Saturday, 1 June 2019

"The Studio Album Collection" by JIM CROCE (March 2015 Edsel 7CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Photographs And Memories..."

South Philly singer-songwriter JIM CROCE was a strange one in Blighty. A massive star in the USA when his first solo album proper "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" hit the racks in May 1972 on ABC Records - within a year and a half he'd had two No. 1 singles and one number one album.

Yet in England (where most of his catalogue was carried by Vertigo Records) - his music meant little and saw bugger all chart action. Even a killer single like "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" with the equally impressive and touching ballad "Photographs And Memories" on the flipside (issued August 1972 on Philips 6000 069 in the UK) did zip despite the incredibly radio-friendly hooky A-side that American DJs sent all the way to the top (and back in the days when those 45 sales figures were huge).

Tragedy struck too. In late September 1973, Croce and other band mates were on their way from Louisiana to a gig in Sherman, Texas when their light aircraft crashed on take off killing all six inside (including the pilot). Croce was only 30 and it was already over. Yet his way with a melody, his raconteur wit and his great lyrical songs stayed with people and saw a Greatest Hits set grab an impressive No. 2 spot on the Stateside Rock LP charts in October 1974 (even then there was still nothing in the UK by way of chart action). And that's where this rather cool little CD Box set comes swaggering in.

UK released 16 March 2015 - "The Studio Album Collection" by JIM CROCE [featuring Ingrid Croce] on Edsel CROCEBOX01 (Barcode 5014797891036) is a 7CD Box Set with Card Repro LP sleeves and Booklet that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Facets", 26:39 minutes, 11 Tracks
1. Steel Rail Blues [Side 1]
2. Coal Tattoo
3. Texas Rodeo
4. Charley Green, Play That Slide Trombone
5. The Ballad Of Gunga Din
6. Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp From Savannah) [Side 2]
7. Sun Come Up
8. The Blizzard
9. Running Maggie
10. Until It's Time For Me To Go
11. Big Fat Woman
Tracks 1 to 11 are the privately financed and issued "Facets" LP - released August 1966 in the USA on CROCE-101 (No Label), 500 copies only, most sold by JC at gigs

Disc 2 "Jim And Ingrid Too", 17:39 minutes, 7 Tracks
1. Child Of Midnight
2. Marianne
3. Railroads And Riverboats
4. Hard Times Are Over
5. The Railroad Song
6. Maybe Tomorrow
7. Pa (Song For A Grandfather)
Seven Studio Outtakes first issued March 2004 in the USA as Disc 2 in the 2CD Deluxe Edition reissue of "Facets" (Shout! Factory D2K 34724 - Barcode 826663472424). No recording dates or musician credits provided then or now. The recordings are probably 1967 and 1968 and are far better recorded quality than the bootleg feel of the original 1966 privately made "Facets" LP

Disc 3 "Croce" by Jim and Ingrid Croce, 27:23 minutes, 11 Tracks
1. Age [Side 1]
2. Spin, Spin, Spin
3. I Am Who I Am
4. What Do People Do
5. Another Day, Another Town
6. Vespers
7. Big Wheel [Side 2]
8. Just Another Day
9. The Next Man I Marry
10. What The Hell
11. The Man That Is Me
Tracks 1 to 11 are the US LP "Croce" originally issued September 1969 on Capitol ST-315 in Stereo and credited to JIM and INGRID CROCE. It was reissued 1974 in the USA and Canada as "Another Day, Another Town" on Pickwick SPC-3332 in different LP artwork (railway tracks sleeve) with nine rearranged tracks (the two dropped were "The Next Man That I Marry" and "I Am Who I Am"). That 1974 LP variant can be sequenced by using the following CD tracks – Side 1: 5, 6, 7, 4 and 2 / Side 2: 1, 8, 10 and 11. It was reissued yet again by Pickwick with the same catalogue number and nine tracks sometime in 1976 (Pickwick SPC-3332), but again with different artwork (painting/cartoon side profile face sleeve).

Disc 4 "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", 33:12 minutes, 12 Tracks
1. You Don't Mess Around With Jim [Side 1]
2. Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Brighter Day
3. New York's Not My Home
4. Hard Time Losin' Man
5. Photographs And Memories
6. Walkin' Back To Georgia
7. Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels) [Side 2]
8. Time In A Bottle
9. Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)
10. Box No. 10
11. A Long Time Ago
12. Hey Tomorrow
Tracks 1 to 12 are the US LP "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" issued May 1972 in the USA on ABC Records ABCX-756 - July 1972 in the UK on Vertigo Records 6360 700 (peaked at No. 1 on the US LP charts, didn't chart UK)

Disc 5 "Life And Times", 29:51 minutes, 11 Tracks
1. One Less Set Of Footsteps [Side 1]
2. Roller Derby Queen
3. Dreamin' Again
4. Careful Man
5. Alabama Rain
6. A Good Time Man Like Me Ain't Got No Business (Singin' The Blues)
7. Next Time, This Time [Side 2]
8. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
9. These Dreams
10. Speedball Tucker
11. It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP "Life And Times" - released January 1973 in the USA on ABC Records ABCX-769 - June 1973 UK LP on Vertigo Records 6360 7011 (peaked at No. 7 on the US LP charts, didn't chart UK)

Disc 6 "I Got A Name" , 31:47 minutes, 11 Tracks
1. I Got A Name [Side 1]
2. Lover's Cross
3. Five Short Minutes
4. Age
5. Workin' At The Car Wash Blues
6. I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song [Side 2]
7. Salon And Saloon
8. Thursday
9. Top Hat Bar And Grille
10. Recently
11. The Hard Way Every Time
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP "I Got A Name" - released December 1973 in the USA on ABC Records ABCX-797 - April 1974 UK LP on Vertigo Records 6360 702 (peaked at No. 2 in the US LP charts, didn't chart UK)

Disc 7 "The Lost Recordings", 31:46 minutes, 12 Tracks
1. You Don't Mess Around With Jim
2. New York's Not My Home
3. Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Brighter Day
5. Walkin' Back To Georgia
6. Operator
7. Time In A Bottle
8. Seems Like Such A Long Time Ago
9. Mississippi Lady
10. These Dreams
11. A Good Time Man Like Me Ain't Got No Business (Singin' The Blues)
12. Lover's Cross
Tracks 1 to 12 are early home studio recordings for the 1972 LP "You Don't Mess Around With Jim". Edsel have reissued that 1972 album as a standalone CD in 2015 on Edsel EDSA 5025 (Barcode 740155502539) with the above 12 tracks - 1972 Home Demo Recordings for the "You Don't Mess Around With jim" Album added on as Bonuses.

Each of the 7CDs listed above are in individual singular card sleeves that repro the front and rear of their original vinyl albums - excepting of course the two specially created compilations - "Jim and Ingrid Too" and "The Lost Recordings" (both with newly made up artwork). All seven slide into a hard card slipcase box sided by a very tastefully laid out 36-page accompanying booklet featuring lyrics, recording credits (if known) and a new essay on Croce's life and legacy by ALAN ROBINSON written in December 2014. As with so many Edsel reissues, although the titles are licensed from the majors, there is precious little by way of Remastering credits except that their long-time Audio Engineer - PHIL KINRADE – has mastered this compilation.

The "Facets" album from 1966 reflects its privately pressed and recorded origins and has what can generously be described as bootleg quality - good but never great. The rest are thankfully a whole lot better - especially the core trio of solo LPs "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", "Life And Times" and the album that was recorded before he was tragically taken and released after his passing "I Got A Name". And I'd swear they're the Rhino Remasters. All the instruments are clear and clean. The second CD called "Jim & Ingrid Too" (Disc 2 in the Shout! Factory 2004 Deluxe Edition reissue of "Facets") has shockingly good audio for all of its seven cuts. But that 2004 Shout! Factory reissue unfortunately gives absolutely no indication of when, where or who played on these songs (not elaborated on here either). But given their audio, it might be enough to surmise that they were recorded circa 1967 to 1968 in a professional studio – put down no doubt before the husband and wife "Croce" set on Capitol Records in 1969. Although neither the booklet nor the rear sleeve of the other rarities set here (CD7 entitled "The Lost Recordings") gives any info on those 12 tracks - they're 1972 home demos for the "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" album and their audio quality reflects that. The real studio albums however sound great.

The first bare bones album is OK, the outtakes second CD far, far better despite its short playing time, but whilst the husband and wife Sonny & Cher routine of "Croce" has some pretty and funny moments – mostly it comes over as twee 60ts and is terribly dated (Ingrid hasn’t the best of voices either). The leap to May 1972 and the first solo album proper "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" on ABC Records in terms of audio and quality songs is enormous. It's as if Croce had been crafting and saving up for years because the songs on "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" are fantastic. While the radio-grabber title track gets all the hooky plaudits, to this day there are people who can’t listen to the emotive ballad "Time In A Bottle" without getting soppy. It’s a truly affecting song and the great audio feels like that of Steve Hoffman when DCC reissued and remastered his material. Terry Cashman and Tommy West (trading as Cashman and West on ABC Records in the USA and Probe Records in the UK) aided and abetted on all three of the proper solo albums and with smashes like "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)", "One Less Set Of Footsteps" and "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song)"– Croce found himself up there with the likes of Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot and even James Taylor as being beloved by the public and admired by music critics at one and the same time.

This is a nice set and a reminder of his sad loss – a legacy that shows (some say) that Jim Croce might have taken on the singer-songwriter big boys had his wit and charm been given a chance. In the meantime, try to seek this out rather elusive box set and enjoy those musical photographs of simpler times...

"Free/Identity/Promises Of The Sun" by AIRTO (January 2019Beat Goes On (BGO) Reissue - 3LPs Plus Bonuses Onto 2CDs Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Lucky Southern..."

By 1972, Brazilian-born superstar Percussionist AIRTO MOREIRA had already dropped two albums and sessioned up to the wazoo before releasing his third platter "Free" on Creed Taylor's CTI Records (engineered by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder). "Free" had been preceded by his 1970 debut "Natural Feelings" and its 1971 follow-up "Seeds On The Ground" – both LPs originally on Buddah Records in the States.

In its tasty and eclectic gatefold sleeve, the five songs of album number three also famously featured a virtual who's who of quality Jazz types bringing up the improvisational rear - Bassists Stanley Clarke and Ron Carter, Return To Forever's Keyboardist Chick Corea and Horn Player Joe Farrell, Keith Jarrett on Keyboards, Hubert Laws on Flute, George Benson on Guitar and the LP even boasted a Flora Purim composition ("Flora’s Song") and two guest vocals from the great lady (she became Airto's wife in the Sixties). Corea, Clarke and Flora Purim would of course feature in the band Return To Forever, formed in 1972 after the "Free" sessions. Prior to all this he'd played with Miles Davis on seminal period albums like 1971's double album "Live-Evil" and would re-join the mercurial trumpeter for 1973's "Black Beauty" and 1974's "Big Fun. Heady stuff and wild days indeed...

Back to 2019 - England's Beat Goes On Records (BGO) now give Moreira a long-overdue and stylish three-onto-two CD reissue and remaster - lumping in Airto's celebrated 1972 CTI set (three bonus outtakes from the sessions are included too) with two later albums he did for Arista Records after he left CTI. Both of these had more of a Latin and Samba influence than the improv Jazz of before - his 1975 set "Identity" and 1976's "Promises Of The Sun". The first of these "Identity" featured Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and again Flora Purim as guests whilst "Promises..." boasted talent like Vocalist and Guitarist Milton Nascimento, Guitarist Toninho Horta and Keyboard whizz Hugo Fattoruso. Here are the promising details...

UK released 11 January 2019 (December 2018 in the USA) - "Free/Identity/Promises Of The Sun" by AIRTO on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1366 (Barcode 5017261213662) offers Three LPs with Three Bonus Tracks Remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (55:16 minutes):
1. Return To Forever [Side 1]
2. Flora's Song
3. Free [Side 2]
4. Lucky Southern
5. Creek (Arroio)
Tracks 1 to 5 are his third studio album "Free" - released October 1972 in the USA on CTI Records CTI 6020. Produced by Creed Taylor - Track 1 written by Chick Corea, 2 by Flora Purim, 3 by Airto Moreira, 4 by Keith Jarrett and Track 5 by Victor Brazil.

6. So Tender
7. Jequie
8. Creek (Arroio) (Alternative Version)
Tracks 6 and 7 first appeared on CTI CD Remasters in 1988 as session outtakes – Track 8 first appeared on the 2003 'Master Series' CD Reissue and Remaster of "Free" on CTI/Epic/Legacy 5127852. Track 6 written by Keith Jarrett, 7 by Moacir Santos and 8 by Victor Brazil

Disc 2 (73:24 minutes):
1. The Magicians (Bruxos) [Side 1]
2. Tales From Home (Lendas)
3. Identity
4. Encounter (Encontro No Bar)
5. Wake Up Song (Baiao Do Acordar)/Cafe [Side 2]
6. Mae Cambina
7. Flora On My Mind
Tracks 1 to 7 are his seventh album (sixth studio) "Identity" - released December 1975 in the USA on Arista AL 4068 and April 1976 in the UK on Arista ARTY 119.

8. Batucada [Side 1]
9. Zuei
10. Promises Of The Sun
11. Candango
12. Circo Marimbondo
13. Le De Casa
14. Ruas Do Recife
15. Georgianna
Tracks 8 to 15 are his eight album (seventh studio) "Promises Of The Sun" - released June 1976 in the USA on Arista AL 4116

The card slipcase houses a 2CD jewel case and a 20-page booklet featuring new liner notes from CHARLES WARING, a regular writer for BGO and one of Mojo’s Jazz reviewers. You get all the album credits, photos and a very good history of his Jazz Fusion years at CTI Records, his less successful Brazilian vs. Fusion rhythms with Arista only to eventually sign to Warner Brothers in the late Seventies doing Jazz Funk and trying to ride that very commercial wave.

Highlights on "Free" include ten minutes of Fender Rhodes, doubled-up flutes, Samba rhythms and Flora's ethereal vocals on the opening track "Return To Forever" – not just the name of the band they’d formed but a song they’d recorded prior to the "Free" sessions for ECM Records in February of that productive year, 1972. Keith Jarrett contributes Acoustic Piano to Side 1's other sweetie - "Flora's Song" – aided very nicely by Hubert Laws on Flute and Jay Berliner who classes up the overall feel with lovely Acoustic Guitar. The album's title track opens Side 2 and lives up to its name with ten and half minutes of free form (giggles and shouts ahoy from the players) whilst Keith Jarrett provides "Lucky Southern" - two and half minutes of KJ and George Benson trading guitar and piano solos. Return To Forever's Joe Farrell gives you a muscular saxophone solo on the album closer "Creek (Arroio)" while woodwinds keep it anchored. I have to say too that the three Bonus Cuts are exactly that - bonuses - "So Tender" at five minutes is Keith Jarrett on a beautiful sounding piano while "Jequie" by Brazilian Saxophonist Macir Santos may only be three minutes, it still allows guitarist Jay Berliner, Chick Corea on Piano and Flute player Hubert Laws enough room for all three to impress.

By the time we jump past three albums ("Fingers" in 1973, "Virgin Land" and "In Concert" with Deodato both in 1974) – Airto arrives at 1975 and 1976 for the "Identity" and "Promises Of The Sun" albums on Arista Records with his home country and its Latin/Samba rhythms firmly in the uppermost of his thoughts. Again there are genre-celebrity players on both records - Airto producing "Promises..." with Flora to gain total control when prior he’d used others. Without being overt, there is commerciality to these records – both sensing the Jazz Funk wave sweeping across music and into the mainstream. Airto even gets into some lurve vocals and deeply groovy territory on the tribute tune "Flora On My Mind" - the passion declarations amped up by Raul De Souza's trombone. Over on the almost environmental "Promises Of The Sun" (the album's title track written by and featuring Milton Nascimento) - Airto resorts to bird noises throughout to a backdrop of soothing woodwinds and delicate guitar from Toninho Horta. And on it goes... 

In September 2002, the then Brazilian President awarded Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim their country's highest honour for lifetime achievements in music - the 'Order Of Rio Branco'. And on the evidence presented here on this gorgeous sounding 2CD reissue highlighting an array of musical styles - its hardly surprising. Another winner from BGO...

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

"Catch Bull At Four" by CAT STEVENS from 1972 (August 2000 Island Remasters CD Reissue - Ted Jensen Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...I'll Tell You Everything I've Learned 
And Love...Is All He Said..."

Arriving onto a panting public in September 1972 - Steven Georgiou's sixth album (his fourth for Island Records UK, A&M Records USA) has always had something of a poor man's relationship to the two absolute joys that preceded it - "Tea For The Tillerman" (November 1970) and "Teaser And The Firecat" (September 1971). I can recall despite its huge-selling No. 2 and No. 1 status in the UK and USA, it wasn't critically well received and only a few years later - always the Cat Stevens album that got sold in first when cash got tight.

Well in 2019, "Catch Bull At Four" is a whopping 47 years old and I would argue that its one to return to for three good reasons - there are enough great songs to savour, the December 1999 audio transfer is absolutely gorgeous (eventually released globally in August 2000) and its still cheaper than a Nigel Farage milkshake. "Can't Keep It In" indeed - here are the bullish details...

UK released August 2000 - "Catch Bull At Four" by CAT STEVENS on Island IMCD 271/546 886-2 (Barcode 731454688628) is a straightforward transfer of the 1972 album Remastered onto CD and plays out as follows (39:40 minutes):

1. Sitting [Side 1]
2. The Boy With The Moon & Star On His Head
3. Angelsea
4. Silent Sunlight
5. Can't Keep It In
6. 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare) [Side 2]
7. Freezing Steel
8. O' Caritas
9. Sweet Scarlet
10. Ruins
Tracks 1 to 10 are his sixth studio album "Catch Bull At Four" - released September 1972 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9206 and October 1972 in the USA on A&M Records SP 4365. Produced by PAUL SAMWELL-SMITH - it peaked at No. 2 in the UK and No. 1 on the US LP charts.

CAT STEVENS - Lead Vocals, Piano, Synthesiser, Diamond Organ, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Mandolin
ALUN DAVIES - Acoustic (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7) and Spanish Guitar (Track 4)
JEAN ROUSSEL - Organ and Piano
ALAN JAMES - Bass (Vocals on Track 3)
Linda Lewis - Backing Vocals on "Angelsea"
Del Newman - Strings on "Silent Sunlight" and "18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)"
Andreas Toumazis - Bouzouki on "O' Caritas"

As with all of these 'Island Remasters' CD issues, the 12-page booklet reproduces only the original LP artwork (the lyrics that were on the inner gatefold, the players pictured, Cat Stevens rear photo etc) with no new liner notes - which is a shame. The see-through spine has a cover artwork montage of the nine Island/A&M Records LPs issued between April 1970 through to January 1979 - "Mona Bona Jakon" to "Back To Earth" as well as two Greatest Hits sets (all now part of the 'Island Remasters' series of CDs).

But the big news here is the TED JENSEN Remaster from original two-track analogue master tapes done at Sterling Sound Studios in New York in December 1999. Jensen has managed to instil new life into these recordings – the acoustic led numbers like "Ruins" and particularly "The Boy With A Moon & Star On His Head" sound glorious – clean too – but not supressed – while band-led tunes like the synth-led "Angelsea", the pop single "Can’t Keep It In", the Side 2 opener "18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)" and the house of "Freezing Steel" electric guitar chugger are now bursting with revelatory audio.

For sure Side 2 is weak - "Sweet Scarlet" and "O' Caritas" still underwhelming and even odd – but the I’m on my way song "Sitting" and the album sleeper "Ruins" feels like rediscoveries waiting for you in the digital ether. But for me the album’s masterpiece has always been the moving and beautifully simple acoustic melody of "The Boy With A Moon & Star On His Head" – surely one of prettiest songs and those final lyrics always manage to floor me every time – I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned – and love is all he said – indeed.

Cat Stevens would give us the sophisticated but misunderstood "Foreigner" album in July 1973 that itself would go up to an impressive No. 3 in the USA and UK respectively (check out the stunning Side 1 Foreigner Suite collection of connecting songs). In the meantime check out the gift that someone left, the basket by the door, the man with the cool hat and nice smile on the rear cover urging you get a guiding wheel...(will do Cat)...

SOME OF MY E-BOOKS FOR SALE on AMAZON (All Updated to 2018)

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters



GROOVIEST SOUNDS AROUND! 1960s MUSIC ON CD (All-Genres) - April 2019 Update

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 3 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS




1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD Volume 1 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

CLASSIC PROG ROCK, PSYCH and Other Genres Thereabouts - Exceptional CD Remasters...

MY BROKEN HEART (75 Days In The NHS) - Poem of Poems

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order