfully reproduces the lyrics that appeared on the UK LP's inner sleeve (inside the Gatefold sleeve of the US issue) while DAVID SUFF of Folk Music Reissue Specialists Fledg'ling Records does the short but hugely informative liner notes. Doesn't say who did the Remaster but it 'feels' like the masterful hand of Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering - either way - whomever transferred these original master tapes did the business by them. 

Aly Bain of Folk Group The Boys Of The Lough provides the fiddle on the wickedly good opener "Hokey Pokey" - but it's Linda's 'shiver down your spine' vocals and RT's fantastic guitar soloing that thrills - the whole shebang just working so sweetly. Things slow down and beautifully so with the whiskey-head hurt that lingers in the slyly acidic "I'll Regret It All In The Morning" - someone succumbing to the wiles of the flesh just once too often. Disfigurement and the cruelty it evokes in smaller crueller minds is the subject of the strangely sad-happy "Smiffy's Glass Eye" - girls laughing - girls not interested - until the heartache became too much. Diamonds flash, ruby rings glitter and bloodshot eyes blink in the lowlife shimmy-dance of "The Egypt Room" - Hobnail Kelly and the Beefcake Kid in town to catch the princess as she beguiles. Side 1 closes on a softer note, "Never Again" sounding so clean and clear as Linda asks who will remember the salt tears of lovers, the whispers of a lover and friend gone too soon - a song that apparently harks all the way back to 1969 when RT lost his then girlfriend Jeannie Franklyn in that infamous Fairport Convention motorway crash. 

Side 2 goes Country Rock with "Georgie On A Spree" - Linda relaying a sad tale of Isabel and her flash beau Georgie - King and Queen - with all the girls mad jealous as he drives his Chevrolet by - Isabel lording it in the passenger seat. Better for me is the fabulous "Old Man Inside A Young Man" - a so-Richard Thompson world-weary tale of old Billy rueing his loveless lot - tired of the madams who know how to extract cash from his loneliness. I know many adore "The Sun Never Shines On The Poor" - but I find its urchins writhing around in the bourgeoisie mud just a little too downtrodden masses for comfort. Having said that those acoustic guitars sound gorgeous on the Remaster. I feel fairly certain that many fans like myself would have raced towards the wistful ballad "A Heart Needs A Home" on this CD Remaster - eyes crying rivers - the world is no place to be in when you're on your own. 

The extras open with two Country rocked-up cover versions - Buddy Holly's "Wishing" and Merle Haggard's "I'm Turning Off A Memory" - both of which are good. Not surprisingly they also do one of the LP's strongest songs "A Heart Needs A Home" and the piano playing is lovely. Two live stints hit you and despite not having the greatest audio in the world, the accordion and guitar work in "Hokey Pokey" both sing (a sure fan pleasing moment). They then do another cover that of Jack Clement's "It'll Be Me" - a bopper in the Crawdaddy tradition - me looking for you - where the lights are blue...

There are some who say that "Hokey Pokey" is actually one of his best albums. I don't know about that in truth, but the musical gems on Island Remasters IMCD 305, the top class audio, the cool enhanced presentation and all of it washed down with a clutch of genuinely interesting extras - make this a proper CD reissue winner in my book. Give this one a lick when the ice cream bell rings out in your street...

Thursday, 29 April 2021

"The Original Soundtrack" by 10cc РMarch 1975 UK Third Studio Album on Mercury Records featuring Kevin Godley, Lol Cr̬me, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart (July 1997 UK Mercury 'Digitally Remastered' CD Reissue РExpanded Edition with Two Non-LP B-sides as Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...The Flush Of Success Relieves A Constipated Mind..."

The boys in the band sang, "Something's cooking, and it might be you..." 

I remember when I first heard this extraordinary album by the ultimate Mancunian four-piece band - 10cc. In some respects it was like hearing "Sgt. Peppers" from 1967 all over again, because in March 1975 you didn't know where to look, such was the innovation and cleverness displayed on every single convoluted song. 

Wrapped in stunning (if not a tad too convoluted) tunes and Audiophile-type Production values, its matt gatefold sleeve and lyric insert gave the album the feel of event rather than just another release. These guys had worked like Billy-o on this sucker and it showed – an album that did indeed paint moving pictures and feel like their accompanying musical score. "The Original Soundtrack" has always been a gorgeous Vinyl LP to look at - and hear - and some 45 years plus after the event, remains so still. 

So even though this CD variant from July 1997 could really do with an upgrade in terms of presentation and more expanded extras (the 4:08 minute single edit of "Life Is A Minestrone" followed by the 3:46 minute single edit of "I'm Not In Love" for starters) – this Digitally Remastered and Expanded CD Edition still packs a serious aural Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in its digital pores. 

So - Gendarmes going to Hell in Paris, sleazy photographs in Soho, another honky on the dole, Mini Mouse getting more fan-mail than the Pope, portraits hiding nasty stains on the wall, big boys that should be quiet and not cry - let's get this romance cooking honey and return to their fourth Seventies classic...

UK released June 1997 - "The Original Soundtrack" by 10cc on Mercury 532 964-2 (Barcode 731453296428) is a Digitally Remastered Expanded Edition CD Reissue with Two Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (48:53 minutes): 

1. Une Nuit A Paris [Side 1]
Part 1 - One Night In Paris 
Part 2 - The Same Night In Paris 
Part 3 - Later The Same Night In Paris
2. I'm Not In Love 
3. Blackmail 
4. The Second Sitting For The Last Supper [Side 2]
5. Brand New Day 
6. Flying Junk 
7. Life Is A Minestrone 
8. The Film Of My Love 
Tracks 1 to 8 are their fourth studio album "The Original Soundtrack" - released March 1975 in the UK on Mercury Records 9102 500 and April 1975 in the USA on Mercury SRM-1-1029. Produced by 10cc - it peaked at No. 3 in the UK and No. 15 in the US LP charts. 

9. Channel Swimmer 
Track 9 is the 25 March 1975 UK 45-single on Mercury 6008 010, Non-LP B-side of "Life Is A Minestrone" 

10. Good News 
Track 10 is the 23 May 1975 UK 45-single on Mercury 6008 014, Non-LP B-side of "I'm Not In Love"

The 8-page booklet is both good and bad. Only the front cover of the LP is represented - with the inner gatefold, rear cover and especially that hugely detailed lyric-insert - all AWOL. In their place is a new set of liner notes from ROB STEEN that are witty and super-affectionate with further track-by-track info from 10cc-man GRAHAM GOULDMAN. Typically his observations are erudite, sarcastic without being condescending and filled with factoids only the maker knows about. 

ROGER WAKE who did all the Strawbs and Joan Armatrading CD Remasters on A&M Records – handles the Remaster here and its lovely. Some say the Mobile Fidelity issue that followed (I think it was 1999) is better – but that US-only Audiophile CD is cost prohibitive in 2021 – while this beauty is a smidge above a fiver – and less on secondhand internet sites. To the music...

Apparently the three-part "One Night In Paris" suite was a Side-long 20-minute opus at one point but they decided it was too boring, so chopped in down to a mere eight and half minutes. And this is where the missing lyrics start to pinch. The wit and razor-blade wisdom that's inherent in 10cc songs means that the smarts in the words start to come at you fast and furious right from the off and you wish you could keep up. Layer after layer of music is intertwined with onion soup French accents, but this is nothing to the wall of synths that greets you for the iconic "I'm Not In Love" - still moving and so unique. The bippity boppity boo jaunt in "Blackmail" belies just how nasty the subject matter is as the guitars rip from speaker to speaker.

The opener on Side 2 "The Second Sitting Of The Last Supper" is the closest the LP gets to an out-and-out Rock song ala Zeppelin - a song about the Messiah returning reluctantly. It's huge in this Remaster. They use the Gizmo on the guitars for the swirling etherial "Brand New Day" - a rather lovely tune in a strange piano-plinking way that I return to more often than others. Autoharp and processed acoustic guitars fill the non-drugs tune "Flying Junk" - no doubt a reaction to the sheer amount of Charlie swirling around the music business at that time - expanding minds supposedly but also expanding paranoia and addiction. 

I've always loved that fade in on the brilliant "Life Is A Minestrone" - catchy as a seaside chill chorus and those hilarious lyrics too - what a winner - it's also one of my fave singles of theirs. "Film Of My Love" is my least fave on the LP and the B-sides are just that - good but not great. Having said that, it's cool to have these rare flip-sides in digital form. And also included in this 'Digitally Remastered' Series are "How Dare You" (1976), "Deceptive Bends" (1977) and "Bloody Tourists" (1978). 

"...The seat of learning and the flush of success relieves a constipated mind..." – they sang on the witty brilliant Pop of "Life Is A Minestrone". Don't get stuck between a bog and a hard place (sorry about that pun) and never mind your crepe suzette - get your ten cc's worth right here. Genius and then some my sons...

"Fandango!" by ZZ TOP – May 1975 Album on London Records with First Side Being Live (Without Overdubs) and the Second Side Being Studio Tracks - featuring Billy F. Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (February 2006 UK Warner Brothers Remastered And Expanded CD Reissue with Three Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Downtown Tush..."

The fantastically named ZZ TOP had been building up a serious head of steam since their January 1971 US debut "ZZ Top's First Album" on London Records - a natural home for a Texas Blues Rock band. 

But things really started to boil on platters number 2 and 3 - "Rio Grande Mud" released April 1972 and especially "Tres Hombres" from August 1973. The stunning Blues Boogie riffage of "La Grange' from "Rio Grande Mud" had gotten everyone's attention (especially American FM Radio) – so the Tops needed a big fat juicy follow-up winner – a 45-juggernaut - and "Tush" from 1975's "Fandango!" nailed it like Anthony Hopkins anywhere near an Oscar performance.

Which brings us to this – the 'Newly Remastered And Expanded' CD Edition of "Fandango!" from late 2006 – over 30 years after the main event first appeared. Time for details, so to the girls turning up at gigs with a new boyfriend and your old jeans that went missing just before she left (eek)...

UK released 28 February 2006 - "Fandango!" by ZZ TOP on Warner Bothers 8122-78965-2 (Barcode 081227896522) is a Newly Remastered And Expanded CD Reissue of their Fourth Album from 1975 with Three Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (42:04 minutes):

1. Thunderbird [Side 1]
2. Jailhouse Rock
3. Backdoor Medley: Backdoor Love Affair/Mellow Down Easy/Backdoor Love Affair No.2/Long Distance Boogie
4. Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings [Side 2]
5. Blue Jean Blues 
6. Balinese 
7. Mexican Blackbird 
8. Heard It On The X
9. Tush
Tracks 1 to 9 are their fourth LP "Fandango!" – released May 1975 in the USA on London PS 656 and June 1975 in the UK on London SH-U 8482. The three 'live' cuts of Side 1 were recorded without overdubs at the Warehouse venue in the Waterfront District of New Orleans - while Side 2 sports five new Studio Tracks. Produced by BILL HAM – the LP peaked at No. 10 in the USA and No. 60 in the UK. 

10. Heard It On The X (Live) 
11. Jailhouse Rock (Live)  
12. Tush (Live) 
All three Bonus Tracks recorded live in 1979 and are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED 

Some history - sporadic tracks from "Fandango!" have cropped up in remastered form on the 2003 "Chrome, Smoke & BBQ" 4CD Retro Box Set - whilst there is also a Remastered version of the whole album minus the bonuses (33:51 minutes) in repro card sleeve form in the June 2013 Box Set "The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990" on Warner Brothers 8122796519 – a 10CD mini clamshell whopper of a box set that goes all the way from 1971's debut up to their "Recycler" album from October 1990. 

Here we get a 12-page booklet with hugely entertaining and informative liner notes from TOM VICKERS - a friend and admirer of the band since the Seventies. The front and rear artwork of the single sleeve original LP is here (nudie suits and ten-gallon hats ahoy) as are some period photos of the 'Little Trio From Texas' including an overhead shot of 80,000 arena friends in 1974 (see photos provided). The band was (still is) BILLY F GIBBONS on Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals and Harmonica with DUSTY HILL on Bass and Vocals and FRANK BEARD on Drums (the only one who ironically did not sport a beard as a part of their recognisable look for decades to come). 

But the big news is of course a BOB LUDWIG Remaster done from original master tapes at his Gateway Mastering Studios, and as you can imagine, this rowdy little sucker is not shy in any way as it exits your slightly shell-shocked speakers. It sounds 'great'. To the tunes and those complimentary extras... 

The smart move on their Texas Threesome part was to show both sides of the band – Side 1 of the LP live and undubbed – gritty, down and dirty as a bar stool in Little Joe’s Bourbon Bordello out on Highway 29. Those of us who bought the LP at the time will remember the wording on the rear sleeve - "Side One Live Recorded At The Warehouse, New Orleans Captured As It Came Down - Hot, Spontaneous - And Presented To You Honestly, Without The Assistance Of Studio Gimmicks". And that’s pretty much what you get. 

After the roar of the crowd, a drum roll and an excited compare asking the collective punters are they 'ready to rawk' (they were) - ZZ Top launch into a new song called "Thunderbird" where they sing about getting high, high, high. It's a storming opening and even though a new tune, feels like a friend you missed. Dusty's hero had always been Elvis Presley (they relay a story about stumbling on him in his limousine one day as they travelling to a Memphis gig) - so not surprisingly they tear through "Jailhouse Rock". A tune that's been overdone for sure, but ZZ give it some fantastic new Rock licks and suddenly those lyrics about "...wanna stick around and get my kicks..." have a new urgency. Side 1 ends with a nine and half minute tour-de-force medley. They mix in the Willie Dixon-penned Little Walter tune "Mellow Down Easy" into two of their own - "Backdoor Love Affair" and "Long Distance Boogie". As the drums pound and the rapid pace is maintained - Billy raps with the crowd between singing - let that boy Boogie Woogie way down in New Orleans. It's great fun and despite being only a three-piece, they make a huge sound as they romp on home.   

But then we get their greatness reaffirmed as the Studio Side 2 opens with the fantastically dirty riffage of "Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings" - the Remaster giving it some real power at last. There follows what has to be one of my favourite Blues lurches of theirs - the tale of "Blue Jean Blues". Frank Beard done ran into his baby and finally found his old blue jeans (he recognises them from the oil and gasoline) only she's wearing them for some other lowlife skank (stunning Blues playing throughout too). More tales of dodgy goings-on down at the "Balinese" and then a gal who works the cantina then dances and loves the boys in "Mexican Blackbird". The rapido riffage returns with "Heard It On The X" – tunes from their past whizzing through the air – listening to the radio as it lifted and enlightened. The Remaster brings up that so-cool guitar solo – top indeed. 

The album ends on a total winner. The seven-inch 45-single "Tush" was issued July 1975 in the USA on London 5N-220 in a picture sleeve and 11 July 1975 in England on London HLU 10495 in a label bag – both issues with the cool "Blue Jean Blues" on the flipside. This is my idea of a masterpiece 45-single – both sides impossibly great. The Blighty issue created interest in the album (didn't chart though), but it hit big in the USA, peaking at No. 20 – an improvement over the No. 40 placing of its American little brother "La Grange" in May 1974 (a minor blip for the booklet is not picturing the rare US cartoon sleeve). The short, sweet and to-the-point riffage of "Tush" has been used in countless movies since - "Armageddon", "Dazed And Confused" and "The Bucket List" to name but a few and in great TV series like "Breaking Bad". 

The three previously unreleased live choices recorded four years after the "Fandango!" album (no dates or venues are supplied) reflect tracks that were on the original 1975 LP. And it is clear that the years have helped because they are honed and crafted into mini aural beasts – stunning air and atmosphere around them – a fitting end to a very successful and pleasing reissue. 

Dusty F. Gibbons sees his third solo album "Hardware" issued in June 2021 with many advance orders and excited Stereo trigger-fingers waiting anxiously to get their grubby paws on it. But if you want to know why ZZ Top was so adored in the first place, this gritty little Balinese CD Remaster is the perfect place to go. 

Fifty years plus and that 'little 'ol band from Texas' still continue to cast a long shadow...and isn't that just the Blues Rock best...

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

"Atlantic Crossing" by ROD STEWART – August 1975 UK and US Sixth Studio Album on Warner Brothers Records featuring Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn of Booker T & The M.G.'s, Jesse Ed Davis, Jimmy Johnson, Fred Tackett, David Lindley, Barry Beckett, Nigel Olsson and The Memphis Horns (November 2000 UK Warner Brothers CD Reissue in the 'Warner Remasters' Series – Patrick Kraus Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Home Again...Across The Sea..."

Issued in Blighty in November 2000 - can this forgotten CD Remaster really be 'over' 20 years old in 2021? Well it is - and at just above a fiver-English (brand new and sealed) from darling Jeff and his Amazonian hoards – tis still bloody good value for money too. 

Common consensus tells us that Rodders lost something in his transition from fantastic Faces frontman vocalist intertwined with a stunning solo career in the first half of the Seventies when he segued to this - his August 1975 Warner Brothers big Stateside push that came complete with a model wife, saffron scarf, bubbly glass in hand, Art acquisitions on the Malibu walls and burgers bigger than Kenny Everett's bum-pads in that now infamous slag-off sketch (very sexy Ken).  

But actually, as far as I'm concerned, the musical rot did not really start in until December 1978's "Blondes Have More Fun". I know some of the more sexist tunes like "Hot Legs" were hard to take then and even more so now – but like most fans of my advanced years, I've always held a torch for "Atlantic Crossing" (1975), "A Night On The Town" (1976) and "Foot Loose And Fancy Free" (1977)  - a trio of good to occasionally great albums in a period where most Rock acts were either floundering or downright superfluous to Rock 'n' Roll requirements. I don't want to talk about it – how you broke my heart - yes I do - here are the boozy half-and-half pass-the-champagne-Britt details...

UK released November 2000 - "Atlantic Crossing" by ROD STEWART on Warner Brothers 9362-47729-2 (Barcode 093624772927) is part of the Warner Remasters Series and is a straightforward CD reissue of his 1975 LP that plays out as follows (44:27 minutes):

Fast Half 
1. Three Time Loser [Side 1]
2. Alright For An Hour 
3. All In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll 
4. Drift Away 
5. Stone Cold Sober 
Slow Half
6. I Don't Want To Talk About It [Side 2]
7. It's Not The Spotlight 
8. This Old Heart Of Mine 
9. Still Love You
10. Sailing 
Tracks 1 to 10 are his sixth studio album "Atlantic Crossing" - released August 1975 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56151 (reissued January 1978 on his own label Riva Records RVLP 4) and August 1975 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2875. Produced by TOM DOWD - it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 9 in the US album charts. "Three Time Loser", "All In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Still Love You" written by Rod Stewart - "Alright For An Hour" co-written with Jesse Ed Davis while "Stone Cold Sober" was co-written with Steve Cropper of Booker T & The M.G.'s. The other five tracks are cover versions (each discussed below).

MUSICIANS featured were:
GUITARS - Steve Cropper (Booker T & The M.G.'s), Jesse Ed Davis, Jimmy Johnson and Fred Tackett 
MANDOLIN and VIOLIN - David Lindley 
KEYBOARDS - Barry Beckett and Albhy Galuten
HORNS - The Memphis Horns 
BASS - Duck Dunn (Booker T & The M.G.'s), Bob Glaub, David Hood and Lee Sklar 
DRUMS and PERCUSSION - Willie Correa, Roger Hawkins, Al Jackson and Nigel Olsson (Elton John's Band)
BACKING VOCALS - Cindy and Bob Singers, The Pets and The Clappers  
STRING ARRANGEMENTS - Arif Mardin for "Sailing" and "I Don't Want To Talk About It" - James Mitchell for "This Old Heart Of Mine"

The foldout three-way gatefold slip inlay offers only credits alongside that photo which adorned the inner sleeve of the 1975 LP and naught else. For such a huge album, it seems kind of cheap and piddly and has not been expanded ever since. But the 24-Bit High Resolution Audio supplied in this Warner Remaster done by PATRICK KRAUS rocks like the proverbial clappers. The recordings were top notch originally anyway, but this CD has a real punch and swagger – amplifying what was boogie-on-down one minute (Side 1) – then Soulful and swaying the next (Side 2). To the record...

Recorded in America with a very Memphis Rock-Soul feel and produced by the legendary Tom Dowd – the LP title wasn't just a nod to his new future and aspirations - Rod had literally upped sticks to the USA to escape (like so many at the time) ludicrously crippling British taxation laws that we're robbed him of almost all his earnings. More importantly, with "Atlantic Crossing", Stewart had also left behind the 'sound' of his old British Steamhammer, Jeff Beck Group and Faces muckers Ronnie Wood, Ian McLagan and Martin Quittenton. Now it was sessionmen galore – Soul Boys like Steve Cropper and Jesse Ed Davis who also understood and loved Rock and R&B and Funk. There was a deliberate commercialism to "Atlantic Crossing" – a ten-track winner full of potential singles – least not of all the arms-waving-in-the-air Celtic-ish ballad "Sailing" (a cover version of a Sutherland Brothers single from 1972 on Island Records penned by Gavin Sutherland) of course repeating the No. 1 status of the album in the UK. 

A huge fan fave and a great snotty little rock 'n' roller, "Three Time Loser" opens proceedings on Side 1 with a catchy chorus wrapped around a tale of too many girls our determined monogamist thought were the one only to find they left him with more than a memory. "Alright For An Hour" gets Funky - a slight Reggae swing where it's alright for a day but it didn't last through to the weekend (drums and bass so clear). Five minutes of a great guitar boogie follows with "All In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll" where Rodders and his band take on New York and all points thereafter (a very Stones swagger to this one - look out kids - it's the FBI wanting to know what's that in your fruit bowl that's keeping up on stage all night every night). 

Not for the first time on this album does Rod tap into Dobie Gray's output when he hits us with a Soul-Rock Reggae-fied rendition of "Drift Away". Give me the beat boys to sooth my Soul - I wanna get lost in your Rock 'n' Roll and drift away. Originally written by Mentor Williams but made a hit on MCA Records by Dobie Gray, unfortunately Rod's version is strangely lacking despite all that great musicianship (Dobie's is one of the greatest Soul singles ever in my book – a song that actually touches you – something Rod’s version absolutely doesn’t). Back to boozy Mick Ronson-type Lou Reed riffage in the excellent "Stone Cold Sober" - a co-write with guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T & The M.G.'s - one of the first tunes to make real use of The Memphis Horns as the guitars riff and the pianos roll – it ends Side 1 on a real high with great slide guitar and soloing too.

Time to smooch with the slow half. It seems astonishing even now that the stunning Danny Whitten-written Crazy Horse cover version of "I Don't Want To Talk About It" - a song that is so synonymous with Rod Stewart - wasn't actually issued as a 45-single in 1975 anywhere. It would have to wait until April 1977 in England to see it relegated to the B-side of "The First Cut Is The Deepest" on Riva Records RIVA 4 (the US single featured "The Balltrap"). This is really where his newer more sophisticated sound started - all those acoustic guitar notes and Arif Mardin arranged strings swirling around your speakers. "...Talk About It" is followed by a much more successful cover of "It's Not The Spotlight" - a Barry Goldberg and Gerry Goffin song made famous by both Bobby Bland and Dobie Gray - a street of dreams remembrance that still has the power to move. 

In November 1975 his own Riva Records issued his cover of The Isley Brothers Motown classic "This Old Heart Of Mine" as a single with "All In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll" on its flip-side and was rewarded with a No. 4 chart position in the UK. I've never liked it - insipid really - but that Sax solo sounds splendid now. One of the album's forgotten tunes is his own "Still Love You" - an awkward declaration about a girl with cherry wine spilled on her dress - nights out dancing - two hearts now parted. And of course "Sailing" made him an international superstar in 1975 - a huge four-and-half-minute hit that had gone unnoticed when The Sutherland Brothers Band put it out in July 1972 on Island Records. It only goes to show his uncanny knack at noticing the potential in a song. 

For sure the inlay to "Atlantic Crossing" is merely functionary and some of the tunes are a wee bit 'too' saccharine for most tastes nowadays - but the good stuff is great.  

"...I am sailing, home again, across the sea, I am sailing stormy waters, to be with you, to be free..." - Rod sang on that global dominator of a song. Revisit this continent joiner of an album...though perhaps with a bottle of real ale instead of a glass of bubbly this time (and maybe loose the negligee too). Well done my son...

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

"Rock 'N' Roll" by JOHN LENNON – February 1975 UK LP on Apple Records featuring Jesse Ed Davis, Steve Cropper and Jose Feliciano on Guitars, Leon Russell on Keyboards with Bobby Keys, Nino Tempo and Barry Mann on Horns, Klaus Voorman on Bass and Duet Vocals, Jim Keltner and Hal Blaine on Drums and Production by Phil Spector (September 2004 UK EMI/Apple/Parlophone 'Remixed & Remastered' Expanded Edition CD Reissue with Four Bonus Tracks – Peter Corbin, Mirek Stiles, Steve Rooke, Allan Rouse and Paul Hicks Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry....

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"...Rip It Up..."

It was always a gap-filler between real albums and its bare-bones artwork and lack of an inner sleeve to enlighten what was going on inside irritated too. And yet I've always held a candle for 1975's "Rock 'N' Roll" - John Lennon's return to the passion that ignited his soul and limbs when he was a wee nipper in Liverpool. But which digital variant do you buy? 

Fans will know there has been a further new remaster of "Rock 'N' Roll" released in 2010 under the Yoko Ono approved 'John Lennon Signature Collection' banner. That version on EMI/Apple 5099990650628 (Barcode 5099990650628) offers just the 13-Track 1975 LP (two cuts were two-song Medleys hence its sometimes listed as having 15-Tracks on CD) - but it comes 'without' the tasty Bonus Tracks presented here (the 2004 version), offered no insert of any kind and I've always felt is a useless and pointless reissue. And I just like the audio on this 'Remixed & Remastered' sucker better too. Let's rip it up (again)...

UK released 27 September 2004 - "Rock 'N' Roll" by JOHN LENNON on EMI/Apple/Parlophone 874 3292 (Barcode 724387432925) is a 'Remixed & Remastered' Expanded Edition CD Reissue with Four Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (54:22 minutes):  

1. Be-Bop-A-Lula [Side 1]
2. Stand By Me 
3. Medley: (a) Rip It Up (b) Ready Teddy 
4. You Can't Catch Me 
5. Ain't That A Shame 
6. Do You Wanna Dance 
7. Sweet Little Sixteen 
8. Slipin' And Slidin' [Side 2]
9. Peggy Sue 
10. Medley (a) Bring It On Home To Me (b) Send Me Some Lovin' 
11. Bony Moronie 
12. Ya Ya 
13. Just Because 
Tracks 1 to 13 are his sixth studio album "Rock 'N' Roll" - released February 1975 in the UK on Apple PCS 7169 and Apple SK-3419 in the USA. Produced by PHIL SPECTOR - it peaked at No. 6 in both the UK and US LP charts. 

14. Angel Baby 
15. To Know Her Is To Love Her 
16. Since My Baby Left Me 
17. Just Because (Reprise)

The first thing that hits you visually (apart from the spine CD jewel case) is the crappy gatefold slip of paper masquerading as an inlay. For sure all the credits are here (especially the reissue ones) - but there is no history - no new notes - hell we don't even know who played what on what track. There are at least some black and white photos from his Teddy Boy haircut phase on the inner gatefold - but naught else and that's disappointing. That aside, I love the muscle in the Remaster provided by the team that did all the Apple CD Reissues - Peter Corbin, Mirek Stiles, Steve Rooke, Allan Rouse and Paul Hicks. Let's get to the retro...

Dr. Winston O'Boogie opens his genre-tribute album with that great British hero of Rock 'n' Roll - Gene Vincent and his iconic 1956 winner on Capitol Records - "Be-Bop-A-Lula". And of course Lennon's fantastic sneering vocals infuse the thing with that wild-child vibe sweet Gene had all those decades ago. He then goes unexpectedly early Soul - namely Ben E. King's still moving "Stand By Me" - a bona fide classic originally issued Stateside on Atco Records in the spring of 1961. With Bobby Keys (of Rolling Stones fame), Nino Tempo and Barry Mann on Horns and Production by Phil Spector – the tune was old school but modern sounding. I can still recall Lennon doing this on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' as a love message to his son - it was magical and a moment when the album stopped being just lusty covers and became something bigger. 

Next up is a Fifties double-header from Little Richard's Specialty days - JL tearing into "Rip It Up" and "Ready Teddy" - his throat doing justice to the Georgia Peach's vocal pyrotechnics back in the days when such behaviour was genuinely Punk. Almost certainly one of 'the' biggest influences in all their Beatle lives - Chuck Berry's Chess Records classic "You Can't Catch Me" and an underrated rocker in "Sweet Little Sixteen" (that Rod Stewart noticed too for his 1974 album "Smiler") gets dusted off - both motorvatin' once more. Amongst the players (we now know) is Guitarists Jesse Ed Davis, Steve Cropper of Booker T & The M.G.’s with Jose Feliciano while Leon Russell of Shelter Records played Keyboards. Legendary sessionmen like Hal Blaine and Jim Keltner hit the skins whilst Klaus Voorman (of "Revolver" fame) played Bass and does the call-and-response duet vocals with Lennon on their brass-busy cover of Sam Cooke's "Bring it On Home". 

My crave on Side 2 has always been the sneer his voice elicits in another Little Richard gem - "Slipin' And Slidin'" - its down and dirty vocal leanings suiting the Liverpudlian to a tee. I can't say I've ever like "Peggy Sue" - Holly original or remake by hundreds of others - but his superb combo of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" with Lloyd Price's "Send Me Some Lovin'" is an inspired Rock 'n' Roll-meets-Soul concoction. The fun inherent in the Larry Williams nugget "Bony Moronie" still tickles and the album romps home with some R&B tinges - Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya" and a return to Lloyd Price for "Just Because" - ending a Rock 'n' Roll LP on a New Orleans R&B lean (from whence R&R came). And of the generally excellent extras is the 1960 Rosie & The Originals hit "Angel Baby" (clever choice) while The Teddy Bears did the Phil Spector written "To Know Him Is To Love Him". Bluesman Arthur Crudup provided "Since My Baby Left Me". 

Perhaps too many of the tracks are afflicted with that brass-busy backing – too much echo on the vocals – a sort of sledgehammer approach too. But that was his interpretation, and I for one like it. 

Is John Lennon still standing in that Hamburg doorway in his leather jacket watching the kids rush by - dashing headlong into the magic of songs and the liberation that gurgles like a cauldron of youth within them? 

I think so. Only now, John has a wider smile on his lovely face, knowing that he's passed the torch on to the next set of runners gagging to rip it up and Rock 'n' Roll all night – and on into the early hours on their bad-hair day journey...

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