Thursday, 31 May 2012

“Just As I Am” by BILL WITHERS (2012 Big Break Records (BBR) '40th Anniversary' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"...Sooth The Local Unwed Mother..."

This is one of my favourite albums of the early Seventies - and at last - in 2012 - a mere 40 years after the event - "Just As I Am" by Bill Withers is finally getting the sound quality its always deserved and needed.

As a "Hall Of Fame" reviewer and long-time contributor to Amazon - I've raved about Britain's BIG BREAK RECORDS before and have bought and reviewed over 40 of their reissue titles. Each has been uniformly superb - especially for those of us looking for great sound quality rather than the half-hearted efforts thrown at us by the majors (when they can be bothered). But BBR has excelled in every way on this lovely and timely reissue. The remaster on this sucker is TRULY GORGEOUS - and after decades of the occasional track on a compilation in only-ok sound - fans of this great songwriter will be duly taken aback by the clarity on offer here. Here are the details...

UK released 7 May 2012 as a '40th Anniversary' issue (15 May 2012 in the USA) – "Just As I Am" by BILL WITHERS on Big Break Records CDBBR 0143 (Barcode 5013929044333) is a straightforward CD Remaster of his debut album and plays out as follows (35:41 minutes):

1. Harlem
2. Ain’t No Sunshine
3. Grandma’s hands
4. Sweet Wanomi
5. Everybody’s Talkin'
6. Do It Good
7. Hope She’ll Be Happier – [Side 2]
8. Let It Be Me
9. I’m Her Daddy
10. In My Heart
11. Moanin' And Groanin'
12. Better Off Dead
Tracks 1 to 12 are his debut album "Just As I Am" - released May 1971 in the USA on Sussex Records SXBS-7006 and June 1971 in the UK on A&M Records AMLS 65002.

SINGLES: Although there are no bonus tracks or outtakes - this release will allow fans to sequence the two USA 7" singles that were released around the album - "Ain't No Sunshine" b/w "Harlem" on Sussex 219 (June 1971 - originally issued in April 1971 with the same catalogue number - but with the tracks reversed) - and "Grandma's Hands" b/w "Sweet Wanomi" on Sussex 227 (October 1971). Britain had slightly different configurations - "Everybody's Talkin'" b/w "Harlem" on A&M Records AMS 845 (May 1971), "Ain't No Sunshine" b/w "Harlem" on A&M Records AMS 858 (September 1971) and "Lean On Me" b/w "Better Off Dead" on A&M Records AMS 7004 (August 1972) [the A-side is on the Sony Legacy CD of his 2nd album "Still Bill"].

This reissue comes in one of those rounded-corner jewel cases and has a jam-packed 16-page booklet with liner notes by Washington-born Soul aficionado RICO "SUPERBIZZAE" WASHINGTON (Editor of the US magazine "Free"). There's a history of the West Virginia Soulman's humble beginnings, label repros of the two Sussex singles off the album and collected colour photos from various TV appearances at the time. The front sleeve was actually shot on a lunch-break from his job at the airlines - lunch-pail in hand. And there's even an interview with the great man (recently featured on a superb BBC documentary film). It's really nicely done and features recording details and album discography on the last pages. But the real news is the SOUND...

Remastered from 1st generation tapes by both NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London and BBR's own WAYNE A DICKSON at their own studios - the clarity is beautiful. "Just As I Am" is not so much Funky-Soul but more Folk-Soul - so a lot of the tracks have just acoustic guitars and lots of air around them. I went through so many copies of the (frankly dodgy) US Sussex LP and even the British A&M tan label original - and they were always good rather than great - and in some instances hissy as Hell. Not so here. It hasn't been trebled to the nines for the sake of it - it's just breathing.

Right from the off the acoustic guitars and drums on "Harlem" are amazing - as are the strings, soft bass and vocals on his masterful "Ain't No Sunshine" - all so sweet. The fantastically personal and socially aware "Grandma's Hands" still has the power to move (lyrics above) and it's a blast to finally get unheard gems like "Hope She'll Be Happier", "I'm Her Daddy" and "Moanin' And Groanin'" in top-notch sound quality. In fact of the 12 tracks - Withers impressively wrote 10 - the two covers being Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" (made famous by Nilsson in "Midnight Cowboy") and a very nice uptempo soul take on The Beatles' "Let It Be". Favourites - I particularly love "Do It Good" where the MG's play a blinder in terms of sheer slinky feel. And even though the gunshot at the end of "Better Off Dead" is still too abrupt - it's such a great tune. Yes folks. Love it. Love it. Love it.

If ever an artist deserved praise and rediscovery from this classic Soul period - then it's Bill Withers. For me this is 'Soul Reissue Of The Year' with a bullet.

Buy it and enjoy. And remember - "it's not warm when she's away...only darkness every day..."

PS: Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remasters I’ve reviewed to 2015:
1. Is It Still Good To Ya – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1978)
2. Stay Free – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1979)
3. Central Heating – HEATWAVE (1977)
4. Hot Property - HEATWAVE (1979)
5. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980)
6. Turnin' On - HIGH INERGY (1977)
7. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976)
8. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977)
9. In The Heart – KOOL & THE GANG (1983)
10. I Hope We Get To Love On Time - MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS (1976)
11.  I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin The Blue Notes" in the UK]
12. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973)
13. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1973)
14. Universal Love – MFSB (1975)
15. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974)
16. For The First Time – STEPHANIE MILLS (1975)
17. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972)
18. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969)
19. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972)
20. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973)
21. Down To Love Town – THE ORIGINALS (1977)
22. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973)
23. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972)
24. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973)
25. Platinum Hook – PLATINUM HOOK (1978)
26. Love For What It Is - ANITA POINTER (of The Pointer Sisters) (1987)
27. Live: Stompin’ At The Savoy – RUFUS and CHAKA KHAN (1983)
28. Summernights – SILVER CONVENTION (1977)
29. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975)
30. Spinners – SPINNERS (1973)
31. Soul Master – EDWIN STARR (1968)
32. Involved - EDWIN STARR (1971)
33. Switch - SWITCH (1978)
34 Watercolors – THE WATERS (1980)
35. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971 Debut LP on Sussex/A&M Records)
36. Heartbeats – YARBROUGH & PEOPLES (1983)

PPS: see also my in-depth review for "The Complete Sussex And Columbia Albums" 9CD Box Set also from 2012...

“The Fame Singles Volume 1 – 1966-70” by CLARENCE CARTER (May 2012 Ace Records/Kent Soul CD Compilation) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…I Hope You Feel The Same Way Too…"

Lovers of Sixties/Seventies Atlantic Soul will flip for this great-sounding Clarence Carter CD 
finally compiling the A and B-sides of his superb run of American 7" singles between 1966 and 1970. Here are the finite details…

UK released Monday 28 May 2012 (15 June 2012 in the USA) - "The Fame Singles Volume 1 - 1966-70" by CLARENCE CARTER on Ace Records/Kent Soul CDKEND 376 (Barcode 029667237628) is a 24-Track CD compilation of Remasters that breaks down as follows (64:19 minutes):

MONO USA and UK 7" SINGLES 1966 to 1970 (CD track number after the title):

1. Tell Daddy (1) b/w I Stayed Away Too Long (2)
Released December 1966 in the USA on Fame 45-1010
No UK release – both tracks non-album

2. Thread The Needle (3) b/w Don't Make My Baby Cry (4)
Released June 1967 in the USA on Fame 45-1013
Released February 1968 in the UK on Atlantic 584154
His 1st UK single as a solo artist – the B-side is non-album

3. She Ain’t Gonna Do Right (5) b/w The Road Of Love (6)
Released 1967 in the USA on Fame 45-1016
No UK release – B-side reputedly features DUANE ALLMAN on Guitar

4. Looking For A Fox (7) b/w I Can't See Myself (8)
Released January 1968 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2461
Released April 1968 in the UK on Atlantic 584176

5. Funky Fever (9) b/w Slip Away (10)
Released May 1968 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2508
Released June 1968 in the UK on Atlantic 584187
Note: it was the B-side that charted Stateside – “Slip Away”

6. Too Weak To Fight (11) b/w Let Me Comfort You (12)
Released November 1968 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2569
Released November 1968 in the UK on Atlantic 584223

7. Back Door Santa (13) b/w That Old Time Feeling (14)
Released December 1968 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2567
NO UK release

8. Snatching It Back (15) b/w Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street) (16)
Released March 1969 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2605
Released March 1969 in the UK on Atlantic 584248

9. The Feeling Is Right  (17) b/w You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure (18)
Released June 1969 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2642
Released July 1969 in the UK on Atlantic 584272

10. Doing Our Thing (19) b/w I Smell A Rat (20)
Released October 1969 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2660
No UK release

11. Take It Off Him And Put It On Me b/w The Few Troubles I've Had
Released January 1970 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2702
Released January 1970 in the UK on Atlantic 584309
Both tracks non-album at the time of release

12. I Can't Leave Your Love Alone b/w Devil Woman
Released August 1970 in the USA on Atlantic 45-2726
No UK release – B-side is non-album

The 16-page booklet has detailed, informative and affectionate liner notes by England’s DEAN RUDLAND and peppers the text with photos of those gorgeous American and British 7" single labels – trade adverts – covers of sheet music - photos of Clarence in the studio with his band and the legendary Producer Rick Hall. As ever – a proper class act from Ace.

But the real fireworks come in the SOUND - newly accessed 1st generation MONO tapes remastered by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Masters – and all 24-tracks are kicking like a mule. What you get here is the gamut of 60t’s Soul - powerhouse Pickett, Funky JB, talking Sam and Dave, sexy Aretha and Carter’s own guttural voice and trademark chuckle - an irresistible mixture.

The audio-quality on something as common as the sexy "Looking For A Fox" and the sly slink of "Slip Away" is suddenly new and fresh – a top job done. The punch of the drums and guitar on the salacious "Back Door Santa" is unbelievable - as it is on the "Tell Mama" soundalike “Tell Daddy”. The vocal line prompted to him by a staffer as he sings "I Smell A Rat" is still audible – as is the guitar work on the fabulously bluesy and criminally forgotten B-side "The Road Of Love" (lyrics above).

And what a joy it is to hear cracking tracks like "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure" and the romantically lovely "The Feeling Is Right" (surely destined for a movie somewhere). The only real clinkers for me are the dated talking style songs like "Making Love…" and "Few Troubles…" But they’re few and far between. What gets you most (apart from the revelatory sound quality) is the sheer quality of the tunes – and how he was at ease with all styles and paces.

Perhaps not as enticing as this but still containing must-haves - Volume Two of this series due later in 2012 - will focus on the "Patches" stuff from 1970 onwards. 

If you’ve been on the fence about Clarence Carter before – don’t be. Dive in and enjoy. A proper gem in Ace's quite awesome Kent catalogue.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

“From The Beginning” DELUXE EDITION by SMALL FACES. A Review Of The June 1967 Decca Records Album Now Remastered & Reissued On A 2012 2CD DELUXE EDITION.


"…It’s Time For A Change…”

Monday 7 May 2012 sees the UK release of a whopping four DELUXE EDITIONS for Small Faces fans (29 May 2012 in the USA for this set) - and the unsanctioned "From The Beginning" compilation has always been a mental and financial sore point for the band.

A slung-together compilation of 7" singles, non-album B-sides, outtakes and works in progress – "From The Beginning" was put out a mere three weeks prior to their proper 2nd album on Immediate Records – the self-titled "Small Faces" (released 23 June 1967). Reeking of a royalties cash-in by ex-manager Don "People in Show Business Spend Money" Arden and contractual arrogance by Decca - it has always been seen by then evolving group as a backwards move and a bit of a 'poor show' frankly. Having said that – history's boil on the arse of the Small Faces catalogue is today's double cream éclair – because this expanded 2CD Deluxe Edition is yet another peach in this superlative run of reissues.

Here are the finite details for Universal/Sanctuary 278 134-1:

Disc 1 (52:47 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 14 are the MONO compilation LP "From The Beginning" - released 2 June 1967 in the UK on Decca LK 4879
BONUS TRACKS (15 to 19):
"Almost Grown" (15), "Understanding" (16), "I Can't Dance With You" (17), "I Can't Make It" (18) and "Just Passing" (19)

Disc 1 will also allow fans to line up the 4 x UK 7" singles that were issued (in Mono) around the LP (track number after title):
1. Hey Girl (6) b/w Almost Grown (15) - released 6 May 1966 on Decca F 12393
2. All Or Nothing (9) b/w Understanding (16) - released 5 August 1966 on Decca F 12470
3. My Mind's Eye (2) b/w I Can't Dance With You (17) - released 11 November 1966 on Decca F 12500
4. I Can't Make It (18) b/w Just Passing (19) – released 3 March 1967 on Decca F 12565

Disc 2 (53:54 minutes):
1. Runaway [Stereo]
2. That Man (Alternate Mix) [Mono]
3. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Alternate Mix) [Mono]
4. My Mind’s Eye (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
5. Picanniny (Backing Track) [Mono]
6. Hey Girl (Different Version) [Mono]
7. Take This Hurt Off Me (Different Version) [Mono]
8. Baby Don’t You Do It (Different Version) [Mono]
9. All Or Nothing (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
10. Understanding (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
11. Take To You (Take 5 – Backing Track) [Mono]
12. All Our Yesterdays (Take 7 – Backing Track) [Mono]
13. (Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me (Alternate Take 2) [Mono]
14. Show Me The Way (Take 3 – Backing Track) [Mono]
15. I Can’t Make It (Take 11 – Backing Track) [Mono]
16. Things Are Going To Get Better (Take 14) [Mono]
Tracks 1-3, 5 and 11-16 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED VERSIONS
Tracks 4, 9 and 10 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ON CD

INCLUSIONS/OMMISIONS:
The 1996 Universal single disc reissue of "From The Beginning" had 5 bonus tracks – only 2 of which turn up here – the 'Different Versions' of "Take This Hurt Off Me" and "Baby Don't You Do It" (tracks 7 and 8 on Disc 2). The other three "My Mind’s Eye (French EP Version)", "Hey Girl (French EP Version)" and "What'cha Gonna Do About It (BBC Session Recoding)" are NOT on here (so don't throw away that CD just yet). Also that other 7" Decca single that would have fit the 1966-1967 time frame - "Patterns" b/w "E Too D" – has been moved onto the "Small Faces (Decca Album)" DELUXE EDITION. However - it's worth noting that according to ROB CAIGAR who oversaw these reissues – the missing/straggler tracks on this and the other 3 x double-editions will probably turn up on a SMALL FACES box set due later in 2012. That box will also feature more unreleased/related stuff – and again from best sources.

PACKAGING:
As a weary-veteran of all too many lacklustre booklets in DELUXE EDITIONS by Universal (the patchy Lizzy reissues come to mind - a feeling of what we can get away with) – this is first time I’ve seen them put in genuine effort and the results are BEAUTIFUL. The 24-page booklet is going to come as a shock to fans - properly gorgeous colour reproductions of picture sleeves from Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Japan, Rave and Fab 208 magazine covers, early years gig posters, 7" Demos, trade adverts, reviews from Musical Express, Olympia and Decca Master Tape Boxes and other assorted publicity photos. The new liner notes are by respected writer MARK PAYTRESS and are filled with facts and recent interviews with Jones and McLagan. There's more period reviews on the fold-out flaps and beneath each see-through CD tray is the 1967 unboxed red Decca label for the original British LP (Side 1 and 2). It's 'so' well done. OK – you could say that if Bear Family was doing this then the booklet would be 64 pages and not 24 – and each of those gorgeous Picture Sleeves (usually in the hands of die-hard collectors) would have been given a page each giving you a real feel for the period. But what is here is the best they've ever done - and I can't help but think that awards may be on the horizon for the sheer quality of presentation…

SOUND:
But the real meat for fans will be the NEW REMASTERS from best-ever sources and overseen by surviving members of the band - KENNEY JONES and IAN McLAGAN. Tape Research and Recovery is by ROB CAIGER, Tape Restoration and Transfer from Analogue is by ROB KAYLACH and Mastering by NICK ROBBINS. Punchy, dynamic, the power of so many of these MONO tracks hasn't diminished a jot as the years have passed – Steve Marriott on "All Or Nothing", Ronnie Lane on "That Man" – Kenny Lynch singing backing on "Sha La La La Lee". And the singles are killer too – especially B-sides like the instrumental "Almost Grown" and the whimsical "Just Passing" giving an indication of the "Ogdens" period to come.

UNRELEASED:
It opens well - their Small Faces stamp on Del Shannon's "Runaway" and the Alternate Takes of "That Man" and "Yesterday…" sound like The Who's early years (not a bad thing in any man's book). Their own identity finally turns up on an Alternate Take of "My Mind's Eye" while the backing track for "Picanniny" sounds like The Animals enjoying a Sixties R'n'B moment – great stuff. Their crudely-recorded cover version of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't Do It" is sung by original band member Jimmy Winston and is fantastic in a lo-fi garage 45 kind-of-way – absolute reeking of Sixties piss and vinegar. I had thought that the set of 'backing track' versions would be filler (some are) – but hearing Marriott's choppy guitar isolated on "Talk To You" is a blast. The band count in on "Show Me The Way" and the clarity of instruments is amazing – but it's short at just over one-minute - and the two-minutes of "All Our Yesterdays" could also be lived without too. But Disc 2 ends on a real high – Take 14 of "Things Are Going To Get Better" in glorious sound quality – an irresistibly catchy tune. I've played this in the shop a few times and customers have flipped for it (lyrics from it title this review)…

To sum up – the band may have hated "From The Beginning" because it represented where they’d been rather than where they were going. But it has to be said that in terms of sound and sheer presentation – this new 2012 2CD DELUXE EDITION and the first Decca album are equal to their more revered Immediate sets. Up their with The Kinks reissues of 2011 – these are absolute must owns.

As Steve Marriott sang "...Things are going to get better..." – well they have. Congrats to all involved…

“Small Faces” (Decca Debut LP) DELUXE EDITION by SMALL FACES. A Review Of The May 1966 Decca Records Album Now Remastered & Reissued On A 2012 2CD DELUXE EDITION.

"Happening Now!”

Monday 7 May 2012 sees the UK release of a whopping four DELUXE EDITIONS for Small Faces fans (29 May 2012 in the USA for this and the "From The Beginning" sets) - and their blistering debut album still holds an unparalleled affection for lovers of the best Sixties Mod band in the world.

Here are the finite details for Universal/Sanctuary 276 528-0:

Disc 1 (42:28 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are their MONO debut LP "Small Faces" - released 6 May 1966 in the UK on Decca LK 4790 (peaked at No. 3 on the LP charts)
BONUS TRACKS (13 to 16):
"I've Got Mine" (13), "What's A Matter Baby" (14), "Grow Your Own" (15) and "Patterns" (16)

Disc 1 will also allow fans to line up the 4 x UK 7" singles that were issued (in Mono) around the LP (track number after title):
1. Whatcha Gonna Do About It (6) b/w What's A Matter Baby (14) - released 6 August 1965 on Decca F 12208 [Note: A-side written by Kenny Lynch and Mort Shuman]
2. I've Got Mine (13) b/w It's Too Late (4) - released 5 November 1965 on Decca F 12276
3. Sha–La-La-La-Lee (17) b/w Grow Your Own (15) - released 28 January 1966 on Decca F 12317
4. Patterns (16) b/w E Too D (11) – released 26 May 1967 on Decca F 12619

Disc 2 (37:38 minutes):
1. Come On Children (Alternate Version) [Mono]
2. Shake (Alternate Version) [Mono]
3. You Better Believe It (Alternate Version) [Mono]
4. It's Too Late (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
5. Sorry She's Mine (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
6. 6. Own Up Time (Alternate Version) [Mono]
7. E Too D (Alternate Version) [Mono]
8. I've Got Mine (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
9. Grow Your Own (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
10. Sha La La Lee (Stereo Version)
11. Don't Stop What You're Doing (Alternate Version) [Mono]
12. Patterns (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
13. What's A Matter Baby (Alternate Mix) [Mono]
14. Whatcha Gonna Do About It (Alternate Version) [Mono]
Tracks 4-5, 8-9 and 12 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED (Stereo Versions) ON CD

INCLUSIONS/OMMISIONS:
The 2006 Universal 40th Anniversary single disc reissue of "Small Faces" had 11 bonus tracks – the only absence is "Hey Girl (Alternate Version)" because it's been moved to the "From The Beginning" Deluxe Edition. Also the 5th Decca single that would have fit the 1966-1967 timeframe released on the same day as the album - "Hey Girl" b/w "Almost Grown" (6 May 1966 on Decca F 12393) is moved to that double too. Fans should also note that according to ROB CAIGAR who oversaw these reissues – any missing/straggler tracks on this and the other 3 x double-editions will probably turn up on a SMALL FACES box set due later in 2012. That box set will also feature more unreleased/related stuff – and again from the best sources.

PACKAGING:
I raved about the superlative 24-page booklet in the "From The Beginning" double – it's the same here. Properly gorgeous colour reproductions of 7" picture sleeves from Germany, Sweden, France and Australia, Rave and Beat Instrumental magazine covers, a 6 August 1966 EMI Acetate of "What 'Cha Gonna Do About It", colour publicity shots of the boys larking about, trade adverts, Melody Maker reviews and even two fantastically evocative pictures of the fab four shopping for Mod clothes in 60t's Carnaby Street. The new liner notes are by respected writer MARK PAYTRESS and are filled with facts and recent interviews with Jones and McLagan. There's a set of 4 gorgeous colour photos of the band – one to each flap - and beneath each see-through CD tray is the 1967 unboxed red Decca label LK 4790 for the original British LP (Side 1 and 2). Even the CDs themselves are picture discs. It's 'so' well done.

It should be noted that there's memorabilia stuff in the 20-page booklet of the original single disc that isn't in here – so you might not want to throw that issue away just yet. But again – and I can’t reiterate this enough – this is one of the sweetest looking booklets Universal has ever done - and I can't help but think that awards may be on the horizon for the sheer quality of presentation on offer here…

SOUND:
But the real meat for fans will be the NEW REMASTERS from best-ever sources and overseen by surviving members of the band - KENNEY JONES and IAN McLAGAN. Tape Research and Recovery is by ROB CAIGER, Tape Restoration and Transfer from Analogue is by ROB KAYLACH and Mastering by NICK ROBBINS. The album itself has always been a perfect snapshot of Sixties Beat Britain - and still stands up to this day as a good listen. The clarity of the opener – a cover of Sam Cooke's "Shake" – is great – the bass and drums now so clear. I've always loved the band-penned double of "It's Too Late” followed by "One Night Stand" – both now sounding punchy and dynamic. "E Too D" has that great guitar opening - sounding as powerful as The Who – I love it. And the singles are killer too – especially fan-favourite B-sides like "I've Got Mine" - and who wouldn’t want to hear the instrumental floor-filler "Grow Your Own" instead of the overplayed A-side "Sha-La-La-La-Lee".

UNRELEASED:
Having lived with MONO for over 40 years – the CD debut of 'Electronically Reprocessed Stereo' versions of "It's Too Late" and "Sorry She's Mine" will come as a bit of a shock. The same effect doesn't quite work so well for me on "I've Got Mine" – but the sonic kick off "Grow Your Own" in some form of Stereo is blowing me away – worth the price of admission alone (that sucker's going on our CD shuffle soonest). And even though it's almost too dense in some ways – I'm also digging "Patterns" in Stereo too. The other Mono takes I've had before and they’re always been hugely enjoyable – but it's without doubt the Stereo cuts that will have fans jumping up and down on kitchen lino sprayed with talcum powder.

To sum up – an absolute belter – in fact I've really loved all four of these 2012 2CD DELUXE EDITIONS – up there with the superlative KINKS Deluxe Edition reissues of 2011.

As the Decca advert reproduced on Page 2 of the booklet screams – the Small Faces are "Happening Now!" Well here's to a second time around because this is a sweetheart of a release – and you can't help but think that The Artful Dodger (Steve Marriott) and Plonk (Ronnie Lane) would have approved big time. Congrats to all involved...

Friday, 25 May 2012

“Jeremiah Johnson” on BLU RAY. A Review Of The 1972 Film Now Reissued On A 2012 BLU RAY.


“…Ghosty Stories…Of Tall Hills…”

*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 BLU RAY REISSUE ***

"Jeremiah Johnson" is one of those movies that you wished you’d seen on the big screen. Well - with this sparkling new 2012 BLU RAY reissue boasting such a beautiful print – and if you've access to a half-decent home cinema kit - you sorta can pardner (sorry couldn’t resist).

And there's more good news for us on the other side of the pond. Luckily this American Warner Brothers BLU RAY is 'All Regions' (A, B and C) so it will also play on all machines. And while it doesn’t categorically state that the print has been fully restored (and despite a decidely blurry opening shot of the river) - a huge amount of cleaning up has taken place here because the print is BEAUTIFUL almost 95% of the time – and in some instances would put films of today to shame. There's even a hugely entertaining 'commentary' by the trio who made it – Director Sydney Pollack, Co-Writer John Milius and Actor Robert Redford.

The other extra – an 11-minute Making Of called "The Saga Of Jeremiah Johnson" gives you a good indication of how bad the print was – it's 1972 picture quality is awful – covered in scratches and grain. The print itself is nothing like this. There are sequences by his cabin door in the sunshine which are so clear – even a night shot with Will Geer who plays the wily old mountain man Bear Claw around a campfire towards the end of the film is beautfully rendered. It's defaulted to 2.4:1 Aspect – so it has bars top and bottom. But it also has a 16:9 aspect fitting too - so even when stretched to full screen – it looks great and properly cinematic.

The reissue's also faithful to the movie as seen – so it includes a 2-minute OVERTURE at the beginning with a still of Johnson standing on a mountain overlooking a valley - and at about 80 minutes in - it even gives us an INTERMISSION which in turn leads to a ENTR’ ACTE restart. And no matter what the weather or season depicted - Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn – it's shot with fantastic PanaVision bravado and style. The only real clunkers are the ever-so-slightly cheesy narrative at the beginning (words from it title this review) and the dreadfully dated 'aching cowboy' song that crops up at certain intervals when you least want it. 

Released in late 1972 – the film is a mid-1800's frontier tale - an amalgamation of a novel called "Mountain Man" by Vardis Fisher and a short story called "Crow Killer" by William Thorp. The ex–soldier Jeremiah Johnson seeks the solitude and freedom of the wilderness – which he gets – going months sometimes without ever seeing another human being. But he also finds freezing cold, starvation, friendly and hostile Indians (Flathead and Crow), pilgrim families and death by any number of savage means.

Along the way he acquires a squaw-wife called "The Swan" (a beautiful part for Delle Bolton), a boy left mute by the killing of his family (Josh Albee) and a bald-headed loony he finds buried up to his neck in the sand called Del Gue (a scene-stealing turn by mad-eyed Stefan Gierasch). Throw in the near hysterical laughter of too-long-in-the-snow mountain-man Bear Claw (Will Geer) who is obsessed with hunting 'Griz' (Grizzly Bears) – and you get the general idea. Mostly Jeremiah muddles through – even threatening to become a 'family' man himself at one point. But then Johnson makes a gargantuan mistake in the second half of the movie by crossing sacred burial grounds and pays for it with a constant stream of singular Crow warriors Hell bent on killing him.

Redford is magnificent in the central role – living it – breathing it – and looking more handsome than any mere mortal has a right to be. You can feel his star-quality screaming off the screen. You can also feel him relishing the outdoor settings, the simplicity of the life and the ecological thread running throughout the story. Filmed entirely on location in Utah – it has breathtaking scenery – and an almost savage reality to all of the characters – even those as vulnerable as women and children. It runs to just under two hours, but feels like three – and in a good way. And it all comes to a very satisfying and (in some ways) an unexpectedly uplifting ending…

A fantastic BLU RAY reissue then – and what a thrill to see this criminally forgotten gem of a movie be given such a gorgeous makeover.

Recommended like a tumble with a salmon. 
And roll on Redford's own "The Milagro Beanfield War" in such superb print quality.

BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: in 2.4:1 aspect and 16.9 also
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1, Dolby Digital French 1.0 and Spanish (both Castilian 1.0 and Latin 2.0).
SUBTITLES: English SDH (Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing), French and Spanish
EXTRAS:
1. Feature-length commentary by Director Sydney Pollack, Writer John Milius and Actor Robert Redford
2. The Saga Of Jeremiah Johnson
3. Theatrical Trailer

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

“The Singles Volume 11: 1979-1981” by JAMES BROWN (2011 Hip-O Select 2CD Set Of Seth Foster Remasters - Volume Eleven) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…It's Too Funky in Here…Gimme Some Air!"  

Having diligently collected all 10 Volumes in this truly incredible series of American CDs (I've reviewed 8, 9 and 10) - I baulked at Volume 11 because of the dates. Bit of a mistake that!

Why? What Volume Eleven's subtitle '1979 to 1981' doesn't tell you is that on Disc 2 there is a far wider range of dates and therefore better stuff - namely the rare and hugely desirable American 12" Promo singles from 1976 to 1981. And in my book that puts this otherwise workmanlike compilation into an altogether different stratosphere. But let's get to the details first...

UK released November 2011 (Oct 2011 USA) - "The Singles Volume 11: 1979-1981" by JAMES BROWN on Hip-O Select B0016037-02 (Barcode 602527814100) is a 2CD set of Remasters and breaks down as follows:
(Release dates and catalogue numbers below are for US 45's unless otherwise stated)

Disc 1 (77:22 minutes):
1 and 2 are "Star Generation" b/w "Women Are Something Else" - released August 1979 on Polydor PD-2005 [A-side was also issued as a Promo 7" on Polydor PRO 100]
3 is "The Original Disco Man - Short Version" - US Promo-Only 7" DJ-single version (no catalogue number)
4 and 5 are "The Original Disco Man" b/w "Let The Boogie Do The Rest" - released November 1979 on Polydor PD-2034
6 and 7 are "Regrets" b/w "Stone Cold Drag" - released January 1980 on Polydor PD-2054
8 and 9 are "Let The Funk Flow" b/w "Sometimes That's All There Is" - released April 1980 on Polydor PD-2078
10 and 11 are "Get Up Offa That Thing (Live)" b/w "It's Too Funky In Here (Live)" - released October 1980 on Polydor PD-2129
12 and 13 are "Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses)" b/w "Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses) (Pt. II)" - released November 1980 on T.K. Records TKX-1039.
[Note: also issued as a 12" single on T.K. Records TK D452 with a playing time of 7:02 minutes - see Disc 2]
14 and 15 are "Stay With Me" b/w "Smokin' & Drinkin'" - released March 1981 on T.K. Records TK 1042
[Note: the A-side was also issued on a 12" single on T.K. Records TK D455 - but is NOT an extended version]
16 and 17 are "Give That Bass Player Some Part I" b/w "Give That Bass Player Some Part II" - April 1981 on Polydor PD-2167
18 and 19 are "I Go Crazy" b/w "World Cycle Inc." - released IN THE UK (No US release) in July 1981 on Polydor POSP 290

Disc 2 (68:18 minutes):
1 is "Get Up Offa That Thing/Release The Pressure (12-Inch Version)" - released June 1976 as a 1-Sided PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 010
[Note: shortened 7" mix is on Volume 10]
2 is "If You Don't Give A Doggone About It (12-inch Version)" - released January 1978 as a PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 038 [credited as James Brown and the J.B.'s]
3 and 4 are "Eyesight (12-inch Version)" b/w "The Spank (12-inch Version)" - released July 1978 as a PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 040
[Note: 7" single mixes are on Volume 10]
5 is "For Goodness Sakes, Look At Those Cakes (12-inch Version)" - released October 1978 as a PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 059
6 is "It's Too Funky In Here (12-inch Version)" - released May 1979 as a PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 086
7 is "Star Generation (12-inch Version)" - released August 1979 as a PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 100
[Note: regarding 5, 6 and 7 - each of the 12" singles are essential the album versions - the shortened 7" single mixes are on Volume 10]
8. "Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses) (12-inch Version)" - released November 1980 on T.K. Records TK D452
[Note: at 7:02 minutes, the A-side is longer than the single mix but is an edit of the full 14-minute album version on "Soul Syndrome".
The B-side of this 12" is the 7" single version of "Pt. II" - Track 13 on Disc 1]
9. "Give That Bass Player Some (12-inch Version)" - released May 1981 as a PROMO 12" single on Polydor PRO 157
[Note: at 8:38 minutes, it's exclusive and two minutes longer than the 1981 album version on "Nonstop"]

The gorgeous 28-booklet is the usual superlative liner notes by former manager and keeper-of-the-flame ALAN LEEDS with expert remastering of the 1st generation tapes by SETH FOSTER. But as other reviewers have pointed out - Disc 1 contains some terrible dogs - especially the Brad Shapiro produced stuff like "Star Generation". It's not until you get to Track 5 - the superb B-side "Let The Boogie Do The Rest" do things pick up and restore the faith. The T.K. Records "Rapp Workout" is a return-to-form, but only just - and as bristling as the 'live' versions of "Get Up Offa That Thing" and "It's Too Funky In Here" are - the studio versions trounce them. The guitar work of Troy Seals on "Let The Funk Flow" and the slightly rock-funk of "Sometimes That's All There Is" is a highlight too. The UK-only uncharacteristic instrumental B-side "World Cycle Inc." sounds like Synth Prog meets Funk ala Bob James or Deodato - it's a bit of an eye-opener - and a great inclusion.

But as I've already said Disc 2 is a different beast - absolute funky belters in blisteringly good sound quality. I've played this in the shop and the customer reaction is instant - tapping of feet and wiggling of butts as they browse the old-skool Soul racks. The irrestible sexiness of "The Spank" is fantastic stuff and the 6:35 minutes of "It's Too Funky In Here" is as brill as Seventies Funk gets. I swear if scientists examine James Brown's DNA - there'll be a gene sat on top of all the others marked FUNKYMAN NO.1 - and they'll further find that no other creature in the entire Universe (human or otherwise) has it. What a wow he was!

To sum up - I liked about half of Disc 1 but Disc 2 is chock full of totally killer funk - and for me puts this release into another realm of brilliance.

Take a punt on the twelve-inches of Volume Eleven - I think you'll be glad you did - y'all.

E-BOOKS OF MINE FOR SALE on AMAZON - CLICK THE ICON, CONNECT and BUY

OVERLOOKED ALBUMS 1955 to 1979 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS FOR 400 FORGOTTEN LPS...

BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, RHYTHM & BLUES and ROCK & ROLL on CD - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

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...

ALL RIGHT NOW - 1970 to 1974 - BEST CD REMASTERS

I GOT THE NEWS - 1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters

MOVIE KEEPERS and SLEEPERS - BLU RAYS Worth Checking Out

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...

ALL THINGS MUST PASS - 1970 - BEST CD REMASTERS

I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE - 1971 - BEST CD REMASTERS

TUMBLING DICE - 1972 - Exceptional CD Remasters

ELOQUENT PROFANITY - 1973 - Exceptional CD Remasters

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 1 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 2 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 3 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 4 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 5 of 6

SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE Volume 6 of 6

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order