Thursday, 24 July 2008

“Careless” by STEPHEN BISHOP (2005 Hip-O Select CD Reissue in Mini LP Hard Card Repro Artwork with Foldout Insert & Inner Bag - Non-Numbered Limited Edition of 5000) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Warm Sunny Day…" 

San Diego songwriter STEPHEN BISHOP had gotten Art Garfunkel to include "Looking For The Right One" and "The Same Old Tears On A New Background" on his "Breakaway" album for Columbia Records in 1975. Actually knowing such heavy hitters like Garfunkel meant that when it came to making his own debut album - Bishop was able to call on a large number of rock alumni to session on it. And coupled with its great songs -"Careless" wooed the FM radio audience of 1976 and 1977 completely. It proved to be a huge hit with the album eventually climbing the US charts to number 11 and it's been beloved by fans ever since.

Bishop wrote all the songs in '75 and '76, recorded it in the ABC & A&M Studios in California that summer with the album finally released on vinyl and cassette in December 1976 on ABC Records ABCD-954 in the USA and ABCL 5201 in the UK. It was produced by HENRY LEW and STEPHEN BISHOP and spawned two radio smashes in the USA with "Save It For A Rainy Day" (ABC 12232) and "On And On" (ABC 12260).

On CD, there's been budget issues of some of its tracks here in the UK on MCA/Half Moon and in the US on the excellent Rhino "Best Of" remaster in 1988, but this is the first proper sonic doing of the entire album and the result I'm happy to say is just beautiful - breathtaking clarity that fans will absolutely delight in - for years to come. There were some big names involved so here's a breakdown of who contributed to what:

Side 1:
1: On And On - features Andrew Gold on Electric Guitars with Victor Feldman on Percussion & Vibes

2. Never Letting Go - features Lee Ritenour on Guitar, Craig Doerge on Piano with Chaka Khan of Rufus on backing Vocals

3: Careless - features backing vocals by Art Garfunkel

4: Sinking In An Ocean Of Tears - features Jay Graydon on Guitar, Eric Clapton on Electric Slide Guitar with a Sax Solo by Ray Pizzi

5: Madge - features Strings Arranged & Conducted by Lee Holdridge

6: Every Minute - features Jay Graydon on Acoustic Guitar, Andrew Gold on Electric Guitar, Victor Feldman on Organ, Max Bennett on Bass with Art Garfunkel on Backing Vocals

Side 2:
7: Little Italy - features Larry Carlton on Acoustic Guitar, Max Bennett on Bass, Victor Feldman on Percussion & Vibes, Tommy Tedesco on Mandolin with Chaka Khan on Duet Vocals

8: One More Night - features Piano by Barlow Jarvis with the Strings Arranged by Lee Holdridge

9: Guitar Interlude

10: Save It For A Rainy Day - features Electric Guitar Solo by Eric Clapton with Backing Vocals from Chaka Khan

11: Rock And Roll Slave - features Art Garfunkel on Backing Vocals

12: The Same Old Tears On A New Background - recorded live with Acoustic Guitar only

This Hip-O Select CD of "Careless" by STEPHEN BISHOP on Hip-O Select B0004157-02 (Barcode 602498800652) is a US-Only Limited Edition of 5000 issued on 4 February 2005 in a hard card album repro sleeve (non-numbered). They also reproduced the inner bag of lyrics & photos that came with the original US LP (wasn't any with the UK copies) and a see-through sepia-printed inner sleeve giving re-issue details. The card sleeve has the words LIMITED EDITION boxed in gold on the rear and the detail even stretches to a pasted-on page on the rear sleeve like US albums of the time. The CD itself also reflects the original label design - all nice touches. It's a shame though that there is no history to the album, no proper liner note contributed by the man himself, not even an original release date of the LP or singles or photos from the sessions - still, that all pales against the real deal - the stunning sound.

BRENDAN MORRIS did the Master Tape Research and GAVIN LURSSEN the Mastering - and a sensational result it is too. Lurssen's superb mastering work is also featured on THE CRUSADERS "Gold" 2CD set and Joe Walsh’s “Barnstorm” (also Hip-O Select releases via Universal - see my separate reviews).

The mastering is 'so' subtle and 'so' sweet - it's like a Mobile Fidelity CD - you feel care was taken with it and the result is a genuine thrill. "Little Italy" - probably one of 'the' great under-rated masterpieces of the mid Seventies - is a perfect example. As you can see from the track list above, the song is loaded down with top session people, but this remaster lets you hear them. All of their contributions suddenly come to life here. As the song opens, Max Bennett's bass jumps out of the speakers, funky and clean (he played on Joni Mitchell's "Court & Spark" "The Hissing Of Summer Lawns" and "Hejira"). His bass is accompanied by the acoustic guitars of Bish and Larry Carlton - very nice - these are followed by the lovely mandolin playing of Tommy Tedesco - then Chaka's fantastically complimentary vocal contribution - it's all a wow! And if that isn't enough, then the beautiful Bacharach horn and woodwind arrangements by Ian Freebairn-Smith float in. It's absolutely gorgeous – I never tire of this wonderful tune.

After all that showiness, we get the lovely melody of "One More Night" where Barlow Jarvis plays such pretty piano work. The 46 second long "Guitar Interlude" sounds like it was recorded in the 1990s on some highly polished James Taylor CD. And then the gem that never gets noticed - the truly lovely "Rock And Roll Slave" (lyrics from it title this review) where Art Garfunkel's vocal work really comes into its own. (Apparently Cheryl Ladd did a cover of it once - but we won't talk about that just now) "Madge" is beautiful too. I would concede that some might find it overly romantic and schlocky in places - but get past that - and you're in for a treat. The last track is Bish on his own with an Acoustic guitar recorded live in Little Hollywood - it's a bit hissy - but the melody is warm and utterly irresistible...

The Hip-O Select label isn't cheap, but like Ace, Bear Family, Rhino and Raven - their issues are the best. For lovers of the album, this a no-brainer - it's a must have purchase. If you're new to the record, tempted and you want a taster, this 2005 version is available on iTunes - try "Rock And Roll Slave" as a download and you'll see what I mean - lovely song, beautifully reproduced...

This reissue of "Careless" is a superlative job done - and recommended big time.

PS: I've bought his 2nd album on ABC Records called "Bish" from 1978 (just as good as the first) and it's also a Hip-O Select card repro too - see separate review...


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