Wednesday, 1 April 2020

"Blue Moves" by ELTON JOHN – Double-Album from October 1976 on Rocket Records featuring Ray Cooper, Davey Johnstone, James Newton-Howard, Kenny Passarelli, Roger Pope and Caleb Quaye - with Guests Randy and Michael Brecker, Barry Rogers and David Sanborn on Horns, Backing Vocals from Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys, Curt Becher (aka Curt Boettcher) of The Millennium, Toni Tennille of The Captain and Tennille, David Crosby and Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Hollies and The Cornerstone Institutional Baptist and Southern Californian Choir directed by Rev. James Cleveland and Orchestration from The London Symphony Orchestra and The Martin Ford Orchestra (Paul Buckmaster conducting) (June 1996 UK Mercury 2CD Reissue - 'Gus Dudgeon' Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...


 







"...Out Of The Blue..."

When I worked as a Rock buyer at Reckless Records in Islington and then the ultra-busy Soho branch in Berwick Street (the shop that’s featured on the cover of the Oasis album "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?") - Elton John's October 1976 double-album splurge "Blue Moves" was a yawn record - the kind of unsellable dog that would sit in the racks alongside so many other copies of the same – us hoping against hope that we might get (maybe) three or four quid for it. In fact, as I recall, we were still turning down copies as non-shifters as late as the early Nineties.

Cut to April 2020 - closing in on 44 years after the album's autumn 1976 release and my how things have changed. Reappraisals take place all the time we know, but "Blue Moves" has been getting one these last four decades with lovelorn fans biting their chapped lips and declaring that its time to shoulder that pistol-whipping holster. We flogged in then Mr. Dwight but we want it back now. Sorry (does indeed) seem to be the hardest word when it comes to this Reg-fest. Some digital history first…

First issued on Rocket Records 822 818-2 in June 1988 as a single CD, that variant had dropped "Shoulder Holster" from Side 2 and "The Wide-Eyed And Laughing" from Side 3 in order to get the double-album to fit onto one CD. That truncated issue was replaced by this - June 1996's 2-Disc Remaster – transferred and worked beautifully by original album Producer GUS DUDGEON as part of The Elton John Remasters Series. There has been other issues since, especially in Japan, namely the 2 x SHM-CD reissue in Mini LP Repro packaging from last year (2019) with a new 'dry' remaster that has left many fans running back to this (sometimes the latest isn't always the best). Let's get to the Boogie Pilgrims...

UK released 3 June 1996 - "Blue Moves" by ELTON JOHN on Mercury 532 467-2 (Barcode 731453246720) is a 2CD Reissue and Remaster of the full 1976 double-album and plays out as follows:

CD1 (41:05 minutes):
1. Your Starter For... [Side 1]
2. Tonight
3. One Horse Town
4. Chameleon
5. Boogie Pilgrim [Side 2]
6. Cage The Songbird (For Edith Piaf)
7. Crazy Water
8. Shoulder Holster

CD2 (43:46 minutes):
1. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word [Side 3]
2. Out Of The Blue
3. Between Seventeen And Twenty
4. The Wide-Eyed And Laughing
5. Someone's Final Song
6. Where's The Shoorah? [Side 4]
7. If There's A God In Heaven (What's He Waiting For?)
8. Idol
9. Theme For A Non-Existent TV Series
10. Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!)
"Blue Moves" was released as a double-album 22 October 1976 in the UK on Rocket Records ROSP 1 and in the USA on MCA/The Rocket Record Company 2-11004. Produced by GUS DUDGEON - it peaked at No. 3 in the UK and also No. 3 in the USA.

The 20-page booklet reproduces the lyrics that came with the original inner sleeves (though not the photos) and new JOHN TOBLER liner notes illuminate the album's place in Elton's huge career. Rockets Records had been launched in 1973 with two albums for Kiki Dee – both with Elton John and Bernie Taupin contributions (some exclusive cuts too, I've reviewed both "Loving And Free" and "I've Got The Music In Me"). GUS DUDGEON puts in a note about the master-tapes and his 20-bit resolution transfers and there is no doubt about the Audio fidelity here – it's superb – real clean and ballsy. For sure "Crazy Water" still feels that tad under-produced in the oomph department - but I suspect it was originally recorded and mastered that way. avng said that, those almost Genesis-sounding acoustic guitars in "The Wide Eyed And Laughing", the Community Choir filling your speakers in the Gospel-tinged "Where's The Shoorah?" and the James Newton-Howard string arrangements in the beautiful but crushing "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" all sound hugely improved – every track now up for audio grabs.

The album produced three instrumentals - the Caleb Quaye filler that is "Your Starter For..." that opens Side 1 and the Side 4 ditty "Theme For A Non-Existent TV Series" - both clocking in at just under one minute and twenty seconds. I mention this because my poison has always been instrumental door number three - the fantastic band boogie of "Out Of The Blue". Between this and the Brecker Brothers/David Sanborn brass funk of "Boogie Pilgrim" – both have been the reasons why I loved the album. In fact when I made up 'Funky Funky' CD compilations for Shop Play shuffles in Reckless, I'd include both tracks and without fail punters would arrive at the counter while they played demanding to know who the instrumental was by - and then be duly stunned when told it was 'Elton John'. You'd get that look - "I didn't know Elton John was funky!" But alongside the sadder tunes on here like "Tonight" (recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road) or "Between Seventeen And Twenty" - old feather-festooned Reg was definitely a serious funky chicken. The single "Crazy Water" had that Stevie Wonder clavinet boogie to it and the third and final 45 off the album, "Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!)" was clearly aimed at the emerging dance floor Disco that was sweeping NYC and the world at the end of 1976 (it was also on a 12" as I recall for DJs).

Finding "Tonight" overdone and just a bit boring (Elton and an Orchestra), I must admit that I start the double with the upbeat "One Horse Town" which features The Martyn Ford Orchestra arranged and conducted by one of Rock's great background heroes – Paul Buckmaster. "Chameleon", "Crazy Water" and "Someone’s Final Song" are all supported by a host of top backing singers including Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys, Curt Becher (aka Curt Boettcher) of The Millennium, Toni Tennille of The Captain and Tennille and a few more into the bargain. The ultra-harmonising duo of David Crosby and Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Hollies) show up on two – the Edith Piaf tribute song "Cage The Songbird" and "The Wide Eyed And Laughing" - while Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin fans of 1971's "What's Going On" and 1972's "Amazing Grace" will know the name of Rev. James Cleveland who conducts and adds The California Community Choir to "Boogie Pilgrim", "Where's The Shoorah?" and the album's final bopper "Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance!)". 

For sure "Blue Moves" is not a masterpiece and you'd be hard-pressed I suspect to get any EJ fan to say it equals "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" from three years back in 1973. 

But I like a bruiser and the good moments on here are great. And old stock or not - this 1996 twofer Mercury CD Remaster is the one to get...

"A Beautiful Pain" by CATHERINE BARRY (March 2020 Book Of Poetry, Published by Salmon Press, In Conjunction With The Arts Council Of Ireland)





A Beautiful Pain 
by
 CATHERINE BARRY 

(March 2020 Book of Poems 
Published by Salmon Poetry of Ireland
In Conjunction with The Arts Council Of Ireland)

"...Women Are Made Of Mars Bars..." 

Catherine Barry has had four novels published since 2001 and the quietly dignified "A Beautiful Pain" is her first Book of Poetry brought to us in paperback by Salmon Press (published March 2020 in her native Ireland).

As a wee bit of a scribbler myself - Poetry and the purchasing of it is a little like art installations in galleries with really big rooms housing equally huge egos - enough to bring many of us out in a rash and a snuffled giggle. The danger of pretentiousness lurks in the over-priced coffee emporium stroking its twisty beard as it ponders gender-neutral Nihilism. Should I identify as a non-binary coconut or is that numerically Coconut-ist? Oh dear…

I say this, because hand-on-heart, Cathy's poetry couldn't be less uppity or arty-farty and thankfully isn't the online ranting of woke terrorists either. Its thoughts and hard-won observations are firmly based in humanity – trying to make red lemonade (its an Irish thing) when life keeps throwing you beginning-to-mold lemons. These straight-talking stories try to portray the hopeful moments too alongside the inevitable losses and the casual cruelty of dirty laundry that just refuses to go away.

The undercurrent in her writing quickly becomes clear. These 80 or so pieces are filled with the ebb and flow of survival - a decades long battle with alcoholism, abandonment and not least of all - the final egg in the face - Breast Cancer which has now gone on to the worst stage. In fact the first poem speaks of local gurriers tormenting her Dublin home in 1999 by pelting it with eggs for weeks on end. Yet she rises above life's subtle persecution and goes on with the help of family, her two children (now grown up) and mentors within genuinely decent Care and Self-Help groups.

Few poetry volumes are page-turners, but this one is. There's a beautifully observed piece called “Lyric” that describes her father John Francis Barry as he wrestles with four remotes in his old age – stood in front of his beloved Hi Fi in the 'sitting room' (we don't do lounges in Ireland) – as she knocks on the window pane to alert him that she's arrived home. His infectious smile, belief in people and his presence still so huge even after his death at the age of 86 nearly four years prior. Her Mum Maureen walking down the street also in her mid 80ts with her artists sense of clothing, positivity and wild fighting spirit – telling off a neighbour she thinks is slagging off Catherine's older sister Francis. Charlie who saved her from drink and its destruction – pride in her kids – anger at the disease and so on. It’s very personal stuff for sure – "My Children Come First", "Love Me When I Fall", "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" and "Strong Women" - but its also real and humane and accessible.

There's anger and rage as well - a short heartbreaking piece called "Tuam Babies" with lines like…

We're down here. In a dirty hole.
A fitting grave for shame.
Denial's forwarding address.
God forgive us.

Or hurt for an elderly lady in "Prayer For The Nameless" - found dead and abandoned - the notoriously tight Irish Government and Irish Banks screwing over the nation and most vulnerable with endless austerity measures since the entirely avoidable 2008 stock market collapse…

Let's salute the country
That abandoned
The very people
Who built it.
Welcome to Ireland
Land of saints and scholars
White collars with no moral compass…

Or dealing with setbacks and spiritual turmoil in "Teabags"

No blend of perfection
So to speak.
I am at my strongest
When I am weak. 

I enjoyed Catherine's new Book of Poems and have re-read many since – especially in this time that cries out for hope and some better horizon that we can't maybe see at the moment.

So if you fancy a woman who writes lines like "Men Are From Mars. Women are made of Mars Bars…" in a booked called "A Beautiful Pain" – then this little bowl of poetic chicken soup is the self-isolation read for you...

"Classic Album Collection" by CREAM – Including The Albums "Fresh Cream" (1966), "Disraeli Gears" (1967), "Wheels Of Fire" (1968 2LP Set Half Studio Half Live) and "Goodbye" (1969) – All Featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker with Guests Felix Papalardi and Pete Brown (April 2016 UK Universal/Polydor 4-Album/5-Disc Mini Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...




This Review and Over 400 More Like It
Are Available In My E-Book 
NO NEED TO BE 
NERVOUS! 
THE GROOVIEST 1960s MUSIC ON CD 
Your All-Genres Guide To 
Exceptional Reissues and Remasters 



"...Strange Brew..."

Issued 2016 as a celebration of their 50th Anniversary - I’m loving the oversized gatefold card sleeves for each release (like repro LPs) when only the double "Wheels Of Fire" and the final studio album "Goodbye" had them on the original vinyl issues.  Universal/Polydor has put new photos and track lists on the inner gatefolds now given to "Fresh Cream" and "Disraeli Gears" that look very tasty indeed - but although the outer hard-card slipcase is handy and the whole package looks the part ("Wheels" is separated onto two discs) - there’s no booklet and there’s no mastering credits either.

The audio varies from really good to really great – but if I'm honest the Remasters on "Gold" done by Suha Gur shine better (see separate review). Paschal Byrne’s remasters on the Jack Bruce double are fabulous too. Still – it feels nice to have their whole official output all in one place and looking good into the mini box set bargain. There’s a lot to get through - so once more unto the Strange Brews and the geared-up Politicians standing at the Crossroads...

UK released 29 April 2016 (6 May 2016 in the USA) - "Classic Album Collection" by CREAM on Universal/Polydor 473 456-1 (0602547345615) is a 4-Album/5-Disc Mini Box Set and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Fresh Cream" (41:10 minutes):
1. I Feel Free
2. N.S.U.
3. Sleepy Time Time
4. Sweet Wine
5. Spoonful
6. Cat's Squirrel [Side 2]
7. Four Until Late
8. Rollin' And Tumblin'
9. I'm So Glad
10. Toad
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "Fresh Cream" - released December 1966 in the UK on Reaction 593 001 (Mono) and Reaction 594 001 (Stereo) and in the USA on Atco 33-206 (Mono) and Atco SD 33-206 (Stereo)  - the Stereo mix is used. Recorded at Rayrik and Ryemuse Studios in London and Produced by Robert Stigwood.

Disc 2 "Disraeli Gears" (33:38 minutes):
1. Strange Brew
2. Sunshine Of Your Love
3. World Of Pain
4. Dance The Night Away
5. Blue Condition
6. Tales Of Brave Ulysses
7. Swalbr
8. We're Going Wrong
9. Outside Woman Blues
10. Take It Back
11. Mother's Lament
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 2nd studio album "Disraeli Gears" - released November 1967 in the UK on Reaction 593 003 (Mono) and Reaction 594 003 (Stereo) and in the USA on Atco 33-232 (Mono) and Atco SD 33-232 (Stereo) - the Stereo Mix is used on this CD. Produced by Felix Pappalardi.

Disc 3 "Wheels Of Fire" - (CD1 - In The Studio - 36:33 minutes):
1. White Room
2. Sitting On Top Of The World
3. Passing The Time
4. As You Said
5. Pressed Rat And Warthog [Side 2]
6. Politician
7. Those Were The Days
8. Born Under A Bad Sign
9. Deserted Cities Of The Heart

Disc 3 "Wheels Of Fire" (CD2 - Live At The Fillmore - 44:32 minutes):
1. Crossroads
2. Spoonful
3. Traintime [Side 2]
4. Toad
Both CDs of Disc 3 is the double-album "Wheels Of Fire" - released August 1968 in the UK on Polydor 582 031/2 (Mono) and Polydor 583 031/2 (Stereo) and in the USA on Atco 2-700 (Mono) and Atco SD 2-700 (Stereo) – the Stereo Mix is used for both discs. Produced by Felix Pappalardi. On CD2 Tracks 1, 2 and 3 recorded live at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco 10 March 1968 and Track 4 recorded 7 March 1968 at the Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco 8 March 1968.

Disc 4 "Goodbye" (30:46 minutes):
1. I'm So Glad
2. Politician
3. Sitting on Top Of The World
4. Badge [Side 2]
5. Doing That Scrapyard Thing
6. What A Bringdown
Tracks 1 to 6 are their 4th and final album "Goodbye" - released February 1969 in the UK on Polydor 583 053 (Stereo) and in the USA on Atco SD 7001 (Stereo). Side 1 recorded live - Side 2 studio recordings - Produced by Felix Pappalardi.

Fresh from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds – Clapton had already amassed a rep as the primo UK Bluesman whilst both Bruce and Baker had cut their teeth with the legendary Graham Bond Organization  - a band that lived for American Rhythm 'n' Blues.  So their December 1966 "Fresh Cream" debut is not surprisingly heavy with re-worked covers of their R&B and Blues heroes - Robert Johnson's "Four Until Late", Muddy Water'' "Rollin' & Tumblin'", Howlin' Wolf's "Spoonful" penned by the Chess Records genius Willie Dixon, "I'm So Glad" by Skip James and Dr. Isaiah Ross (miscredited as S. Splurge) on the Side 2 opener "Cat's Squirrel".  It's odd in 2016 to think that Clapton as principal axeman of this most guitar-driven of bands hasn't a credit anywhere - "N.S.U." and "Dreaming" being by Bassist Jack Bruce - whilst he and his wife of the time Janet Godfrey are credited to "Sleepy Time Time". The superb and poppy "I Feel Free" is a co-write between Jack Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown of Battered Ornaments and Piblokto! fame (later on Harvest Records) who would also contribute cracking material to "Disraeli Gears"and "Wheels Of Fire". The final two selections are "Toad" by Drummer Ginger Baker and co-credit on "Sweet Wine" to Ginger Baker and Janet Godfrey. And both Producer Felix Pappalardi with Songwriter Pete Brown would feature as equal partners throughout Cream's tenure as the New Wave of British Heavy Rock and Psychedelia.

Few songs demonstrate the progress of a band from entertaining purveyors of cool covers to their own distinguishable sound than the brilliant "Disraeli Gears" opener "Strange Brew" - where suddenly - Cream the Band seemed fully formed. Pete Brown helped out once again with that other great riffage winner "Sunshine Of Your Love" - a song that still seems fresh. "...Outside my window is a tree..." Eric sings on the excellent "World Of Pain" wishing he was somewhere else - but even that's trumped by one of the album's undoubted masterpieces - "Dance The Night Away" where fame is already knocking too hard on their collective doors "...gonna build myself a castle high up in the clouds...loose these streets and crowds...". Baker complains too of 'no relaxation' in his drowsy "Blue Condition” while The Rotary Connection would take the Rock chug of "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" and give it some Soul over on Cadet Records (Cream were covered a lot). She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow becomes SWALBR with the best ever lyrics in the world - where rainbows have beards and paintings have moustaches (yeah baby). "We're Gone Wrong" sounds like experimental Fleetwood Mac circa "Albatross" and "Outside Woman Blues" finally sees EC stump up another self-penned song of worth (more girly misery). Harmonicas pump up "Take It Back" as the LP ends on the genuinely perverse sea-shanty "Mother's Lament" - where the band does an Acapella telling us with glee that someone's skinny child has gone down the plughole from lack of Rusks.  In truth - you forget how good "Disraeli Gears" was – the whole album a genuine Sixties classic (check out the Abbey Road Half Speed Mastered Vinyl LP reissue from April 2016 – best I’ve ever heard this notoriously crude recording sound).

Double-albums have always retained a cool for me that brings me back to them like a forlorn moth to a musical flame - and the adventurous "Wheels Of Fire" was one of my first burns. A kicking remaster of "White Room" gives those up-front drums and guitars huge presence and power. Unfortunately the audio wonderland quickly evaporates as there's loads of hiss on their cover of Howlin' Wolf's Chess Classic "Sittin' On Top Of The World" - a faithful version of a great Blues song but one that never really ignites for me. Far better is Jazz Pianist Mike Taylor's involvement in the Small Faces-sounding "Passing The Time" - a great trippy tune Steve Marriott would have donned a Mod cap at.  Playing all the Acoustic Guitars and Cello on "As You Said" (no EC involvement) - Jack Bruce had clearly been absorbing huge dollops of "Magical Mystery Tour" when he produced one of the "Wheels" best songs - adventurous and melodic and so brilliantly 60ts. As Ginger Baker recites the ever-so-slightly loon-lyrics of "Pressed Rat And Warthog" (I want to visit their shop in London) - Felix Pappalardi gives us all those hectic trumpet bursts in the background. The terribly well-dressed and right honourable "Politician" for Sleaze-Upon-Sea wants a young lady to 'get into my black car' to 'show you what my politics are' - a great tune they'd return to 'live' for the "Goodbye" album. And the 'Studio' LP ends on a trio of winners - their cover of Albert King's Stax gem "Born Under A Bad Sign" (a song Cream almost made their own) and two wicked originals - "Those Were The Days" and the brilliant "Deserted Cities Of The Heart". And I can't imagine the number of young bucks who must have stood in front of a mirror with a tennis racket and pretended they were EC as he lays into the stunning live cut of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads".

I can remember to this day the 'sting' of "Goodbye" - a pig's ear of an LP clearly made up of scraps. The three live tracks on Side 1 were good but never much more - "Badge" a rare and utterly sublime moment and the final two living up their name 'bringdown' and the 'RIP' on the tombstone on the inner gatefold. Listening to the lot in one splurge and you're reminded of the ups and downs - the really great stuff like "Disraeli Gears" and "Wheels Of Fire" and that innovative beginning "Fresh Cream". But it's dampened for me by that final clunker and those seeking audiophile sound would probably want to take their spondulicks elsewhere.

Still - any band that can pull off singing "...but the rainbow has a beard..." gets my vote. 'Those Were The Days' indeed...

"Gold" by CREAM - Featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker with Guests Felix Papalardi and Pete Brown of Battering Ornaments (September 2005 UK Universal/Polydor 2CD 'Definitive Collection' Anthology from 1966 to 1970 - Suha Gur Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



This Review and Over 400 More Like It
Are Available In My E-Book 
NO NEED TO BE 
NERVOUS! 
THE GROOVIEST 1960s MUSIC ON CD 
Your All-Genres Guide To 
Exceptional Reissues and Remasters 



"…The Rainbow Has A Beard…"

Mercurial, innovative and indulgent buggers - CREAM were all of it. And that's not even factoring in the fluffy haircuts and equally colourful shirts. And yet after all these decades they still get name-checked amongst the legends of the Decade - and after hearing this extensive and brilliant retrospective - it's easy to hear why "Clapton Is God" got painted on London West End walls towards the end of the Sixties. Here are the White Rooms and Strange Brews...

Released September 2005 - "Gold" by CREAM is a 2CD Definitive Collection on Universal/Polydor 0602498801468 (Barcode 602498801468) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 - IN THE STUDIO - (73:19 minutes):
1. I Feel Free (A-side of their second UK 7" single released December 1966 on Reaction 591 011)
2. N.S.U.
3. Sweet Wine
4. I'm So Glad (tracks 2, 3 and 4 from their UK debut album "Fresh Cream", released December 1966 on Reaction 593 001 (Mono) and 594 001 (Stereo). Note: "I Feel Free" wasn't on the UK LP but was included as Track 1 on the US Atco issue and as this is an American based compilation - hence the liner notes list Tracks 1 to 4 as being from "Fresh Cream". Stereo Mix used)
5. Strange Brew
6. Sunshine Of Your Love
7. World Of Pain
8. Tales Of Brave Ulysses
9. Swlabr
10. We're Going Wrong (tracks 5 to 10 from their 2nd UK album "Disraeli Gears" released November 1967 on Reaction 593 003 (Mono) and 594 003 (Stereo) - Stereo mix used. FELIX PAPPALARDI (of Mountain) plays many instruments on the album and Produced the record too)
11. White Room
12. Sitting On Top Of The World
13. Passing The Time
14. Politician
15. Those Were The Days
16. Born Under A Bad Sign
17. Deserted Cities Of The Sky (tracks 11 to 17 from their 3rd UK album "Wheels Of Fire" released August 1968 on Polydor 582 033 (Mono) and 583 033 (Stereo). It was a double album with Record 1 being Studio whilst Record 2 was Live. All tracks here are Studio Stereo mixes)
18. Anyone For Tennis (A-side of a May 1968 UK 7" single on Polydor 56258, non-album track at the time)
19. Badge
20. Doing That Scrapyard Thing
21. What A Bringdown (tracks 19 to 21 from their final UK studio/live album "Goodbye" released March 1969 on Polydor 583 053. "Badge" is written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison - features George Harrison on Guitar)

Disc 2 - LIVE (77:32 minutes):
1. N.S.U. (Live) - 10:17 minutes
2. Sleepy Time Time (Live) - 6:50 minutes
3. Rollin' And Tumblin' (Live) - 6:34 minutes (tracks 1 to 3 from "Live Cream" released June 1970 in the UK on Polydor 2383 016)
4. Spoonful (Live) - 16:46 minutes
5. Crossroads (Live) - 4:14 minutes
6. Sunshine Of Your Love (Live) - 7:24 minutes (from the UK album "Live Cream Volume II" released June 1972 on Polydor 2383 119)
7. I'm So Glad (Live) - 9:12 minutes (from their final UK studio/live album "Goodbye" released March 1969 on Polydor 583 053)
8. Toad (Live) - 16:16 minutes (tracks 4, 5 and 8 from the double-album "Wheels Of Fire" released August 1968 on Polydor 582 033 (Mono) and 583 033 (Stereo). It was a double album with Record 1 being Studio whilst Record 2 was Live. All tracks here are Live Stereo mixes)

The 16-page booklet is a pleasingly comprehensive affair for a 'Best Of' - nice photos of the band live and in-the-studio, decent liner notes from SCOTT SCHNIDER and full reissue credits on all songs. But the big news here is a name I always look out for - SUHA GUR. He's mastered the set and the sound quality (for their notoriously rough and ready recordings) is superb - full of power and presence yet not too amped up for the sake of it. Even the crudely recorded 'live' tracks have a great feel to them.

What's kind of remarkable about CREAM is how well all of this stuff stands up - the almost Vocal Group Pop of "I Feel Free" and "Anyone For Tennis", the so Sixties lyrics of "Swlabr" (She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow) right through the wailing harmonica and cool guitar Rock Blues of "Rollin' And Tumblin'" (Muddy Waters) and "Crossroads" (Robert Johnson). And who else made that "White Room" sound Cream made - the surprising whimsy of "Passing The Time" - the brilliant speed rock of "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" - that unbelievably hooky guitar in "Badge". We get "Moby Dick making out with Captain Blyth..." in "What A Bringdown" while the piano-boogie/treated guitar of "Doing That Scrapyard Thing" makes them sound like a more rocked-up Badfinger on Apple or The Beatles circa Mystery Tour. There is hiss on tracks like "Those Were The Days", "We Were Going" and the wicked "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" which is more audible than you might want - but this was the mid Sixties - and Cream weren't going to a quiet set of lads.

The clever part of this Definitive Collection is putting all the live stuff on Disc 2 - an arena where the band really comes into its own. Although ten minutes of "N.S.U." is probably indulgent - you get to hear the sheer power of the band on their cover of Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" (a Howlin' Wolf hit) where Clapton lets rip in a medium he loves. "Toad" is the same - you'd swear there was four in the band and not three - and Baker's solo is still awesome stuff. Don't you just love the way "Eric Clapton!" gets shouted to the crowd when most of the track and appreciation was for Baker's drumming...

Heavy Rock practically arrived with this British band - and this cheap-as-chips 2CD gem puts that Bentley-driving guru firmly in its place...(wouldn't that be nice)...

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

"Wheels Of Fire" by CREAM – UK Double-Album from August 1968 on Polydor 583 031/2 (Stereo) and in the USA on Atco SD 2-700 (Stereo) - Featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker with Guests Felix Pappalardi, Pete Brown of Battered Ornaments and Piblokto! And (Ronald) Mike Taylor (Inside "Classic Album Collection" Box Set UK Issued 29 April 2016 on Universal/Polydor With A Gatefold Repro Artwork Sleeve - Stereo Remaster Used) - A Review by Mark Barry








 
"...Those Were The Days..."

2016 saw the three-piece British super-group’s 50th Anniversary celebrations – and while I’m loving the 1966 debut "Fresh Cream" and it super sexy 1967 follow-up "Disraeli Gears" – I suspect like many - our CREAM hearts go to the indulgent splurge that is the 1968 double-album "Wheels Of Fire" – LP1 In The Studio and LP2 Live At The Fillmore. Those were indeed the days…

It doesn’t state that these are the 1997 discs done by Joseph M. Palmaccio s part of The Cream Remasters Series – they sound way better. But as there is no mastering credits anywhere – it’s anybody’s guess. All I know is that this 2CD reissue copyrighted to 2016 sounds stunning. There’s a lot to get through, so once more unto the White Rooms and the geared-up Politicians standing at Crossroads...

UK/EUROPE released 29 April 2016 (6 May 2016 in the USA) - "Wheels Of Fire" is within the "Classic Album Collection" Box Set by CREAM on Universal/Polydor 473 456-1 (0602547345615). It's a 4-Album/5-Disc Mini Box Set with Gatefold Card Sleeves and plays out as follows:

Disc 3 "Wheels Of Fire" - Box Set Catalogue Number Polydor 474 789-9 
(CD1 - In The Studio - 36:33 minutes):
1. White Room
2. Sitting On Top Of The World
3. Passing The Time
4. As You Said
5. Pressed Rat And Warthog [Side 2]
6. Politician
7. Those Were The Days
8. Born Under A Bad Sign
9. Deserted Cities Of The Heart

Disc 3 "Wheels Of Fire" (CD2 - Live At The Fillmore - 44:32 minutes):
1. Crossroads
2. Spoonful
3. Traintime [Side 2]
4. Toad
Both CDs of Disc 3 is the double-album "Wheels Of Fire" - released August 1968 in the UK on Polydor 582 031/2 (Mono) and Polydor 583 031/2 (Stereo) and in the USA on Atco 2-700 (Mono) and Atco SD 2-700 (Stereo) – the Stereo Mix is used for both discs. Produced by Felix Pappalardi. On CD2 Tracks 1, 2 and 3 recorded live at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco 10 March 1968 and Track 4 recorded 7 March 1968 at the Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco 8 March 1968.

Fresh from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds – Eric Clapton had already amassed a rep as the primo UK Bluesman - whilst both Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker had cut their teeth with the legendary Graham Bond Organization  - a band that lived for American Rhythm 'n' Blues. Their first two albums had made them the 1966 and 1967 Blues Rock band of the hour – but this 1968 twofer (combining studio and live) made them superstars.

Double-albums have always retained a cool for me that bring me back to them like a forlorn moth to a musical flame and the adventurous "Wheels Of Fire" was one of my first burns. A kicking remaster of "White Room" gives those up-front drums and guitars huge presence and power. Unfortunately the audio wonderland quickly evaporates as there's loads of hiss on their cover of Howlin' Wolf's Chess Classic "Sittin' On Top Of The World" - a faithful version of a great Blues song but one that never really ignites for me. Far better is Jazz Pianist Mike Taylor's involvement in the Small Faces-sounding "Passing The Time" - a great trippy tune Steve Marriott would have donned a Mod cap at (a cold winter and gone is our traveller).

Playing all the Acoustic Guitars, Cello and signing the vocals on "As You Said" (no EC involvement) - Jack Bruce had clearly been absorbing huge dollops of "Magical Mystery Tour" when he produced one of the "Wheels" best songs - adventurous and melodic and so brilliantly 60ts (see what time it might have been). Ginger Baker only plays Hi-Hat on the track and yet it feels like Pentangle discovering some fantastic Incredible String Band groove. I’ve always felt it had traces of Roy Harper in it too – or parts of Zeppelin III – only two years prior.

As Ginger Baker recites the ever-so-slightly loon-lyrics of "Pressed Rat And Warthog" that opens Side 2 of the studio LP (I want to visit their shop in London) - Felix Pappalardi gives us all those hectic trumpet bursts in the background. The terribly well-dressed and right honourable "Politician" for Sleaze-Upon-Sea wants a young lady to 'get into my big black car' to 'show you what my politics are' - a great Jack Bruce and Pete Brown tune they'd return to 'live' for the "Goodbye" album. And the 'Studio' LP ends on a trio of winners – first being their cover of Albert King's Stax gem "Born Under A Bad Sign" written by soul legends Booker T Jones and William Bell (a song Cream almost made their own). Two wicked originals follow – the city of Atlantis emerging in "Those Were The Days" (the Cream Box Set was named after this song) and the brilliant "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" a sort of rockier run at the groove the band got in "As You Said".

I can't imagine the number of young British and American bucks who must have stood in front of a mirror with a tennis racket and pretended they were EC as he lays into the stunning live cut of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads". You can look at the near seventeen minutes of "Spoonful" – the wildly indulgent cover of the Willie Dixon classic Dixon gifted Howlin’ Wolf. Over the top in terms of time or not – EC’s playing is fantastic – and with Bruce’s impassioned vocals and Baker lashing into his kit – you get a genuine feel of just how powerful and Mountain-heavy Cream were in the live flesh. Side 2 of the Fillmore set gives us the only wholly Cream-written tune on the double – seven minutes of the hi-hat shuffling Harmonica wail that is "Traintime". Jack Bruce sets up the whistle-blowing locomotive as he sings through his harp (by bye baby) and Ginger Baker keeps that rattling sleepers rhythm. It’s fantastic old-time man-and-his-harp boogie and actually reminds me of that Area Code 615 opening to "Stone Fox Chase" – long used as the theme music to "The Old Grey Whistle Test".

That shuffle segues into the huge 16:18 minute Rock riffage of Ginger Baker’s "Toad". Because its essentially a vehicle for a drum solo, it has more than a "Moby Dick" feel to it – big guitar start – elongated drum solo – back to the wallop. Cool at the time, but a little hard to indulge in 2020.

Still - any band that can pull off singing "...but the rainbow has a beard..." gets my vote. Those Were The Days indeed...

"Colosseum Live" by COLOSSEUM - June 1971 UK 2LP Live Set of New Material on Bronze Records ICD 1 (November 1971 USA 2LP set on Warner Brothers 2XS 1942) featuring Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Dave Greenslade, Mark Clarke and Chris Farlowe with Songs by Jack Bruce, Pete Brown, Graham Bond, Dave Clempson, James Litherland and Chris Farlowe (29 July 2016 UK Esoteric Recordings 2CD 'Expanded Edition' with One Bonus Track on CD1 and Five on CD2 - Ben Wiseman Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...






 

"...Ladder To The Moon..."

Colosseum’s fifth album – a live double issued in Blighty in June 1971 with mostly new material (as far as UK fans were concerned) - has had a poor history on both VINYL and CD.  But thankfully this superb 2016 twofer reissue from Esoteric Recordings of the UK finally sorts those anomalies out. And in style...

But some history first – formed in 1968 as a vehicle for Jazz Rock, Fusion and Prog – drummer John Hiseman and Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith recruited keyboardist Dave Greenslade and Bassist Tony Reeves (both of whom would be the future Warner Brothers Prog band Greenslade in 1973) along with guitarist James Litherland. They promptly popped out two giant slices of Prog Rock with their debut "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You" in March 1969 on Fontana and then the much-loved "Valentyne Suite" in November 1969 on the new home to all things weird and hairy – Vertigo Records – the famous label's first long-player release.

When James Litherland left, Dave 'Clem' Clempson of Bakerloo (one album on Harvest Records from 1969) was drafted in to replace him on guitar and some new songs along with re-recordings of "Valentyne Suite" material took place. This alternative or rejiggered "Valentyne Suite" material was issued March 1970 in the USA-only as the album "The Grass Is Greener" on ABC/Dunhill Records DS 50079 and in slightly altered artwork. It contained three new songs unknown to UK fans - "Jumping Off The Sun" by Dave Tomlin and Mike Taylor, the Dave Greenslade, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Chris Farlowe composition "Lost Angeles" and a cover version of a Jack Bruce (of Cream) and Pete Brown (of Battered Ornaments) song called "Rope Ladder To The Moon". 

The last two are mentioned because they turned up on "Colosseum Live" and of course were new to fans in England who bought that specially priced double album (the first release on Bronze Records in the UK). Colosseum then unleashed their third studio album (fourth overall) in December 1970 - "Daughter Of Time" – another Jazz Rock, Prog Rock beast on Vertigo Records. While they made no real inroads in the USA – the three British LPs had charted and done well – No. 15, No. 15 and No. 23 respectively. Which brings us to their famous and perhaps most popular moment - "Colosseum Live" – and its awful audio history…

Culled together from British gigs in March 1971 and UK released in June 1971 on Bronze Records (November 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers) - the live double famously came in a gatefold sleeve with clear red plastics attached to the inside to hold both LPs, had mostly all new material and an enticing price tag of £2.75 for a double-album (who among us remember those stickers – the one on Purple's "Made In Japan" had the same effect, "Bumpers" on Island etc). Unfortunately these plastics had a foam strip on each lip that was supposed to clean the record as you dragged it out – an 'AV/Pak' as I recall they called it on the inner gatefold. But it never worked; in fact the bare record without a polylined inner-sleeve was of course open to the elements and got wrecked very quickly. Worse, some LPs reacted to the plastic and had unmovable gunk deposited on the playing surface you couldn't wash off (Fat Mattress had that on their first Polydor album). It was a disastrous invention and probably wrecked more LPs than it cleaned - hence "Colosseum Live" ended up in more secondhand record bins faster than almost any other LP despite its very healthy No. 17 peak on the UK LP charts.

In 1992 the UK Sequel CD Remaster unleashed the Previously Unreleased "I Can't Live Without You" which is featured here as one of the Bonus Cuts (Track 4 on CD1 with a different version over on CD2). Simon Heyworth did a remaster in 1999 for Castle Communications, but this July 2016 2CD expansion trumps them all. Returning to the real tapes and featuring a BEN WISEMAN 24-Bit Digital Remaster that restores the oomph it has always needed – ECLEC 22545 also features crowd-pleasing bonus material like the "Valentyne Suite" live set from March 1971 with the classic line-up. So at last, to the 2016 details…

UK released 29 July 2016 - "Colosseum Live" by COLOSSEUM on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22545 (Barcode 5013929464544) is a 2CD Remastered 'Expanded Edition' with One Bonus Track on CD1 and Five on CD2. It plays out as follows: 

CD1 - 74:41 minutes:
1. Rope Ladder To The Moon [Side 1]
2. Walking In The Park
3. Skellington [Side 2]
4. I Can't Live Without You [Bonus Track, see Note below]
5. Tanglewood '63 [Side 3]
6. Encore…Stormy Monday Blues
7. Lost Angeles [Side 4]
NOTE: The original double-album as sequenced is Tracks 1 to 3 and 5 to 7 "Colosseum Live" – released June 1971 in the UK on Bronze Records ICD 1 and November 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers 2XS 1942. Produced by JON HISEMAN and COLOSSEUM – it peaked at No. 17 on the UK LP charts and No. 192 in the USA. Track 4 "I Can't Live Without You" first appeared as a Bonus Track on 1992 UK Sequel single CD Remaster and has been included here for completion.

CD2 - 73:56 minutes:
BONUS TRACKS – ALL LIVE
1. Rope Ladder To The Moon
2. Skellington
Tracks 1 and 2 recorded live at The Big Apple in Brighton in 1971

3. I Can't Live With You / Time Machine / The Machine Demands A Sacrifice
Track 3 recorded live at Manchester University, March 1971

4. Stormy Monday Blues
Track 4 recorded live in Bristol, 1971

5. The Valentyne Suite
(i) January's Search
(ii) Theme Two – February's Valentyne
(iii) Theme Three – The Grass Is Greener
Track 5 recorded live at Manchester University, March 1971

The booklet of 16-pages features new thoroughly engaging liner notes from MALCOM DOME with contributions from Hiseman - details about 1971 and the album's legacy closing in on 50 years in 2021. There are colour photos of the classic six-piece line-up in live rapture, both CDs are picture discs featuring the famous artwork and there are the usual reissue credits and that impressive new audio.

As the Greenslade vibes, Farlowe gruff vocals and Clempson grungy guitar kick in for the opening of the nine and half minutes of "Rope Ladder To The Moon" - you know you're in the presence of a different beast. Everything feels up in your face - Heckstall-Smith soloing away with that double-horn trick. Then we get Dave Greenslade simply Rick Wakeman brilliant - his live keyboard sound feeling like a 'Made In Japan' solo - fantastic. By the time Clempson tears into that opening guitar piece for the cover of Graham Bond's "Walking In The Park" - his affects pedals distorting away - the band lays down a Blues meets Jazz Rock combo that is thrilling - Farlowe clearly raring to go.

Spelt with one 'l' on the original double - the fifteen minutes of "Skellington" stretches each player out in a wild ensemble-playing piece - their harmony vocals impressive too (that Clempson guitar sound and solo is so cool - great audio as well). It feels odd to hear the 7:53 minutes of the bonus track - I Can't Live Without You – placed where it is. It’s a damn good addition – studio chatter at the beginning – and a messing around with another guy vocal from Farlowe. But maybe it should have been placed at the end of CD1 as I recall the original Sequel CD did.

The cover of the Michael Gibbs song "Tanglewood '63" that opens Side 3 is probably the most Jazz-Rock the album gets - the crowd clapping along as the boys engage in some Yes-like ba-ba vocals. T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday Blues" gets a seven and half minute Bluesy workout where the band are clearly winging it - even managing at times to sound like Humble Pie with Marriott on vocals - digging down deep and enjoying it. At 15:49 minutes, "Lost Angeles" took up the whole of Side 4 and brings proceedings to a storming finish -Greenslade at first whipping the audience in a clapping frenzy with a keyboard groove that feels like The Nice about to embark on some British Rock 'n' Roll and be damned. Farlowe then comes roaring in followed by Dave Greenslade letting rip and the Prog Rock meets Blues and Jazz sound of Colosseum still feels fresh and uniquely their-own after all these years.

At 21:20 minutes – the three-parts of "The Valentyne Suite" recorded live by this line-up is probably going to have real fans a wee bit in need of a lie down. For some it is Prog Rock excessive dated if I'm honest, but the band is cooking, the audio remarkably clear and the playing by the double Daves of Greenslade and Clempson alongside that rhythm section is just a blast. And there's more on CD2 where that came from.

Esoteric Recordings have built up a rep in the reissue industry – get it right and do it right. Is it any wonder artists like this trust them with their precious back catalogue…

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order