Monday, 16 September 2019

"Yes" by YES [1969 Debut LP] (January 2003 Elektra/Rhino 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue – Dan Hersch and Bill Inglot Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Beyond And Before..."

I remember as a young lad opening up the gatefold of the wildly exotic Atlantic Records 588 190 (why is that always such a brill thing) and reading Tony Wilson’s liner notes. Respected journo, he enthused that Melody Maker magazine had asked him what two top bands he would pick for 1969 – one was LED ZEPPELIN and the other was of course – YES (both signed to the canny American label). I think the lad was on to something...

Personally I've always thought their first two albums wildly underrated and under appreciated (most fans want to begin their catalogue with 1971's brilliant "The Yes Album" and i can understand that). But like the "Time And A Word" CD Reissue and Remaster [their 2nd platter from 1970] - I'd argue that the six 'Bonus Tracks' on this 2003 Elektra/Rhino CD Remaster of "Yes" (four of which are unreleased) lift proceedings into the realms of essential purchase for fan and newcomer alike. Here are the positive details...

UK released January 2003 (reissued August 2008 and April 2013) - "Yes" by YES on Elektra/Rhino 8122-73786-2 (Barcode 081227378622) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Six Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (79:48 minutes):

1. Beyond And Before [Side 1]
2. I See You
3. Yesterday And Today
4. Looking Around
5. Harold Land [Side 2]
6. Every Little Thing
7. Sweetness
8. Survival
Tracks 1 to 8 are their Debut studio album "Yes" - released 25 July 1969 in the UK on Atlantic Records 588 190 (reissued December 1971 on Atlantic K 40034) and 15 October 1969 in the USA on Atlantic Records SD 8243. The US issue had different artwork to the UK variant - the first page of the booklet uses the UK artwork (centred YES logo) whilst the last page uses the US cover (a colour photo of the 5-piece band standing amidst statues).

9. Everydays (Single Version) – October 1969 UK 7” single on Atlantic Records 584298, Non-Album Version, B-side to "Looking Around"
10. Dear Father (Single Version No. 2) - PREVIOUSLY UNISSED
11. Something’s Coming – 4 July 1969 UK 7” single on Atlantic 584280, Non-Album B-side to "Sweetness"
12. Everydays (Early Version) - PREVIOUSLY UNISSED
13. Dear Father (Early Version No. 1) - PREVIOUSLY UNISSED
14. Something’s Coming (Early Version)  - PREVIOUSLY UNISSED

For their Debut Album YES was:
JON ANDERSON - Leads Vocals and Incidental Percussion
PETER BANKS - Lead Guitars and Backing Vocals
TONY KAYE - Keyboards (Organ and Piano)
CHRIS SQUIRE – Bass and Backing Vocals
BILL BRUFORD – Drums and Vibes

The first remaster of this album in November 1994 simply presented fans with the 8-track album and as it was a US based reissue - it used the American colour artwork. This new 2004 stab at it goes back to the British artwork and design of Bryan Lasley (the US variant is on the last page of the booklet) and adds on six tasty Bonus Tracks, four of which are Previously Unissued in the USA. The 16-page booklet has detailed and informative liner notes from MIKE TIANO and the text is peppered with colour/black and white period photos of the band as well as rare picture sleeve for Sweetness. Pages 2 and 14 recreate the inner gatefold artwork of the UK plum label 1969 original, while the rare lyric insert that came with original vinyl issues is featured towards the end. But the big news here is a new DAN HERSCH and BILL INGLOT CD Remaster at Digiprep from original master tapes and they've done a sterling job - full, alive and coming at you with real presence.

Grapefruit Records of the UK - the new darlings of 3CD reissues covering this period - featured the Side 1 opener "Beyond And Before" in their May 2019 mini box set "Lullabies For Catatonics: A Journey Through The British Avant-Pop/Art Rock Scene 1967-1974" and its easy to hear why. Their cover of The Byrds "I See You" smacks of Yes hijacking that hooky sound but still has enough to make it exciting and feel like something new and brill is emerging. Pretty and even beautiful describes the gentle strum of "Yesterday And Today" – the audio warm and lovely. Something on a lost melodic gem in their canyon on an album so often associated with the early Prog of the very Yes  "Looking Around". Speaking of which...

Their debut produced two wildly un-commercial UK 45s - "Sweetness" b/w "Something's Coming" in July 1969 on Atlantic 584280 and "Looking Around" b/w "Everydays" in October 1969 on Atlantic 584298 - the second reputedly withdrawn after zero interest. I can remember decades back when these orange label 7" singles would command £40 for the first and say £60 for the second, especially because of their non-album B-sides pre CD. But in 2019 they're probably four times that amount and if actual mint issues came up for public grabs (especially "Looking Back"), they’d be auction items rather than set sale. Both are featured in the bonus tracks and cool inclusions.

The Side 2 opener "Harold Land" is superb and I used to think it like Nursery Cryme by Genesis – only recorded months earlier. The acoustic guitar over to the left is clear as Jon sings of marching soldiers and holding the thin blue line. While the Byrds cover on Side 1 stayed mostly faithful - Yes rightly screw around with The Beatles cover of "Every Little Thing" (originally on their fourth UK platter "Beatles For Sale" in 1964). Half way through they come up with that familiar vocal refrain - a clever set of counterpoints as the guitars and drums punch and swirl. "Sweetness" is just over four minutes of Prog meets melody - sweetness stirred with a spoon - a very 1969 love-song wrapped up that Yes-ness sound. "Survival" points towards the multiple-song-parts of "The Yes Album" - huge thumping bass notes - guitars and keyboards dancing – until it suddenly fades into something entirely new and unexpected – gorgeous stuff and a genuinely great way to end the album.

The 1970 "Time And A Word" second LP (with orchestra) would continue the musical search for 'that sound' which they would finally realise in the 1971 game-changer "The Yes Album" - a band arriving and unleashing their potential. "...Somewhere in a field a life begins..." and "...yesterday's endings will tomorrow's life give you..." - Jon Anderson sang on "Survival". For sure "Yes" is only a start, but man what an opening Starship Trooper...

PS: This 2003 Remaster variant of "Yes" including the Six Bonus Tracks also turns up inside "The Studio Albums 1969-1987" Box Set which is amazing value for money and includes repro artwork but not the booklet...

Friday, 13 September 2019

"The Velvet Underground & Nico" by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO (June 2002 Universal/Polydor 2CD ‘Deluxe Edition’ Reissue – Bob Ludwig and Jeff Willens Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...He's Got The Works..."

I can think of only two other albums like The Velvet Underground's debut that have influenced so much and so many - and had such a staggering and lasting cultural impact - "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles and "Never Mind The Bollocks..." by The Sex Pistols. When I worked at Reckless in the West End we kept at least 100 copies of the Velvet's debut on new 180grams reissue vinyl for eager punters to snap up on a daily basis - without question the biggest selling reissue album we ever had. No other LP short of Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" or Nirvana's "Nevermind" has had such a devoted and long-lasting following.

And for those who can't afford (nor want) the Super Deluxe 6-Disc version that came out in October 2012 - this 2CD Deluxe Edition gives a scratchy arm all the needles it'll need. Here are the Femme Fatales and Andy Warhols...

Released June 2002 - "The Velvet Underground & Nico: Deluxe Edition" by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO on Universal/Polydor 314 589 624-2 (Barcode 731458962427) is a 2CD Deluxe Edition with the Mono and Stereo Versions of the album with Nine Bonus Tracks and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (60:18 minutes):
1. Sunday Morning
2. I'm Waiting For The Man
3. Femme Fatale [Vocals by Nico]
4. Venus In Furs
5. Run, Run, Run
6. All Tomorrow's Parties [Vocals by Nico]
7. Heroin [Side 2]
8. There She Goes Again
9. I'll Be Your Mirror
10. The Black Angel's Death Song
11. European Son
Tracks 1 to 11 are the STEREO VERSION of "The Velvet Underground & Nico" - their debut album released March 1967 in the USA on Verve V6-5008 and November 1967 in the UK on Verve SVLP 9184 [For Mono Variant see Disc 2]

12. Little Sister
13. Winter Song
14. It Was A Pleasure Then
15. Chelsea Girls
16. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
Tracks 12 to 16 are from "Chelsea Girl"- the solo debut album by NICO released October 1967 on Verve V6-5032 (Stereo) and finally released in the UK in September 1971 on MGM Select 2353 025 (Stereo)

Disc 2 (77:33 minutes):
1. Sunday Morning
2. I'm Waiting For The Man
3. Femme Fatale [Vocals by Nico]
4. Venus In Furs
5. Run, Run, Run
6. All Tomorrow's Parties [Vocals by Nico]
7. Heroin [Side 2]
8. There She Goes Again
9. I'll Be Your Mirror
10. The Black Angel's Death Song
11. European Son
Tracks 1 to 11 are the MONO VERSION of "The Velvet Underground & Nico" released March 1967 in the USA on Verve V-5008 and November 1967 in the UK on Verve VLP 9184 [For Stereo Variant see Disc 1]

12. All Tomorrow's Parties (Single Version),
13. I'll Be Your Mirror (12 and 13 issued July 1966 as the A&B-sides of a US 7" single on Verve VK-10427. Both tracks feature NICO on Lead Vocals, are in MONO and were not issued in the UK as a single. "I'll Be Your Mirror" the 'single version' features an alternate ending to the cut on the LP)

14. Sunday Morning (Single Version)
15. Femme Fatale (Single Version) (14 and 15 issued December 1966 as the A&B-sides of a US 7" single on Verve VK-10466. "Femme Fatale" features NICO on Lead Vocals, is in Mono and was not issued in the UK)

Compiled by BILL LEVINSON and remastered by BOB LUDWIG and JEFF WILLENS - they've done a fantastic job with an album that is notoriously lo-fi on purpose (Produced by Andy Warhol with Nico credited as a 'Chanteuse'). The foldout flaps of the digipak feature reviews of the album from various trade papers of the time, album credits, suitably blurry photos of the band beneath the see-through trays and a 28-page booklet that has classy black and white snaps of the group's famous shows (mostly live shots) and some studies of Nico. The Dave Thompson liner notes (Pages 3 to 12) go deep into the album's explosive history, there's lyrics to all the songs and original US issues (Universal 314 589 624-2) even has a 'peelable' banana on the front flap to repro the rare first pressings on vinyl (now worth a King's ransom).

Flower-power ladies, loved up hippies and peace-in-our-time acid droppers got the fright of their lives when "The Velvet Underground & Nico" was released in the spring of 1967. It painted a seriously dark picture of a counter-culture that was already writhing in sweaty withdrawal. Drugs and their all-pervasive effect of everything you hold dear permeates almost every song  - scoring them ("I'm Waiting For The Man"), doing them ("Venus In Furs") and then selling your body and eventually your soul to get more ("Run, Run, Run"). And all of this despair is wrapped up in jagged melodies, droll voices (American and German) and distorted guitars that sound like they're being tortured by CIA operatives determined to find a Communist. But I suspect that like "Bollocks" - the real reason the album has endured so long is precisely because it's so brutally honest - where one track is actually called "Heroin" - and the others barely disguise such a controversial subject matter. And yet there's inexplicable prettiness too - the gorgeous opener "Sunday Morning" sung by Lou Reed as if he hasn't a care in the world - while Nico scores massively with three vocal beauties - "Femme Fatale", the ragged piano of "All Tomorrow's Parties" and the delicate "I'll Be Your Mirror". Even now it's an extraordinary piece of work and 'influential' barely touches on its true impact down through the decades. It also has something you can't invent - it's effortlessly cool...

Of the two versions I actually find the MONO mix to be more powerful and direct (unavailable since its 1967 release) - the wild soloing of "Heroin" is so stunning and the jangly guitar of "There She Goes Again" much cleaner as it escapes your speakers. And with Sterling Morrison, Lou Reed and John Cale all contributing to the NICO solo tracks - it's hardly surprising they bookend Disc 1. The flute and dry nature of "Chelsea Girls" with "Bridget all wrapped in foil..." matches the Velvets album perfectly while the eight-minutes of the (admittedly hissy) "It Was A Pleasure Then" feels just as druggy as anything on the "Banana Peel" debut.

Will we ever know its like again? Will I ever find an unpeeled 'banana sleeve' in a dollar bin or carboot sale - no is the answer. But at least with this superb Universal DE Edition you can get to understand what all the fuss and iconography is about.

"$26 in my hand...more dead than alive..." Lou Reed sings on "I'm Waiting For The Man". 

Well in 2019 you'll get your fix for a lot less now - and in this case - it's worth every blood red cent...

"The Velvet Underground" [1969 3rd LP] by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (November 2014 UMC/Polydor '45 Anniversary Remaster' Single CD Reissue – Bill Levenson, Jaime Feldman and Kevin Reeves Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...I'm Set Free..."

"All You Need Is Love..." - The Beatles said. I'd agree (mostly). Except perhaps when it comes to the muddy cash-grab quagmire that is big-league-albums by hugely influential bands.

With the 45th and 50th anniversaries of 1967, 1968, 1969 and next year 1970 passing us by sequentially - in my not so humble opinion, Velvet Underground fans (like everyone else) have been hit with a plethora of dubious Multiple-Disc Sets. The all-encompassing definitive issue (until next time that is) will have the Stereo Mix – the Mono Mix – padded packaging and unreleased Live /Acetate stuff that given the audio cacophony which was The VU is either unlistenable or barely rises above interesting - tracks you'll play once in other words and never feel the need to again.

So for Art-Rock platter number three - "The Velvet Underground" issued March and April 1969 respectively on MGM Records USA and UK - I'd stick my foot in Door No. 1. The simple single-CD '45th Anniversary Remaster - The Val Valentin Mix' is all you need. You get great remastered audio from a team of three who took care - a half decent booklet of 12-pages that isn't the gatefold slip of paper of old (the inlay isn’t perfect for sure but it is better than what was on offer before) - and best of all - "The Velvet Underground" is generally available brand new for less than a fiver from many online retailers. To the quietly majestic music and those pale blue eyes...

UK released 24 November 2014 - "The Velvet Underground: 45th Anniversary Remaster" by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND Single-CD Reissue of their 1969 third album on UMC/Polydor 0602547038661 (Barcode 602547038661) plays out as follows (43:53 minutes):

1. Candy Says [Side 1]
2. What Goes On
3. Some Kinda Love
4. Pale Blue Eyes
5. Jesus
6. Beginning To See The Light [Side 2]
7. I'm Set Free
8. That's The Story Of My Life
9. The Murder Mystery
10. After Hours
Tracks 1 to 10 are their third studio album "The Velvet Underground" - released March 1969 in the USA on MGM Records SE-4617 and April 1969 on MGM Records CS 8108 in STEREO (reissued November 1971 in the UK on MGM Select 2353 022 with different artwork). The album was recorded Nov/Dec 1968 at the T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood, California. 

A team of three renowned names have handled the transfers - Supervision by BILL LEVENSON and JAMIE FELDMAN with Mastering by one of Universal's long-standing Audio Engineers KEVIN REEVES. Reeves has done huge swathes of the UMC catalogue over the last two decades - I think its literally over 300 credits including large amounts of multiple-genres in the 'Originals' series. He's hits the tapes for Audio Fidelity as well. In fact if his name is on it, like say Vic Anesini over at Sony/BMG or Erick Labson for Chess or Ellen Fitton for Motown and so on - I want it. My battered original LP 9and manky reissue for that matter) have never sounded this good.

The booklet is a pleasing 12-pages but its entirely pictures and posters, gigs with harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite at the Avalon Ballroom, jangling and Prog Rock-ing with The Byrds and England's Colosseum in Boston, headlining The Hilltop Festival in Mason, New Hampshire, sharing with The Chapter Five at Springers in Portland, November 21, 1969 - even a ticket stub from The Whisky A Go Go on the credits page looking like a naught remnant from the past. There aren't any liner notes per say which for an Anniversary Reissue is bizarre - no history - no sense of its place - zip - damn shame that. But for a fiver, overlook it, because the music is worth it.

Disarming, perhaps even menacing, the Side 1 opener "Candy Says" oozes genuine pain and hurt – I need the quite places, if I could walk away from me, Lou Reed sings – the remaster gorgeous too. Back to more frantic frenetic territory with "What Goes On" – those LR guitars sounding like a 1967 Byrds session where everyone has dropped something small, lysergic and purple and said to hell with it – let’s distort those axes. And again the hypnotic drone sound – so influential – you can literally hear Roxy Music and their 1972 debut on Island Records coming in the distance (Ferry covered the song on his 1978 solo LP "The Bride Stripped Bare").

Sloppy and yet rumbling like a volcano about to erupt – suddenly the guitars of "Some Kinda Love" are fantastically clear as they do battle in each speaker. Combines the absurd with the vulgar – indeed the possibilities are endless in this cleaned up movie. One of my absolute VU faves – the gorgeous and emotionally delicate "Pale Blue Eyes" is thrilling to hear in such clarity. And I love the articulacy of linger-on lyrics like, "...thought of you as my mountain top...thought of you as my peak...thought of you as everything...I've had but couldn't keep..." Lou Reed then ends Side 1 with the let-me-find-a-purpose prayer to "Jesus" – a song I've always felt was not-so-secretly about drugs and a sincere plea for a willpower tunnel of light somewhere up in the distance.

Strumming its melodic way out of your speakers from Side 2 is the here-we-go-again "Beginning To See The Light" – a tune that feels like the morning after "Jesus" when the cravings return and the snarl of sarcasm takes over. I've always love that doubled vocal in the opening lines of "I'm Set Free" – underpinning the emotion and the off-the-cuff guitar solo that seems to be receding into some black hole it can’t get out of. "I'm Set Free" is brilliant VU - lovely yet tainted with their peculiar brand of shiny leather corruption. The jaunty rat-a-tat of "That's The Story Of My Life" is followed by a barrage of voices and poetry in "The Murder Mystery" - Mo Tucker's fay vocal like Nico's younger sister. She continues to sing on the closer "After Hours" - possibly a tad too whimsical for the hurt beauty that's preceded it. 

Always somehow forgotten after the explosive 1967 game-changer debut with Nico – VU's third however has always felt like a classic to me - even a forgotten one despite its chart placing of No. 15 in the USA (its dullard artwork and unimaginative name did it no favours). And in 2019 - a full 50 years on - they still sound otherworldly like say My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins - like a band from the future giving us a lyrical and musical nod so we can prepare for the next stage. 

Amazing stuff and so damn cool too. And available my children of Reed, Morrison, Yule & Tucker & Co. (a team of lawyers in California specialising in misery) for only a skydiver...





SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters

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

PROG ROCK, PSYCH, AVANT GARDE - Exceptional CD Remasters...


I GOT THE NEWS - 1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters


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

1969 - WHOLE LOTTA LOVE - Your All-Genres Guide To Exceptional CD Remasters and Reissues...



TUMBLING DICE - 1972 - Exceptional CD Remasters

ELOQUENT PROFANITY - 1973 - Exceptional CD Remasters







INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order